INTERVIEW: BRIAN CADD – December 2016
By Shane Pinnegar
More well known for his sublime piano ballads like Ginger Man and Little Ray Of Sunshine, Brian Cadd has delivered a new solo album – his first in eleven years – that reminds fans that his ‘70s Bootleg Family Band kicked out the jams live on stage.
“We went in and I took a whole bunch of rock songs in,” Cadd explains of the early album sessions. “We just started playing – within 30 minutes [it was like] we were back onstage again. It was absolutely amazing.”
The result is a completely organic sounding album – very Seventies in feel and groove, but very sonically now. It may be Cadd’s best record yet.
“It’s got a rather lovely rock and roll tension about it all,” he chuckles. “That’s absolutely due to the attitude around the room, which was, ‘we’re not going to do twelve takes of this, so don’t practice. You know what to play; let’s do it. We’re going to keep whatever we get on Take 3.’ Sometimes we didn’t get to Take 3. You’ve got to remember that we were the band on the road together for years. It was really not a case of us starting from scratch and trying to get up to 10 again. It just didn’t take very long to get there. I was so glad you used that word ‘organic’ – I was so determined it was not going to sound like an album that had been layered and had a million people all playing on it in different rooms. It was basically live in the studio.”
Three tracks on Bulletproof were written by Cadd for other artists and never recorded beyond an early demo by their composer [I Still Can’t Believe It’s True by Joe Cocker, Love Is Like A Rolling Stone by The Pointer Sisters, and Yesterday’s Dreams by Bonnie Tyler]. Is it difficult to create your own individual arrangement of a song like that, when it was written specifically for, and recorded by, someone else?
“Sort of – I mean, two out of the three were female singers,” Cadd rasps. “I have to say that in the case of Joe Cocker’s song, which is the second song on the album, I demoed that in Nashville when I wrote it with Tony Cobb. We demoed it and sent [Cocker] the demo. He was looking [for songs], and about 6 months later we got a copy back. He’d basically taken the demo – which was a rather nice thing to happen, that doesn’t really happen much. There I was with a track that was like the demo but obviously recorded better and all that. The vocal coming through the speakers was Cocker and not me. That was an absolute pivotal moment for me. That was a big, big thrill – I was always such a fan. In fact, The Bootleg Family Band was modelled on Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishmen band. That was basically the vibe. [So] to hear Cocker sing [my song] was sensational.”
A couple of songs further into Bulletproof, and we get to the laid back country-flavoured walking guitar licks on Slow Walk, which was deliberately recorded as a tribute to Daddy Cool guitarist Ross Hannaford, who was critically ill at the time and passed away shortly thereafter.
“Someone in the studio said that [song] sounded a bit like Daddy Cool – it does sound like a Daddy Cool song – and we talked about it, and I said to [guitarist] Tony Naylor, ‘you know, if you don’t mind, I’d really love it if you could kind of channel Ross Hannaford [on that track]’ He was a big fan, a very close friend, [and] the more we worked on it, the more it became Hannaford. Even in the sense that Lindsey Field came in and did the very, very low vocal, which is the harmony that Ross used to do with Daddy Cool.
“We’re very happy to do that and to dedicate it to [Hannaford]. He was a remarkably unique Australian guitar player. No-one else like him. I really commend Tony for copping it so exactly; it was great.”
Discussion turns to the band and guests Cadd assembled for Bulletproof, which in addition to the core band members includes such luminaries as Dai Pritchard, Rick Fenn and Richard Naylor on guitars, drummer Mick Skelton, bassist Greg Lyon, Mike Rudd on harmonica and Wilbur Wilde contributing some tasty saxophone. It’s a helluva dream team and no wonder the album sounds so meaty and rockin’.
“It sure was fun at the pub – a hell of a shout though,” Cadd jokes about the line-up. “We did have some of those guests come in and do things after the fact. It was more about the fact that when you’ve been around as long as me, you make great, old friends who are amazingly talented people and that you’ve been on a million adventures with. It’s not illogical therefore that when you’re on a new recording adventure, you play something and go, ‘you know what? Sax would be good on this,’ or ‘Rick Fenn could play a wonderful slide on this.’
“They become part of the fabric of the album. It’s as much based on your respect for them and indeed your friendship with them than anything that they might have played in the past. I’m very lucky on this album that everyone stepped up to the plate and did some extraordinary stuff. I’m sure people reading that are gonna go [adopts sneering voice] ‘Rose Tattoo?!?!?’ It’s a long way from Ginger Man, but in actual fact, Dai Pritchard’s an amazing guitar player that plays all music not just angry music.
“He’s got an acoustic act with his wife [and his solo work has far more of a country edge to it – Editor]. He’s very much there. I’ve actually had him do a few Americana shows with me. He slips so naturally into that stuff. In this case, he played a balls to the wall rock solo and it’s great.”
Cadd has a long history of performing and recording with dear friend Russell Morris, who has had great success in recent years by going back to his blues roots. Cadd says his own reinvention is, in part, inspired by Morris’s.
“He was partly responsible for this. He’d done Sharkmouth, and out of the box it was a massive, massive success. We’re very best friends – we lunch often, as it were. Anyway, he’d just come back from getting his first ARIA award – his first ever, I think – and we’re having lunch and celebrating, and he said to me, ‘that was a pretty serious left turn, but I got to the point where I was only going to keep trying to do another Wings Of An Eagle, or trying to do another Real Thing, or trying to do [whatever else again] that I’m actually sick of – or I can do a completely different album. I went back to my roots – early blues. That’s how I started even before I could play guitar I used to sing the blues as a young kid. I loved all that stuff. You know what? You’re the same. You come from an era of rock and roll piano players, people like Leon Russell and all those guys were your influences. You should do an album like that.’
