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Huey Lewis on his new record, fickle crowds, and being a gay crush: A Music Mix Q&A

Image credit: Paul Morigi/WireImage.com

It’s been nine years since Huey Lewis and the News released a new CD. But the band who scored twelve top-10 hits (including “The Power of Love” from Back to the Future) during the ’80s has just released Soulsville, a tribute record to the ’60s soul songs of the Memphis-based Stax record label. Once I got over the fact that Lewis is now 60 years old (!), I quizzed him on his new sound…and whether he knew he was MTV VJ Dave Holmes’ childhood crush.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You recorded much of Soulsville in Memphis. How else did you get into the mood besides being there?
HUEY LEWIS:
First of all, you listen to the songs a lot by yourself. You do all that work by yourself, like an actor would. You develop a whole backstory of what this character’s going through and you find a voice for the guy who’s going through this, who’s singing this song.

A lot of the songs on the record involve physical and emotional turmoil. Yet your persona is very happy-go-lucky and positive.
It’s true, I do like cheering people up. A buddy of mine in the Tower of Power horns used to say to me, “It’s a big job, cheering up the world, No. 1.” He calls me “No. 1.” I’m unapologetic about the happy part of it, and I would submit to you that many of these songs—“Never Found A Girl,” “Just the One (I’ve Been Looking For)”—are in fact happy.

So have you always been a frustrated soul singer doing pop music? Or do you feel like you were able to infuse some soul into your pop records?
Rather than record chestnuts like “Knock On Wood” or “In the Midnight Hour” and give them a modern interpretation, we thought it would be cooler to go into the catalog a little deeper and find songs that people hadn’t heard and capture them faithfully. And oddly enough, when it was all said and done, I had this amazing feeling—and several critics have pointed this out—that it wasn’t all that dissimilar from Huey Lewis and the News [music]. So I realized, “S—! I really was influenced by this soul!” I never heard that in our music. I thought our music was more rock ‘n’ roll. But there you go.

You avoided some very well-known songs like “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” but you were willing to follow Bruce Willis, who had a hit with “Respect Yourself.”
I never heard his version. I really didn’t.

Do you now feel like you’re a part of the Memphis soul community? Or are they hesitant to admit a blue-eyed member?
Well, I was just in Memphis, and this guy comes up to me and says, “I was James Brown’s road manager for 15 years, and I want to tell you something.” And he whispers in my ear, “You were the only white boy James ever liked.” That’s awesome. Get out of here!

With Elton John and Rod Stewart in the top 10 of the album chart, it’s a good time for artists in their 60s. But it’s still hard to sell records after a certain age, isn’t it?
There’s people out there that don’t buy a CD all year. The market has just shrunk. Ten million people bought the Sports record when there were 200 million people in America. One out of 20 owned the stupid thing. So there’s got to be a market out there. But how you get to them, I have no idea. And you know what? I’m not interested.

How do you keep from getting depressed that you can’t play the big concert venues that you used to?
I got a very good life. I sold plenty of records, I get recognized plenty, I can always have somebody call up and get me a fine table at a restaurant. What do you really need, ultimately? The only part that’s surprising to me is I always thought if you have a sold-out house of 20,000 people and you do a fabulous show, that they’re going to come back and see you every time you play. I’ve had many people tell me that they saw me at Blossom [outside Cleveland] in ’85 and it was the best rock ‘n’ roll show they’ve ever seen. And so I say to them, “When did you last see us?” And they say, “That was it.” It’s like, “We’ve played there every year since!” But that’s the way it happens. That’s the part of it that I never understood. But I do now.

Did you hear about the “It Gets Better” video that the former MTV VJ Dave Holmes posted, where he said that seeing you at the beginning of the “I Want A New Drug” video made him realize he was gay? Here, I’ll play it for you.
That’s cute. I’m flattered! That’s sweet. I remember when I filmed that scene, I didn’t wear a shirt, I wore boxer shorts. It was the Paul Newman scene in The Sting; that’s where I swiped it. Paul Newman wakes up and he’s hung over and fills the sink with ice and puts his head in the ice. So that was just a rip-off of that scene.

