John’s Austin Interview
The Austin American Statesman wrote up a great article in anticipation of John Fogerty’s return to ACL Live tomorrow. Check out the interview below:
Ex-Creedence leader will sing his songs for everyone
Singer-songwriter will perform classics and new originals from duets album Saturday at ACL Live.
BY BRIAN T.ATKINSON SPECIAL TO THE AMERICAN-STATESMAN
John Fogerty’s duets album “Wrote a Song for Everyone” backs classics (“Proud Mary” and the title track) with new originals (“Mystic Highway”). The former Creedence Clearwater Revival leader supports the seamless collection Saturday at ACL Live.
“Aw, man, what a musical town!” Fogerty says. “One day my friend Bill Bentley invited me to Austin for South by Southwest. I didn’t realize then, but it was the very first one! Austin was a great musical place then and even more so now.”
American-Statesman: Explain how the new album took shape.
John Fogerty: It was originally an idea that my wife suggested. Looking back, I don’t know if it was off the cuff or if she really had a clear vision of what it’d be, but it was a great idea. What she said was, “Why don’t you get a bunch of the artists that you love and sing your songs?” How I took that was, “Wow, you mean I get to make a record with, say, Brad Paisley and pick guitars and have a great time?”
Did you have fun? Well, yeah. I think it was even more fun. It turns out that the people I love, number one, are really great people. They were really into doing this. They realized this was special. It wasn’t work, the way things can get.
Describe the song selection process.
How I approached it was once the person said yes, I’d ask them to pick the song. So, right away they were steering the bus as far as how things were going to go. Once they picked the song, I’d say, “Well, all right, let’s not just make the same old record I already made. I want you to come up with your vision of how you’d like it to go.” That got them involved right away.
Describe working with Miranda Lambert (on the title track).
Miranda was actually the first track we recorded. I love Miranda. When I first heard her on the radio, I literally thought I was discovering her. I thought I heard perhaps an old track from the ’70s. I thought it was an old rock song that maybe I missed. I was just floored at just how great it was.
Tell the story behind writing ‘Wrote a Song for Everyone.’
(He laughs.) OK. Well, it was a mundane thing, the way it started. It was a Sunday afternoon during my first marriage. I was writing songs constantly, trying to promote a rock ’n’ roll career, writing and writing and pushing myself. Actually, I think it was 1969, the year I recorded and released three albums (Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bayou Country,” “Green River” and “Willy and the Poor Boys”). I had a very Beatles-like career on the radio. My wife was tired of it. She’d had enough of this guy doing that all the time. There was a tone in her voice and she says, “I’m going over to my mother’s house.” There was a bit of tension in the air. Just as the door closed, the phrase went across my mind: “I wrote a song for everyone and I couldn’t even talk to you.” It was a bit unfortunate.
Did you immediately write the song?
I wrote down the phrase. It was pretty memorable, but I didn’t write the song until a couple months later. I figured out what that phrase would mean to other people rather than just my own story.
Do you still think about writing as much as you did in ’69?
There are periods of time when I do and there are periods when I’m thinking more about improving my guitar-playing skills, (but) I’m also a husband and a father. (He laughs.) The last story is a pretty good illustration of not having your priorities straight. There are lots of times when I’m concentrating more on my family than I am on writing songs. It’s clearer to me that you can wear other hats. It’s OK to back off on the career stuff and be a human being.
How did ‘Mystic Highway’ come to you?
My wife suggested, “You should write some new things.” You know, people hear all these songs that are classic and very well known, but you’re a songwriter. People are gonna want to know that you can still write songs, good songs. Quite frankly, I’ve had songs in various parts of my career, especially later in my solo career, where the songs don’t hold up to my very best songs, like “Proud Mary,” but it seemed clear I should at least try to do that. I was really pushing myself. I literally spent an entire week writing and had come up with nothing. Nothing I did could hold up to “Proud Mary.” Think about it: That’s a pretty ominous song to be pinning yourself against. It’s a universally well-known song that the whole world sings and you’re trying to make your new thing that good. Well, shoot, I’m the songwriter and I have a blank sheet. So, I spent the whole week and didn’t come up with anything and now it’s Saturday and finally the phrase “mystic highway” comes into my mind. “Mystic highway” was a phrase I had written down in my songbook years and years ago. I haven’t seen my book in probably a year, but I remembered the phrase. I went into the studio and the song was probably 90 percent realized and I got to go back and add a few little twists and turns in the words and melody that made it feel much more completed. There’s a standard to live up to with my own songs, a duty to make it as good as you can. I really do feel it is one of my best songs.
John plays a sold-out show at ACL-Live Saturday night, October 19, at 8:00 pm.