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Interview: JAMES REYNE

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James Reyne and Elvis Presley.  Not two names you would expect to hear in the same sentence, let alone on the same album. But, there it is. The new CD by James Reyne, TCB, is an album of Elvis covers.

TCB?  “It stands for Taking Care of Business.” James explains, “Elvis and his guys, – his ‘inner circle’, his bodyguards – they used to give each other these little key rings and badges with TCB on them and they’d say ‘Yeah, we’re takin’ care of  business’.  I think one of Elvis’ planes had it on the back of the tail. And I just thought it was quite funny.”


While James says he always liked Elvis’ music, he admits that he was no more a fan than most people but the idea of doing an album of Elvis songs really appealed to him.

“When I was talking to Charles Fisher, who produced the album, he thought it was a good idea. We thought it was presumptuous enough and, if we chose the right songs, we just thought it would be a good fun project and we chose these songs because they’re just great, good time, fun songs to do. Fun to record, fun to perform live.”

The singer has worked with Fisher before but can’t quite put his finger on the exact project they collaborated on at the time. “I knew him a little bit for a very long time. I have this vague memory that he produced something years and years and years ago. Something that I sang back ups on but I can’t remember what it was. I know I met him in the studio because I used to be friends with the guys in a band called D.D. Smash and Charles produced a record in the early 80’s and I know I met him through them. I didn’t sing on that record but it might have been one of those benefit records.”

Narrowing down his choice of songs for this album meant listening to a vast catalogue of Presley tunes to find the right ones. Of course, there are some Elvis songs, Reyne points out, that he wouldn’t have attempted. “None of his earlier stuff, the super iconic stuff like ‘Hound Dog’, ‘That’s Alright Mama’, ‘Suspicious Minds’… stuff like that. They’re sort of iconic. I wasn’t going to touch that! I wasn’t going to do his gospel stuff. I didn’t want to do a Gospel record. I always wanted to do ‘Kentucky Rain’ and some of the ones from the movies. He made some terrible movies but some of the songs from them were really great fun like ‘Good Luck Charm’ and ‘Burning Love’, ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ – things like that.  ‘Kentucky Rain’ is one of those songs… it’s a really good song but really cheesy and, for that reason, it’s really fun to do.  It’s not that easy to sing. You’ve got to actually believe in the song to sing it properly and, yet, you’re believing in these kind of wicked lyrics about this guy trying to hunt down his girlfriend, basically. You’ve got to lose yourself in the song to pull it off. It’s quite fun but it’s cheesy.”

There is a possibility that a single might be lifted from the album but that will all depend on airplay. “Radio is a bit of an odd kettle of fish these days.” he muses. “They might see if they can get one of the songs like ‘Kentucky Rain’ on some radio playlists. If they did, they’d release it as a single but I think it’s more about the album.”

Sydney and Melbourne can also look forward to the singer’s upcoming concerts ‘James Reyne sings The King’.  He is excited to be bringing the music to the stage and performing the songs ‘live’.  “We’re doing two shows to showcase the record. One on 21st May at The Palais in Melbourne and one on 22nd May at The State Theatre in Sydney.”

James is well aware that there is always an expectation that the audience will hear the James Reyne and Australian Crawl hits they have come to love and fans of Reyne’s music will not be disappointed. “I’m going to be the support act so I’m going to do my own songs.” he reveals. “I’ll come out for forty five minutes and do all the hits – my stuff.  Then there’ll be an interval and then we’ll come out with the full Elvis band, and we’ll do the big Elvis show – an hour and a half of Elvis! I figure that people come along and they think ‘well, I want to hear some Elvis but I wouldn’t mind hearing  James Reyne too. So, I’m not silly… I’ll just come out there and I’ll do all the hits. People sometimes get really annoyed if they don’t hear ‘Boys Light Up’!” he laughs.

While there are only two shows scheduled at this stage, he is hopeful that more dates will be added.  “If the thing works, we’ll be touring it as long as we can but we’re not going to tour it unless the record warrants going out on the road.”

The singer recently had the chance to perform the songs live for a TV special. “We actually just did a Music Max special, which we recorded in Sydney. It’s the first time we got the band together for the Elvis stuff with backup singers.  So they’re great fun songs to do live as well. Kate Ceberano is the new host of that show and I was her first… or should I say, she was my first victim!” he laughs. “I was her first guest.  Kasey Chambers got up and sang a song with us and that was fun. We did four songs from Elvis, then there was a break where I chat to the audience and then we did six songs of mine. That’s out in May.”

So, does James have a favourite track from the album? “It’s hard to pick a favourite.” he answers diplomatically. “It’s like saying ‘What’s your favourite child?’ I like all of them. I like ‘Kentucky Rain’ for the reasons I said before. I like ‘Viva Las Vegas’ and ‘She’s Not You’ because they really swing. I like things like ‘Burning Love’ because I actually get to sing ‘A hunk, a hunk of burning love’.  Everyone wants to sing that at least once in their life!”

by Sharyn Hamey

Copyright © Sharyn Hamey 2010.  All rights reserved

TCB is released through Liberation Music on Friday, 9th April 2010.

Website: www.jamesreynetcb.com


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