Chuck Prophet's Songs of 'Soap and Water' Singer-songwriter Chuck Prophet has released a steady stream of critically acclaimed albums in the past 17 years, notably as guitarist with the band Green on Red. He performs songs from his new album Soap and Water in NPR's Studio 4A.
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Chuck Prophet's Songs of 'Soap and Water'

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Chuck Prophet's Songs of 'Soap and Water'

Chuck Prophet's Songs of 'Soap and Water'

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From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen.

When you load the new CD from musician Chuck Prophet into your player, the first thing you may think is, this guy sounds familiar.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. CHUCK PROPHET (Singer): (Singing) Sweet butter. Sound match.

HANSEN: What you may recognize in Chuck Prophet's songs are some hints of Lou Reed and Alex Chilton, among others. What you may not have heard before is Chuck Prophet himself.

Although he released a steady stream of critically successful work in the last 17 years, notably with the band Green on Red in the late '80s, this year he produced country singer Kelly Willis' new disc.

Chuck Prophet's new CD called "Soap and Water" was recently released on the Yep Roc music label, and he and his fans are in Studio 4A.

Welcome to everybody.

Mr. PROPHET: Thank you. Glad to be here, Liane.

HANSEN: Chuck, each one of the songs on "Soap and Water" has a very distinct style. When I listened to it in my car I pushed the random button and let everything come up. Is this a random collection of songs chosen to stand apart or were these songs chosen to form a kind of concept?

Mr. PROPHET: Well, records are stubborn beasts to wrestle aground. They aren't always just the best songs that you have laying around, but some songs - a certain - sells more than others they just fights up your herd.

HANSEN: Yeah. The one you're going to play for us first is called "A Woman's Voice," which is a great song. And it's a little bit like Alex Chilton, I mentioned him as a favorite of yours, particularly in the way that - it's kind of - sometimes the Rex Harrison School of singing, you kind of - you're talking and singing at the same time.

Mr. PROPHET: Well, for me, it sounds perfectly normal. I have to tell you that when we overdubbed the 27-piece Methodist Children's Choir, Ms. Andrea was the conductor, and one of the children after hearing me sing for a few bars turned to her with this concerned look and she said, Ms. Andrea, when is he going to start singing, he he's just talking.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PROPHET: And I was in the control room. I was tempted to say you tell that kid that's it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PROPHET: That's the singing as it's going to be.

HANSEN: Tell us a little bit about "A Woman's Voice" before you play it. Is there anything you want to say about it?

Mr. PROPHET: Well, really, it was just a collection of blues couplets, and I don't know where I borrowed this lick which is like…

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. PROPHET: You know, which is - I don't know who wrote, probably someone beating on a fence with a stick.

HANSEN: Let's hear a little bit of "A Woman's Voice." Chuck Prophet and his band in Studio 4A.

Mr. PROPHET: All right. Three, four.

(Soundbite of song, "A Woman's Voice")

Mr. PROPHET: (Singing) A woman's voice can drug you. It happens all the time. You start out down the middle and the (unintelligible) on the side. Yes, a woman's voice can drug you. Feed you all around, way down past the bus station where nobody should be hanging around. Oh, pretty baby. Be right where you are. I just want to get up one time to turn on the lights. What's so great about the dark?

A woman's voice can drug you. And all your circuits gonna hum. You put on that stupid cape and smile. Fly straight into the sun. Yes, a woman's voice can drug you anyway. So get it while you can. Now, you may not believe me, but she used to call me senator, and just like Joan Crawford she let me know who was the man.

A woman's voice can drug you, right above you please. Whoa(ph). It's glorious. All right, go ahead and grab a seat. (Unintelligible) Ah, yeah. A woman's voice can drug you. But the (unintelligible), but the car's driven off. All right, just can't hear you. Come on.

HANSEN: "A Woman's Voice" written by Chuck Prophet and performed here in Studio 4A by Chuck Prophet and his band. These are great lyrics. I mean, you know, the effect of "A Woman's Voice," I mean, I'm very aware of that, I guess, having worked in radio.

Mr. PROPHET: I'm feeling it right now.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PROPHET: I'm tongue-tied.

HANSEN: With a woman's voice on a Sunday morning. The guitar that you're playing, it looks old.

Mr. PROPHET: Yeah. I get that a lot. But it's actually a 1984…


Mr. PROPHET: …Fender Squier Telecaster.

HANSEN: Really? It looks much older than that because it has that kind of kitchen-yellow finish on it.

Mr. PROPHET: It's got some miles on it.


Mr. PROPHET: Yeah.

