Recently I had the huge pleasure of interviewing Bobby Whitlock, one quarter of the legendary Derek and the Dominos, on his soon to be released new studio album Tornillo and upcoming tour. I interviewed Bobby for the first time back in 2012 and have spoken to him multiple times as I complete my biography on Derek and the Dominos, and speaking to him again on his new album and tour was a joy.
You’re currently in the process of recording your new album, what can you tell me about it?
We just finished recording fifteen tracks for my new solo album in December at the Sonic Ranch Studios outside of El Paso, Texas. We are at the final mix stage. The hopes are to have it out, along with a documentary/film. We’ll see when we do.
Does the album contain all original songs or will there be covers on there as well?
The album has all new original songs on it.
Are you able to share with me the names of the songs and tell me a bit about each of them?
This song was an idea that came to me in 1991 when I was living in Holly Springs, Mississippi. Sheryl Crow’s manager had just called me saying that she wanted me to come sit in at her concert on Mud Island in Memphis a few days away. I said that I would then an idea for a video hit me. I could see her on the side of the road hitchhiking to Memphis. The first line came to me and I never did anything with it until the sessions at Sonic Ranch came about. It seems that everything that I needed came to me without me having to go looking for it. I needed new material and it came.
2: Leavin’ Mississippi
It was pouring rain and dark as hell when CoCo and I made our getaway from Mississippi. This song tells the story.
3: A Good Man Feeling Bad
One time years ago I put a hand full of change into my pocket and a quarter went through a hole in it and landed in my shoe. Right then I said that if I had a hole in my shoe it would probably roll on out of it too! A modern day blues song was born about six months ago as I went to my well and pulled out another memory….it was time.
4: Nobody Knows
This is CoCo’s song. Several years ago she wrote this and when she first played it to me it became my favorite song. Problem was, she was the one singing it. I wanted it right then real bad! I wanted to sing it from the moment that I heard it but it was hers and was for her to sing. She has sung it on every show since and kills it! When the opportunity came up for me to do this record I asked CoCo if I could sing it and do my version of it. She said yes. “Thank you again sweetheart.”
5: Junkie For Your Love
One day CoCo and I were talking about our exes and how we couldn’t live with them but we couldn’t live without them. Immediately, I said that we were junkies for their love. We started saying everything in our minds at that moment and wrote them down as they came. The lyrics sat around the house for about six months or so when it came to me to put them with an old Jimi Hendrix inspired riff and chord change. The melody happened naturally as the words and riff dictated what should be sung and how it should go. It just fell together all at once, once it started falling.
6: Was It Something That I Said?
Everyone is always asking me why Eric and I never have gotten back together. They say that he has played with everyone on the planet and some of them more than twice but never me!? One time I answered someone back by saying, “I don’t know, maybe it was something that I said, or didn’t say”. Immediately knew that a song had been born again and that I would be wearing my heart on my sleeve again as I could not hold my feelings in any longer, so I had to lay it on the line. My heart, that is.
CoCo and I were living in Califon, New Jersey about fifteen years ago and one day we got to talking about the song “You Are So Beautiful”. We said that just about said it all and covered the territory with that title. I said that we should write a song about everything that we see as beautiful in this world. Right then we started saying everything that we see as beautiful in this world and wrote it all down as we were saying it. Then the melody came as I read what we had just written down. It’s pretty amazing being that place where the creative principle operates. It seems that it is a constant flow.
8: Slow Down
This song is anything but like the title. It came from a piano riff that fell out of me one day here while back. One day my left had started going to the left and my right hand started going to the right in this cool run. They usually don’t work like that. Going opposite directions on the keyboard for me has always bee difficult at best. That is until this little diddy came along. This is the only on but that’s all I needed was one.
9: River of Life
This song is about the title. It’s another CoCo and Bobby song.
10: Ivory Jailor
This is a song about my piano.
11: The Waiting Game
A song with a message from me for Eric.
12: The Captain’s Song
CoCo’s Father was a Captain in the Navy who worked his way up through the ranks. He was a fighter pilot during the Vietnam conflict and would later be the last Captain of the “Oriskany” “the “Mighty O”. He is my hero and I wrote this as a poem for him initially but the melody would soon follow. It’s really a tribute to CoCo’s Father, Capt Gig Connoughton and their life as a family during those trying times in history.
13: John the Revelater
This is my version of a song that has several different versions recorded. I couldn’t find anything that I could make out or understand when I went back to the roots of a great song or idea of a song. It seemed that everyone had their own version so I decided to dig back into my well and write my own version. CoCo wrote and arranged some incredible background vocals that tell the story as it unfolds. So this song is yet another Bobby/CoCo Carmel songs.
14: Running Wide Open
This song is the story of Bobby and CoCo. It tells the whole story. “Tearing down the highway in the pouring rain. The Sheriff’s in the mirror in the passing lane, in the dead of night, Runnin’ Wide Open!” You can hear it can’t you. Real rock and roll.
Is there a certain way you write songs or does it depend? For example, do you start with lyrics or work on music first? What’s your process?
I don’t have anything special that I do other than wait for them to come to me. It came to me some time ago that whatever it is that gives me the idea in the first place, will give me the rest of it if I wait patiently for it to come.
Who is in your recording band?
Charley Drayton on drums, Jim Keltner on percussion, Darryl Jones on bass, Colin Linden and Nick Tremulis on guitars, Stephen Barber on keyboards, CoCo Carmel on sax and vocals, TaTa Vega, Carole Hatchet and CoCo Carmel on background vocals and me on grand piano and Hammond B3.
As well as the new album you’re also planning another tour of the United States. Where and when will you be playing?
CoCo and I start another small tour this year. It’s just the two of us with a different guitar player in each city.
Have you ever considered taking your music outside of the United States? You’d be loved in England.
I lived in England for many years and still long to return.
What is it about playing live that you love the most?
Connecting with the people and giving them what the deserve.
You have such a wealth of material to choose from when putting setlists together, do you find it difficult to choose songs especially as it means some songs may not be included?
I stopped trying to use a set list years ago. I do have a list of songs written on the top of my piano but it’s just that, a list of songs. I do whatever the moment calls for. It has to do with connecting with the audience and going with the flow.
Looking past this album and this tour, what does the future have in store for Bobby Whitlock? What other plans do you have on the horizon?
Aside form doing our tour and then promoting the new album, I have no plans. I try to live my life one moment at a time.
Tornillo is scheduled for release late summer/early fall 2017.
Bobby & CoCo’s tour begins on the 2nd June in Memphis, TN and concludes on the 1st July in Houston, TX. The full tour is as follows:
Bobby Whitlock & CoCo Carmel 2017 “Sparkly Shoes Tour”:
- 2nd June: The Warehouse, Memphis, TN
- 4th June: The City Winery, Nashville, TN
- 6th June: Eddie’s Attic, Decatur, GA
- 10th June: The Bull Run, Shirley, MA
- 11th June: Daryl’s House Club, Pawling, NY
- 13th June: B.B. King’s Blues Club & Gril, NYC, NY
- 14th June: Sellersville Theater, Sellersville, PA
- 16th June: The Egg, Albany, NY
- 24th June: Dan’s Silverleaf, Denton, TX
- 1st July: McGonigal’s Mucky Duck, Houston, TX