Aaron Neville Tells My True Story
Do you remember which track you cut first?
I think it might have been “Work With Me Annie.”
Oh, cool – so that laughter we hear is early on in the sessions, when you guys were discovering what you had there.
Yeah … I mean, if you listened to the original songs, I took it from there and put my own grooves on it – like that New Orleans-style groove on “Ting A Ling”.
That’s the thing, man – to have been hearing those songs for all these years …
Oh, yeah …
And all the different arrangements that other folks have done … how did you get clear to a place of your own?
Well, the thing about it is, I found my own place many years ago when I first heard these songs. They’ve been in my heart all these years – they’d wake me up at 3 o’clock in the morning and I’d have to sing three or four of them before I could go back to sleep. (laughter)
So you had to record this album – to get those songs out of you.
That’s right. The stars were lined up and it was the right time.
The way My True Story is laid out, “Money Honey” is the opening cut. When I put the album on for the first time, I didn’t know what to expect for Keith’s guitar playing –
I mean, Greg Leisz is an amazing man on anything with strings –
He sure is.
But when Keith goes in to that first solo, it’s classic Keith.
Yep! (laughs) One of the solos he did – I think it was on “Ruby Baby” – Keith was in there just tuning up his guitar and getting ready. He was just playing along with the band and didn’t know that the engineer was recording him.
Keith said he was ready to do the solo and the engineer told him, “Man, you don’t have to go back in there – that’s it!” (laughter)
What did Keith say?
He just laughed. (laughter)
Cool – I’ll have to put an ear to that and listen for the “tuning up” solo.
23 songs in 5 days – wow. There wasn’t a lot of time for overdubbing or back tracking … and the album has a wonderful live vibe to it.
Yeah, everybody was in sync.
And to have that much talent in the room and no egos …
There were no egos at all, no. Like Keith said, everybody was like a bunch of kids in the studio – that’s just how it was. Keith and Greg on guitars; Tony on that big upright bass – he smiled the whole session; Ben on the piano; George on the drums – you’d look back there and see him smiling … everybody was smiling.
That’s so great to hear. One little moment that comes and goes – but it’s so sweet – is Lenny Pickett’s flute solo on …
“Be My Baby”? (laughs)
Right on. Whose idea was it to do that tune?
My idea, along with Keith. That was a Ronnie Spector song that had been in my head for years; I never knew all the words but that (sings): “Be my – be my baby” – that part you know? I said, “Let’s go ahead and put that one on there.”
People will say, “That’s not doo-wop.” “No? Well what would you call it?” you know? (laughs) Doo-wop was an era – that’s how I look at it. It wasn’t just, “Shoo-bee doo-bee doo-wop doo-wop,” you know?
People get so hung up sometimes on needing to put a label on things – it’s really just how it makes you feel, I think.
Yeah, that’s right.
What was your biggest smile during the session?
I guess when I was acting out the parts. I’d say, “Look – I’m going back to the projects and I’m 10 years old and this is how I’d walk … (laughs) and they’d pick right up on it and put the groove right on the tape.
You’d walk for them?
Yeah I’d do my hip walk for ‘em. (laughs)
You know some folks can’t do that anymore when they’re 71.
You know, in the Bible, people lived 800 and 900 years. (laughter) So we’re still babies – all of us. You just got to keep in shape.
If you have a car, you’re going to wash it and shine it and make sure that the oil’s changed and all that, you know? You’ve got to do that with your body and your mind. Try to think pure thoughts and, you know, go by the Golden Rule.
*And man, you are not in the best business to try to do that. * (laughter) I don’t know as you noticed, but –
Oh, I know, I know. (laughs) But I wouldn’t take it no other way – I wouldn’t be in any other business, you know? When things happen, I just roll with the punches and smile. I’m happy that I’m here doing what I’m doing. And I’ll be 27 this month.
Well, I’ll be 72, but I turn it backwards, you know? (laughter) And then I’ll be 37 next year.
Shoot, that could go on for awhile …
Yeah! (laughter) How old are you?
I’ll be 55 next month. That comes out the same even if you turn it backwards. (laughter)
That’s cool, man – when’s your birthday?
You’re right on the cusp where it turns to Pisces, then.
You got it. That explains a lot. (laughter) You’ve been in this business a long time, Aaron. That’s one of the great things about the new album – after all these years, it’s easy to hear that you’re having fun.
Oh, I’ve been blessed you know. I thank God for looking out for me at times when I had no idea he was looking out for me – and think back and say “Oh, wow – I remember that time …” (laughs) But you’ve got to look out for yourself, too, you know. You take one step and He’ll take two – but you got to make sure you take that first step.
So – of course – you do something like this and everyone says, “That’s great … what are you gonna do next?”
(laughs) Well, I got a million of ‘em, man. (laughter)
Well, keep ‘em coming. Aaron, thank you for the time today – but most of all, thank you for the music over the years.
Thank you – you have a great year.
Brian Robbins keeps his shoo-bee doo-bee over at www.brian-robbins.com