For all his success over the years, Marshall Crenshaw is still just a music lover at heart. And it’s not just the sounds and the songs (though that’s a big part of it), but the aesthetics that come with a great record. Yes, record. Not CD, not mp3, not cassette, and certainly not 8-track.
“I like records, and I always have, for the sonics and aesthetics,” said Crenshaw. “It’s really that simple. I think a good vinyl record sounds better than anything else.”
And for his new project, a six EP set that has its second release, Stranger and Stranger, on Tuesday, Crenshaw is not only making a vinyl record that sounds good, but that looks good.
“Visually, they’re very striking, and the images on the front covers are from this website called Lost America that I’ve loved for years,” he said. “Troy Paiva is our artist’s name, and these records are really nicely rendered. I’m proud of them and I look at ‘em and think ‘yeah, this is cool, I’m glad to have my name on this.’”
That should go for the music as well, as Crenshaw is garnering raves for a series that began with last November’s I Don’t See You Laughing Now. Containing a new original song, a remake of an earlier track from his career, and a cover tune, the EPs will keep the diehards happy and expose the 59-year-old Detroit native to new listeners.
“Nobody’s told me that they don’t like it,” he laughs. “I haven’t heard any negative comments from anyone. People that have said anything at all have said glowing kinds of things. That seems to be the vibe.”
As for the decision to go all-in on vinyl, for Crenshaw it was a nod to his past as well as a realization that the good ol’ fashioned album is starting to make a comeback.
“That does seem to be the case,” he said. “It seems like a lot of people just really dig records as an object, and I can see why. When I was a child, my cousin had all these 45s and I was just really intrigued with them, looking at all the labels. I read the autobiography of Tommy James, who’s made some great records himself, and he goes through a whole thing about just being attracted to records. I read this quote from him and I thought ‘he’s got it worse than I do.’ (Laughs) He says ‘I used to look at my records and think that they looked like candy. I could almost taste them when I looked at them.’ So I’m not the only one, and he’s an even worse fanatic than me.”
That’s always good to hear, especially from someone who’s been in the business long enough to risk getting jaded by it. But between his touring, recorded output, and his radio show The Bottomless Pit, it’s clear that his affection for music remains unaltered.
“I’m just a person that loves music and always have,” said Crenshaw. “And I grew up with other people who loved music, so this (the radio show) is what my wife calls my musical therapy session. (Laughs) It is good medicine for me to do this radio show and most of the stuff I play is stuff that I’ve felt some emotional connection with, and if it’s not there, then it’s something new that I’m enthusiastic about and maybe will form some long-term connection with.”
All those aspects come together on the new EPs, with Stranger and Stranger containing the original title track, a remake of 1982’s “Mary Anne,” and a cover of The Carpenters’ “Close to You.” And with this new method of releasing music, Crenshaw answers those who have been clamoring for the follow-up to his last full-length album, 2009’s Jaggedland.
“This is the album,” he said. “It’s just that it’s coming out in installments rather than all at once, and I like it better that way. I like the feeling of having a new record out, and for the last six months it’s been this constant thing of okay, here’s a new record and I’m working on the next one, and the next one. I feel really engaged with the whole thing and I feel like there’s kind of a buzz going on in my life. It’s different from when you’re trying to get an album together. You’re working in isolation and working in a vacuum for a really long time, but having this be an ongoing process, it’s more fun for me.”
The fun continues Wednesday night in New York City, when he plays City Winery with a band consisting of Andy York, Graham Maby, and Rich Pagano).
“It’s great fun, it feels like home, and that club in particular has gotten to be a really friendly place for me,” said Crenshaw. “I’ve done a ton of stuff there now and I have a lot of memories associated with that place already. And plus, the guys in the band are close pals of mine, so it’s a welcoming situation.”
After that, get ready for more shows and more EPs, though he admits he’s doesn’t have all the material recorded and sitting in a vault, just waiting for release.
“I’m not that far ahead,” he laughs, “but I’ve got the third one figured out, and then I’ve got a fourth kind of A-side thing. I didn’t want to do them all in advance; I wanted them as fresh as possible and as much in the moment as possible.”
Marshall Crenshaw plays City Winery in NYC on Wednesday, May 8. For tickets, click here