Eric Clapton, 2014
David McClister

Eric Clapton says there's more JJ Cale music in his future even after the July 29 release of his upcoming "The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale." 

The 16-track set -- which includes collaborations with fellow Cale admirers Tom Petty, Mark Knopfler, Willie Nelson, John Mayer, Derek Trucks and more -- includes several unrecorded songs ("Songbird," "Someday," "Train To Nowhere") provided by Cale's widow Christine and his manager Mike Kappus. Clapton -- whose 2006 collaboration with Cale, "The Road to Escondido," won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album -- tells Billboard there's more in that treasure trove, too, some of which he's already started recording and plans to finish and others that will surface in the future. 

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"Well, I have to finish them. It would be wrong not to bring them to a finished point," explains Clapton, who also had Cale play on the song "Angel" for his most recent album, 2013's "Old Sock." "So that's the next thing. I've got time booked to finish those tracks and mix them, and then with Christine's permission and Mike's permission I'll put them on albums like I used to, like I did with 'Traveling Light,' with 'Cocaine,' 'After Midnight.' I'll just include them in any other things I carry on doing." Clapton says he expects the Cale estate also has plans for the material, though he expresses some ambivalence about the prospects.

"I don't know how (Cale) would feel about it, to be honest, because some things are finished and some things are kind of half-finished," Clapton explains. "Some things are incredibly intimate that he might be embarrassed about or whatever. But I think when you're gone, it's good to have people still find stuff like this to listen to. It keeps it alive."

Clapton hatched the idea for "The Breeze" on his flight to attend Cale's funeral during August of 2013 in Escondido, Calif. "It just seemed to be a logical progression I would do," Clapton explains. "I was aware of the fact that he's better known in Europe and in the rest of the world than he is in America. That's a bad thing, but it also means I have an opportunity to introduce people to him beyond (the Cale songs) I've recorded. It's astonishing to me that nobody knows anything about him, and it baffles me. I wonder, 'What is it about he stuff that gets to me that nobody else is hearing?' I don't know. I still don't understand that."

Eric Clapton & Friends, "The Breeze: An Appreciation of JJ Cale"

Clapton consulted with Christine Cale, Kappus and longtime Cale associate and keyboardist David Teegarden on track selection for "The Breeze," which Clapton co-produced with Simon Climie; Christin Cale, he says, also served as "an arbitrator, like a sounding board" for the project, while the brain trust came up with appropriate other musicians and guests to be part of the album -- including Knopfler, who recorded his two contributions ("Someday" and "Train To Nowhere"), and Nelson ("Songbird)." "I became a little bit of an A&R man, 'Who would be good to sing this song? Who would be good to play here'," he says. "It was an adventure."

Clapton's resolve to keep recording Cale material indicates that, while he's talking about retiring from touring, he plans to keep making new music. "I like the studio more now," Clapton says. "I hated it when I was a kid, hated it, and now I like it. I write a little bit. I sit and play and push the button on my iPhone and it goes into a voice memo, and if it's any good I look at it again later. I've got voice memos to last a lifetime (laughs), and I'll get 'round to that." He also plans to "go out next year and do some shows," but he's unlikely to mount a full-scale tour after that.

"I have to put a cap on the touring, yeah," Clapton says. "It's getting too hard. It's rough out there, getting through security, getting on a plane. Anything can happen. I'm tired of it. I don't want to go anywhere anymore. When I was a kid it was easy. it was fun. Traveling was something I'd look forward to. Now I dread it -- I mean, I DREAD it. I'm 70 next year. I think that will be a good time to say, 'No more.' " 

Listen to "Call Me the Breeze":