Paul Weller, the 'Modfather,' Targets R&B on New Album

Paul Weller

Record due next spring, U.S. dates to follow.

One of the best things about this past weekend’s Riot Fest in Chicago was the generational cross-section printed on the bill, and the warm reception that the veteran artists were treated to, many of whom were the founders of their respective genres. Making his Riot Fest debut was British icon Paul Weller -- known to many as the “Modfather” -- who felt that love.

“I think it’s been brilliant, great crowd,” he told Billboard backstage, adding the only artist he got to see was a bit of Wu-Tang Clan. But being around so many diverse acts, from Wu Tang to Slayer, does motivate him.

“Good music inspires me all the time, so if someone is making something good and it reaches me and touches me, then it inspires me."

Who were the last artists he heard that had that effect on him? “There’s an English band called Telegram, I like them. This Scottish band called the Merrylees, I like them, they’re good.”

For his first studio album since 2012’s Sonik Kicks, which is yet to be titled and expected to be released in March or April of 2015, he is going old school. “It’s a bit more kind of R&B -- maybe I’m talking about old R&B,” he said. Right now he says there are six songs done, all of them special, in his estimation. “Now I’ve just got to get another six,” he said, smiling.

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When it comes to his R&B roots, Weller cites its capital city: Motown. Thinking of the first Motown records he'd heard, Weller told us: “Something like The Four Tops or something like that.” As for his favorite Four Tops song? “There are so many, ‘Reach Out, I’ll Be There.’ It doesn’t get much better than that.”

While at Riot Fest, Weller played a career-spanning set, one that ranged from Jam classics like “A Town Called Malice” and The Style Council’s “My Ever Changing Moods,” to material from 2005’s As Is Now.

This set, much of which he has played throughout the year, is made up of the songs that speak to him at this stage of his life. “At the moment, the set I’ve been playing, today and all this last year, all those songs connect for me. I still kind of know why I wrote them and what I was feeling,” he said. “But that changes all the time. Sometimes the words come back at you and you remember something or you can get back to the original feeling of when you wrote that, which you kind of forget after a while. When you do get reminded I think that’s what makes it special because it puts you back in where you were.”

As a fan what was the last song by someone else that had that same effect on him? “’Galileo,’ by Declan O’Rourke, who’s an Irish artist,” he said. “That still sends me when I hear it.”

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