There are high spirits in the John Mellencamp camp today, but don’t expect a giant throwdown to celebrate his just-announced induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“We’ll go to our next gig and we’ll play,” Mike Wanchic, who’s been playing guitar with Mellencamp since 1976, tells Billboard.com. Mellencamp is, in fact, playing tonight in Providence, R.I.
“We’ve never been much for patting ourselves on the back,” Wanchic explains. “I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve managed to survive this for so long. Yes, it is an honor, and thank you very much, but business it at hand, y’know? We’re making music for the people that have supported us all these years, and that’s what we’re gonna continue to do.”
Nevertheless, Wanchic says Mellencamp and those around him are stoked by the Hall of Fame news, especially since the Indiana rocker appeared on the ballot several times before finally getting the nod.
“It’s something I don’t think we ever felt would happen,” he acknowledges. “You sort of feel that every year that goes by and you don’t get in, there’s more people that get eligible for it. Therefore your chances are reduced every year. I think in some ways we’ve probably just written it off, and for it to finally happen was a surprise.
“But it’s a great thing,” he adds. “This is a bona fide recognition of John’s art and staying power and our ability to continue to make records over 30 years and grow.”
The growth will continue sometime next year when Mellencamp — whose song “Our Country” is nominated for a Grammy for best solo rock vocal performances — releases his next album. The set is called “The Company We Keep” and was recorded last summer with producer T-Bone Burnett at Mellencamp’s home studio in Belmont, Ind.
Mellencamp has been previewing some of the tracks on his current tour, including “A Ride Back Home,” “Young Without Lovers,” “If I Die Sudden,” “Jena” and “Troubled Land.”
“It’s very, very, very organic — upright basses, cocktail (drum) kits, lots of acoustic guitars, really very atmospheric, absolutely one of the coolest sounding records that I’ve ever heard, of ours or anybody else’s,” Wanchic says. “We had no intention of making a record, really. Inspiration hit, and when it hits you, you’ve got to go with it. Within a short length of time, (Mellencamp) wrote 20 songs. It was, ‘Wow, I guess we’re gonna make a record, then.'”