John Waite’s secret of a 40-year career is knowing himself
February 27, 2018
Singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist John Waite, who has been making music since the late 1970s, believes the secret of his 40-year career is knowing himself.
"I don't compete," Waite said. "My trip is exclusive to me. So I don't go around trying to sound like other people — I mean, I can't imagine myself sounding like Justin Timberlake."
Waite, known for his solo No. 1 hit "Missing You" and his hit "When I See You Smile" with Bad English, will perform three nights, March 1 to 3, at the Egyptian Theatre.
The singer, who first gained recognition as the bassist and lead singer of The Babys with the Top 20 hits "Is It Time" and "Every Time I Think Of You" in the late 1970s, said the concerts will be a mix of full-on electric rockers and stripped-down acoustic showcases.
“When I’m playing songs in front of 500 people or 10,000 people, I’m always in the situation I’m singing about...” John Waite,singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist
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"It's the best of both worlds, really," said the singer who was raised in Lancaster, United Kingdom. "We have nearly 40 years of material to choose from, so it's hard to recall a set list because it changes all the time. It's also hard to get bored because we'll shout out a song then go into it."
Waite is currently touring in support of his new album "Wooden Heart Vol. 2," released in November. The album is a companion recording to 2014's "Wooden Heart," a collection of acoustic versions of Waite's songs.
While the first acoustic album was recorded in just a couple of days on a whim, "Wooden Heart Vol. 2" was a little more involved.
"We were doing more and more semi-acoustic shows because it's what I wanted to play on stage, and I really wanted to put those other songs together to continue the idea," Waite said. "When you look back at the catalog of the history of songs you're written in your life, there are songs you would love to see all on the same album, but in many cases it's not possible to do that, unless they are all hits."
So Waite came up with the idea to record four songs.
"We went in and ended up cutting six," he said. "Then I had 'Catch the Wind,' by Donovan, so I had seven."
Since seven was an uneven number, Waite selected some other songs that he had liked to record acoustically.
"When I did that, I felt the songs would form a genuine mugshot of who I am," he said. "It was a very broad collection of songs, but they were very much about the last few years of my career. It really surprised me when I put them all together. It all kind of happened in front of me. And I am still surprised at how the record turned out."
Waite's love of music started growing while he was a child living in northwestern England.
"When I was four years old I got a plastic ukulele," he said. "My mom was very musical and my dad had a huge record collection of classical music. My brother is still a great guitarist, and my cousin is in a jazz group."
Even though music was all around him, he still went out to look for new recordings.
"As a kid, when something came out, we had to go check it out," he said. "Even if it may have been something by a mainstream crooner from America like Perry Como, you still wanted to listen to it because it was not only from America. It was something you wanted to get your hands on because it was new music. I can't imagine a life without music."
Because Waite listened to different types of music, he, to this day, doesn't have a favorite artist.
"I also don't have what you may call a musical identity that locks me in," he said. "I do have this style, and the style is what keeps it all together."
Waite, throughout his career, has performed with various musicians including keyboardist Jonathan Cain and guitarist Neal Schon from Journey, as well as bassist Ricky Phillips, who is currently in the band Styx.
But those collaborations don't influence Waite with his solo work.
"I'm sure I'm influenced by everything I hear, but I don't look at other people's work and think I want to be like them," he said. "I have respect for the other artists and being on stage and playing with them is great, but I don't leave with any part of their identity. I'm pretty solid and secure with who I am."
When Waite is on stage performing, he mentally lives the songs he sings.
"When I'm playing songs in front of 500 people or 10,000 people, I'm always in the situation I'm singing about," he said. "It's like getting behind the mirror, and that's a fascinating place to be, because the songs are like chapters or short stories of your life."
Waite said the rewards of writing, recording and playing music come down to hitting the creative target.
"Once in a while, usually on every album, there's a moment when you hit the bullseye and feel so glad you made it to where you are in order to make that work," he said. "I have felt that way even back when I was in the Babys. I felt like I was able to articulate something in a way the people can understand."
When asked about the future, Waite said he has no idea what is to come.
"I don't really look toward the future, because it's already here, knocking on my door," he said. "So I think the best thing to do is to step out and say, 'Hello.'"
John Waite, the former singer for The Babys and Bad English, will perform at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 1, through Saturday, March 3, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Thursday tickets range from $35 to $55. Tickets for Friday and Saturday range from $39 to $65. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated for grammar and spelling.