Love’n it Tour 2014: Exile and Juice Newton together!
Two great country/pop artists…
One Show. One Band. One Night.
Together they bring 16 #1 hits to the stage.
“I always see singing as a painting project,” Juice Newton says. “It’s very visual for me ““ the story of the song unfolds before my eyes while I sing.”
Now this Grammy, CMA and Billboard award-winning artist, who has multiple platinum and gold albums, ten million records sold and 15 Top 10 hits under her belt, has a new set of paintings to display ““ only this time she’s invited some legendary vocalists to join her at the easel. The result is Duets: Friends & Memories (Fuel 2000), which finds her stellar voice paired with those of Willie Nelson, Glen Campbell, Frankie Valli, Randy Meisner, Melissa Manchester, Gary Morris and the late Dan Seals.
“I’d never done a duets project,” Newton says of the record’s origins. “I called various people I knew and asked them: Are there songs you’ve thought about recording? It could be your song or somebody else’s. The point was to let them pick songs they were interested in. I wanted it to be fun for them and take the pressure off. Though the pressure was on me to learn the tunes!”
She took that pressure in stride, as she has throughout her career, but the challenges were considerable: Working in multiple keys with singers known for wildly different styles, all while endeavoring to create distinctive versions of beloved material like “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” (which she sings with Manchester), “Still the One,” “Fooled Around and Fell in Love” (both with Morris), “Up Where We Belong,” “Without You” (both with Campbell), “These Dreams” (with Seals), “The Biggest Part of Me” (with Valli), “Take It to the Limit” (with Meisner, the song’s author) and two songs by and with Nelson, “Funny How Time Slips Away” and “Touch Me.”
“For me, it was like making three records,” she says of the collection’s musical and logistical difficulty level. “These singers are so wonderful and unique ““ I really wanted to be on my game. I lived with my headphones on, studying the songs and preparing my interpretations.” By the time she entered the studio, however, Newton was ready to wield her painter’s brush like a master, as evidenced by the emotional force of her vocal delivery ““ whether she’s punching the soaring high notes of “Without You” withCampbell, trading the silken phrases of “Funny How Time Slips Away” with Nelson, or putting an evocatively feminine spin on “Lovin’ Feelin’” with righteous sister Manchester.
Some of the memories evoked by the album’s title are bittersweet, notably the passing of Seals, who was best known as one half of the duo England Dan and John Ford Coley. “That was so sad,” she says of his departure. “He was really a cool singer, and just a big presence in the room. He had a unique way of singing; he’d guide himself with his hands, directing his mental target where he wanted to hit the note.” The project is also shadowed by the loss of Newton’s longtime collaborator, Otha Young, in 2009. Her soulful work on the project is both a loving tribute to these and other fallen comrades and a testament to her own resilient spirit.
Born in New Jersey and raised in Virginia, Judith Kay Newton first picked up the guitar as an adolescent, inspired by the Byrds, Bob Dylan and folk artists like Tom Rush and Ian & Sylvia. By age 13 she was performing professionally (for the extravagant sum of $10), curving her small hand around the wide neck of her nylon-stringed axe and assaying folk and country tunes with her already impressive voice . Before long she’d partnered with some older teen musicians. “I’d written some songs but they weren’t very good,” she recalls, “so I mostly focused on my singing.” She would return to songwriting later, though, with some powerful results.
She, Otha Young and Tom Kealey formed the country-leaning group Silver Spur; they were signed and relocated to Los Angeles in short order, releasing their debut LP on RCA Records in 1975. By the time they moved to Capitol Records a few years later it was as Juice Newton and Silver Spur. In her capacity as a solo artist, she saw action on the charts with songs like “It’s a Heartache,” “Let’s Keep It That Way” and “Sunshine,” among others. Meanwhile, the Newton-Young composition “Sweet, Sweet Smile” became a hit for pop icons the Carpenters in 1978.
