Looking for a list of music albums out on May 4, 2010? Whether you're into glossy…
- Posted on May 10th 2011 3:00PM by Chris Epting
Though the balladeer hasn't released a new studio album in 12 years, it's not like Cross hasn't been busy. He plays up to 100 shows a year, and he's remained a pop culture icon thanks to artists like 'N Sync covering 'Sailing' and plenty of musical spots and appearances in film and television.
Now, Cross has unveiled 'Doctor Faith,' a collection of songs that shimmers with the same rich melodic atmosphere that was the hallmark of his first, self-titled LP. His voice is just as familiar as ever, and no doubt it will give baby boomers comfort in a musical universe that seems at times to have forgotten them. Spinner caught up Cross to discuss the new album, his amazing success and touring with Led Zeppelin.
How does one prepare for success like you had after your first album?
You can't, really. I mean, I was signed by Warner Bros. more as a "voice" than a songwriter. They imagined me doing cover songs. But we did this record and it kind of caught everybody by surprise. 'Ride Like the Wind' just took off. Then it came time to pick the next single and [label head] Mo Ostin said it would be 'Sailing.' I was adamantly against it. I thought it was too introspective. Shows what made Mo so good [laughs]. I mean, I thought it would take me about three albums to get my footing. Then I'm at the Grammys getting five awards. Incredible.
That must have been quite a night.
One thing sticks out the most. When 'Sailing' won Song of the Year, I'm standing there, looking out, just in awe of the whole experience. And I see, in the front row, Billy Joel. He actually stands up to applaud, and everybody sees him -- this is Billy Joel -- and the crowd follows him. And I get a standing ovation. I get choked up thinking about it. I had a chance to tell him later what that meant to me.
And to think, just a few years before, you were filling in for Ritchie Blackmore in Deep Purple. That's true?
It is. In Texas, where I grew up, I played in a band called Flash. When Deep Purple first came over, like 1970, Ritchie Blackmore got ill. A promoter friend told them I could play guitar and I did the gig. They offered people their money back, but about 80 percent stayed.
And you really toured with Led Zeppelin?
Flash had some fun moments. We toured Texas on a bill with Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin in about 1969. I even bought an amp from Jimmy Page, which he remembered years later. Robert Plant saw me at the shows and thought I was a fan following the tour. When I told him my band was opening, that next night I saw him in the wings, watching us. It was awesome.
The new album, 'Doctor Faith,' feels like a classic Christopher Cross record. Was your approach to reconnect with fans that first discovered you with that monster debut album?
I definitely feel like the people that liked those early records will recognize the feeling on 'Doctor Faith.' Obviously I've grown a lot, but so has the audience. We've all been through lots of things in life by now and so that's how my writing partner, Rob Muerer, and I approached things. You search across your life for themes and meaning and though I released albums in the '90s, enough time has gone by now where I had a lot of time for ideas to build up. I am extremely proud of these songs.
Some friends are on hand to help, too.
Always! I was sort of spoiled on my second album. I mean, I got to sing with Art Garfunkel, Don Henley, Carl Wilson and a bunch of other great singers. Michael McDonald remains one of my best friends. Our kids grew up together and he sings on the new one. And Eric Johnson plays a beautiful guitar solo on 'Hey Kid,' one of my favorite songs on there.
How's the response been to 'Doctor Faith' so far?
Humbling. People that have heard it have expressed such emotion and enthusiasm. It's new, but they say it takes them back. It's been awhile since I've gotten this kind of spirituality through gratitude. It's wonderful.
Are you reminded frequently just how much your music affected popular culture and people's lives?
All the time. Jimmy Jam told me he still loves that first record. You believe that? And Sarah McLachlan had a story about how she sat at her prom and cried because nobody asked her to dance during the prom theme, which was 'Sailing.' And I always hear from people about the song 'Laura.' I wrote that about a young woman who was killed, a friend of someone I was dating. People knew it from 'General Hospital,' but there was a serious story behind it.
You dedicate 'Doctor Faith' to Joni Mitchell.
I do, for her lifetime of inspiration. Harmonically, lyrically, she is just amazing. And I always appreciated how she made the records she wanted to make. Anyone who didn't follow her beyond her bigger albums really missed out. I'm thankful that I've gotten to know her, too.