Gnarls Barkley is unveiling four different versions of the song “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul” on a digital EP of the same name, due Nov. 11 via Atlantic. Also included is a live version of “Neighbors” from the 40-Watt Club in Athens, Ga., and the non-album track “Mystery Man.”
“It’s the first song we did for the new record. There was that nod of agreement and sigh of relief that we’re starting, and … we’re off!,” group member Cee-Lo tells Billboard of “Soul,” which appears in its original version, as a demo, an instrumental and as the audio from MTV’s “52 Bands.”
“The song was written about James Brown — from an admirer’s perspective … someone who had truly personified everything that we are,” he says. Gnarls Barkley played a 2006 show in London the same night Brown was playing, and had been offered the chance to attend by Brown’s manager. But the timing didn’t work out, and Brown died a few months later.
“It disappointed me so bad,” Cee-Lo says. “It was almost like he was about to pass a torch to me. It’s my assumption but that’s also my aspiration. When I say, ‘I lay my own soul down,’ it’s like, I will have to be my own hero. I will have to save my own soul. Therefore, it is very painful, but there’s also a silver lining.”
“This song really showed that we had other places to go and things to do,” Danger Mouse adds. “We tried it a couple different ways, and each time it still had a really great impact.”
Danger Mouse is partial to the live take on “Neighbors,” since it was recorded in Athens, where he went to college. As for “Mystery Man,” it’s “a song we weren’t sure what to do with. We didn’t know how to finish it, but we still liked what we had. It’s half instrumental and half vocals.”
Having toured since April in support of its second album, “The Odd Couple,” Gnarls Barkley will lay low for the time being while plotting its next move. “We really want people to hear this song, and hopefully this EP will carry it on,” Danger Mouse says.