Chris Isaak headlines Britt Festivals
Chris Isaak put out the studio CD "Mr. Lucky" in the summer of 2009 but — even in his own view — hasn't had much luck with retail sales of the album. However, the songwriter and guitarist knows "Mr. Lucky" is not necessarily dead in the water. Isaak's biggest hit, "Wicked Game" from his 1989 release "Heart Shaped World," is a prime example of how an album can get a second life.
"The thing came out on our record, and nobody noticed it," says Isaak of "Wicked Game." "A couple of years later it was in a movie (David Lynch's "Wild at Heart") and became a hit. So I never give up (on an album). I know one rule of thumb is to make good records. Do good shows, and your audience will notice and they will find you. And I feel real proud of that 'Mr. Lucky' album. I think we have a lot of good songs on there."
Isaak and his band return to Southern Oregon to perform Saturday, July 30, at the Britt Pavilion in Jacksonville. The singer performed in September 2009 at Britt.
Isaak's view of "Mr. Lucky" is worth noting because it would be easy to assume he has put the 2009 album in the rear view and moved on. Last June, he released a concert CD, "Live at the Fillmore," and he's been promoting it on tour since last summer — and with an appearance on NBC's "The Tonight Show" the day he phoned for this interview.
He joked that he had lost count of the number of times he has performed on "The Tonight Show" but remembers his appearances date back to when Johnny Carson was the show's host.
Indeed, Isaak has been in show business longer than it might seem. Now 55, he released his first CD, "Silvertone," in 1984. After the release of "Heart Shaped World," he still hadn't connected commercially.
It was in 1991, when a radio-station music director in Atlanta who is a fan of Lynch's films saw "Wild at Heart" and was struck by "Wicked Game," when Isaak's moody ballad was put into rotation. Soon, as other stations followed suit, the song became a top-10 hit.
Since then, Isaak has seen his songs "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing" (featured in the movie "Eyes Wide Shut") and "Somebody's Crying" (used by VH-1) also cross over to radio, albeit with more modest success than "Wicked Game."
Isaak can credit his work in television, as much as his music, for helping him sustain a viable music career.
In 2001, he launched "The Chris Isaak Show" on Showtime. It featured Isaak and his band at the time (bassist Rowland Salley, drummer Kenney Dale Johnson and guitarist Hershel Yatovitz) portraying themselves and the lives they led as professional, touring musicians.
The series was well-received and continued through 2004. Isaak also had roles in several high-profile movies, including "Married to the Mob," "Silence of the Lambs," "That Thing You Do!" and "A Dirty Shame," as well as the HBO series "From the Earth to the Moon."
Isaak plans to pursue work as an actor, depending on what his schedule allows.
"I love acting, and I love doing TV," he says. "This past year, somebody offered me a full-time role on another TV show. I turned it down because it would have meant I would have no time to tour. The No. 1 thing for me is to play and make music. But I'm always looking to do something — and films and TV, if they come at the right time. As long as I don't have to give up my guitar playing or riding around with my ne'er-do-well friends (his band and road crew) on the bus."
Music is clearly front and center on Isaak's schedule with a tour this summer. The shows still are in support of the 17-song "Live at the Fillmore."
Considering Isaak's long career as a performer, it's surprising he hasn't released a live album until now.
And from the sound of things, Isaak wasn't exactly focused on putting out the CD until others in his camp started talking up the idea.
"I kind of forgot about it," says Isaak of the Fillmore recording, which was done at the end of a tour in 2008. "A month or a couple of months later, my engineer listened to the tapes, and he called my manager all excited. My manager then called me all excited, and I said 'OK, great. Let's hear it.'
"I was kind of incredulous that it would really be good," he says. "But then I thought it sounded great. It was one of the only times I ever heard a recording that sounds like a live show. I think the guys were playing great. We were at the end of a long tour, and they were in a good mood. It comes across. You can tell people are having fun on that record."
Tickets for the Britt show cost $63 for reserved seating, $39 for lawn seating, $29 for children, $252 for premium lawn seating for four and $126 for premium lawn seating for two. Tickets are available at www.brittfest.org, at the box office, 216 W. Main St., Medford; or by calling 541-773-6077.