Eitzel Reworks Old 'American' Favorites
Singer/songwriter Mark Eitzel will release a new studio album, "The Ugly American," July 22 through Thirsty Ear Recordings.Singer/songwriter Mark Eitzel will release a new studio album, "The Ugly American," July 22 through Thirsty Ear Recordings. Recorded in Greece with the help of respected composer/producer Manolis Famelos, the unique project finds Eitzel reinterpreting songs from his 15-year career, drawing largely on material from his days fronting American Music Club.
"It was actually the idea of a Greek friend in London -- this guy Theodore," Eitzel tells Billboard.com of the follow-up to 2002's "Music for Courage & Confidence." "He thought of it years ago and he's always wanted to make it happen. I'd never been to Greece and the people at the label there, Hitchhike, were like, 'Do you want a free trip?' And I said yes."
"I wasn't familiar at all with Manolis. I just went to this Web site online and got familiar with his music," he adds. "Nothing with this record was really my choice, which was sort of unusual. It was like, I'd show up at the studio and they'd say this is the arrangement. A few of the musicians in on the recording would argue with one another in Greek for an hour and then they'd look at me with hate. I'd say, 'What's going on?' and they'd respond, 'Well, we're trying to figure out if that was an A or a D in that chord.'"
"It was kind of like they took my chocolate and put it in their peanut butter," laughs Eitzel, who says Famelos knew all of his albums, and was especially fond of AMC's 1990 classic "United Kingdom." "Manolis had copies of records I'd made that I don't even own myself anymore."
Aside from the nine reworked originals -- including "Nightwatchman," "Western Sky," and "Will You Find Me" -- the album's closer, "Love's Humming," is the only song not penned by Eitzel. "That's one that Manolis wrote and then we translated it to English," he says. The track "What Good Is Love" is a true rarity, having been released on a limited-pressing 1997 tour-only CD called "Lover's Leap USA."
In the past two years, Eitzel has released three albums on as many different labels, including Matador, New West and now Thirsty Ear. "I honestly only want to be on Matador, but they didn't want to release this record," he says. "They only want me to do original material. I wasn't that familiar with Thirsty Ear -- it was a deal that was made by the record company in Greece. But so far they seem great."
"I'm hoping Matador will put out my next record," he continues. "I have most of it recorded. I've been working with [former Wilco member] Jay Bennett in Chicago. And most of it is done. It's just a matter of recording three more new songs and finishing it up. They're all brand new songs."