Check out Huey and the boys performing the album’s title track:

Quincy Jones on Michael Jackson's Thriller scraps, Amy Winehouse, and American Idol: A Music Mix Q&A

Quincy-JonesImage Credit: Stefanie Keenan/Getty ImagesLegendary producer Quincy Jones is the man to thank for loads of classic records. By crafting hits with iconic artists like Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, and countless others, his track record speaks for itself. But even at 77, Jones isn’t slowing down a bit. Two weeks ago his book with intimate stories studio experiences, The Quincy Jones Legacy Series: Q on Producing, hit stores. And next week (Nov. 9) he’ll release Q: Soul Bossa Nostra, an album featuring today’s pop stars covering their favorite Quincy cuts. The Music Mix caught up with Jones to chat about why his unreleased Michael Jackson songs will stay that way, what he thought of the reclusive Amy Winehouse’s “It’s My Party” cover, and why he’s not paying haters any mind.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You were known to hold some pretty huge talent searches for musicians and singers decades ago. What do you think of shows like American Idol?
QUINCY JONES:
I think the attraction of American Idol is about the basic human nature attitude that is, “We can put you up there. But we can take you down.” That’s been around a long time. If you’re asking me what the one component that gets them millions of viewers, that’s it. Even more than the songs, I think it’s to see that the audience can control the popularity of the artist.

Would you ever be a judge on one of those…
No, that’s not what I do. I’ve got too much to do. That’s getting up every day at seven in the morning. That’s not my thing. But it has got its value. It gets people to pay attention to songs. It’s ironic because I hear songs on there like Moody’s “Mood For Love.” Which the first vocalese record James Moody did in Sweden in 1949, man. So it’s exposing people to music they’ve never heard before. That’s the good part. It’s a double-edged sword there.

When the track listing for this album came out, people were excited to hear how Amy Winehouse would cover “It’s My Party.” That was a huge record for you almost 40 years ago. How do you think she did?
I did the first one in 1963 with Lesley Gore. She was 16. They said that I couldn’t do rock & roll. I love challenges, man. And we had 18 hits with her. “It’s My Party” was the first hit. Amy, at first, was going to do “You Don’t Own Me.” She hadn’t recorded in four years. And then she decided to record “It’s My Party.” Everybody just went with what they wanted to go with.

Did you like Amy’s?

Check out the rest of the interview after the jump.

READ FULL STORY

Robyn talks tonight's 'Gossip Girl' guest spot, the 'Body Talk' trilogy, and her gay following: An EW Q&A

robynImage Credit: RankinSwedish chanteuse and longtime EW crush Robyn has a lot going on these days: Her NSFV video for latest single “Indestructible” just hit the interwebs last week; she’s promoting her third album of the year, Body Talk, which will be released on Nov. 22; and she’s got a guest spot performing “Hang With Me” on tonight’s episode of The CW’s Gossip Girl.

With everything happening for her, we thought it high time to check in. Here, she chats with us about tonight’s trip to the Upper East Side, her insane album-recording schedule for Body Talk, and how much she loves her always-adoring gay audience.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So you’re singing “Hang With Me” on Gossip Girl tonight. You doing the acoustic version or the electric version?
ROBYN:
I’m doing the acoustic version there, so you’re going to like that.

Why did you choose to do “Hang With Me”?
They asked for it. I was happy to do it. I love the acoustic version, too, and it’s just what they were doing in the episode. I think I’m not supposed to tell you about what’s going on in the program, but I’m performing that song at a party.

It’s Blair’s birthday party—that information is out there.
Yeah, it’s her birthday party, and I’m brought in to sing.

Are you only singing? Or do you have a little part in the plot, too?
No lines, but there’s a little bit of interaction with me and someone—it was more reacting, because we didn’t really act too much. We were just reacting at our environment, which will be quite fun, I think.

