ZZ Top has signed a new record deal with Rick Rubin’s American Recordings imprint through Columbia, Billboard can reveal.
The veteran rock trio is planning to hit the studio with Rubin producing, for an album more in keeping with “La Grange”-era ZZ Top than its pop-friendly ’80s sound, according to manager Carl Stubner.
The band recorded for Warner Bros. for the first 20 years of its career before shifting to RCA in the mid-1990s. ZZ Top’s last album, 2003’s “Mescalero,” has sold 103,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
The hope is that with Rubin’s guidance, the band can enjoy a commercial and critical revitalization along the lines of prior Rubin clients Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond.
For his part, Stubner, who began managing ZZ Top a year-and-a-half ago, has worked to increase ZZ Top’s visibility via an increased focus on licensing and TV appearances, including the finale of “American Idol” this spring.
“We thought this was a great brand that was kind of dusty,” he says. “My goal was to polish it and do certain things they hadn’t done before.”
To that end, Eagle Rock earlier this month released the first ZZ Top live DVD, “Live From Texas 2007,” which debuts this week at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Music Video chart.
The band begins a European tour Friday (July 4) in Oporto, Portugal, which will be followed by 18 co-headlining North American dates with Brooks & Dunn. In the fall, “our plan is to go do smaller theaters, like 3,000-seaters for a low-dough ticket price. Then we’ll go finish the record.”