Peter Frampton Conquers 'Stubbornness and Fear' for 'Acoustic Classics'

Jason Tang
Peter Frampton

Playing acoustic is hardly alien to Peter Frampton -- "Baby, I Love Your Way" from Frampton Comes Alive, anybody?  But it did take him awhile to wrap his head around the idea of doing a whole album that way. 

"People have been trying to get me to do it for years, and I just didn't want to try it," Frampton -- who releases the 11-track Acoustic Classics, premiered exclusively below, on Feb. 26 -- tells Billboard. "I now think it was just stubbornness and fear -- or fear and then stubbornness because I was scared."

Frampton put those fears aside to record Acoustic Classics in his Nashville studio, playing acoustic guitar and bass and a bit of piano on "I'm In You." Regular collaborator Gordon Kennedy joins on the lone new song, "All Down To me," but the album is mostly populated by a combination of favorites --- yes, even "Do You Feel Like I Do" and "Show Me The Way," the latter complete with Talk Box -- and lesser-known gems such as "Fig Tree Bay," the first track from his 1972 solo debut Wind of Change, "Sail Away" and "Penny For Your Thoughts."

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"When I started the CD I thought, 'Ha ha, it's gonna take me a couple of days,' and yes, was I wrong," Frampton says with a laugh. "I have such a high standard of my own output that when I did two or three tracks, I came into the control room and listened to them and I was just, 'It's OK. It's good. It's fine,' but I wanted more. So I spent a few months going in every day doing different performances of different songs until I found the ones that worked for me and I thought people would like. I wanted it to be like, 'Hey, sit down, I've just written a song' and I sit down and play you 'Lines on My Face' or whatever and you were likely drawn in 'cause you're the only person in the room besides me, and that's how I look at it, like a one-on-one experience."

Frampton acknowledges that given the iconic epic it is as a live piece, he initially did not consider including "Do You Feel Like I Do" on Acoustic Classics." But towards the end of the recording process changed his mind. "I thought, 'Look, I've done all the others. Let's give it a go,'" Frampton recalls. "I think the most important thing for me was that the instrumental portion of the beginning came off well. It's just a different take on it, y'know? It's an acoustic 'Do You Feel.' I can understand if some people just won't listen to it because they only want to hear the other one, but for me, going from 'I can't do that' to 'Yeah, it's not so bad,' it works for me."

Frampton, Kennedy and Frampton's son Julian toured acoustically last fall and are headed out for another 13-show run of the west coast on March 9. In addition to the Acoustic Classics, Frampton also performs Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue," the Beatles' "Norwegian Wood," material from his Humingbird in a Box EP and a couple of Humble Pie tracks -- and, he notes,"We talk a lot between songs." One of the show will be filmed for broadcast on AXS later this year, and a live release and perhaps a second acoustic album are under consideration. But Frampton, who plans to be on the road with his full band this summer doing dates with Lynyrd Skynyrd and Gregg Allman, is also looking forward to plugging back in for his next album.

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"I need to move forward as well; I don't want to get stuck right there (acoustically) too long," he explains. "I want to move on to something different and then maybe the album after that might be a live acoustic show. Some people in this industry have said that the more senior artists like myself, no one wants to hear new music from them, so don't worry about it. I get it. But that's what I do, you know? You can't just stop. So even though new music from me isn't going to leap to the Top 40 stations or streams or whatever, it doesn't matter because it's what I do every day. I'm always creating. Whether people want to hear it or not, I'm gonna do it."

Frampton's mind these days is also on the passing of good friend David Bowie, who Frampton has known since school days in England and played with both then and as part of Bowie's 1987 Glass Spider Tour Band. "It's hard to talk about for me, still," Frampton says. "He was a great, dear friend, and as an artist he was totally unique. We grew up together. We went to the same school, so obviously it's hit me very hard. That was a tough day -- for everybody. I"m not saying I'm special, but it just so happened that I knew him all my life so it was hard. It still is hard. I miss him greatly."