When AJ Croce was just eight days away from turning two, his father, Jim, passed away in a plane crash. Since his father happened to be a beloved singer/songwriter, music has been at the heart of Croce's life for as long as he can remember. Many are familiar with Jim's songs; whether it be "I Got A Name," "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" or "Time In A Bottle," a song Jim actually wrote for his son. AJ himself has 30-plus years of a career in music that has culminated into eight albums and a terrific streak of playing blues, soul and rock, even collaborating with some of the all-time-greats along the way.
- Credit Joshua Black Wilkins
- AJ Croce tackles the hits of his father this Sunday at the Tower Theatre.
Now 50 years old, AJ Croce is currently on tour performing some of his father's most memorable tunes, his own music and other covers of musicians in a show called "Croce Plays Croce" that will be at the Tower Theatre this weekend. While Croce was enjoying a salmon scramble in Seattle, we spoke over the phone about this tour, musical connections with his dad and the art of covering other artists.
Source Weekly: Getting that close to someone's art can be pretty powerful, I'd imagine. Have you found your relationship with your father's music evolving at all as you prepped for the tour?
AC: I think the first time I felt that connection was in my early 30s. I was archiving a bunch of his home recordings, which were mostly covers. It was in the late '60s, he recorded this particular tape and everything on the tape, like 90% of it, were all songs I had covered since I was a teenager. I found this connection and these were really obscure songs by relatively obscure artists. That was like the first connection I had of there being something there I wasn't aware of. And the idea of doing this show was partially based on the idea that we have this connection that was so much deeper with the stuff that influenced us.
SW: You're doing some renditions of other artists who inspire you. Who else can people expect to hear at the show?
AC: That changes every night! It might be Billy Preston, it might be Brownie McGhee, it could be Allen Toussaint, Professor Longhair, James Booker, it could be anybody. Woody Guthrie. It could be anything. I like the set to be really improvisational. I know there's a certain amount of time I have on stage and that there's a certain number of songs of my father's that people want to hear, so I keep that in mind but otherwise I have a lot of freedom to have fun.
SW: With this tour and last year's "By Request" covers album that you put out, can you speak a little on the art and challenge of covering someone else's music?
AC: I grew up playing jazz and blues and rock and roll, and that was covering people's stuff. Playing in jazz clubs, you know, that was pretty normal. You just find some way to make it your own. In a way, "By Request" was more about the event of the evening with friends, playing requests from friends.
SW: Are you working on any of your own music right now, too?
AC: Oh, yeah! Since I'm on tour, as I'm writing I'm demo-ing stuff and recording singles here and there. I was in Minneapolis recording, and now I'm in Seattle, and I'm going to be mixing some of the stuff I recorded a week-and-a-half ago in Minneapolis [laughs]. I'm pretty used to it, but I'm better at home, honestly.
SW: What kinds of things inspire your writing these days?
AC: Man, inspiration is so unpredictable that I don't think there's one particular topic. Even—you might set out to write a story or something. You've got to keep it simple. The more complex a story is, the less it makes sense in a song. Keeping it simple is really important, it's an art. Sometimes I'll set out to express a thought or an idea and halfway through I go, "oh, gotta start over," and take this from a new angle. Writing in general is such a different kind of expression every time you do it.
Croce Plays Croce
Sun., May 22, 7:30pm
835 NW Wall St., Bend