Did you ever think, 'Wow, twenty-plus years ago this guy was
producing those classic first three U2 albums and now he's
working with me!'
Yeah, there was. Well, y'know what's really strange
is that Steve is also very charming and very
English, that's what he is. [laughs] He's such a
gentlemen, and very charming. And it was weird for me to think
that when I was just born, he was producing albums that I
listen to now for inspiration and now he's producing
something for me and he's liking it. 'He's
having fun,' I kept thinking, 'Oh my Gosh! This
is Steve Lillywhite! And he likes me! He likes my song! That's
pretty badass!' It was really fun and he's just
so talented. He made me so comfortable and he knows how to
be artist friendly. He's not the kind of producer that
would say, 'This is how it has to be done.' He's
all about where the music should be, where the song needs
to go. And that's great for musicians because that's
all we're thinking about too. Or at least in my group,
nobody needs to be the 'chief.' Nobody needs to
have their solo or anything. It was a lot of fun.
I was first introduced to you by a 5-track sampler that came out
in the fall of 2004.
With the black and white picture on the front?
With me looking up? I hated that picture! I hated that picture so
much! Y'know what happened for that picture? I was doing this photo
shoot and I was really hungry and the photographer asked me, 'What
are you hungry for?' And I said, 'Steak with A-1 sauce' and I made
this face like, 'Awww, yeah!' and she took my picture! Then Donnie
Ienner, who's the president of Sony, picked that picture for the
cover and was going to send it out to radio. And what was even worse
was that I'd been singing onstage since I was 15. I was in a hard
rock band in high school and I had chipped my teeth on the microphone
so many times that they were uneven and one was shorter than the
other. And my teeth were like that in the picture, so I went and
got them fixed right after and that was the picture that they chose.
It was the only picture that you could really see my chipped, crooked
teeth. And I was so upset the whole time. I was like 'You have to
fix this!' It was too late of course and now I just hate that picture!
It is so stupid! [laughs]
That's a great story!
Yea. But I guess you can't argue with the president.
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Of course not. So months later in early 2005, after some ramp-up
from inclusion in some TV shows, the album comes out in April 2005.
As I regularly do for upcoming artists, I let some friends and co-workers
know about the appearance on the Tonight Show. Now, I've
seen a ton of late night performances before, but very few that
elicited such a reaction. The highlight was when you put your hand
up, and stunned the audience with the a cappella "And I feel
like I'm naked in front of the crowd..." section. I got chills,
and I heard from a number of people who were blown away by it. It
was a really positive and energetic reaction!
I didn't expect that reaction. I actually didn't know I was going
to do that until the last minute. The way that started was because
in the very beginning, touring at radio stations and things like
that, there were a lot of shows that I played that were so unfair.
There'd be some cocktail party and we'd be right next to the shrimp
bowl and I'd be there with my guitarist singing "Breathe"
and not a soul would be listening to me. There was one show where
the audience was so loud, over my microphone, I was singing
through speakers and they were so loud that I still couldn't hear
myself. And I was standing there on the floor and somebody bumped
my guitar player because they wanted some shrimp, so when I got
to the part about being "naked in front of the crowd,"
it just seemed the most appropriate, and I just guess out of a reaction
I put my hand over the strings and sang that part a cappella. And
everybody quieted down and I thought, 'Wow, that's really cool.'
And so appropriate for that line too, because it's the most telling
line of the song for me. Emotionally that's how I feel about performing
and about singing. I tell people very personal things, but it almost
doesn't matter because they're gonna use it to apply to their own
lives if they're listening. So I'd done it a few times like that
with my band and we thought, 'Man that's really cool.' But live
television, I didn't know if I wanted to do that on live television.
And I was nervous. For some reason I was more nervous for Leno than
any other show that I've done. And I think it's because he's my
favorite, to tell the truth. There was so much leading up to that
because my third grade teacher used to tell me that someday I was
gonna be on that show and she wanted to be in the audience. And
this was in third grade! It was like his first year on the Tonight
Show and here all these years later I finally got to call her and
say, 'You're coming in the audience!' So there were so many things
that I was thinking about and right before we went onstage I told
my band, 'If I decide that I'm brave enough to do that part, I'll
raise my hand.' I don't even remember thinking about it. I guess
as soon as we got to that part I was like 'Ok, I'm gonna
do it.' And I raised my hand I sang it a cappella. I could hear
a pin drop in the audience, it was so quiet. And I just realized
at that point that I was shocking myself. I couldn't believe that
I did that. So I was surprised, but I'm glad I did it. It was fun
to get that reaction from people. And it sort of gave me a new level
of confidence, thinking 'Ok, even when I'm that nervous, I can still
do it.' It was fun. And now it's made its way into all of our shows.
I do that every night. I don't raise my hand anymore, the band just
stops at that part. I'm glad that it makes that part more powerful,
because that line means the most to me.
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I remember one comment in particular from a man in his 60's
who mentioned he was never interested in late night performances
and he didn't visit message boards but he felt compelled to
write in because it moved him that much and he was picking up the
album because of the performance.
That was great. I liked that people wrote in. That was cool. My
parents loved it. My third grade teacher loved it. Jay put her on
the camera and she got to wave to her class. It was really fun.
Looking forward, I know you're focusing on 1.5 right now, but
what is the direction of the material for #2. What can we look forward
Well, you can definitely tell that it's me. My writing hasn't changed
so much that it sounds like a different person, but it has developed
a little bit dynamically. I've learned a lot from my band and from
the bands I've toured with. I can tell, maybe nobody else could,
but I can tell which tour it was by listening, because I took pieces
from the Wallflowers and from Rob, and everybody. I think having
my band with me on the next album is gonna make a lot of the difference,
because it's gonna feel a lot more comfortable. It's gonna feel
more organic and natural. Not to say that the first one wasn't,
but it's gonna feel perfect to me. I'm still singing about the same
human emotions and the same kind of stuff that I've always sung
about, it's just maybe from a more mature standpoint since I'm a
few years older.
I look forward to hearing it.
Thank you! I'm looking forward to releasing it!