Auer­bach leans on leg­ends to record ‘Wait­ing on a Song’

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - Broward - - MUSIC - By Dan Hy­man

For much of this decade, Dan Auer­bach has spent his sum­mers as any good rock star should: front and cen­ter on a mas­sive fes­ti­val stage, per­form­ing gui­tar hero­ics be­fore a crowd of sev­eral thou­sand young, ador­ing fans. Last sum­mer, how­ever, the Black Keys front­man took a de­cid­edly dif­fer­ent path.

On hia­tus from his fa­mous two-piece blues-rock band, the singer-gui­tarist opted to hun­ker down in his Easy Eye Sound stu­dio in Nashville and have an in­tense bond­ing ses­sion with some of the most tal­ented mu­si­cians still work­ing born circa-World War II.

“It was like heaven on Earth,” Auer­bach says of writ­ing and record­ing his sec­ond solo al­bum, “Wait­ing on a Song,” with leg­endary mu­si­cians in­clud­ing John Prine, gui­tar leg­end Duane Eddy, bassist Dave Roe (who for 22 years backed Johnny Cash), and drum­mer Gene Chris­man and pian­ist Bobby Wood, both of whom played on hits by Dusty Spring­field and Elvis Presley as part of Mem­phis’ Amer­i­can Sound Stu­dios house band.

Auer­bach moved to Nashville in 2010 and has pro­duced acts there in­clud­ing Lana Del Rey and Ray La­Mon­tagne. But when call­ing from Nashville, the 38-year-old says work­ing with the group of iconic Mu­sic City vet­er­ans in­stantly “felt like we’d known each other for­ever.” It also re­vi­tal­ized him in ways pre­vi­ously un­fore­seen. “It’s made me re­al­ize strengths I had and re­ally be­lieve in my­self more,” he says. Days in the stu­dio last sum­mer were loose and light: The win­dows were al­ways open, early in the week Auer­bach would write with Prine and David “Fergie” Ferguson (who en­gi­neered Cash’s Amer­i­can Record­ings re­leases), and by week’s end they sum­moned the rest of the crew to record live.

“In this mod­ern day and age it’s less and less com­mon to record a bunch of mu­si­cians in a room to­gether,” Auer­bach notes with a hint of res­ig­na­tion in his voice. “It’s crazy to think that’s just sort of the way it used to al­ways be. All the clas­sic records from the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s … it was just gen­er­ally all these amaz­ing peo­ple con­tribut­ing. No won­der there were so many clas­sic works.”

Some of the Black Keys’ most revered songs are dark and murky, but “Wait­ing on a Song” is Auer­bach at his most ef­fort­less and care­free. “The record is a re­flec­tion of how we felt mak­ing it,” the gui­tarist says of the soul-fla­vored songs in­clud­ing “Mal­ibu Man,” a trib­ute to pro­ducer Rick Ru­bin, the groovy “Livin’ In Sin” and “Shine on Me,” fea­tur­ing gui­tar work from Mark Knopfler. Auer­bach says “be­cause these guys are who they are and are so open-minded, we can just go in any di­rec­tion. Never hav­ing to worry about genre or any­thing like that is so lib­er­at­ing.”

Work­ing with such an ac­com­plished crew had him feel­ing not un­like a stu­dent, “but I’m also sort of cocky and I think I can do bet­ter,” Auer­bach ad­mits with a laugh. “I want to learn with them but I also want to try and do new stuff with them. It’s not just to­tally old-school.” Dan Hy­man is a free­lance writer.

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