Dan Auerbach takes a break from the Black Keys to bring his solo album and the Easy Eye Sound Revue to Southern California
When Dan Auerbach came off the road from touring with his side project the Arcs in 2016, the singer and guitarist best-known as one half of the Black Keys found himself at home in Nashville with nothing to do and plenty of time to do it.
So Auerbach called one of his best Nashville friends, David “Fergie” Ferguson, a producer and engineer who knew everyone in town, and Ferguson started inviting friends over to casual songwriting sessions, guys from folk legend John Prine to lesser-known but insider-revered songwriters and musicians such as Roger Cook and Pat McLaughlin.
“And I started spending these afternoons in the summertime, writing in groups of two or three,” says Auerbach, who plays the Wiltern in Los Angeles on Saturday and the Observatory in Santa Ana on Sunday. “Every afternoon, five days a week, and it was just so much fun.
“It was also very fruitful,” he says. “We were writing tons of songs. We were writing so many songs that I decided I should start recording them.”
He had a core group of musicians he liked to work with, but Ferguson introduced him to a few more, new to Auerbach but legends in the Southern music scene, guys such as keyboardist Bobby Wood and Gene Chrisman, both them past members of the Memphis Boys house band at American Sound Studios, and musicians with credits that start with such classic late ’60s records such as Elvis Presley’s “In The Ghetto,” Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline,” and Dusty Springfield’s “Son of a Preacher Man,” and run like the Mississippi, deep and wide, ever since.
“After I met them it sort of solidified the whole sound of the record, and the whole feel of the record,” Auerbach says by phone from his Easy Eye Studio in Nashville recently. “It really just all fell into place. That’s sort of how it happened.”
What happened was his second solo album, “Waiting On A Song,” which came out last year and which brings him back to the road this winter and spring, songs that have a timeless feel to them and the warmth of a project into which Auerbach poured a lot of his love for the music and the collaborators who helped him make it.
The title track is a good example of how the album was built, track by track, over all those afternoons of songwriting.
“That’s one Prine came in with,” Auerbach says. “Prine had the first couple of lines: ‘I’ve been thinking, and I’ve been hummin’, I’ve been pickin’, and I’ve been strumming,’ And then somebody said, ‘Waiting on a song,’ you know. And then it just happened. We started catching the words as they sort of fell out of our mouths, basically.
“That’s really all songwriting, just getting yourself in the space where you’re ready to receive,” he says. “Kind of like, ‘Catch ’em before they float away.’”
There are times the record feels reminiscent of the ’80s – I won’t be the first to note that “Shine On Me” absolutely could have been a Traveling Wilburys number – while elsewhere it sounds like Southern soul on one track, Southern California ’70s singer-songwriter on another.
“I think the thing that you actually here is just the sound of the musicians involved, really,” says Auerbach of an album that also features contributions from the likes of Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits and legendary early rock guitarist Duane Eddy. “It’s their personalities shining through. Somebody like Bobby Wood or Gene Chrisman, they sort of helped to write the book of soul music, and early crossover pop music, and then they played on country hits, too.
“So you’re not actually hearing the sound of soul music, you’re hearing the guy who played drums on ‘Natural Woman’ by Aretha Franklin, you know what I mean?”
The tour is billed as Dan Auerbach & the Easy Eye Sound Revue, a nod to the studio’s house band and the musicians who not only play on Auerbach’s current album but also some he’s produced at Easy Eye, including rediscovered Louisiana soul and blues singer Robert Finley and Bay Area garage punk band Shannon and the Clams. Both Finley and Shannon Shaw of the Clams will be on stage with Auerbach, and Shannon and the Clams will open these shows.
“These are guys who haven’t toured in some 20-plus years,” Auerbach says, laughing at how fate landed Wood, Chrisman, pedal-steel guitarist Russ Pahl and bassist Dave Roe in his touring band. “I just can’t believe they’re out. I can’t believe they considered it, let alone said yes. So I’m just looking forward to hanging out with them and having this different experience with them.”
As for what comes next, Auerbach says he’s not sure and he’s not too worried about it either.
“All of these projects, they’re all me,” he says. “It’s all about who I’m working with – that’s what the project is. The Black Keys is just a collaboration between Pat and me. The Arcs is a collaboration with those other guys.
“But in terms of what do I pick that I want to do next? I don’t know. Explaining how this whole record started, it’s honestly how I’ve done things since I started. Just sort of followed my gut.”
Dan Auerbach & the Easy Eye Sound Revue
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 17 and 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 18
Where: The Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles (Saturday); The Observatory, Santa Ana (Sunday)
How much: $30-$68 at the Wiltern; $35 at the Observatory
For more: Easyeyesound.com/tour
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