An Interview with AJ Croce
By Casey Pukl
Born to legendary singer/songwriter Jim Croce, AJ has not only released several records of his own material over the last twenty years, but he’s now performing tributes to his late father. Croce is now living back in San Diego, and looking forward to playing for his hometown crowd. Read on to find out what his latest projects are, his personal favorite songs to play, and just what he thinks is the most important part of writing a song.
CP: What have you been up to these days?
AC: I’ve got a new CD that came out this year that’s called “Further On”, and it already came out in Europe, but it’ll come out in the states in the fall. I’m also going in to record a new record in the fall as well. Also, Steve Poltz and I have a song that’s actually being turned into a a graphic novel called, “Sewing Machine”. I’ve also been doing a lot of co-writing with different folks, you know, the usual.
This year, I took a little time to promote some of my dad’s music because this is the 40th anniversary of his first release on BBC records. So I’ve played some of those songs, and I’ll certainly do a couple of them at the show for the fun of it because it’s just fun to do. I started to do the whole tribute on his birthday in January, and I got such a good reaction. It was so much fun to do that I just decided to include a song or two in the show on a regular basis.
CP: That sounds like a ton of fun! I’m looking forward to hearing that.
AC: Yeah, it’ll be great!
CP: I’d love to know a little bit about “Further On”. I know you said it’s already out in Europe, but what’s this record all about?
AC: It’s actually a collection of my music from the last 10 years. There was a collection that came out in 2004 or 2005 that was called “Early On”, and it was a collection of my early recordings on BMG and stuff like that. That was the first ten years, and so this record is the next ten years. And then I’ll go in to record a new record in the fall that should come out next year.
CP: What has inspired the record that you’re about to go in and record?
AC: It might sound silly, but there were a few things that inspired it. Strangely, it was like I started recognizing that the songs were either inspired by these beautiful, big chords that I was hearing in these sort of sophisticated soul songs from the late 60′s. But then the tambourine in general is the other part! All of these tambourine grooves that I was hearing, whether it be in a Stevie Wonder song or a Beatles song or something else, I was just sort of drawn to hearing these cool rhythms and seeing where they fit with that instrument. Even though I don’t always have on one stage since I’m playing the piano and the guitar and often play as a duo, I still had this inspiration.
Between the big chord and the tambourine, those really drove it. Then I had some socially relevant lyrics that were also pretty critical. I know I’m addressing that last, but the song is really the most important part.
CP: Absolutely. I’m totally amused by your love of tambourine grooves. This sounds like it’ll be a pretty sweet record.
AC: [Laughs] Yeah!
CP: What’s your writing process like? Do you usually have a pretty standard jumping off point?
AC: Nah, you know, I’ve always come at it from different angles. Sometimes it’s the rhythm of something, sometimes it’s just taking a super traditional theme like cars or traveling or love songs, and then I see how I can make something that is familiar a little different. I want to make the familiar unique and special. I think that I come at it from so many different ways because I’ve written with so many different folks. In Nashville, 4-5 days per week I was doing co-writes. Everyone there had sort of a different way of doing it. Sometimes you put the music down first because you have that idea, and then everyone has a book of hooks or lines that they’ve written, sometimes it’s a chorus, sometimes a verse, and we see what works. In general, I have a story that I want to tell. I start from there. I think about what kind of music goes with it, or even what kind of music doesn’t go with it.
I want to tell that story in the best possible way. Sometimes you don’t have any say. Sometimes the whole thing just comes out at once, and you have a complete song.
I’ll be playing a bunch of new songs, a couple of old songs, a few of my dad’s songs, and just having fun.
CP: Is there a particular favorite of your father’s songs that you love to play?
AC: “Lover’s Cross” is one of my favorites. “Box #10″ and “Operator” are also always fun. “Rapid Roy” is always fun too. Those are probably my favorites to play.
CP: What are you most looking forward to about playing Anthology?
AC: I love playing in San Diego. I don’t play here very often. I don’t play here any more than I play any other city, so for me it’s great to be able to see friends and family.
For the this show, I’m not sure I have the whole band, but Michael Bizar usually plays guitar with me, so he’ll be there on guitar. Brian MacLeod, who has recorded with me on the album, is going to come down from LA to play. I’m really excited about that. He’s a great drummer who has played with all kinds of folks from Madonna and Pink to punk rock bands like Flipper and then indie bands like Grand Rabbit. He plays all kinds of stuff, and he was also part of the Tuesday Night Music Club. He co-wrote “Every Day is a Winding Road”, “Santa Monica Boulevard”, and “Strong Enough” with Sheryl Crow. So yeah, I’m really excited that he’s going to join the band for this show.
It’s great to see people that I see around all the time, and It’s great to play the hometown crowd. I’m just looking forward to having a really great show.
Special thanks to AJ for his time! Be sure to come on out and hear his fabulous collection of songs next Wednesday, July 18th! 00