“That was exactly the beginning point of me thinking about the whole thing,” continues the garrulous Renaissance man. “In a way, for so many reasons, I have to thank him, but I really do thank him for that. He was the guy that gave me the little pep talk and said you should do that. You’re right – I’m up and going. If I get up and running like Sharkmouth [did] I’d be a very happy man.”
Having written his autobiography a few years ago, having turned 70 this November, and now revisiting these songs from his own back pages, is Cadd reminiscing about about battles lost and won and battles that can have no winner, and reflecting upon it all?
“In a way, the album stands for a battle that back in the ’70s I did really lose… well, let’s not say lose, but rock and roll’s in my blood and always has been,” Cadd explains. “It just so happened that Ginger Man was the first single and then we followed that with Let Go, and I had [Little Ray Of] Sunshine – [so] I was already tarred with that [pop song] brush.
“Then when I went to America, the same thing happened: I was signed to Capital Records. They listened to my hits – they didn’t listen to everything; they didn’t see me onstage. They said, ‘okay, we’ll put you with this producer and we like these songs, they fit with your style,’… I got trapped in that world for such a long time. In a way, Bulletproof is a gentle protest, if you like, about the fact that I didn’t really ever get to make a true rock and roll album. At the gentle old age of 70 – I am!”
Conversation turns to the reluctance of many people who were fans of Cadd’s generation to venture out to a pub or club to see a band nowadays. The sad reality is that Cadd and Morris and their ilk are in their late ‘60s to early ‘70s and will by necessity hang their spurs up sooner rather than later. What can be said to get people off their bums and out to a gig while they still can?
“If you take a look at what’s happened [this year alone], you’re not going to be able to see Glenn Frey anymore are you? You can’t see Jon English anymore. You can’t see Bowie or Prince. It’s the same for all of us. It always will be. Even back in the ’60s, I didn’t go and see The Rolling Stones until after Brian Jones had died… I understand where the question’s coming from. I do see that what happens with my audience, they are people in large part who were around in the ’60s and the ’70s and are now 60 years old.
“They’re the ones that tend to go out as opposed to the younger people who, we share a lot of different interests. Music isn’t the only thing in their lives. Back when we were all kids, music was everything. – we’d all race down to [the record store] on a Saturday morning and get the new Kinks single. It was the biggest thing in our lives. That carries through. I see a lot of people who were around in those days and now come to all the shows. It’s for them. Part of what we do onstage, in a lovely way, is to give them back a glimpse of their youth – they love it. When I start a song like Ginger Man or something, I can see a couple in the fourth row. They’ll look at each other like they’re not 60 years old – at that point, they’re 18 or 17 and they just met. You know what I’m saying? That’s an extraordinary powerful thing to be able to do.”
Cadd also says he has no shortage of material for future projects, with an unassailable backlog of unrecorded songs up his sleeve.
“I also write all the time! I never seem to be able to catch up. I’ve written and recorded a whole album in Nashville, which we won’t talk about. I don’t want to muddy the waters. That doesn’t come out until maybe next year.
“That was an instance where I had far too many songs. We had to just hone them down – rather a fortunate position to be in. I don’t know that I would ever start from scratch. If this album does well and we do another one, I don’t think they’d all be from scratch songs. There’s still tons of stuff, almost 400 songs [I’ve written] now. I have a lot of stuff I wish I’d recorded in that drawer, metaphorically, [that] I’d sift through again, have another look at, and write a few new ones. That’s how life is for me. I’m very, very content with being able to look back and have a rummage around, or sit down with a brand new thing and start from there. As long as they all connect and they all belong on the same record – we had a lot of songs that didn’t make the cut [for this album]. Not necessarily because they weren’t as good songs, [but] they tended to skew us off our path.”
With a little extra time up our sleeves, I took the opportunity to thank Brian Cadd for A Little Ray Of Sunshine. I’m certainly not the first father to have played it in the maternity ward when his daughter was born, and I sincerely hope many more will do so for many more years – it is a perfect pop song that captures a quintessential moment, and still brings a tear to my eye when heard today – even as I write this today.
“That’s great, I have to admit that I’m really, really, really lucky that that song has followed me through the decades and is still relevant,” Cadd says proudly, before joking, “I’ve got this secret radio network that only broadcast outside of maternity wards. So many people come up to me and said, ‘I was taking my little girl home, we’re in the car, and my God, the record came on right there on the radio.’ I’m thinking that’s a hell of a coincidence, which is quite extraordinary. It just incredible that happens. Fathers play it at their daughters’ wedding and things like that – it all does perpetuate that song. I’m very lucky as a songwriter to have one of those.”
Whilst Cadd won’t be able to bring the full Bootleg Family Band and guests to Western Australia – “imagine the bar bill!” – he is adamant they’ll be coming.
In the meantime he is touring with his old Axoim bandmate, Little River Band singer Glenn Shorrock on these dates:
Thu, Mar 16, 2017 – Albany Entertainment Centre, Albany
Fri, Mar 17, 2017 – Bunbury Entertainment Centre, Bunbury
Sat, Mar 18, 2017 – Astor Theatre, Perth
Sun, Mar 19, 2017 – Mandurah Performing Arts Centre, Mandurah
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Filed Under: Interviews
About the Author: Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE