Interviewed by David Felix
Date: August 2007
From the time he first hit the stage with his first band, THE BABYS, in the late 70's and cranked out hits like 'If You've Got The Time,' 'Back On My Feet Again,' 'Every Time I Look At You,' 'Head First,' and 'Isn't It Time,' it wasn't hard to tell that John Waite was headed for stardom. Then, with his continued success as a solo artist, John continued to release a string of all-time classics like 'Change' and 'Missing You' through out the 80's making him an icon.
After that, he teamed up with famed JOURNEY members Neil Schon and Deen Castronovo as well as Jonathan Cain and Ricky Phillips(who also hailed from THE BABYS) to form the super-group BAD ENGLISH in the late 80's/ early 90's and released even MORE hits like 'Price of Love,' 'Straight To Your Heart, ' and 'When I See You Smile.'
Finally, he once again embraced his solo career and continued his success through the 90's and up until today (which included the release of chart-breakers 'In Dreams' and 'How Did I Get By Without You.'). Now, with a career spanning over three decades, John Waite is nothing short of a legend in the industry.
I recently caught up with this world-renowned artist backstage after his appearance at the House of Blues in Atlantic City, NJ. Don't forget to check out the full concert review HERE and here's what he had to say: - David Felix
David Felix: Hi John, it's a pleasure to meet you. Thank you so much for inviting us backstage and taking the time to speak with us. It really was a tremendous show& very impressive, and your voice sounds just as good now as it did when you first started.
John Waite: God bless you! Thank you& Thank you very much.
David Felix: So let's start things off by talking a little bit about the new tour and new album. How long have you been out in support of the release now?
John Waite: Since it came out. We've been out since January doing some unplugged dates and full band dates& about an equal amount of both. We've been playing everywhere we can. We've been to Europe and played with a symphony orchestra there. Then we came back and just picked up the tour and playing as much as possible. We actually got to play Opryland with Alison Krauss and Vince Gill& that was a big thrill! It was the first time we ever got to play there so it really was a big thrill for me.
David Felix: Tell me a little bit about your band and how you got together with them.
John Waite: It's the same list of people I've been playing with for a while now. Tim's the newest guy. (Tim Hogan) Jimmy Leahey's been with us for God knows how many years, it's been years and years& he's been with us since 'TEMPLE BAR.' So it's pretty much the same guys I've been playing with for at least the last five years now.
David Felix: Tonight you did an acoustic set& how often do you play with a full band?
John Waite: It's 50/50. When we play bigger dates like festivals or theaters, we tend to use the full band more but whenever I get the chance to play acoustically, I tend to go for that instead. I prefer that because it's more 'country.'
David Felix: Let's talk about the new album a little bit&
John Waite: We basically re-cut everything that was a famous song and put it on one record. I was in England and I couldn't find a John Waite record so we decided to make a greatest hits out of our set list.
David Felix: What made you decide on that instead of a new studio release?
John Waite: Well, it was just for Europe, actually. But by the time Alison Krauss decided to hop aboard on 'Missing You,' we decided to up the ante and recorded some more songs like 'Downtown,' 'Highway 61' and 'St. Patrick's Day.' That made it a completely different record and I thought that for people who hadn't gotten a John Waite record, this would be like a 'crash course' in John Waite now! It's kind of like a 'psychedelic' version of an album and not really what you'd expect.
David Felix: Are you currently working on any new material?
John Waite: Always! The thing is, you make an album these days and you can't buy it anywhere because so many record companies have gone out of business and the record shops, as we use to know them, are closing down. Unless you download it, it's hard to get. So I'm working on my next move now. I'd like to get out an acoustic album before Christmas and a live album but I have no idea what's going to happen as far as the next studio album goes. The music business is just in such turmoil.
David Felix: Have you been considering using venue such as 'iTunes' and such more?
John Waite: Oh yeah! I have like 80 songs up there now and some that are just exclusive to 'iTunes.' So I understand it but it's just that when you go in to make a studio record, the budget is just so enormous if you're going to try and put it in the shops. It's practicality, really! You can't keep making records and putting them out there if there's no outlet for them. So we'll see how things go.
David Felix: You had one of your first real successes with the band THE BABYS back in the 70's, became almost a household name in the 80's with your solo material and work with the band BAD ENGLISH. Do you find it more difficult now to build and maintain a fan base as oppose to the success you had in the past?
John Waite: No. I think that I'm lucky to come under the wire with the music business being so out of control. I've got such a big catalog that when people see me on the street, they know me and we advertise our gigs, we always have a turn out. I've been fortunate enough to have already established myself so I can just go my own way as an artist.
Judy Felix: Didn't you play a show in the New York City subway?
