VENTURA HIGHWAY REVISITED
Creating a new show with a blend of old hits and great covers is a formula US band America hopes will appeal to audiences Down Under
Celebrating 45 years together, US folk-rock band America will return to Australia this month with classic hits and old favourites. The duo of Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell have added hit after hit over the decades to their live show – but now they have the chance to play even more with a covers album that the band will feature on this Australian tour.
Celebrating acts such as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon, it’s one of the rare times when fans are receiving the new stuff as well as the old.
“You always want to play some of the newer stuff in the live show and because a lot of the material is familiar to our fans, adding them to the show added an extra strength that we hadn’t really thought about,” Beckley says.
“We’ve never had to rely on cover songs because fortunately we’ve had enough hits of our own – but it is fun to play these songs in the live show and people know them.”
The album, Back Pages, was released in 2011 and features guests.
“Mark Knopfler – getting him on the album was a real treat,” Beckley says. “And, of course, Van Dyke Parks – we go way back and he’s just a national treasure.
“He continues to be a fantastic arranger for other people but he’s a real talent.”
It’s difficult to believe that it has been more than 40 years since the release of the band’s revered debut record. The selftitled classic seemed a nobrainer for Beckley when he looked back on it.
“When you’re working on an album it’s just a given that you do the best you can,” he says. “It was a very quick album – I think it was made for $7000 and basically we were capturing what we were doing on the live stage.
“Looking back, there were very few overdubs. We had Ray Cooper on percussion and David Lindley, who went on to do years of great work with Jackson Browne. We were very proud of that album.”
The band’s third album, however, was a different story.
“I remember that being somewhat of a chore,” he says.
“I began feeling the pressure and I was sitting more in the producer’s chair and adding strings and horns, and I remember when we finished we thought how it was a lot of work. It was then we decided to go back to having a producer, which led to working with George Martin for seven albums, a great move at the right time.”
Clearly the musical gene runs in the family. If you’ve heard a great pop song in the past decade – chances are Beckley’s son Matthew had a part in it. He’s worked with Britney Spears, Icona Pop, Selena Gomez, Ke$ha and even Delta Goodrem.
“He’s not touring at the moment (he toured with Katy Perry as her guitarist for years). He’s just done a track with Gwen Stefani, so he’s quite active – thanks for asking.”
Hit duo Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell form the core of US band America and are touring Australia this month.