It has been eight years since Dan Auerbach released a solo album, and he’s back with a very collaborative release, “Waiting on a Song.” Recorded in his own studio and on his own label, the album features John Prine, Duane Eddy, Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, and more.
Radio Milwaukee recently spoke with Auerbach about his new studio and how relocating to Nashville has shaped his process. His upcoming album, “Waiting on a Song,” is slated for a June 2 release from Easy Eye Sound.
You can also watch the new video for the single, “King of a One Horse Town,” released today.
Hi Dan, how are ya?
Good, how are you doing?
Are you having a marathon of calls right now?
Actually, I’m having an Italian sandwich. I was just saying to my manager, this is probably a very healthy way to eat. Take two bites, walk around for five minutes on the phone, come back, take two more bites…
Congrats, you’ve got your new solo album and it’s on your own label.
I love that it’s your solo album, but it’s so collaborative. You’ve got so many people involved in it. John Prine, Duane Eddy, Mark Knopfler… has collaboration become easier since you moved to Nashville?
Oh yeah. I mean, the only person I could collaborate with in Akron was the guy who bagged my groceries at the grocery store. I think when you’re in Nashville, you can’t throw an Italian sandwich and not hit a guitar player.
And the guy that made your Italian sandwich is a guitar player.
And probably a way better guitar player than me! That’s the thing. Everyone here is a better Telecaster player than I am. But, it’s Music City. People come here just to play music. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some of my heroes in town; people like Duane Eddy and John Prine, Del McCoury. But I also get to work with them and meet some of the younger people who call this city their home. It’s kind of an amazing community.
...in Nashville, you can’t throw an Italian sandwich and not hit a guitar player.
Now you’re in this hotbed. I love your work as a producer, you’re part of these albums that define the artists you work with. I wonder if that’s what brought you to start Easy Eye Sound?
I think that, yeah, it definitely was. For years I’ve been making records for people and then giving them to labels to put out. I just thought it was time to take that next step to make the records and put them out myself. Over the years I’ve met this great network of people that can help me do that. I’m taking full advantage of it now for the first time.
You’ve got all these different people on this record, “Waiting on a Song,” but it still has a consistent sound. I’m assuming that’s the “Auerbach sound?”
These people on the record have sort of become my crew and when I’m working with an artist that doesn’t have a band, these are the people that I call in. They’re really capable of doing anything and every day is different and they’re very creative people. Some of these guys have made some of my favorite records of all time. You know? And that’s sort of what we have in common, everyone who is on my record, what they love most of all is being in the studio and creating. That’s sort of why we get along so well.
I saw the documentary about the Wrecking Crew and it really made me pine for that era, of this sound. It sounds like that’s something you’re building there.
I feel like that’s what I’ve been building, yeah. I have a studio that has its own sound, and the gear is different than anyone else’s studio and I’ve got a crew now that’s consistent, that’s always here, and is used to working here. All my instruments have been set up now for years, and they don’t move. All my musicians come here empty-handed because they just use what’s here. It’s just starting to have its nice little brew going on here.
You’ve got your signature sound. The “Easy Eye Sound.”
Yeah, it’s the Easy Eye Sound.
Does it boil down to the equipment you’re using?
No, it’s everything. It’s not equipment. Although, I spend a lot of time and effort and a lot of my money buying equipment, but at the end of the day it’s about the musicians in the room, really. More than anything.
How did that come together?
Well, I’ve been making records for years and using musicians that I pick. When I worked with Lana [Del Rey], I picked all the musicians. When I worked with Dr. John, I picked all the musicians. So, that’s just how it’s been for me.
Now I’ve just found people who are local, and that I’m used to working with, and we’ve worked up this close relationship.
I saw that you had an 8-track release…
And it sold out!
… you’ve got this really cool vintage aesthetic in your artwork, and on your website, and you’re collaborating with classic Nashville icons, but listening to it, it’s not a carbon-copy throwback, it’s still really fresh. I was wondering if that was a conscious choice?
Yeah, I hate retro. I hate people that are just solely retro. I think that’s just like playing dress-up. You know what I mean? I do love old music, but I’ve been so inspired by these guys I’ve been working with, and they’ve made records that are timeless and sort of impossible to define. Like, Bobby Wood and Gene Chrisman play on this record. They played on “Son of a Preacher Man” by Dusty Springfield. “In the Ghetto” and “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley. “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. It’s really hard to define what they actually are; do you know what I mean? They’re sort of a mixture of all these great American musical forms, and I guess that’s what we’re doing here. Sort of a continuation of what these guys have been doing their whole lives.