But it was with 1981′s Juice that the singer exploded into the mainstream, thanks to the enormous hits “Angel of the Morning,” “Queen of Hearts” and #1 country smash “The Sweetest Thing (I’ve Ever Known).” Delivering tearful, wall-of-sound pop, sprightly country-rock and everything in between with crystalline tone and infectious energy, Newton brought a sparkling authenticity to an era dominated by artifice. Juice went platinum and became an international monster, “The Sweetest Thing” spent 18 weeks in the Top 40, and Juice Newton earned two Grammy nominations for Best Female Vocalist.
Her 1982 album, Quiet Lies, was certified gold within months and spawned the hits “Love’s Been a Little Bit Hard on Me” (which scored Newton another Best Pop Female Vocalist Grammy nomination) and “Break It to Me Gently” (#1 AC, #2 Country, #11 Pop), which landed her a Grammy statuette for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. Among the other nominees in that category: Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Rosanne Cash. The disc also featured “Heart of the Night” (#4 AC, #25 Pop). She added a Country Music Award for Best New Female Artist, back-to-back Billboard Female Album Artist of the Year honors and Australian Music Media’s #1 International Country Artist win to her trophy cabinet.
The next few years brought such hits as “Tell Her No,” “Dirty Looks,” “Stranger at My Door,” “A Little Love” and “Restless Heart,” among others, and afforded Newton the opportunity to explore her rock side. But by 1985 she’d rededicated herself to the country-steeped sound that shaped her as an artist. #1 hits like “You Make Me Want to Make You Mine,” “Hurt,” Young’s “What Can I Do With My Heart” and “Both to Each Other (Friends and Lovers),” a duet with Eddie Rabbitt, aided her dominance of the format. She rounded out the decade with charting singles “Tell Me True,” “First Time Caller” and “When Love Comes Around the Bend.”
But the business was changing, and she spent much of the ’90s on hiatus from music, raising her kids in San Diego, though she toured occasionally. Still, she contributed to an all-star tribute to French chanteuse Edith Piaf and released the albums The Trouble With Angels and American Girl, the latter featuring songs by Newton, Young, Tom Petty and others.
The first years of the 21st Century saw the release of Every Road Leads Back to You andAmerican Girl Vol. II, and Newton demonstrated her continued ability to shine in a new pop landscape by appearing on the 2005 TV special Hit Me Baby One More Time and being voted a viewer favorite.
In 2007 she issued The Gift of Christmas, which she subsequently augmented with several new tracks, including new collaborations with Andre Mayeux, the keyboardist in her band, the Regenr8rs. The holiday collection also boasts a special version of Otha Young’s “For Believers,” which Newton had first recorded in 1983; sadly, her 37-year collaboration with the songwriter and musician came to end when he died of lymphoma in 2009.
With Duets: Friends & Memories, Juice Newton not only honors that extraordinary musical partnership ““ and the many great memories her career has spawned ““ but shows why she remains one of contemporary pop’s singular treasures. And as she prepared to hit the road in support of Duets and began writing a new batch of songs, her fans prepared for some thrilling new brushstrokes.
R. Buckminster Fuller is credited with coining the phrase, “the sum of the parts is greater than the whole.” What he was really trying to say was that if a group of individually talented people work together successfully “that teamwork will produce an overall better result than if each person” was trying to do their own thing. That’s a overtly mathematical explanation for a successful band. But with a successful band, you got your math and then you got your chemistry. The end result is an unpredictable outcome of the collision between math and chemistry…with a whole bunch of emotion in between. And when it works out, it’s a miracle.
Exile may well be the most textbook illustration of this theory; if not in deed certainly in accomplishment and longevity. Case in point: How many other bands formed in 1963 are still speaking to one another?
God would probably not singled out Richmond, KY, 1963, as the starting point of His grand cultural experiment. Since the primary industries in this smidge of a central Kentucky community were tobacco-growing, whiskey-distilling, the Blue Grass Army Depot and God-fearing, band-rearing is in nearly direct conflict with the mission of the neighborhood. Cooking up rabble-rousing musical concoctions of rawknroll, R&B & LA-scenster pop are all dern good reasons to cast out the long-haired, mod clothes-wearing, rebellious rascals. So cast out were “The Exiles” as the band was originally named. The lemons-to-lemonade good news in being cast out, in part, gave them their name. It also planted the “sing for your supper” seeds they would use grow their career from that point forward.
