Disco hits such as “Get Down Tonight” and “That’s The Way (I Like It)” have inextricably linked KC & the Sunshine Band to the 70s. But Harry Wayne Casey and company are tripping into the preceding decade with the March 10 release of Feeling You! The 60’s.
The 17-song set features Sunshine Band takes on songs by Bob Dylan, the Righteous Brothers, the Kinks, Ben E. King, Jackie DeShannon and plenty of Motown. “It’s kind of like a musical diary of my life, basically,” Casey tells Billboard. “My teen years were all in the 60s; I graduated (from high school) in 1969, so those were the set-up years that would become the biggest influences on the music I was going to create. Motown’s probably my biggest influence, along with James Brown and Joe Cocker, Blood, Sweat & Tears.” Three of Feeling You!‘s tracks — the Supremes‘ “I Hear a Symphony” and “You Keep Me Hanging On” and the Miracles‘ “You Really Got a Hold on Me” — come from the Motown songbook, and Casey confesses that, “I was a Motown freak. It was hard not to do a whole Motown album while selecting the songs.”
Listen to the group’s rendition of the Supremes classic “You Keep Me Hanging On,” which Billboard is exclusively premiering.
“Feeling You,” Casey says, actually grew out of a new original music project, the Sunshine Band’s first since 2007’s “Yummy.” “I started doing a new album, and in my shows I like to do covers, so I started recording some of those and started thinking about doing a two-record set with 17 original songs and 17 songs from the ’60s,” he says. “I’d never done a complete collection of covers; I’m kind of the last man in on that. It just felt like the timing was right; I’m in a good place mentally and everything else, so I just thought, ‘Why not? Just do it.’ And I had a blast.”
Those new songs are coming, too. Casey collaborated on some with the U.K. dance collective Bimbo Jones, and he hopes to have a single from that set of songs out soon with the album to follow during the late spring or early summer. “It’s a mixture of today’s sounds and what people know me for,” Casey says. “The tracks sent to be by the DJs were more electronic and we added horns and stuff to make them a little more KC-ish. And the stuff I recorded just with the band is more funky, groovier type of stuff. I think it’s a great mixture of uptempo and midtempo stuff.”
KC & the Sunshine Band Get ‘Last Laugh’ as They Shake It to 40th Anniversary
Casey is also planning to release a holiday album in November, making for “a pretty big KC & the Sunshine Band year” on the 40th anniversary of the self-titled, triple-platinum album that launched the group into the star strata. “It never seems like 40 (years). It really doesn’t,” says Casey. “But it is. It’s hard to think I’m really on my way to my 50th year, actually, so it’s going quickly.” What he does hope, however, is that the year’s releases give fans a perspective on the group that’s broader than the disco hits — including 1983’s “Give It Up,” currently featured in Kingsman: The Secret Service — that are the Sunshine Band’s stock in trade.
“I feel like it showcases that I’m a little bit more than just ‘That’s the way, uh-huh, I like it,’ ” acknowledges Casey, adding that he would consider a second volume of ’60s music if Feeling You! is well-received. “I would like to explore some other things, too, like do something country. The Christmas album is in the works right now, as I speak, and that’s becoming exciting for me. There’s a lot of different things I wanted to do. I love all kinds of music — mostly R&B stuff, ’cause that’s where my roots are, but country, blues, there’s even a little rock side to Harry Wayne Casey. I’d like to bring those things out if I can and shine a different light on what we do.”