Did you pursue the Gossip Girl spot?
I can’t say that I’ve actually watched Gossip Girl a lot. A guy who works with me watches it a lot, and he said: “Yes! You have to do it. It’s really good.” So I checked a little bit with people I know to see what they thought about it, but I thought it would be a good opportunity to showcase the music. I’m happy for any kind of way of doing that at the moment.

It’s nice to be asked, and you’re in good company—Lady Gaga did a similar spot last year.
Totally. It’s great.

So your third album this year, Body Talk, hits stores Nov. 22. How does this fit into the Body Talk trilogy you’ve been working on this year?
I think that one of the amazing things that happened when I decided to record this album in this way—in the three parts—is that the whole process just brings me a lot closer to the listeners in the sense that I don’t really know much more about what’s going on than you do. That’s really how it is. It’s a process that I decided to explore because I was tired of having the structure where you usually spend two or three years on tour, not being able to record and then going into the studio and needing to make 15 songs in one go. It’s a way of trying to break that structure up a little bit, but it also means that as soon as the record’s done, I send it off to the factory, so while I’m promoting the last album, I’m recording the new one.

READ FULL STORY

Yoko Ono: An interview with EW on her recent dance-chart hits, the upcoming John Lennon reissues, and more

Yoko-OnoImage Credit: Wendell Teodoro/WireImage.comOf the many, often-polarizing mantels Yoko Ono has worn over the course of her 77 years—artist, activist, musician, Most Famous Widow in the World—few are quite as unexpected as her current post: reigning diva of the dancefloor.

Ono recently hit no. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Dance Club Play for the fifth consecutive time with “Wouldnit (I’m a Star),” a track from her 2001 concept album Blueprint for a Sunrise reconfigured by veteran producer and DJ Dave Audé. (Remixing Ono is not a new idea, of course; over the past decade, Cat Power, the Pet Shop Boys, Ween, Thurston Moore, the Flaming Lips, and many others have also taken her work on).

EW recently spoke to her about her new status amongst club kids, and the extensive work of readying the reissues of her late husband John Lennon’s solo material, due next Tuesday—four days before what would have been his 70th birthday.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Hello. How are you?
YOKO ONO:
Just, you know, rolling, rolling along, rolling well. [laughs]

So I just saw the cover art for the stripped-down Double Fantasy, and it’s that famous photo, but redrawn by your son, Sean..
Yes! Isn’t that great? He’s very artistic, but he’s very different even in art, he’s not like John and he’s not like me. I asked him to do this drawing, and he said “Maybe I can do it, maybe I can’t do it, I don’t know how I feel about it,” he was going through all that. And then one day he just gave it to me. He has a very kind of realistic technique, don’t you think? READ FULL STORY

Nick Hornby and Ben Folds on their musical project 'Lonely Avenue': An EW Q&A

Folds-HornbyImage Credit: Eamonn McCabeThis Tuesday saw the release of Lonely Avenue, the inaugural collaboration between musician Ben Folds and music-loving novelist Nick Hornby (High Fidelity, About a Boy, last year’s Juliet, Naked).

EW caught up with the cross-continental collaborators—via conference call, naturally—to find out how they made an album across three thousand miles, and why they can’t wait to work together again.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So Nick you’re in London and Ben, where are you?
BEN FOLDS:
I’m in Nashville, just sitting at home.

So did you guys put this together the way Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello did with the Postal Service, sending things back and forth through the mail, or did you Skype?
NICK HORNBY:
No, we didn’t even look at each other, did we? We pretty much did it all on email. I would send the lyric, and then Ben would send back an MP3, and then obviously as the recording process went on, he sent me more and more MP3s with bits added to them.

