Chris Isaak on New Album: "We Did It Like the '50s, No Overdubbing, That's Cheating"
With an album to promote -- a collection of rock 'n' roll standards dubbed Beyond the Sun -- Isaak's engaged in a string of telephone interviews with music journalists. At the moment, however, he's a bit distracted. His manager's playful Maltese has him in stitches.
The dog is sprinting and sliding deliriously across the floor, as if mimicking the surfers that brave the waves outside his window. "You wouldn't believe how hilarious he is," the singer laughs. "He's really having some fun."
Isaak knows good times. After all, his music has always bristled with a sense of celebration, especially when emulating his heroes. And that makes Beyond the Sun especially significant. For starters, it's his initial release on revered folk label Vanguard. For another, it's a long-planned ode to his earliest influences, specifically producer Sam Phillips's Sun Studios and its remarkable crop of rock 'n' roll pioneers, from Elvis Presley to Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Roy Orbison.
"I tried to go for a balance," Isaak explains. "I wanted to pick material the average listener would know. But I also wanted to use my expertise to say, 'Hey, there are a few things you might not know, but might really like.'"
Granted, a number of the songs (Elvis's "It's Now or Never," Cash's "Ring of Fire," Lewis's "Great Balls of Fire") are inescapable classics. Wisely then, Isaak chose to toss a few obscurities and a handful of his own songs into the mix.