Its been nine years since iconic Californian rockers, Huey Lewis and the News released an album (Plan B). Featured on numerous film soundtracks and renowned for 80s hits such Hip To Be Square, Happy To Be Stuck With You and of course The Power Of Love, they have now sold over 30 million albums worldwide and are ranked in the top 200 selling groups of all time.
This week sees the launch of their new album Soulsville, a collection of 60s and 70s soul, blues and Motown classics fresh from the vault of Stax Records.
Music News caught up with lead singer Huey Lewis this week on the bands whistlestop tour of London to promote the new album.
Music News: What sparked your decision to release a covers album and what was the creative process behind it?
Huey: It was actually our managers idea to do a Stax tribute style album and we thought why not? Its something we realised from the onset we had to be really carefully about doing, as above all else you want to do these songs justice. We were reunited with an engineer we worked with previously called, Jim Gaines who is an original Stax engineer so as to be absolutely sure they were recorded in the same vein as the originals and we headed to the famous Ardent studios in Memphis to record the album.
Music News: The album features so many soul and Motown classics, how did you decide what to include and what to leave out?
Huey: As a band we all chose the songs we liked best, which wasnt easy in itself and we came up with 4 batches of 5. We then had a further cull on these and stripped it back to 14 definitive tracks which make up the final album and we are very proud of the collection we have chosen. We didnt want to cover the chestnuts, we wanted to go much deeper than that to draw upon those that we love best and feel most passionate about, which is what makes it such a great album.
Music News: Which of the tracks are personal favourites of yours on the album?
Huey: Never Like This Before is one of my favourites, which was in fact chosen by several members of the band, there are four main guys in the band now and our manager makes 5, so thats a hell of a lot of influence, but youd be surprised how many we crossed over on and this was one of them.
Music News: How do you think the new album will be received by traditional Huey Lewis and the News fans?
Huey: Im sure it will sell billions of copies and be the biggest selling album weve ever released (laughs). Im only messing. Obviously we hope our fans and listeners like it, but for us what really matters is that it channels our creativity. As a band we have always focused on producing the music we enjoy and this is a fantastic opportunity for us to sing these songs and our focus in the main has been about doing them justice. Performing and recording them in the style they were meant to be.
Music News: The album is officially released here in the UK on Monday (October 18th) having spent this week in London what has the feedback been so far?
Huey: Well everyone tells us they love it and weve had some really great comments about the tracks, so we can only go on what weve been told so far.
Music News: As a band your name is synonymous with the blockbuster film favourite, Back to the Future, which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary. How have the celebrations impacted on your fan base and record sales?
Huey: Its hard to tell to be honest. It was such a big movie and great to be associated with it, but its hard to know what direct impact its had on our music if any. Were actually doing the Today Show over in New York with Michael J Fox and some of the cast which will great fun. For us its no biggie as we are in New York anyway for the week, but its great that they have managed to get everyone together. It was great to be a part of it and itll be great to mark the anniversary.
Music News: The band has survived a total of 32 years in the business which is no mean feat especially in the current market, what is the secret to your success and longevity?
Huey: I would like to think its because we have always been honest. If a man says “Im going to Kansas City to get me a crazy little woman” then you have to believe that he really is going to Kansas City and that he knows just how crazy those little ladies are. I guess what Im trying to say is that weve always been honest and made the kind of music we want to make and feel passionate about and it seems to have worked.
Music News: There have been a number of amendments to the line-up over the years, how do you think the sound of the band has changed in relation to this?
Huey: There are four key members in the band now. We introduced a new horn section 16 years ago and its then that the sound really changed. Having a horn section means each note is played one at a time which is very rare and quite a unique sound especially nowadays. I think weve also gone from being a pure rock & roll band to incorporate more rhythm and blues and now full on stax.
Music News: How do you think the music industry has changed over the last 32 years?
Huey: Its more about television than its ever been. Music used to be the art form of blind people such as Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles. Now its all about visuals and imagery. The music video is as important if not more so than the track or music itself. I guess its technology that has developed and everything has a drum machine in it now and synthesizers that replicate the sound for you as a band. I think its had a huge effect on the way music not only sounds but is listened to as well.
Music News: What do the next few years hold for Huey Lewis and the News?
Huey: Well we hope this album is well received and that we go on to make many more, and potentially a tour.
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