The Core: Aaron Neville
Aaron, Don Was and Keith Richards- photo by Sarah A Friedman
New Orleans legend Aaron Neville discusses Treme, The Neville Brothers, son Ivan and his new doo-wop album My True Story.
Old Friends, Older Ideas
If you look at my career, you’ll hear doo-wop all the way through it right from day one when Allen Toussaint recorded my first records back in ‘60s. I even did a doo-wop version of the “Mickey Mouse March” once. [Laughs.] I’ve wanted to do an album of [all doo-wop covers] for years but it took off when [Blue Note Records President] Don Was and Keith Richards got involved. Don heard about it and wanted in right away and he called Keith. Keith said, “Man, that’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.” I don’t know how we would have done it had it been anyone else but Don and Keith. It was a labor of love for everybody involved.
I’ve known Don since he was with a group called Was (Not Was), and I also did the [Van Morrison] song “Crazy Love” for the movie Phenomenon with John Travolta that Don produced. He and I got a Grammy for a duet I did with Trisha Yearwood for a country western and blues album—we’ve been friends for a long time. I met Keith back in 1981 when we opened for The Rolling Stones with The Neville Brothers. My son Ivan played keyboards and bass with his solo group the X-Pensive Winos for a little while, too.
We talked before going in the studio and we had 12 songs ready. But when we got in the studio, I was like a kid in a candy store. Keith and I talked—he grew up listening to the same stuff I was listening to. It was like we were two kids talking about shooting marbles back in the day. The same thing happened when I talked with Paul Simon—it’s like we all grew up on the same block. I started calling out songs on the spot. They’ve been in my head for years. I would wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning with songs in my head when I was 10 years old and I’d learn the words to them. They’d keep me awake until I’d sung them a few times in my head. They’ve almost been haunting me.
New Orleans State of Mind
You can hear everybody smiling through this whole session. We were in Electric Lady Studios for five or six days near where I live in New York City. The songs are tied to my youth [in New Orleans]—I just happen to be living in New York right now, so we recorded in New York. The songs have been riding in my heart throughout all these years. And I got a bunch more—this is just part one. I got to do part two and part three and part four. The whole band came up with these grooves. [At one point] Keith did a solo and he didn’t know we were recording. So he finished and we were like, “You got a solo here!” Keith does a great solo on “Money Honey.”
They got a bit of The Neville Brothers singing in an episode of Treme this season. They wanted us to do [Randy Newman’s] “Louisiana 1927”—its set during Mardi Gras time, so we brought some Mardi Gras to it. I hadn’t come back to New Orleans at the time [of Hurricane Katrina]. Charles has been living in Massachusetts, Cyril’s been living in Austin, [Texas] and Art’s never left New Orleans. They have us singing in Washington, D.C. Tim Robbins directed it.
I put The Neville Brothers on hold for a while so I could do my solo thing. We’ve been together 35 years and I’m thinking, “I don’t know how long I’ve got to do what I want to do.” I need to take that time now and dedicate it to me, and just try to do my stuff I’ve been wanting to do all my life. I’m finally getting the chance to do some of it. My son Ivan is going great with Dumpstaphunk. They all used to be in The Neville Brothers except the drummer, Nikki Glaspie. She’s great—they’re a funky band. They’ve all got their own ideas and they put them together. Ivan’s driving the truck—he’s leading it.
I’d like to do some more country music and another gospel album. I’ve never done a blues record and I can sing the blues. I’ve recorded pop, rock, funk, gospel, country—you name it—every genre I’ve done, except for the blues. I’m just looking forward to whatever comes from My True Story. I know we’re going to be doing a lot of promo stuff, running here and there, and I’m ready for it. I’ve been going to the gym five days a week and I’ve been running on the treadmill. I run about 45 minutes and I walk 25 on the treadmill, so I’m in shape for whatever [Laughs.]
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