Monday, September 16, 2013

Now on newsstands: Elvis Costello + The Roots

The new issue of American Way, the flight magazine of American Airlines, includes a brief interview I did with Elvis Costello and The Roots about their utterly superb album, Wise Up Ghost. (You can read the piece here.)

"It just came out of some curiosity about what would happen if we started putting our ideas together. And we did it without really saying more than a few words to one another," Elvis told me during our phone conversation. "I’d played with The Roots on the Fallon show on a couple of different occasions and they had come up with a great approach to some songs from my catalog. The last time I went in to do a couple of Bruce Springsteen songs – they were doing a run of nights from Bruce’s catalog. So we played a bunch of different music together and we started laying things down. We didn’t really tell anybody we were doing it."

Elvis somehow managed to fit into the band's busy schedule. The band's iconic drummer, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, told me that their gig as the house band for Jimmy Fallon means that they often work 17 hour days, so Elvis sometimes had to record with them as late as 1 a.m.

By all accounts, they had wonderful chemistry from the off. "Kirk is a wonderful guitar player," Costello told me. "Everything from the sousaphone to the percussion to the keyboards that Ray Angry and the other guys put in is just tremendous."

For his part, Questlove was impressed with the Costello’s lyrics as well as the beauty he brought to the album’s two ballads. “‘Tripwire’ is about love in the time of the Apocalypse,” explained Questlove. “‘If I Could Believe’ was his song about grieving the death of his father.”

"There’s no conventional harmony to the bulk of the songs," added Costello. "And then when that comes along in a couple of songs like ‘Tripwire’ and ‘If I Could Believe,’ then it’s a real genuine release,” says Costello. “I found that very stimulating and very provocative.”

Wise Up Ghost is one of my favorite albums of the year. Check out the video for the lead single, below.

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