John Waite: Oh yeah! I'm one of the few people that actually took a band into the New York City subway! (laughs) We almost got arrested! The police came and everything but I played on a rooftop too about 20 years ago and almost got arrested for that! So I've played on a rooftop AND in the subway& I think I've covered all the bases! (laughs)
David Felix: A lot of artists from your success period are finding a new audience and renewed success with the younger generation today. Do you find that's true with you as well?
John Waite: Yes& in country. I've found the country audience has really taken to me and I've always loved country& country and blues and that's why I'm a rock singer! It's not one or the other, it's right down the middle. All my influences stem from country and blues so it's been really refreshing.
Judy Felix: Do your country fans know about THE BABYS and the other work you've done?
John Waite: Oh yeah! When I go down to Nashville, everybody just adores THE BABYS. Here I'll be talking about Hank Williams and they'll want to talk about 'HEAD FIRST!' But it really opens up a lot of doors. When you start a conversation, you understand each other more and a door opens into music! So it's very cool and I am very pleased about it.
David Felix: Are you happy with all the success you've had and what else would you like to accomplish?
John Waite: Yeah, I'm very happy with it! I was just thinking last night in the bath tub that someone once asked me what I wanted and I said, 'I want to be, kind of, off to one side and be able to do what I wanted to do without having the pressure of having to be number one every week.' And if you look at my career, that's just about how it's gone. There've been these tremendous 'highs' and that would sustain me through the next five records of me doing what I wanted to do but then I'd have to make another number one record or go away. But with radio like it is now, the older stuff is in regular rotation so my name's still out there and it's the best of every possible world!
David Felix: After all these years, are you still having fun?
John Waite: Of course! When I step up to the 'mic' I always sing a little differently and it's always a beautiful thing just to play music and write. I feel very, very lucky& truly lucky.
David Felix: I recently attended THE POLICE's 30th anniversary tour. It seems that it's been just about as long for you and THE BABYS. Has there ever been any talk of something like that with them?
John Waite: No, no& we had a very hard time with Chrysalis over our catalog. We never really got out of debt. We toured so much and took so many advances that we never got out of debt. So to put the band back together would be insane because we still owe something upwards of a million dollars! So it's just like 'thank you, it was great.' If you find the records, listen to them but we just don't care.
David Felix: Looking back, what has been your proudest moment?
John Waite: I think playing Opryland with Alison Krauss and Vince Gill. I think that was the most nervous I've ever been in my life other than going on stage for the first time. That, for me, was just the biggest moment because we got just the biggest reception in Nashville. That really shook me. I remember just coming off stage and I couldn't talk! It was just such a big thrill for me to sing with Alison and Vince live& it was so great.
David Felix: Had you not been a success in the music industry, what do you think you'd be doing now?
John Waite: Two words& 'HARD TIME!' (laughs) I'd probably be in jail somewhere.
David Felix: You've been and influence and inspiration to so many people over the years& but who are your heroes?
John Waite: There are just so many. You could mention just about any performer from the 50's or 60's. People in country music from when I was like five years old through FREE with Paul Rodgers and Simon Kirke to Hank Williams to Merle Haggard to Alison Krauss to Robert Plant! I'm just such a huge fan of music and people who make music. You recognize it when it's really good and it's like delving into Russian literature or something& you're that involved in it. It's like its own universe! You're always thinking about it and constantly inspired by it. So it could never be just one person&
David Felix: Any Regrets?
John Waite: I should have got a better lawyer when I first started out! (laughs) And a lawyer to watch the lawyer! I've always lived my life the way I wanted to. I've never had to 'cow-tow' nor do something I didn't want to do. I think that's been the biggest wonderfulness of my life& that I got to live it the way I wanted to.
David Felix: What do you do to relax?
John Waite: I'm doing it! I could always say I sleep, but I sleep with my toe tapping! Music is just about everything to me.
Judy Felix: What is the hardest lesson you've ever hard to learn?
John Waite: Human nature can sometimes be a negative thing in business when it comes to money. People can and WILL show you sides of themselves that you never thought possible. Money changes people immediately. It's a very bitter reality of life, but it's how life is. You don't have to live your life like that, but you have to be aware that there is an edge to life that's pretty dark& but that's what makes the bright side even brighter! There are people who live their lives purely based on art, being compassionate or being really involved in the world with no care for possessions& and they're very successful. They make great livings or just work in like Africa or something. So for everything that's dark& there's light! Everything is in balance so it's just as it's meant to be.
David Felix: What advice would you have for any budding, young artists out there?
John Waite: Umm& listen to nobody else and dig deep!
David Felix: So what's next for you and your band?
John Waite: Listen to nobody else and dig deep! (all laugh)
David Felix: That's about it, John. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
John Waite: Just take a listen to the new album& give it a shot. I hope you enjoy it and if you enjoy it, I'm complete! I'm happy!
David & Judy Felix: Thanks again for everything, John.
John Waite: Thank you and thanks for coming out tonight and catching the show.