John Charles Waite.
Three decades have passed since a restless, wild-eyed teenager from northwest England first packed his bags for London to pursue his passion for music, and though he has enjoyed formidably staying power, chart-topping records and sold-out concerts around the world, John Waite's hunger has never diminished – it has simply become something much more complex.
The turn of the page to 2010 finds the ever-evolving British singer/songwriter preparing the release of In Real Time, an electrifying live album recorded with his high-octane three-piece band in Orlando, Florida in 2009.
"It's a lot of the hits played how we play them live," Waite says of In Real Time. "It's like late 60's rock in London when it was performance driven, prior to becoming commercialized – back in the days when everybody got in a transient van, sat on the amps and drove for hours to the next gig. When I set out to do this record, I wanted to simplify it down to what I remember rock and roll being as a kid – a three-piece band with a singer – so it's very raw and right on the edge."
Classic hits like "Change," The Babys' "Back On My Feet Again" and "Head First," Bad English's "Best Of What I've Got" and even a blistering cover of Zep's "Rock and Roll" take on entirely new lives in their raw forms on the spontaneously delicious In Real Time.
As impressive as the live album is and Waite's live performances are, it became clear to him on a recent tour of Europe that his true focus is not on where he has been, but where he is going. He realized the need, more than anything else at the moment, to take a step forward and create something new and amazing.
"I think there was a chapter between the past and the future on that tour," Waite says. "As much as this live album is a defining moment and as much as I enjoyed playing those songs, I consider this is a new beginning."
Waite is referring specifically to the sweet pocket of creativity he is currently enjoying with Matchbox 20 lead guitarist/songwriter Kyle Cook, as the two ready fresh new music for Waite's highly anticipated forthcoming solo album.
"It's pretty much extraordinary," Waite says of the material he is creating with Cook, who he met through a mutual friend. "It's not like what people would expect from me. It's a step to the left. There's a rock imprint on the music and a melodic presence, but it's just shifted gears. It has an identity and a philosophy of its own, which is really fresh for me."
The collaboration has proved to be nothing short of phenomenal, if songs like "Evil" (a thumping rocker-meets-dance-club tour de force) and "Gone" (a hook-laced better-off-on-the-open-road anthem) are any indication of what is to come. The as-yet-untitled eclectic collection of brand new music, Waite's first studio album since 2007's Downtown…Journey of Heart, is set for a 2010 release.
"I'm not saying it's high art, but genuinely speaking, it's fantastic for me," Waite says, reflecting on his new music. "I certainly am interested in spending the rest of my life doing something creative rather than just living in the past."
Inspired by British blues-based bands like Free, the Small Faces, and Humble Pie, it was during the desperately cold winter of 1975 that Waite and the Babys cut their rock'n'roll teeth, rehearsing and playing gigs on the London scene. Two years later, a combination of hard work, sheer persistence, and a great sense of adventure brought the band success in America. By '78, with two albums under its collective belt and a Top 40 hit with "Isn't It Time?," The Babys released their third album, which spawned the chart smash "Every Time I Think Of You." Flash forward six years and the title of that latter song would provide the immortal opening lines to what is undeniably one of the all-time greatest pop/rock ballads, "Missing You."
Waite had cut five albums with The Babys before moving to New York to go solo during the early 1980s. His first solo album, Ignition, boasted the MTV/rock radio staple "Change." A year later, back with a new record on a new label, Waite was smiling again. On September 22, 1984, he found himself at number one on the hit parade with "Missing You." The song topped the international charts. Twenty years on, this classic remains a radio staple around the globe. "It was an unbelievable experience at the time –and still something I'm very proud of," he says.
In the late 1980s, Waite released more solo albums before returning to the top of the charts during a two-album tenure as front man for the pop/rock super group Bad English, which featured Waite's former Babys bandmates Jonathan Cain and Ricky Phillips along with Neal Schon from Journey and drummer Deen Castronovo. The band's number one single, "When I See You Smile," sparked sold-out concert tours and a succession of Billboard Hot 100 Hits. But when the group's spark was gone, Waite packed his bags and returned to life as a solo songsmith.
Waite now prefers to balance his life between singing on stage and composing and recording honest, heartfelt solo albums. He has written and recorded several songs for feature films. For kicks (and perhaps honor, as a diehard Beatles fan), he even enjoyed a brief stint a few years ago on a Ringo Starr concert tour. Not one to be deterred by the changing face of the music industry, John Waite is content in simply being true to himself and his art.
Missing You Featuring Alison Krauss is available now for purchase exclusively at iTunes.
Buy it at johnwaiteinrealtime.com.