John Waite tumbles into Ziggy’s

by Clay Howard

From his time in the Babys, who scored two Top 20 hits, through his solo material, which include the No. 1 hit “Missing You,” to his time fronting the supergroup Bad English, who also scored a No. 1 hit with “When I see you Smile,” John Waite has put his mark on the rock music landscape.

Not one to rest on these past successes, John has continued to write and record new material. His most recent release, Rough and Tumble, is a showcase of his songwriting and that voice, which has not weakened a bit over 30 years.

Y!W: I wanted to talk a little about your new album Rough and Tumble. It is a very organic sounding record — not a lot of overdubs, with a live in the studio sound that really highlights your vocals.

JW: Yes, the album is really two albums in one. It started out as an EP of the songs that I wrote with Kyle Cook, but we were asked for more. So, the second group of songs was recorded live in the studio, with few overdubs. I’ve never been a fan of a lot of effects.

Y!W: You mention Kyle Cook of Matchbox 20. How did that writing partnership come about?

JW: I was familiar with Matchbox 20 from their singles. Kyle and I have a mutual friend, and he had mentioned that we should write together. I have been burned in the past, writing with people that I did not know. But Kyle and I were in Nashville at the same time, and we met blind, and wrote something almost immediately. We then wrote several more songs together.

Y!W: Your career has spanned several decades. How does music in 2011 compare to say, your time in the Babys , back in the late ’70s?

JW: I think it all comes down to experience.

But basically it is still about the song. Pop music has always existed and sometime rock crosses over into that, and you get something like Arena Rock. But it is really all about the song. I am quite happy to be out here by myself. If I make a record that I like, I will get out there and tour behind it. It has been five years since my last record, so we are getting out with this one.

Y!W: So are you out on the road now?

JW: We leave Tuesday for three weeks, then come back for a bit and then head out again ending with a show just before New Years in Indiana, that includes Kyle Cook, by the way….

Y!W: I have to ask a question you have probably heard a million times.

JW: No, the answer is no. [Laughs] But — no… really.

Y!W: You have one of the most recognizable voices in rock, and one of the best. Who are your influences?

JW: Yeah, well when I was 4, I wanted to be a cowboy, so I listened to Marty Robbins. Then when I was 18, I moved to London and listened to bands like Free. The Beatles were huge with me, Hendrix… even some people I did not like, were influential.

Y!W: You will be playing at Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem next week. What kind of setlist can we expect?

JW: You know, I don’t get up there and go through the motions. We are playing about half of the new record, and of course play pretty much what the fans expect. It is funny though, sometimes I get the wrong set list and leave off one of the hits… but so far I haven’t heard any complaints if we forget to play one of the hits. It is more about the overall experience.

Y!W: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me.

JW: Thank you Clay and God Bless. John Waite and his band will appear Thursday at Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem.