Interview: Fee Waybill Returns With Guitar-Driven Solo Album, Shares Secrets Behind Tubes Classics
Fee Waybill Rides Again is the legendary Tubes frontman’s first album of solo material in nearly fourteen years and a compilation seven years in the making. Together with longtime collaborator and producer Richard Marx, the duo’s vision of creating a raucous, guitar-driven album has become one that’s both deep in variety and universal appeal.
Led off with the infectious lick of “Faker,” the album combines well-crafted songs and tight musicianship with Waybill’s ubiquitous vocal, which sounds better than ever.
Other standouts on Fee Waybill Rides Again include the hard-charging “Promise Land,” the groovy and hook-laden, “Meant To Be Alone”, and the crossover country vibe on the track, “Still You On The Inside.” A song written by Marx and Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger that was originally intended for Chris Daughtry. Featured guests on the new album include guitarists Michael Landau and Matt Scannell of Vertical Horizon along with bassists Jason Blynn and Whynot Jansveld.
For longtime fans of classic rock and The Tubes, this seven years in the making album was certainly worth the wait.
I recently spoke with Waybill about his new album and more in this exclusive new interview.
Can you give me a little background of how this new album came about?
Fee Waybill: Richard [Marx] and I have been friends since 1983, when I met him at a Tubes session. Every summer he and I and his boys would take a vacation to his cabin in Wisconsin. About six years ago we decided to use that time to go into the studio and recorded the song “Faker.” That was when we first came up with the idea of doing another solo record. We wound up doing three other songs during that time, “Woulda Coulda Shoulda,” “Promise Land,” and “How Dare You.” Then life reared its ugly head and we didn’t do another track for almost six years.
Six years seems like a long time in between sessions.
FW: It was, but about a year and a half ago we decided to revisit the album and went back through the archives of songs we had written over the years. We found the track “Say Goodbye,” which we had originally intended to use for one of Richard’s albums. Every time I listened to it I realized what a great song it was and wanted to add it to the list.
What’s the story behind “Still You On The Inside?”
FW: “Still You On The Inside” was a song I had nothing to do with. It was one Richard wrote with Chad Kroeger from Nickleback and was originally intended for Daughtry. I sang it like it was my last day on Earth.
“Meant To Be Alone” has such a great groove.
FW: That was the last song we wrote for the album and it started out as a poem. Richard sent me over a track he had written with no melody or lyrics and I restructured the poem to fit the track. The whole album is guitar-driven rock, which is kind of a forgotten genre. We didn’t plan to be working on it for seven years, but we finished everything earlier this year and sent it off to mix and master. The response has been amazing.
Can you tell me the story behind The Tubes songs “Talk To Ya Later” and “She’s A Beauty?”
FW: We had done several records for A&M and then signed a deal with Capitol. They [Capitol] knew the band had a cult following but they wanted us to have radio presence. They offered us a three-record deal but they were all options. We met David Foster [producer] and started working on a few tracks for The Completion Backwards Principle. At the time, the label was looking for power ballads like Journey and REO Speedwagon had written, so we wrote “Don’t Want To Wait Anymore.” That’s when David said we also needed to have a hard rock radio song. We didn’t have one so David suggested we meet with this great session player he knew, Steve Lukather. So David, Luke and I met one morning in the studio around 10 a.m. and David explained the situation about how we were under the gun. Within ten minutes Luke came up with the intro lick. “Talk To Ya Later” was a phrase one of the engineers Foster worked with always used to say. I discovered that line matched perfectly with the melody Luke had played. I started with “Talk To Ya Later” as the chorus and everything fell into place in that one space of time. We conceived, wrote, recorded and pretty much finished the song for the band when they showed up at 4.
Later, when we went back in with David to do the Outside Inside album, David suggested we try doing the same thing with Lukather. We brought him in again and the same thing happened with “She’s A Beauty.” We wrote that song in about twenty minutes. People still go crazy over those two songs all these years later.
What are you most looking forward to once this quarantine is over?
FW: I’m looking forward to getting back on the road with The Tubes. In 2019 we did the entire Completion Backward Principle in order for the first time. That meant “Talk To Ya Later” was the first song of the set. We had such a great time and it was the biggest year we’ve ever had since the 80s. I’d also like to do some solo shows as well because it’s something else I’ve never done before and this is such a great new album. But The Tubes will definitely be back. I’m confident of that.