The piece I did on Wolf for Where magazine, Boston, with bonus material. http://www.wheretraveler.com/boston/j-geils-bands-peter-wolf-still-knows-how-chill-boston
You did a song with Shelby Lynne on your last album, 2010’s “Midnight Souvenirs” and what pops up near the end of the new CD but another song called “Tragedy”? What is it about you, Peter, that you’re so drawn to tragedy?
Yeah, two tragedies in a row! Oh yeah. [The song on the new album] was a song I’ve always been fond of and when I first heard it I found it very haunting. There have been several versions of it – the original version was by Thomas Wayne and that was produced by Scotty Moore, who was Elvis’s original guitar player. Other people have recorded it since then. But I found out also a lot of people I knew didn’t know of the song, so I thought by re-recording it in my way – not to copy it per se but just to do an interpretation of it – might attract people to the song and the power of the song. That’s why I enjoy doing covers, going back to the Geils band with “Lookin’ For a Love” or “First I Look at the Purse.” We enjoyed trying to find songs that might not be on people’s radar.
When we talked six years ago about “Midnight Souvenirs” I was asking you about making albums as works unto themselves, even albums (or CDs) were dead or dying and we lived in a song-by-song download age. Now, it’s the streaming era, Spotify, YouTube and the rest. How does this affect you, if at all?
Oh, boy, that’s opening up a can of a lot of worms. It’s been discussed and regurgitated over and over again, and I think that the answer’s kind of obvious. It’s not just music. Technology has affected the print media, affected radio and affected the music industry, which was the first major industry to be decimated. It’s change and that’s one thing people always have to adapt to. It’s constant. It’s a whole labyrinth of a discussion.
But for you, when you’re making the record, are you thinking song by song or about the album as a whole?
Well, you think about it and, obviously, you have to be aware of the technology that’s out there and what happens to things. But coming from where I come from, I feel like my job is to make a [long-playing] record and these days the motivation for making a record becomes more difficult. People can deconstruct it, but my job is to makean album with a beginning, a middle and an end, and package it and sequence it in a way that makes sense to me in a way I feel comfortable. It just goes out there and you can’t control what [happens]. Twenty years ago, people could take a cut and put it on a cassette player or buy the single and not buy the [LP] record, All you can do is do it how you want to present it and once it’s out there, it’s sort of anything goes.
There are 12 songs on this album, three covers, nine originals and four of those co-written with Will Jennings. He’s in the Songwriters Hall of Fame and has written for or with everyone from Roy Orbison, to Eric Clapton to Steve Winwood to Tim McGraw. You worked with Will on “Midnight Souvenirs” and two albums before that. Do the “Cure for Loneliness” come songs from the “Midnight Souvenirs” sessions or did you write them together after that album?
Will and I keep writing. We just keep building up a treasure trove. Working with Will, he’s a kindred spirit and an invaluable songwriting partner and what’s really unique is our personalities click. He’s become a great friend and a soul brother. That’s hard to find and I’m very grateful to have someone like him in my life.
What does he bring to the party?
When you’re working with someone as talented as Will, there’s an enormous amount he brings to the party. It’s like if you were working on a film with Alfred Hitchcock or working on a screenplay with Billy Wilder: You know there’s going to be a lot offered.
You revisited the J. Geils Band’s “Love Stinks” as a bluegrass song and it’s a live take. How did that come about?
All these songs we recorded in the studio and also recorded live. This [version] seemed to have the most impact. At one point, we were doing an acoustic series of shows and we started fooling around backstage, kidding around with some bluegrass songs. Well, not kidding around. I got to meet Bill Monroe and I was a big fan of Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers. We were just messing around with some of their songs and I just started singing “Love Stinks.” When we went out that night, I decided to call it and we happened to be taping. And just like the “Musta Got Lost” rap, it got captured and there it was. Everybody enjoyed it and so we decided to use it. A decisive moment.
There’s humor on the record – how could there not be – but it’s reflective and ruminative, too, Starting with the first song, “Rolling On” and then shortly thereafter in “Peace of Mind” you’re singing “When I was a young, I used to believe in everything/Now I’m not a young man and I don’t know what song to sing.” Is that a statement of where you are now?
I think so. It’s a pretty [auto] biographical song and I think it’s a place where a lot of people are now, especially with the strange events going on around the world, as it is in the song “It’s Raining.” It’s a time of uncertainty for a lot of issues and a lot of people – metaphysically, economically, the whole deal. That was the impetus for that song.
For your gig in Somerville and others out in the road, are you doing all songs from your solo career or are you mixing in Geils stuff?
It’s mostly going to be solo stuff, but I like to throw in some of my favorite Geils songs. The great thing about the Midnight Travelers, the band of renown that I have, is they know ‘em all, so I can turn around, pick a song and we can do it. I like to have some Geils stuff because it’s part of my past, part of a body of work that I helped create so I’d miss it if I didn’t at least acknowledge some of those things.