Jeffrey Foskett recognizes the fact that his new album Voices — out Nov. 22 and premiering exclusively below — may be his last, at least as a singer. And if that proves to be the case he feels like he’s going out on a high note.
The longtime Beach Boys and Brian Wilson collaborator was diagnosed with Anaplastic thyroid cancer during early 2018. Surgeries and treatments have robbed him of one of his vocal cords and, essentially, the versatile voice with the soaring upper register that helped add authenticity to any harmonic situation he encountered. That understandably makes the 12-track Voices — on which he sings new versions of Beach Boys classics such as “Good Vibrations” and “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” as well as favorites by Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan and others — a “very bittersweet” experience.
“God gave me such a beautiful voice, and I really did use it to honor him and to sing my best at every single performance,” Foskett tells Billboard. “It’s killed me to walk off some of those (recent) performances knowing I just didn’t sound very good. So when I listen back to these songs I cut before my voice really went downhill, it’s like, ‘Wow, I wish I could do that again.'”
Voices came to life as a kind of accident. Foskett — whose resume also includes collaborations with Billy Joel, Chicago, Heart, America, Nancy Sinatra and others — had been recruited to record additional vocals for some Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Orbison and Holly projects. As a warm-up exercise Foskett sang the songs that appear on Voices, and producer Jeff Larson recoded those as well. “He later said to me, ‘These vocals you did to warm up are really good. Maybe we should double or triple them and put some harmonies on them, just to have them in the can, just in case,'” Foskett recalls. “We weren’t making an album; I was literally warming up. I’m so thankful (Larson) thought to do that.
“It’s interesting because it’s songs I’ve always wanted to cut. This is like my mother’s milk, these songs. I knew them all, just pat. I’ve been listening to them for years — singing some of them, too. I don’t think I had the words in front of me or anything. I just sang them and was fortunate that (Larson) pushed the red button.”
Foskett’s is the primary but not sole voice on Voices. Valerie Carter joins him on a version of Neil Sedaka’s “Laughter in the Rain,” and Foskett received permission to use existing vocal tracks from Beach Boys’ Mike Love for his versions of “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “Good Vibrations,” the latter of which also features the group’s Bruce Johnston. “My rule of thumb my entire life has been to never re-record the definitive version,” Foskett explains. “Otherwise, why touch a Beatles song or a Beach Boys song, or even a Ricky Nelson or Buddy Holly song or any of that stuff? So my version of ‘True Love Ways’ is different than Buddy Holly’s version; I just happened to be surfing YouTube one night and found Ricky Nelson singing that song, and that’s basically how I did my version of it.
“The same with ‘Adios’; Glen Campbell released it before he passed away and I was there when Brian (Wilson) was cutting the backgrounds on Linda Ronstadt’s version. I didn’t want to put any harmonies on mine because Brian had already done that for Linda, so that particular song has zero harmonies, just some doubling. It’s all just my way of doing these songs I really love.”
As Voices comes out, Foskett considers his future prospects to be “a good question.” Still able to play guitar, he’s done six shows this year with the Beach Boys and made guest appearances on the It Was 50 Years Ago Today Tour with Todd Rundgren, the Monkees’ Micky Dolenz, Christopher Cross and others paying tribute to The Beatles, aka The White Album. Foskett talks about possibly doing some production as well.
“I’m open to anything,” Foskett says. “Some days are really good for me, and some days are not. My doctor says ‘From now on you have only one job, and that’s to survive. Everything else is secondary.’ But part of that is your mental health, and there’s nothing more fun and more fulfilling for me than being involved and doing something either on stage or in the studio. That’s what I love most, and I’ll keep doing it as long as I can.”