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Tonight at the Paramount! Aaron Neville

NOLA crusher opens tour in ‘way awesome’ Austin
Chase Hoffberger, 11:47am, Tue. Dec. 10, 2013
photo by Sarah A. Friedman

Half a century into a career that’s taken him from the slums of New Orleans to the most prestigious stages around the world – including tonight at the Paramount – Aaron Neville’s somehow managed to maintain every ounce of sweet nectar in his falsetto-powered tenor.

It’s a confounding accomplishment. How’s Neville do it?

“Just keep using it every day and make sure to hit all the notes,” he says by phone from his home in Manhattan.

“I pray a lot, too,” adds the 72-year-old Neville brother 10 months after the release of his 14th solo album, a collection of doo-wop called My True Story.

Austin Chronicle: What is it about these songs on the new album that makes the material so autobiographical?

Aaron Neville: If you listen to all my music, you can hear doo-wop all over it. All the way from “Tell It Like It Is” in 1966. I did a session shortly after that with a group called the Del Royals, and they was doing a doo-wop song called “Who Will Be the One.” I wanted to do that song so bad, and that was in the Sixties. That’s the music that captured my heart and soul as a teenager, and made me decide I wanted to be singing.

AC: What was it like to go full circle and head into the studio with these songs?

AN: It was great. It was a dream come true. I did a mini doo-wop album in the Seventies with [famed Atlantic Records producer] Joel Dorn, called Orchid in the Storm. I was doing stuff like “For Your Precious Love” and “Pledgin’ My Love,” “We Belong Together.” This round, we went in shooting for 12 songs and ended up doing 22, with Keith Richards on guitar, Greg Leisz on guitar, Tony Scherr on bass, Benmont Tench on piano, and George Receli on drums. Like Keith would always say, “Bunch of hard musicians here, and you’re acting like a bunch of kids.”

AC: How did Keith affect the doo-wop sound?

AN: He just did him. He just played Keith. That’s all we wanted him to do – was be himself. He was in the sessions because [My True Story producer] Don Was produced Voodoo Lounge for the Stones back in the day. He said he was rooming underneath Keith in the hotel, and Keith kept an album on a loop, over and over. The album was My True Story by the Jive Five, which is the title cut to my album. When I told Don Was that I wanted to do a doo-wop album, he got in touch with Keith, and Keith said, “What took you so long?”

AC: The show you’re playing in Austin has been billed as a Christmas show. How much of it involves holiday music?

AN: We do the Christmas show every year, but it’s not always Christmas music. We sprinkle Christmas music throughout the set. It’s a combination of old, new, and in-between. We do all of it. I just hope people plan on hanging around for a while, because we may go and play for more than two hours.

AC: With the proximity to New Orleans, you have an extensive history in Austin, including your brother Cyril living here after Katrina. What are your early memories of the town?

AN: We started playing Austin back in the late Seventies with the Neville Brothers, and we’d stay at the Austin Motel. Austin’s a way awesome city. Matter of fact, I recorded a doo-wop duet of “Stardust” up at Willie Nelson’s studio in the hills. We used to play a club called the Backyard, and Liberty Lunch. You remember that one? We’re looking forward to getting back. Austin’s a great city, and it’s the first one on the tour.

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