(Diversions, a recurring feature on Aquarium Drunkard, catches up with our favorite artists as they wax on subjects other than recording and performing.)
Since their inception Le Switch have been called a lot of things, from Waits-ian barroom growlers to whiskey-soaked, confessional, soul-pop. Both fitting, but one common descriptor that always manages to find its way into the conversation is that of soul. Without question, the band has it. But what is soul exactly, and how does one articulate it to others? Below, Le Switch’s Aaron Kyle ponders both questions.
Le Switch have a split 7″ out at the end of the month—with LA compatriots Les Blanks (sample “How We Imagined It” below)—and a new album in the can coming out this summer. Catch them in town before their tour: AD is presenting, and giving away a few pairs of tickets, to their April 22nd show at the Bootleg Theater. Leave your name and a valid email address to enter. Winners will be emailed/tickets available at will-call.
Aaron Kyle of Le Switch on Blue-Eyed Soul
“I remember a kid running into band rehearsal one day, in ’68 or so, and saying, You’re not gonna believe this, but Rod Stewart is white! We said, Get outta here. We didn’t believe him. There was just not that many places you could see pictures of people. There wasn’t MTV. And we never heard any white person sing like that. We knew he was black.” – Steven Van Zandt
I love Soul Music. There isn’t a genre of music that I’d rather listen to, given the choice. Don’t get me wrong, I love all music, even calypso! When it comes down to it, soul music is my jam. In the past 6 or 7 years I have acquired a bit of sweet tooth for Blue Eyed Soul or my definition of it.
By Wikipedia definition Blue Eyed Soul, also known as white soul, “is rhythm and blues or soul music performed by white artists.” That’s cool and all as it pertains to beginning of a sub-genre of music, but I think there were a fair amount of white artists writing soul music that have contributed to the genre that don’t necessarily get credit for it. To name a few…
I’m not sure where to start or stop with this as it’s such a loose subject. For me, when I think about the term Blue Eyed Soul I automatically think of Van Morrison. You can dig through his catalog, from Astral Weeks to Moondance onto Tupelo Honey etc. For me, these records signify what is great about soul music. Music that is heavy and also happy at times, with heart, and love poured into it. Horn sections, Groove, Vocal vamping. These are all the fixings of soul.
There is Leon Russell who doesn’t get mentioned in too many talks about soul but I think he’s well worth it. Granted more country blues, I think he brought a lot to the white soul table. He just does it in a country format most of the time. He wrote “A Song For You” which is actually one of my favorite Donny Hathaway covers. “My Cricket” is also another great example.
Last but not least I think Rod Stewart doesn’t get a lot credit for his contribution to this sub-genre. He’s got the voice, the sass and usually a pretty impressive backing band. He did a cover of “If Loving You is Wrong” that I still listen to all the time and think is one the best soul tunes.
The 60’s and 70’s obviously have their fair share of white soul (The Band, Dr. John, Rolling Stones etc.). That was a part of what you did back then as an artist. Soul was a huge part of popular music/culture.
After the fall of Stax Records in late 70’s and the introduction of Disco, it becomes increasingly harder to find white soul. You have artists like David Bowie. Michael McDonald, Hall and Oates sorda carrying the torch. Sadly, the 80’s don’t really bring to mind too many great white soul artists. Spandau Ballet could be up there or even Tears for Fears?
Soul music in general had a nice resurgence in the 80’s with artists like Prince, Michael Jackson, The Gap Band, DeBarge etc. breathing new life into soul with synths and the technologies of the 80’s. Then you hit the 90’s…
The 90’s are a wash for me with boy bands and girl group that I couldn’t find it in my heart to respect. There’s G-Love with Special Sauce which afforded Jack Johnson and Jason Mraz and a plethora of other singer-songwriters to have a careers. Some 90’s bands I’d add to the genre would be The Make Up and Talk Talk and some late R.E.M. I’m sure there are more that I’m forgetting but this is what I can think of as I write this.
In the last 10 years or so, White Soul has seen a little revival. I’ve been enjoying most of the artists going for it recently like Mayer Hawthorne, Amy Whinehouse, Reigning Sound, Richard Swift and even some Dirty Projectors songs could cross over. Catfish Haven do it well and My Morning Jacket’s last record was basically a regurgitated prince album. By that I mean it was great.
I hope the sub-genre continues. It’s nice to hear new music with heart. It gives me faith that people still care about making music because it’s in their blood and they just have to get it out.