Chris Isaak’s charmed, rockin’ life

It makes perfect aesthetic sense: Grammy-nominated retro rocker Chris Isaak playing his New Year’s Eve concert in town Friday, backing his self-issued “Live at the Fillmore” recording, again appearing at the fabled Fillmore.

But fans should pay close attention. Along with catalog classics such as “Wicked Game,” “Western Stars” and “Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing,” the Stockton-bred crooner will debut some startling new material — songs from an album he has been threatening to make since his rockabilly-inflected 1985 debut “Silvertone.”

For starters, Isaak — who has acted in TV and film and even hosted his own talk show — is feeling a new sense of creative freedom.

When his contract with longtime label Warner Bros. recently expired, he formed his own imprint, Wicked Game, currently licensed through Jimmy Buffet’s Mailboat Records.

“But it wasn’t like I left Warners in a legal haze,” he says. “I’m still on good terms with them, and I still work with them on different projects. But it’s a different time in the music business, and you’re in an even stronger position when you’re a free agent.”

That is what has allowed the 54-year-old to finally record an album tentatively titled “Beyond the Sun,” or “Lucky Old Sun” — he has yet to decide.

It is a concept album that will contain several slap-back originals, Isaak promises, “plus music that originated with artists who worked with Sam Phillips at Sun Studios. So it might have an early Elvis song from Sun, and then a later Elvis, or a Jerry Lee Lewis from Sun and something later on. I hate to say ‘rockabilly,’ because that’s the wrong word. It’s really just roots rock.”

To give the tracks an authentic feel, Isaak will be booking his own reverb-vintage Sun Session in Memphis, Tenn.

“We’re going to try not to use headphones,” he says. “We want to play quietly in one room, where we can all hear each other. I think it’ll be fun, but it’s also going to teach us a lot.”

Isaak is no stranger to the Phillips style. He has been fortunate enough to work with, and even befriend, several late Sun vets — Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison.

“It’s been a charmed life,” he says. “But if you looked at how I spent my time when I was 23 and how I spend it now, it’s about the same thing. I get up, eat a bowl of cereal, and I’ve got rock ’n’ roll music playing all damned day. I’m either listening to it, playing it or thinking about it. Or working on it!”


IF YOU GO

Chris Isaak

Where: The Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., San Francisco

When:
8 p.m. Friday

Tickets: $99

Contact: (415) 371-5500, www.livenation.com

artsChris IsaakentertainmentmusicPop Music & Jazz

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Superintendent Vincent Matthews said some students and families who want to return will not be able to do so at this time. “We truly wish we could reopen schools for everyone,” he said. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SFUSD sets April reopening date after reaching tentative agreement with teachers union

San Francisco Unified School District has set April 12 as its reopening… Continue reading

Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed legislation intended to help California schools reopen. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Newsom signs $6.6 billion school reopening legislative package

By Eli Walsh Bay City News Foundation Gov. Gavin Newsom and state… Continue reading

Recology executives have acknowledged overcharging city ratepayers. (Mira Laing/2017 Special to S.F. Examiner)
Recology to repay customers $95M in overcharged garbage fees, city attorney says

San Francisco’s waste management company, Recology, has agreed to repay its customers… Continue reading

A construction worker watches a load for a crane operator at the site of the future Chinatown Muni station for the Central Subway on Tuesday, March 3, 2021. (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli / Special to the S.F. Examiner)
Major construction on Central Subway to end by March 31

SFMTA board approves renegotiated contract with new deadline, more contractor payments

Most Read