The inspiration behind Kelly Lang’s new CD Throwback was sparked by a weekly video she posts on her Facebook page.
“I actually started doing ‘Throwback Thursdays’ on Facebook as a fluke,” she said of her weekly performance videos of classic country songs. “People started sending in requests for songs, but I didn’t know how to play them on guitar,” she said, admitting that it did make her put together a collection of songs in her mind that she might want to cover. “Then, I went to see Mac Davis at the Franklin Theater one night, and he sang ‘Baby, Don’t Get Hooked on Me.’ I thought, ‘Wouldn’t that be cool if a girl sang that?'”
Throwback is full of her takes on several songs made famous originally by male artists, ranging from Kenny Rogers to Elvis Presley. She said that covering a song like the Davis classic or “Morning Desire” definitely gave it a somewhat different feel coming from a female vocalist. “I’ve always liked men’s songs, and when you take one and record it, they usually take on more of a sensual format.” Longtime friend (and duet partner on the album) Olivia Newton-John told her the album had that impact on her. “She said it made her blush listening to it,” Lang says with a laugh.
Lang — whose father once worked for Conway Twitty — recalls that she met the legendary superstar when she was just 6 years old, and to call the Grease star a friend is something that she treasures.
“It is amazing. I love living long enough to see full-circle moments like this. I was reintroduced to her as an adult through Barry Gibb, and we became fast friends. We have a lot in common. We had daughters and breast cancer in common. I gave her my CD Shades of K, really not thinking she would even have time to listen to it,” she recalls — then, one day, the phone rang. “She calls one day and tells me she can’t stop listening to it. That was such a thrill. Fast-forward about eight or nine months, and she calls me and asks when I was going to do another CD. I told her I was considering doing something and asked her if she would come in the studio with me. I was so afraid to ask her, because I didn’t want to put her in an awkward position. She said absolutely. I was coming into Vegas where she was playing and asked her if I put a track down to ‘How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,’ if that would work. It will be forever one of the highlights of my life.”
Also appearing on the album is longtime Late Night With David Letterman bandleader Paul Shaffer, who plays keyboard on “Last Date.” She originally met him when Twitty appeared on Letterman, but recently reconnected with Shaffer. In fact, he flew to Tennessee to participate with Lang in Loretta Lynn‘s annual Twitty tribute at her ranch in Hurricane Mills last June. How did Shaffer — a longtime New York resident — react to the rural settings of Humphreys County?
“He absolutely loved it. He’s been in New York City for so long, and I think it was refreshing for him to meet people from grassroots America who weren’t from his area. I don’t think he realized how beloved he is and how many people were blown away by him. He got off the bus and was coming in to rehearse, and the musicians were just tongue-tied by his presence. He’s got such a lovely demeanor about himself that everyone settled down very quickly. He’s just a lovely man. I think people were shocked that he was my bandleader for the day.”
For his part, Shaffer said he enjoyed the experience and recording with Lang. “I am so proud to be a part of it. It just sounds beautiful,” he said.
Lang — who produced the CD — will be performing the album at a special concert at Nashville’s 3rd and Lindsley on March 29. Billboard is excited to showcase some exclusive footage of the collaborations with Newton-John and Shaffer below.
Throwback will be available on iTunes on March 1.