So say that Nick, you sent lyrics, Ben, would you give him back one option, or would you give him a buffet, like, “this a ballad,” or “this is a rockier song,” or did you take one approach and hone it?
BF
: His lyrics were pretty much completed. They were complete—there was one song that got a couple lines cut out of it—but they didn’t come with instructions like “this is a ballad,” they sort of implied that themselves.
NH
: As I understand it, the way Ben works anyway, he’d look at the words and more or less either a song came to his mind or it didn’t come to his mind, so I ended up writing a lot more sets of lyrics than he actually used, it was a kind of instantaneous hit thing for him, either a tune came or it didn’t, so in terms of options, I think the melody comes more or less fully formed and with it’s own feel. Is that right, Ben?
BH
: Yeah, usually there’s some sort of math problem to work out, just a matter of syllables and how something’s going to be set up. But for the most part the melody of what’s the chorus and what’s the verse and what the general framework is comes pretty quickly. You know I might figure out something two or three weeks later just out and about or sitting at the piano or at some point it occurs to me and I go “Ohhh, OK, that’s what I do, I rest a couple bars.” Those sort of things, the last 2% came much slower, but the basics of it, most of the time I could have gone out and just played the song at a gig the night of or the next night, most of it’s obvious.

OK, Nick, how is this different than say, the stuff you’ve done with Marah?
NH
: Uhm, well I don’t… there was never any mix of words and music directly when I was with those guys, that was more of a thing where we were friends and I read some stuff that I had written and that was punctuated by their music more or less, so it just became a kind of music and words evening, but we didn’t actually collaborate on anything.

And Ben, how was Nick to work with compared to, say, William Shatner? READ FULL STORY

Mumford & Sons: An EW Q&A with frontman Marcus Mumford

Mumford-and-SonsImage Credit: Rebecca MillerFierce London-based folkies Mumford & Sons have become one of 2010′s most unexpected slow-burn success stories—a band whose sound defied mainstream American radio formatting, but whose full-length debut, Sigh No More, has still managed to gain a passionate following Stateside.

We didn’t know any of that back in March of 2009, of course, when leader Marcus Mumford played uncredited backup for singer-songwriter Laura Marling at an Entertainment Weekly‘s SXSW day party. (Though our own Simon Vozick-Levinson did note: “Maybe it was just the heat addling my brain, but Marling’s multialented accompanist on accordion/drums/finger-snaps/mandolin looked eerily like a young, British version of Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights.” Truth?)

Today, Mumford took time out from a U.K. soundcheck to speak to EW about the band’s rise, his recent time in the studio with legendary Kinks frontman Ray Davies, and why his mum went to the mat for her son’s on-air profanity.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So we were just saying that when your album came out, we were like, isn’t that the same guy who played our EW party with Laura Marling in Austin last year?
MARCUS MUMFORD:
Yeah! I remember that. You gave us cigarettes [ed note: Actually, those came from the event's sponsors. Kids, don't smoke!]. That was excellent, really. Thank you.

What I remember from that day mostly is you playing an unholy amount of instruments. How many you do really actually play?
[Laughs] The thing is, you can’t really count the ones that I don’t know what I’m doing on, so like, Laura would show me the two buttons that I press on the accordion, then I make a noise and it’s in the right key. Sometimes I would even put stickers on the buttons so I knew what to press. But really, I can only play the drums—I can fake-play the guitar and the mandolin and ukelele and the banjo, but I don’t really know what I’m doing a lot of time. READ FULL STORY

Pharrell Williams: An EW Q&A

Pharrell-Williams-Times-SquareImage Credit: Ben Hider/WireImage.comN.E.R.D. lit up Times Square today like it was New Year’s Eve, performing a free Honda-sponsored concert of three party-starting tracks—two from their new album, Nothing, currently slated for release October 19th, and one from their 2001 debut, “Lapdance.” Before the show, EW caught up with Pharrell Williams to talk about his upcoming album, plans for the future, and why he calls America’s youth the “microwave generation.”

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY You and collaborator Shay Haley have been best friends since high school. How has your relationship evolved over the years?
PHARRELL WILLIAMS:
We’re best friends. Love is like shoelaces. It’s only gotten tighter. Times change, so does the dichotomy between two people, and we’ve had some obstacles. But for us, our friendship has always been number one, and our music number two. Our music wouldn’t be as good if we weren’t such close friends.

