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Published: 2013/01/16
by Brian Robbins

Aaron Neville Tells My True Story

Well, I hope Aaron Neville’s happy.

First, his rendition of “Tell It Like It Is” has been responsible for more steamy moments since 1967 than full moons and power outages combined. And then there’s the fact that The Neville Brothers – Aaron and brothers Art, Charles, and Cyril – have been making hips shake to their sweet, funky soul sound since 1977. Now the man is about to turn the whole darn world into one great big, doe-eyed ball of smiling doo-wop love with his new album My True Story.

Check out the credits: co-produced by Don Was and Keith Richards. A core band of Richards and Greg Leisz on guitars; Benmont Tench on keys; Tony Scherr on bass; and George Recelli on drums. And a dozen classics from the doo-wop era that Aaron Neville has been waiting a long, long time to sing.

A fun listen? You bet it is. Almost as fun as it was for these guys to make it …

I’ve seen some of the early interviews on My True Story and I get a kick out of folks who ask you, “Why a doo-wop album?”

Yeah … (laughs)

BR: It’s no surprise to me – I guess my question would be what took so long? (laughter)

I think it had to wait until the stars were aligned right and it was the right time. Everything I’ve done has had some essence of doo-wop – or that era – in it. It’s what captured my heart back in the day, you know? Between that and the gospel … and even some of the gospel I did had doo-wop mixed in it, you know?

Sure. I wanted to ask you about the beginnings of the project – and your production team. Who came first: Don Was or Keith Richards? (laughter)

Don did. Well, first of all, it was my wife Sarah, who got me in touch with Red Light Management and Marc Allan. I explained to him what I wanted to do and Marc got in touch with Don. I knew Don from when he recorded “Crazy Love” [Aaron’s version of the Van Morrison classic] and Trisha Yearwood’s “I Fall To Pieces”. [A Grammy-winning collaboration with Aaron.]

When I mentioned doo-wop to Don the light bulb lit up in his head and the first person he thought of was Keith. You see, when Don was producing Voodoo Lounge for the Stones, his hotel room was right underneath Keith’s – and Keith had “My True Story” by the Jive Five on a loop, playing over and over and over. (laughter)

Wow – imagine having a room under, over, or alongside of Keith Richards.

(laughs) Yeah, Keith’s one of the most down-to-earth guys I know – he’s very cool. And Don is, too. I’m glad he’s the president of Blue Note now. Don’s a musician first … he understands all of it.

I was tickled when I heard Don had taken the helm at Blue Note – it speaks well of the future for them … and this album is a great example. So who put the band together?

Don and Keith.

And did you have any special requests for players?

No, I didn’t. I left it in their hands, you know.

Good hands, man. (laughter) So you had a lifetime of these songs in your head and your heart – how did you ever narrow it down to the tracks that are on the album?

(laughs) You know, that was the hardest thing: me and Don talked that we could put 12 songs on a CD, but when we got in the studio … (laughs) It was like Keith said, “We were all like a bunch of kids.” (laughter) Me, I was like a kid in a candy store – they gave me carte blanche of what I could have and I said, “Well, I want one of these; one of these; one of these …” (laughter)

What you said is right: those songs have been in my head and in my heart for so many years, you know – to take just some of them is the hardest thing. We recorded 23 in those five days – and you can hear everyone smiling on the recording … everybody was into it, you know?

So … there’s more or less already a “Volume II” in the can …

Oh, I already told Don we got to have a “Part Two” and a “Part Three”!

All right! (laughter) So how did you even get down to 23 songs?

Like I said, it was hard … we just didn’t have time to do more. I mean, we could’ve done more, but we wanted to concentrate on the ones we had. The ones that are in the can might need to have little things polished up here and there, but they’re all great.

With you and that band, how could you miss?

Everybody was so into it, you know? Like I said, you can hear them smiling on the record.

I was going to ask you: I think it’s at the end of “Work With Me Annie” –

Yeah … (laughs)

You know what I’m going to say, don’t you? When everybody just busts up laughing at the very end …

Yeah! (laughter) And I told them, “Just leave that right on there.” (laughter)

It was great – the music ends; everybody takes a breath; and … pow! (laughter)

Yeah and we said, “Wow – let’s do it again!” (laughter)

Cool! Did you guys have a chance to rehearse at all before you went into the studio?

No – we just went in and talked about the songs. Don would pull it up on the internet and he might write out a little chart for them or whatever … him and Keith would put the music together … and then we’d just go into the studio and do it. I mean, some of the songs I might have to guide them through the basic grooves – like on “Ting A Ling” and “Be My Baby” – but it all happened right there in the studio.

I was going to ask you about the arrangements – you had a band full of great ears, obviously …

Yeah – sometimes I’d get on the piano and sing a little bit of how I wanted it and they’d just pick it up from there. They’d just do it, you know?

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