Bryan Ferry: A Classic Crooner Informed By The Art-Rock Movement For more than 40 years, former Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry has been making some of the most suave, luxurious music. NPR's Arun Rath speaks with Ferry about his 17th solo album, Avonmore.

Bryan Ferry: A Classic Crooner Informed By The Art-Rock Movement

Bryan Ferry: A Classic Crooner Informed By The Art-Rock Movement

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For more than 40 years, former Roxy Music frontman Bryan Ferry has been making some of the most suave, luxurious music. NPR's Arun Rath speaks with Ferry about his 17th solo album, Avonmore.

ARUN RATH, HOST:

OK, Bryan Ferry's recording career in 60 seconds.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DO THE STRAND")

ROXY MUSIC: (Singing) There's a new sensation.

RATH: It started in 1972 with the art-rock jolt of Roxy Music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DO THE STRAND")

ROXY MUSIC: (Singing) Do the Strand love.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MOTHER OF PEARL")

ROXY MUSIC: (Singing) Oh, mother of pearl...

RATH: Their sound developed a glossier sheen as they rounded the corner into the 1980s.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MORE THAN THIS")

ROXY MUSIC: (Singing) More than this.

RATH: And that gave way to Ferry's solo career as more of a crooner perpetually sporting perfect hair and bespoke suits.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "KISS AND TELL")

BRYAN FERRY: (Singing) Kiss and tell...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SLAVE TO LOVE")

FERRY: (Singing) Slave to love...

RATH: And coming this week, his first collection of new music in four years - "AVONMORE."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOOP DE LI")

FERRY: (Singing) You wake up. Where are you? What's on your mind? Confusion - can't face it. You close your eyes.

RATH: Bryan Ferry, welcome to the program.

FERRY: Thank you very much. Good to be here.

RATH: So when it comes to Bryan Ferry music, a lot of reviewers talk about how smooth it is, you know, suave, lush, sophisticated. But I hear funk in there, too. And "Avonmore" is, you know, it's a funky record - a lot of your records are.

FERRY: Well, that's good to hear.

RATH: Does that come from the musicians you work with or do you consider yourself kind of a funky songwriter?

FERRY: Well, I'd like to think I was. (Laughter) And yeah, I've listened to a lot of pretty funky music in my time. And I was just thinking earlier about a time I hitchhiked to - from Newcastle in the north of England down to London to see Otis Redding play with the Stax-Volt show. And that was one of the funkiest experiences I've ever had. And it was a kind of, you know, life-changing moment, really, seeing that band.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MIDNIGHT TRAIN")

FERRY: (Singing) Midnight train rolling down the track, taking all my dreams, never coming back.

RATH: You have your son Tara playing drums on this album with you.

FERRY: Yeah.

RATH: How old is he?

FERRY: He's 24 now. He really came of age on this record though. He's brought a lot of useful energy to the project actually, which is - which is great.

RATH: I'm very curious about what it's like playing with your son as both of you are adults. I mean, did you - do you get to know him in a different way?

FERRY: I suppose so, yes. Yeah, and I guess he stands up to me more than any other musicians do.

(LAUGHTER)

RATH: The drummer has to.

FERRY: Yeah, that's right. And I tend to listen to him quite a lot, so that's rather good. Even though I am sort of set in my ways, I do listen to him. And it's good to have, I guess, a combination of experience and this youthful excitement about recording, which him and some of the other young players I've got around me have as well.

RATH: It looks like from your touring band you feature quite a few women among your musicians. And...

FERRY: Yeah.

RATH: You know, sometimes it feels like music business, at least when it comes to instrumentalists, I know, I could think of you and Prince and I can't think of a lot of others. Is this some - is it a conscious choice that you make or does it just happen, no big deal?

FERRY: Well, it's nice to have girls in the band, that's for sure. It makes for a much better atmosphere. Actually, I saw Prince playing in London in a small venue. He did a surprise show one night. And he's got an all-girl band.

RATH: 3rdEyeGirl - yeah.

FERRY: Yeah, that's right. They're great players. They're the only people who've worked in my studio apart from me, actually. The girls in my band, one or two of them, have been there for a while.

RATH: With your band, though, was this something - did you say I'm going to have more gender diversity in this group or were these just the best musicians?

FERRY: Uh, not really. Georgia came along and I think she auditioned together with the guys. And she won the job, and she was fantastic. And then similarly, the drummer we have on tour at the moment, Cherisse, she's a really good player. She got the job over a couple of other guys. Yeah, and we have a fair competition.

(MUSIC)

RATH: I'm speaking with BrYan Ferry about his new album. It's called "Avonmore." You're somebody who has taken great pleasure, it seems, in covering classics - I think pretty much as soon as you were on the scene.

FERRY: Yeah.

RATH: Still, I wasn't quite ready for your version of send in the clowns.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEND IN THE CLOWNS")

FERRY: (Singing) Isn't it rich, aren't we a pair?

Me here at last on the ground, you in mid-air. Send in the clowns.

FERRY: I think it has a really haunting lyric and I've always liked that song. And I heard it years ago done by Sinatra. And yeah, it's good to take a song that's had a life in a musical. Some of the great pop songs were written for musicals, you know? (Unintelligible) used to write for musicals. And it's good to take a song from that world and put it into my world, I guess.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BRING IN THE CLOWNS")

FERRY: (Singing) Where are the clowns? Send in the clowns.

RATH: Bryan, I want to talk about your appearance.

FERRY: OK.

RATH: You always look - and this is something that people talk about like with your sound - like smooth. You always look quite dapper. I can't imagine you ever dressed down. Do you have that Miles Davis philosophy of you always have to look clean?

FERRY: Exactly. He was one of my great heroes - one of the idols I had growing up. Him and Charlie Parker both kind of very cool dressers, very sharp. In fact, all those bebop players were. All the jazz guys used to kind of - suits and ties. They always looked really cool, I thought. Got to try and live up to their standard.

RATH: And your background's kind of working-class, right? You didn't dress for dinner in your family, did you?

FERRY: Oh, no, we didn't. No, we fought for scraps.

(LAUGHTER)

FERRY: Yeah, and my parents were very keen that I should get on in the world, you know, and go to university and stuff, which I did. They always felt that there was a better world out there for us, which there turned out to be.

RATH: That Bryan Ferry. His new album comes out on Tuesday. It's called "Avonmore". Bryan Ferry, thank you very much.

FERRY: Oh, it's been a real pleasure talking with you. Thank you.

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