What can we expect from your new album, Nothing?
At first, the album was called Instant Gratification, and it was good, but not good enough. It was our answer to this generation, which we have nicknamed the “microwave generation”: The Microwavers. Even though the microwave is old technology, it actually happens to be the mentality of all the people on the planet right now. Especially the kids—they want it now and they want it hot. They don’t want it ten minutes from now. With Nothing, we feel like we’re reflecting society.

You guys have incorporated a lot of musical influences into your previous albums—not just hip-hop, but some ’70s funk and glam rock—how would you describe the sound of Nothing?
N.E.R.D. represents music that transcends time. If you go back and listen to the first N.E.R.D. album, you’re like “What is that? Okay, interesting.” And after the third listen you’re hooked. This album sounds like it came out of the late 60s/early 70s. It calls to mind the Doors, Crosby, Stills & Nash, America, a little bit of Neil Young, there’s a Queen moment, there’s a Moody Blues moment. It’s “baba cool,” like the French term. It’s posh, it’s Bohemian, and it’s fashion and art.

What’s it like for you guys to perform with other artists, like Nelly Furtado on your single “Hot ‘N’ Fun,” rather than just producing their tracks?
It’s the same experience, really. You’ve just got to get out there and do the work. But working with somebody like Nelly makes it easier. She’s gorgeous and talented. You get what you would get out of gorgeous and talented.

So the album is definitely coming out October 19th? Because it’s been pushed back once already…
We’ve tried to make the lead-up to this new album be like an Easter egg hunt, telling you one thing, and then like two months later it’s another date. We’re really good at that. In two seconds, there could be another release date.

What else does the future hold for N.E.R.D.?
I don’t know if we’ll ever stop making records, but we’re going to keep finding new ways to present it to the audience. I think we’ve been in a cocoon for a while, and the next step is to butterfly.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

More on the Music Mix:
Pete Yorn’s new self-titled album: Stream it here
Jack Johnson and Andy Samberg beat the hell out of each other in new video for ‘At or With Me’
Watch ‘Lost’ star Jorge Garcia jam with Weezer
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Who would you nominate for induction this year?
Susan Boyle to release Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ as single

Ronnie Wood on his new solo album, the sober life, and the Rolling Stones' next move: The Music Mix Q&A

Ronnie-WoodImage Credit: Jack EnglishThe past few years have been turbulent for Ronnie Wood. Since 2008, the Rolling Stones guitarist has made headlines for a rehab stint, a divorce, and an arrest for alleged assault (the case ended with an official caution). Now a clean and sober Wood is hoping to put the drama behind him. On Sept. 28, indie label Eagle Records will release I Feel Like Playing, his first solo album since 2001. The bluesy set, which Wood began recording in December 2008, features contributions from famous friends like Slash, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, Bobby Womack, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Eddie Vedder, and more.

Wood, 63, called the Music Mix yesterday from the NYC hotel where he’s staying to tell us all about the new album — and what the future holds for the Rolling Stones. Read on for our lightly edited Q&A.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In the credits for this album, you give “special thanks to [Hollywood producer] Steve Bing, for starting this whole process.” How was he involved?
RONNIE WOOD: I was in Los Angeles, and he loves to hear me play. He said, “Hey, Ronnie, do you fancy taking this studio? I booked the House of Blues for you. Do you want to make some tracks?” And I said, “Wow, I wasn’t planning on it.” And he said, “Oh, I just love the way you play, man, come on, please, get out there.” I said, “Well, I’ve got a few ideas kicking around in the back of my head.” So I went up with [Stones backup singer] Bernard Fowler. Steve Bing said, “I’ve got [drummer] Jim Keltner up there, and [singer/keyboardist] Ivan Neville.” I rang up Flea, who had said, “If you make an album, I’ll be on it with you.” He was in town, and then me and Bernard went up, and we cut “Spoonful.” That was really spontaneous. It just happened in one or two takes. We took it all from there. I had these phrases in my head, like, “I don’t think so,” and I also had, “Why’d you wanna go and do a thing like this for?” I’d just left home at the time. So I started to put melody to some of these words…What we would do is sit in my hotel room and plan it in the afternoon, and go up in the studio and make ‘em in the evening. READ FULL STORY

Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine: An EW Q&a

Florence-and-the-MachineImage Credit: Paul Redmond/WireImage.comSomewhere between Gaga’s meat smock and the endless iterations of Kanye-vs.-Taylor, a different kind of star emerged at last night’s VMAs.

