Missing us? John Waite talks Jersey, career and new album
John Waite has taken both The Babys and Bad English to the top as well as a number of solo hits including "Change" and the iconic "Missing You."
He's currently had success with his Wooden Hearts Volume 1 and 2 and has decided to issue a full box set of all the Wooden Heart Volumes, instead of just releasing a Vol.3.
Waite talked to me about his Jersey memories.
"I spent a lot of time in Jersey, I recorded in Jersey," Waite told me in a phone interview, "Ivan Kral, when I first got to New York City and moved to Manhattan, Ivan was living in Little Silver. We wrote together, I spent a lot of time in Jersey, I recorded in Jersey House of Music and all that stuff, and half of my band came from Jersey."
Waite starting writing songs after joining The Babys and was influenced early by cowboy music.
"Marty Robbins essentially gunfighter ballads and trail songs were huge when I was about 4, 5 and 6. You'd hear it on the TV, my cousin Michael was a really gifted guitar and banjo player and he used to play me some Hank Williams and Jimmy Rogers stuff when I was barely old enough to know what I was listening to."
"My brother is a really gifted guitarist, my Mom plays the piano and my father is into classical music and is always whistling a tune or two."
Waite also comes from a working-class musical family.
"We had nothing growing up, I was raised in a cottage with an outside toilet, in the countryside strung about trees, no bath tub in the house, very very primitive really very English country thing, and the only thing we could do for entertainment was free was to play music so everybody played, everybody sang."
John would go on to sing for The Babys with such hits as, "Isn't It Time" and "Every Time I Think of You" then came a solo career that began with the birth of MTV.
"I just moved to 72nd street New York City, finished the 'Ignition' album and all the MTV people came to town and I got to know them cause it was a very small town at that point and we all became friends. That right have had something to do with it but I don't think so."
"There were only a few bands making videos. They hadn't caught on and I had this video for 'Change' and they put me in rotation like 8 times a day," Waite ironically said. "So I'm living in this really gloomy little crash pad with a black and white TV and every hour, they'd play 'Change' I think it had a great deal to do with me being able to stay the course, people are watching you everyday whether you're on tour or not, It was a Godsend, really."
Making the transition to video was "easy" for Waite.
"The Babys got a record deal by making a video, We were the first band in the world to ever do that."
Then comes Waite's number one hit "Missing You" What was it like? "My God ,you can't really explain anything like that, especially at that time" What did he do when he hit number 1? Returned to the neighborhood ."I went back to 72nd street, and the people in the shop that I used to buy donuts from or beans were all thrilled and proud, the little old ladies who knew me were very happy."
That's what meant the most to John Waite who's humility never left him.
"Honestly, that was the best bit, It was a joy to be number 1 and flying around on the Concorde and all that stuff" says Waite " but I felt like I'd come to New York with nothing, really nothing, I had a telecaster and a bag of clothes, and I was by myself and I struggled for a year and a half to make that happen, and I made a lot of real friends that I had kept, you know the ones that are still with us are friends with me and I love them."
Returning to the neighborhood meant a lot to Waite.
"Being a neighborhood kid kind of thing, that meant a lot to me because I was sort of an orphan when I got there, Being number one in that situation meant a great deal."
It was Waites experiences that played a role in his Wooden Hearts series.
"I've gone right back to what I loved," Waite said. "After 'Bad English' I made an album called 'Temple Bar.' It was about my life in New York City, God, sex, drugs, mid-life crisis if you want to call it that but it was a very good record, It was a very revealing introspective, it wasn't a hard rock record, it had blues roots and country roots, I went back to where I was as a kid"
For Waite "Wooden Hearts is back to basics. "For me, everything starts with the acoustic guitar, It's the first guitar I put my hands on, so I went back to that and started writing all these songs and although they were electric they had a something."
Waite said these songs were different.
"You write those songs in an empty room, quiet, you don't plug in and start reaching for a riff, you're looking for something else and it suited where I was, It was something that nobody else was really doing and it was made in New York City so it was a very intense record."
One of the songs, "Downtown," was co-written with Jersey's own Glen Burtnik.
"We were just writing this really truthful stuff about life coming apart or looking for something it was just really important moment of progression and all of that has led me to this."
It was the lockdown that caused Waite to go back into the studio and finish the Wooden Hearts series. One great line Waite uttered, which sums up where he right now, "I don't need a headlight in all this darkness, I know exactly where I'm going."
The Wooden Hearts Series is available on iTunes and Spotify, with a box set soon to be released.
"I cut a lot of songs and I threw a lot of songs out, I only recorded 5 new recordings added to this to put some older songs masters, but it's an intense record and it's something you could listen to for a couple of hours and understand who I am."
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise. Any opinions expressed are Steve's own. Steve Trevelise is on New Jersey 101.5 Monday-Thursday from 7pm-11pm. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.
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