- 22 Aug 17
You finally have a decent chunk of time off after a year of pretty much non-stop gigging with Bruce Springsteen who considers himself to be a lazy ass son of a what have you if the sets you and him are playing clock in at under three hours. Do you: A). Jet off to the Bahamas with the family for some quality R&R? B). Flop onto the couch with a six-pack and the remote and refuse to budge until you’ve caught up with all those Netflix and Amazon Prime box-sets? Or C). Immediately go into the studio to record your debut solo album?
“The other options were tempting, but having a decades-long itch that really needed scratching, I went for C). which has brought me back to the scene of so many amazing Bruce gigs,” smiles the E Street Band-er of 35 years standing, Garry Tallent, as he gazes out over the Liffey. “I’ve been threatening to make my own album for a long time – I’ve been stockpiling songs since the ‘80s! – but was put off by the, ‘Here’s $200,000, go make a top 10 hit’, nature of the record business before it stopped being a business.
“Whilst I fully appreciate how tough it is for artists starting out, I find not having to worry about money – because there isn’t any! – liberating. With there being zero commercial considerations, the focus was 100% on the music, which, thanks to iTunes, you don’t even have to press up anymore.”
The resulting twelve-tracker, Break Time, pays homage to the country, bluegrass, hillbilly and honky tonk acts that enthralled Garry as a kid. “Which, let’s be honest now, was during the 1950s,” he laughs. “I was five-years-old when my mother took me to my first gig, which was Hank Thompson & His Brazos Valley Boys who had these really sharp suits and flashy guitars. It wasn’t what you’d call rock ‘n’ roll, but it was pretty damn cool!
“Anyway, I got a bunch of pals together and recorded it really quickly in Nashville. We cut it pretty much as if it were 1958; a few mics, everything live, a lot of leakage.”
Having witnessed some long fallow periods, Garry is thrilled by Nashville’s re-emergence as a creative hub.
“There’s an amazing scene in the lower-rent parts of town,” he notes. “A lot of the rock influence that’s crept in is down to Jack White setting his Third Man Records operation up on 7th Avenue. I have to admire his business savvy and creativity. The guy’s a marketing genius.”
And also supplied the vintage 1920s banjo that can be heard on Break Time!
“Yeah, Jack found this incredible banjo that he gave as a birthday present to a mutual friend of ours, Fats Kaplin, who plays on the record. Another old pal – and hero of mine! – who came down to the studio is Duane Eddy. He’s 79 and still blowing people away.”
Garry’s impeccable rock ‘n’ roll credentials don’t end there.
“I played back-up a few times with Chuck Berry,” he recalls. “He was a tough guy to get to know, but was always sweet with me. I had Chuck’s personal number, and would call him every once in a while. Chuck was from that first generation of rock ‘n’ rollers who were almost all ripped off by the industry. He ended up in jail twice, which should never have happened, and suffered a lot of racial prejudice. Whatever got thrown at Elvis, Chuck and Little Richard got it ten times as bad for being black. But they did what I’m always telling my kids you have to do – they persevered and finished what they started. Which I guess is what I’ve finally done.”
Break Time is out now.