I listened to a recent interview with Huey Lewis on the WTF podcast, who’s on a promotion tour for the 30th anniversary of Huey Lewis and the News’ “Sports” album. Can’t believe that it has been that long since that album was released. I still have the original vinyl that I bought all those years back. What a great album! Reminds me that I should get a digital copy… oh well, so much music, so little time.
In any case, I was absolutely fascinated by the interview; initially because I wanted to see what he has been up to all these years, but then got completely engrossed in his story. But it was something that he said at around 18 minutes into the podcast. The host, Marc Maron, and Huey were talking about Huey playing the harmonica. Marc was trying to get a gauge of how good of a harmonica player Huey was. Huey’s response absolutely floored me:
You gotta have something to say, and you only need the chops to say what you need to say. <background agreement from Marc> It depends on what you want to say.
That statement struck me like a ton of bricks! For years, I’ve felt exactly like that about playing music. My feeling has always been if I can say what I need to say with the chops that I have, then that’s what I focus on; saying what I need to say, and not worry about other people possibly having more to say. Of course, saying the same thing over and over gets old pretty fast, so I occasionally spend a lot of time expanding my musical vocabulary, such as my recent foray a few months ago into studying modes more closely.
To me, having something to say is absolutely central to my playing. A friend of mine and I were talking last night about our approach to guitar. He’s a really awesome blues guy. During our conversation, I mentioned that I have a hard time just noodling or playing licks or leads without something to play against. Call it a weakness, but I just don’t know that many standard licks. I play what I’m feeling in the music I’m playing over.
Then the thought struck me that that’s kind of like my personality. Unless I have something to say, I usually just keep my mouth shut. I shared that with my friend and we both laughed because he could relate.
Kudos to those who can just rip out solos on the fly. I with I could do that. But for me, I need to have something to say…
As for Huey Lewis, like many, I wondered what happened to him and his band since their heyday. Turns out, they never left the scene. They’ve just been playing as a band all these years, and still going strong. People talk about the Who and Stone and U2 and all these HUGE bands that have stayed together. Huey Lewis and the News deserve that kind of recognition for staying together this long.