JJ Cale

Because Music / Caroline Australia have announced Stay Around, the first posthumous release of works by beloved songwriter, guitarist, and singer JJ Cale, compiled by those closest to him—his widow, musician Christine Lakeland Cale, and friend and long time manager, Mike Kappus (out now).

JJ Cale cut his teeth during the ’50s, playing guitar in bars in Oklahoma alongside fellow natives David Gates of Bread and Leon Russell, and is credited as one of the key figures in creating the laid-back “Tulsa sound.” He managed to gather a loyal fan following and the admiration of some of the most revered rock musicians while—in the unwavering desire to lead a normal life—eluding fame, and it was via other artists recording and performing his songs that he became best known.

Eric Clapton recorded After Midnight, Cocaine, and several other Cale originals, his admiration culminating with the pair’s Road To Escondido collaboration in 2006, which earned Cale his first Grammy, for Best Contemporary Blues Album, and his first RIAA Certified Gold Award. Mike Kappus sheds some light on this amazing musical legacy with Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles.

How emotional a project was this considering the legend JJ Cale had passed away?
It’s nearly six years since he passed away so it’s not a shock or a fresh situation any more. Going over the songs, the overriding emotion was a positive one, focusing on Cale and what a great writer, player and producer he was. But of course it also brings up the sad emotion of missing him as my best friend.

Did the band feel a sense of responsibility to ensure this music was released and heard by fans?
Actually Cale didn’t didn’t tour that often and didn’t have one specific ongoing band. And Cale created many of these songs by himself. So there was no pressure from anyone to release this actually or from anyone to even know that most of these songs existed. But this is a collection of great music that his wife, Christine, and I wanted to share as widely as possible and we have discussed this project for quite some time.

Have you been overwhelmed by the response to Chasing You?
The response to Chasing You has been very positive and it would be great if it was strong enough to be overwhelming but it has yet to really reach the public in a major way. So we will see. Hopefully the response will be overwhelming.

In some ways was it a therapeutic process going through the process of compiling the songs and remembering the times when they were written or jammed?
In a way it was therapeutic in that it was great to focus so intently again on Cale’s music. Of course I listen to his music regularly but this was a more concentrated period and it was a pleasure being reminded of how much great material he created and what a great artist he was as we went through everything. There wasn’t so much remembering the times they were written and jammed because they were coming from various periods and I had heard almost all of these songs over a period of many years with just a few of them being new discoveries.

What’s your favourite song from Stay Around and why?
I love the song, Stay Around and the beautiful playing and production. But there are high points on many of the songs like the upbeat nature of My Baby Blues, and the Spanish influence on Maria and the banjo on Wish You Were Here – both of which were elements I loved from Cale. I would tell him how much I enjoyed his banjo playing and he was always very humble about not being much of a banjo player but I loved the feel of it. And I really like the guitar playing on Oh My My as well as elsewhere throughout. There are just a lot of great classic Cale touches throughout the album.

Did the songs require much tweaking or were they pretty much ready to go?
In fact none of these songs were tweaked in any way whatsoever. Cale already produced these songs to his typical level of production for release so we left everything exactly as he had left these songs with no new overdubs or new mixes or any changes whatsoever.

Were you surprised by the amount of material that had been acquired over the years?
In fact Cale had been sending me demos for many years, originally on cassettes and later on CDs. There were only a few songs discovered that I hadn’t already had on hand, so there wasn’t any surprise actually.

Are there more gems hidden away that might find themselves on a future release and continue the legacy?
At the moment our focus is entirely on this album. But indeed there are still some previously unreleased songs that I’m sure will come out at some time in the future.

Interview By Rob Lyon

Stay Around is out now…

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