Longtime Rockers NRBQ Get Down To 'Brass Tacks' In New Album
Saturday, July 5, 2014
Founder and frontman Terry Adams speaks with NPR's Kelly McEvers about teaming up with new musicians, battling throat cancer and keeping things fun.
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
We're back with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Kelly McEvers.
(SOUNDBITE OF NEW RHYTHM AND BLUES QUARTET SONG)
NRBQ: (Singing) Why don't you sit in my lap, kiss me and give me a hug. You know that I'm thinking of...
MCEVERS: You're hearing some of the latest music from the New Rhythm and Blues Quartet, that's NRBQ for all you diehard fans out there. The band has been around for nearly 50 years. But don't try to go looking for one big signature hit song. That's just not how NRBQ does things. They're known as a band's band, more concerned with making good music than fame. They have a huge following, including rock legends like The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan. The new record is called "Brass Tacks" and it pretty much stays true to NRBQ form, which means there is no form. We asked NRBQ founding member and bandleader Terry Adams to go to a studio in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky and tell us how he would describe the music.
TERRY ADAMS: "Brass Tacks" has a spirit to it that I think is more important than the songs themselves. The spirit of the band is at an all-time high right now.
MCEVERS: Yeah. Describe that. What kind of things are going on?
ADAMS: Well, it's a positive spirit. It's a love for the audience, love for the music, love for each other.
MCEVERS: Definitely, definitely you guys are having fun on this record. I mean we hear some of your signature piano playing on songs like "Places Far Away." You know, it's kind of weird, it's kind of Sun Ra. Can you tell me a little bit about that song?
ADAMS: I wrote that when I was 15. and it was fun to play it and it's fun to play now. Maybe I wrote it 'cause I was in Louisville at the time and I was thinking I should get away.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PLACES FAR AWAY")
NRBQ: (Singing) And take us far away, from here.
MCEVERS: So wait, you wrote this song when you were 15, so - but it's only now, you're putting it out?
ADAMS: It's never been out before. I have a lot of songs that have never been out. And sometimes the timing is better than others so it's good to wait.
MCEVERS: I mean, that's just amazing to think about because you've written so many songs, you've put so many songs and so many albums, that there are still more, to tap into. That's exciting.
ADAMS: Yeah, still going on, as long as I'm alive and loving life. I love the music.
MCEVERS: At one time you had talked about, I think, how it would be difficult to change the members of the band. And yet now, you know, you've got three new band members. And you are basically the only original member of the band left. Did you think about changing the name at some point? Or was it important for you to maintain the sort of an NRBQ brand?
ADAMS: Well, I believe in the band that I'm in so it's hard to imagine changing anyone. And it always is difficult, but then it works out to be better.
MCEVERS: You mean changing of the members of the band itself?
ADAMS: That's right. I'm the first member. And I'm in charge of the direction of the band and so keeping the name is important to me.
MCEVERS: Around 2004, the band took a hiatus. You announced that you had stage-four throat cancer. Can you tell me about that experience a little bit?
ADAMS: The experience was good. It's good to have change. And so I wanted to learn from it rather than be a victim of it. And I opened up my spirit to new possibilities. And that's what happened. That's how I met the new players. When I came through it, the other members had lost their enthusiasm. So I wanted to keep going so I opened up my spirit to meet the right people.
MCEVERS: Were you worried about - I mean it's your throat, It's your voice. Tt's your music maker. Were you worried about that?
ADAMS: Yeah, they told me I'd never sing again and that didn't turn out to be true.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIGHTING BACK")
NRBQ: (Singing) Fighting, fighting, fighting back. Thought you were the best I ever had....
MCEVERS: You are a notoriously hilarious performer on stage. Your band has been called, you know, virtuosos of fun, willfully casual. You can really hear that in the final track on the album, "Love This Love We Got."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE THIS LOVE WE GOT")
NRBQ: (Singing) I love this love we got. I love this love we got. Love, love, love this love we got.
MCEVERS: I guess I just want to ask like, how do you - how do you keep up the silliness, even though, you know, you are older? I mean, surely you had to kick some of the bad habits of the past.
ADAMS: Well, it's just a happiness. It's a happiness to be here, maybe that's part of it. The more I love life, the more happy the music is so it is fun. That song, "Love This Love We Got" was made up on the spot and recorded as a demo so we wouldn't forget it, but then I thought the demo sounded good enough. So we just let it go because it was spontaneous.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE THE LOVE WE GOT").
NRBQ: (Singing) I'll be as sweet as you want me want me to be 'cause my heart belongs to you. I'm so happy you found me, and honey I'm not going to lie.
MCEVERS: As you look back at almost 50 years of doing this, just how do you think about this experience of being in a band? I mean, it's basically been your whole life.
ADAMS: It feels like one big day to me. I don't really think of phrases like, way back then, anymore. It's just one nice beautiful day.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT'LL BE ALRIGHT")
MCEVERS: That's Terry Adams, founding member of NRBQ. The band's new album "Brass Tacks" is out now. Mr. Adams, thank you so much.
MCEVERS: And for Saturday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Kelly McEvers. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.View this story on npr.org