HANSEN: You grew up in Orange County, of course, this is where they make Fender guitars. And I think, you're quoted as saying that you couldn't - if you shook a tree, five guitar players would fall off.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PROPHET: I mean, yeah, people often ask me when I started playing guitar, why and where or, you know, I really haven't - I came from a pretty non-musical family. In fact, I begged for guitar lessons and I ended up getting golf lessons instead but…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PROPHET: …yeah.

HANSEN: Do you ever stand in front of the mirror with a golf club, pretending it was a guitar?

Mr. PROPHET: I would admit to it if I did but, yeah, I did live in a kind of place where if you shook a tree, five guitar players would fall out.


Mr. PROPHET: And I think there was music in the air.

HANSEN: The song you're going to do for us next is called "Would You Love Me?" Before you play it, what would you like to say about it?

Mr. PROPHET: Well, it's actually a composite of a lot of things. I know Anna Nicole Smith, snuck her way in there, but…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PROPHET: …what really got this song off the ground was reading about Elvis and Peter Guralnick's excellent books on Elvis, and he said that Elvis had a reoccurring nightmare and that was that he would come out on stage and the crowd would be gone. And I got to thinking about that, and I also saw Sonny West, who was Elvis Presley's - his concierge sidekick, on a talk show only a few years ago where he claimed that it was the last tour that really killed Elvis and that he had begged to cancel the tour and said, come on, Elvis, why don't we just go to Hawaii and we can pick some coconuts.

And he described it - you know, I don't know if you've ever seen the film clips where Elvis is actually reading the lyrics and I think that's a - I found it a sad moment because Elvis had such a sharp mind and, you know, he knew so many songs. And Sonny West described that last - well, you know, the women still threw their underwear and everything, but something about it just wasn't right.

HANSEN: Yeah. All right. Well, this is a song "Would You Love Me?" Chuck Prophet and his band are here in Studio 4A, and this song can found on his new CD called "Soap and Water."

(Soundbite of song, "Would You Love Me?")

Mr. PROPHET: (Singing) You said that in a movie and I'm staring at a screen. They're dragging Jesus to the town it don't look good to me. Well, if I have a bucket or better yet a spoon, I'd go down to that river, baby, bring that river home to you.

Would you love me? Would you really love me? Would you love me? Would you really love me?

Elvis broke the wheels, right off the grave it rained(ph). They could have shipped that mother down but they didn't just the same. Oh, and women threw their panties and the women threw their thong. Elvis hung his head and said, they'll forgive me when I'm gone, when I'm gone.

Would you love me? Would you really love me? Would you love me? Would you really, really love me?

HANSEN: "Would You Love Me?" performed in Studio 4A. That's Chuck Prophet and his band. And "Would You Love Me?" can be found on his new CD, "Soap and Water," on Yep Roc Records.

When you're working on a song, how much do you try it out on the road before you take into a studio and commit to it?

Mr. PROPHET: Never. I get a little superstitious about locking down an arrangement. Because, really, it only takes one element to be stubborn and all gets dragged towards that, you know? And songs are living and breathing until you really make the record, and that becomes - to a lot of people, that becomes the definitive version.

I mean, I don't really think there is a definitive version of a song. It might happen in the studio if you're lucky. It probably happened for The Beatles a lot, and I think but for me it might happen in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in front of three people.

HANSEN: Right, right. You're going to leave us with a song called the "Freckle Song." And you're going to play us out to end this segment. I'll tell people again it can be found on Chuck Prophet's new CD, Yep Roc Records. It's called "Soap and Water."

Before you play us out, I'd like to thank the band - Stephanie Finch, Todd Roper, Kevin White and James Dupredo(ph). Our producer is Christine Aerosmith. Our engineer is Rob Byers and he had help from Bercon(ph). And Chuck Prophet, thank you very much.

Mr. PROPHET: Oh, thanks for having us. It's been a blast.

One, two, three four.

(Soundbite of song, "Freckle Song")

Mr. PROPHET: (Singing) I love the way you freckle. I like the way you peel. I love to see your hair in a mess. It's been a long September. Going to be a long winter. Let me help you out of that dress before you catch a cold on. We're rising and we're falling. Falling and we're rising, lost on the invisible sea. A thousand stolen kisses, a crime without a witness. Throw me overboard, captain. Would you please? I just can't stand myself. Oh, oh.

I never liked your brother, couldn't stand that little bugger. I had to see him every day. Your father is a factory, always had an inventory. Ain't going back there no how, no way. Never again. Uh-huh. Oh, oh. Oh. I love the way you freckle. I like the way you peel. I love to see your hair in a mess. It's been a long September. Going to be a long winter. Let me help you out of that dress to feel your beautiful skin. Beautiful, beautiful. Beautiful, beautiful skin. Beautiful, beautiful skin. Hey. Oh, oh. I got to feel this beautiful skin. Beautiful skin.

HANSEN: There is more music from Chuck Prophet at This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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