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Eric Burdon - Interview

  by Lisa Torem

published: 3 / 10 / 2013

Eric Burdon - Interview


Lisa Torem chats to 60's blues legend Eric Burdon about his new album, 'Til Your River Runs Dry'

Bruce Springsteen, in his 2012 SXSW keynote address, admitted that Eric Burdon influenced “every song I’ve ever written.” The British born singer, turned American citizen, was ranked # 57 on ‘The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time’ list, created by ‘Rolling Stone’. Burdon’s career has included film appearances, and smash hits with ‘It’s My Life’, ‘The House of the Rising Sun’, ‘We Gotta Get Out of This Place’ with the Animals as well as one offs like ‘Spill The Wine,’ with the vibrant ensemble War, where he scat and wove a tale shrouded in surrealism, whilst surrounded by psychedelic flute and explosive percussion. Although he has explored many genres, Burdon’s penchant for the blues remains the leit motif. His bourbon-soaked voice has lost none of its honesty or high stakes tension no matter how many times he performs staples like ‘Tobacco Road’ or ‘Boom Boom’. John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed and Ray Charles may have triggered his imagination, but Burdon’s performances remain unique and contemporary – just ask the stream of young fans who flock to his recent concerts. Eric’s ease on stage and dynamic presence attracts other stars like melodic guitarist Eric McFadden and members of Rhythm Tramps; Texan vocalist Teresa James; who doubles on flute and keys, and riveting bassist Terry Wilson and frequent touring pianist, Red Young. When does life not move at warp speed for the famed soul singer? To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Animals, he’s been cranking out a special collection. He co-produced and wrote most of the twelve tracks of ‘Til Your River Runs Dry’, which was released earlier this year. On it, he channels our social consciousness, celebrates old school rock and serves up respect for fallen heroes, but it’s when he sings a love song that we true blue fans witness a total transformation – the legendary front man is not only rugged, he’s a…romantic. In his second Pennyblackmusic interview, Eric Burdon spills… PB: Despite receiving threats, you toured Israel recently. Does it bother you when entertainers are put in this spot? EB: It is hard for an entertainer to be put in the middle of political/religious arguments, especially for an artist like myself that advocates for peace. I’m not going there for any particular government but for the people. PB: When appearing with other artists as a headliner, as you did at Festival Park in Elgin, Illinois recently with Joan Jett, do you like to feature new material on your set list or older material? EB: Both. You have to please the audience as well as yourself. PB: This summer, you performed with the Chicago Blues Reunion with Nick Gravenites, Harvey Mandel and Corky Siegal, et al. That Chicago event also kicked off the screening of ‘Born in Chicago’, a documentary about Paul Butterfield and other white Chicago musicians, who learned their chops from the likes of Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. You appeared in that film, too, talking about your love for the blues. Was the Chicago Blues Reunion performance a one off project or will you be joining the ensemble again? EB: I had a great time in Chicago and shared the stage with excellent musicians. and will do it again when the opportunity arises. PB: On your new album, you recorded ‘Wait’ – a song that inspires slowing down. As one who achieved fame at an early age, have you ever been able to slow down? EB: It's not so much about slowing down as it is about having patience and faith that things will turn out right. I wrote ‘Wait’ for my wife, who I'd waited for and finally she came along. PB: Guitarist Eric McFadden and bassist Terry Wilson create great arrangements for your vocals. How do you block out the rehearsals to achieve that blend? EB: We never rehearse. I hardly even get to sound check with these guys. They're simply pro; great musicians to have around. The same goes for my keyboard players, Red Young and Teresa James; my guitarist, Billy Watts; percussionist Wally Ingram as well as drummer and the producer of my latest three albums ‘My Secret Life’, ‘Soul of a Man’ and 'Til Your River Runs Dry’, Tony Braunagel. PB: ‘Water’ is about water conservation. One lyric is “The enemy does not know who the enemy is.” How does that line relate to the conservation issue? EB: There are water wars going on just as there are over control of oil, drugs, etc. Anything that is needed or desired by human beings can be the cause of a war. Whoever has the water holds the power and water is life. Water is not only a song about conservation but has to do with the imbalance of water in the world, with droughts in one place, tsunamis in another. For one thing, it's a wake up call to bring awareness of what's happening on our planet. PB: You co-produced ‘Til The River Runs Dry’ with Tony Braunagel and recorded in three studios. How did you and Tony combine your skills? EB: I was in search of a new sound and was trying different things out. It's great to work with Tony. He's so easy-going and always finds a way to accommodate my needs. PB: ‘Bo Diddley Special’ provided a great contrast to the other tracks. How important was his influence in your early years? EB: He was a huge influence. I first wrote a song about him, ‘The Story of Bo Diddley’, when he came to my hometown in the early 1960s. The Animals recorded his songs, as well. We always missed each other, but were sending messages back and forth though out the years. Finally, I came face to face with him for the first time at his funeral, where his family received me warmly. The song on the new album is about that encounter with him which took place after he died. PB: Does ‘27 Forever’ trigger a lot of memories? EB: Yes, that is why I wrote this song. To acknowledge the many people that I've admired who passed on at the early age of 27. PB: How challenging has it been to tour after back surgery? EB: After the back surgery, I actually feel great. I've heard so many horror stories from people who went through the same thing but my doctor, Hooman Melamed, performed miracles and got me back on my feet again. I haven't felt this great in years. I was in severe pain for at least four years before the surgery. so I felt a great relief and I asked myself why I waited so long. The truth is I was trying every alternative and wasn't too keen on having surgery, but now I'm glad I did. PB: You’re working on your third memoir. What will your process be for getting your thoughts on the page? Will you be promoting the book with national tours? EB: Handwritten notes, with occasional thoughts on a tape recorder; having them transcribed, returned to me, then filling in the blanks again, by hand. Each time the memories get clearer and more detailed. PB: What is the best/worst advice you’ve ever received? EB: Chuck Berry advised me to not do drugs and to always keep my money in my sock. I thought it was great advice, and I probably should have followed it more closely. PB: If the world were going to end tomorrow, what would you be doing tonight? EB: Making love to my wife by the fireplace. PB: Thank you.

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Eric Burdon - Interview

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Eric Burdon - Interview

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Interview (2016)
Eric Burdon - Interview
60's icon and Animals front man Eric Burdon speaks with Lisa Torem about performing, improvising and the influence of his Newcastle upbringing
Interview (2010)

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Festival Park, Elgin, Illinois, 24/8/2013
Lisa Torem watches 60's blues veteran Eric Burdon with a new line-up of the Animals play a tight set of classic and new material at Festival Park in Elgin, Illinois
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