John Waite set out to rock on "Rough & Tumble," which will be his first new studio album in four years when it's released on Feb. 22. And he's pleased to say that's what he accomplished on the 11-song set.
"Coming off the back of the live album [this year's 'In Real Time'], there was a certain edginess and an almost punk energy that I've missed for a while," Waite tells Billboard.com. "As I look around me, everybody's so produced. They're on stage playing along to tapes. They don't care. Rock 'n' roll seems to be on vacation. I don't like studio-manicured things. I like imperfection."
While some of the songs on "Rough & Tumble" date back a ways -- "Mr. Wonderful" is a remake from Waite's 1982 solo debut "Ignition," "Skyward" was written in 2004 and Waite penned "Evil" in June of 2009 -- the album began in earnest in January, when a writing session in Nashville with Matchbox Twenty's Kyle Cook yielded five songs. "I kind of walked away from it at that point," says Waite, who considered releasing an EP. "I thought I couldn't top those songs. I couldn't imagine anything to them."
But management and label convinced Waite he had the makings of a full-length album, so he returned to the studio this fall to work with his regular guitarist, Luis Maldonado, and Shane Fontayne. "Rough & Tumble"'s first single will be "If You Ever Get Lonely," another song Waite had "floating around" before he and Cook finished it off.
"I loved the chorus and thought the rest of it was just not happening," Waite says of the track. "I thought it was overstated, typical modern country music, very pop. Me and Kyle took it aside at the end of the day after writing and producing this other stuff... and it was as natural as a bouncing basketball."
Waite chose to remake "Mr. Wonderful" because "it was a massive hit in Germany. I thought we could strap it onto this record as a bonus track. We just did it between takes. That's a completely live vocal." Also of note on "Rough & Tumble" are covers of Tina Turner's "Sweet Rhode Island Red" and Gabe Dixon's "Further the Sky," which was recommended to Waite by Alison Krauss.
Waite plans to "tour like mad" to support "Rough & Tumble" and already has U.S. dates booked in February, March and April, with a club tour of Europe planned for the spring. "We'll just tour 'til we drop; at certain times in your life, that's the only answer," Waite says.