Crimson-haired songstress Florence Welch (who is, essentially, Florence and the Machine) stunned an audience fed on frantic dance moves, endemic lip-synching, and ersatz drama—simply by singing the crap out of a genuinely great song.

EW caught up with the 24-year-old Londoner and 2009 EW Year-End Albums topper late last week, while she was still anticipating last night’s performance, and spoke to her about gearing up for the show, getting to know Lady Gaga, and who she was most likely to fan out on backstage.

EW: Hello! We’re big fans here at EW, so it’s nice to finally speak to you. Are the VMAs a thing you’re familiar with, having grown up in England?

FW: Yeah, they do run them here on MTV, for sure.

EW: So you know the show is famous for crazy incidents—Eminem fighting with the sock puppet, the guy from Rage Against the Machine falling off a statue onstage, Prince in his buttless pants

FW: Oh yes, the buttless pants! The Brits are really my only experience with awards, and the VMAs are such an iconic event. Just yesterday, I was walking around [London's] Soho in a dress that cost me one pound and has a hole in it, and then later I was laying on the living-room floor with my sister and this advert came on for the VMAs, this huge spectacle with explosions and all these massive artists and I was like “Oh my god, I’m doing that? Are you sure?” People in south London laying on their living-room floors aren’t supposed to be the people who do that. It just seems so surreal to me that I was laying there watching an advert for a thing I’m actually scheduled to be performing at.

EW: Are you planning to match that level of spectacle?

FW: I think it’s going to be something quite big, not something we’d be able to do at any other event.

EW: So that means you’ve been learning arial acrobatics, like Pink?

FW: Yes, absolutely. While doing jump rope upside down [laughs].

EW: tell me how this year has been for you, it seems like in America at least, it’s been a pretty slow, steady build… READ FULL STORY

Taylor Swift tells EW about new album 'Speak Now': 'I've covered every emotion that I've felt in the last two years.'

Taylor-SwiftAs you’re likely very well aware, Grammy-winning star Taylor Swift has recorded another sure-to-be-massive album, Speak Now, which comes out Oct. 25.

The star, who has rocketed to fame over the past few years, recently spoke to EW about her new disc, telling us that it’s a “collection of confessions—things I wish I had said when I was in the moment.” The title track, indeed, is about “the moment in a wedding where you speak now or forever hold your peace.” That’s just a tease about the album. More details can be found in the Fall Music Preview in this week’s issue of Entertainment Weekly.

But until you pick that up, enjoy some outtakes from our chat with Taylor.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Do you remember the moment when you finished the track list and how that felt?
TAYLOR SWIFT: I finished the track list about two months ago. I don’t stop writing songs when I have enough songs to make an album. For the last two years, I have just been trying to beat what I have on this list of potential songs for the record.

I would think that working on an album is stressful. But when you talk about working on Speak Now, you seem so happy. Was it a joyful process? Or was there a stressful part to making it?
There is a stressful and joyful element to making an album. For me, I’m either incredibly stressed or overjoyed, and the way  that usually goes is that if I’ve just written a song, I’m the happiest you will ever see me. But if I haven’t written a song in a week and a half, I am more stressed than you will ever, ever see me at any other point. If I haven’t written a song in more than about nine days, that’s when I start to zone out in the middle of conversations because I’m thinking about what I could be writing about next. For me, it’s just such a fun challenge to constantly be writing and constantly be trying to top what you just wrote. It’s one of my favorite games to play—trying to beat what I’ve written last. What I wrote last is something I got really excited about when I wrote it, but I know I could write something better. But it’s just a really fun thing to go through.

Would you consider all the songs on this record to be love songs? Or are there some that aren’t? READ FULL STORY

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