As usually happens the first big performance moment is best remembered for what went wrong. Founding member, J.P. Pennington recalls, “It was our big debut in the Richmond City Park, summer ’63. We’d told everyone we were related to and everyone we knew about our big night. We were nervous. It got off to a good enough start then suddenly we were upstaged…by a fist-fight right in front of the stage.”
With skivvies changed and more tunes in tow The Exiles embarked on a heavy diet of sock hops, pool parties and any other gathering that music made better through ’63 into ’64. Every performing artist wants to hear more than their echoes playing when they are done. That’s why God invented the miracle of garage recording. It’s the classic cheap-but-effective path to musical immortality. Their miracle arrived in 1964. While not all the details can be recalled, the recording of “The Answer To Her Prayers” is a readily cited turning point for the fist-fight inspiring sock hoppers.
It seems like no time at all now but a long two years later came the seminal “big break” every artist prays for: The opening and backing band slot on the vaunted “Dick Clark Caravan of Stars.” As “American Idol” of its time, the exposure & experience gained doing the 15 minute opening slot then backing the likes of Freddy Cannon, Bryan Hyland and B. J. Thomas was wrapped in the package of great advice dispensed by Mr. Clark himself. After several shows he recognized the potential and boiled it down the primary essence. To J.P. it seems like yesterday Clark delivered his cogent career advice. “We had just finished a blazing show and were beside ourselves. We thought we’d done about as good a job could be done when Dick came over and gathered us around him. He looked us all right in the eye and said, ‘boys, you aren’t out here to entertain yourselves; it’s about the people who bought the tickets. Never forget your audience.’ ” It’s the band’s mantra to this day.
1967 found the band residents of the Big Apple all sharing a one-bedroom 4th story walk-up apartment on the upper west side. When Central Kentucky decides to take mid-town there’s gonna be a learning curve. Communicating with the locals, running with the “Blade Runner” traffic & how to get a slice without getting cut are the kindergarten lessons. They coped by moving in and unpacking their tried-and-true play-live-and-loud tools. The performance-addicted band utilized the band-on-the-lunge method & assaulted the area’s vibrant music scene. In their own way they stood out as soon as they drove up to a gig. It was unclear what their chosen mode of transportation said about their hopes or image. A hearse is either a sign of obtusely dark sense-of-humor or things to come.
For The Exiles the crucial “thing to come” was a record deal with Clive Davis’ Columbia Records. The recordings were highlighted by “Church Street Revival,” a song written, produced and performed with Tommy James who was as bright a star in the musical universe as there was at the time. They met opening a show for him in Baton Rouge that wowed the white hot star enough to offer his tune and talents.
It was straight to the Columbia studios for marathon 30-solid-hour session to cut this track. It also brought J.P. the first cut of his young songwriting career for the B-side, “John Weatherman.” In 30 hours you can think of everything; except maybe a way home. Midtown gas stations closed long before the track was wrapped and they were on empty. Time on the road spawns a strange brew of skills. Ironically among them is siphoning gas. But this was a band with a conscience: they left cash under the windshield wipers of the “vampired” vehicles. Considering it was cash left out in the open on cars on a New York City street they will not take bets as to whether it was still there when the owners returned to their fuel-lightened rides. It’s the thought that counts, right?
Although the road took them out of New York for a couple of years, it brought them back for a second all-in-one-room arrangement in 1968. This time it was the venal Broadway Central Hotel near the not-so-upper-west-side Bowery. No place does skid row like NYC & the Bowery. Only Army-cots-as-beds can make it the completely unforgettable experience. It brings its own share of history being known as the birthplace of Major League Baseball hosting the formation of the league’s first team, the Cincinnati Redlegs…along with birthing more cockroaches and rats than NASA could count.
Their collective experience to that point taught them they were one skill set short of a total band: songwriting. Their Bowery proximity fueled the motivation to write their own music which has transformed musicians to artists since time immortal. That motivation is best summed up by oft-repeated, seldom-thought-through phrase: “Well, hell. I can do that.” By 1971 they were writing incessantly. Shows & records from that point were dominated by their homegrown songs. It’s the whet stone for an image and the sharp edge on identity.