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Eagle-Eye Cherry


Eagle-Eye Cherry

There are artists who achieve success and are satisfied to spend the rest of their careers repeating the formula. And there are those like Eagle-Eye Cherry who seek to come up with something creatively fresh each and every time.

Combining his most mature set of songs to date with the most widescreen production of his career, Cherry's third album, Sub Rosa, finds him expanding the boundaries of his artistry and boldly challenging our preconceptions.

"I'd hesitate to say there's been a master plan," he says. "But you can definitely trace a journey through my records. If there's a theme to Sub Rosa it's asking 'what road are we going down?' It's a cynical world and people don't want to be preached at. But there are a lot of questions that need to be asked right now."

Sub Rosa comes on the back of Eagle-Eye's first real break in five years, following the hectic schedule that engulfed him after his 1998 breakthrough hit, "Save Tonight". The time off gave him the opportunity to take stock personally

and to take a look around at the much-changed world in which we now live.

"I got back home in early 2002 and was able to sort through a lot of stuff," he explains. "On the road you live in a bubble and you have to put a lot of things on the back-burner and decide to deal with them later. I needed to take a break and to clear out the closet."

The result is a collection of songs that are still highly personal but are also full of acute observation of the world around us. "Quite a few of the songs like 'Be Like That' and 'How Come' touch on the question of where we're headed," he says. "There's some despair at what's happening in the world right now. But there's optimism in there, too. With a song like 'Don't Give Up', I wanted to send out a message, like "Give Peace A Chance". It's saying 'there's always hope'. You can apply that in different ways. It would be fun to imagine a crowd at a soccer match singing it when their team is losing, for example. "

Sub Rosa is also an album of stories, peopled by interesting characters. "The Strange", for example, was written one day in New York, just sitting in Central Park and people watching. "Skull Tattoo" has a similar inspiration. "People have asked me who the woman is in that song," Eagle-Eye says. "But she was just someone I saw on the street."

Then there is "Twisted Games", in which the first verse is about a child who becomes a pyromaniac and the second verse is about a boy obsessed with guns. "I like the idea of the songwriter as storyteller. On a lot of these songs I've stepped outside myself," he says.

The album was written both on the road while touring Living In The Present Future and in Cherry’s New York apartment. Inevitably the events of 11th September 2001 and its aftermath -- a world-changing drama that is still being played out -- have coloured his approach. "It's not an album about that because many of the songs were already in progress before then," he explains. "But I was hit by the reality of the world we live in. I was in Los Angeles on that day and got stranded there. The world is a very weird place right now and of course that has influenced me as a human being and as a songwriter."

As we have come to expect from Eagle-Eye Cherry, Sub Rosa brims with memorable melodies and irresistible hooks. But it also sounds subtly different from anything we've heard from him before. "I think I've kept the songwriting focus," he says. "But I've always been fascinated by technology and sampling and I knew I wanted one day to work in that vein. So on this record I thought about the production a lot more. In the past I found solace in songwriting with simple parameters. This time the sound is definitely bigger and more panoramic." To assist in this process, he recruited producer Al Stone (Björk and Jamiroquai). On ‘This Paralysis’, ‘Don’t Give Up’, and ‘The Food Song’ he also teamed up with Cameron McVey, husband and producer of his sister, Neneh Cherry, while ‘Crashing Down’ and ‘Feels So Right’ were produced by John Kurzweg (Jewel, Puddle of Mud, Creed) and ‘How Come‘ was produced by Tim Simenon (Massive Attack, Björk, Depeche Mode).Yet he was also determined that despite the bigger production, ‘Sub Rosa’ should maintain a spontaneous warmth. “It’s got an organic base from demo-ing the songs in my apartment,” Eagle-Eye explains. “Things happen in that environment that are very causal and natural. With a laptop you can get them down and a lot of that ended up on the record. Then we built it up from there in the studio and combined technology with the live thing.”

The title, too, reflects the record’s roots. "Sub Rosa" -- 'under the rose' -- is when something is said in secret; behind closed doors; on the down low. Sometimes when I listen to music, especially on headphones, it can feel like that... it’s just the music and me," explains Eagle-Eye.

Born in Sweden in 1971, while growing up Eagle-Eye and older sister Neneh Cherry spent months on the road with their father, the trumpeter Don Cherry, acquiring an early taste for tour buses and the nomadic lifestyle of working musicians. At the age of 12, he was sent to school in New York, where he stayed on to work as an actor and a drummer in various bands. It was not until 1996 that he returned to Sweden to begin writing and making his debut album, Desireless, at the relatively late age of 26.

A collection of highly personal compositions, on its release in 1998, Desireless announced the arrival of an important new contemporary singer-songwriter. "There was a certain amount of therapy on that record and I wanted to go back to basics and make it simple with acoustic guitars and stuff," he says. Propelled by the hit single "Save Tonight", the album went platinum all over the world.

The second album, 2000's Rick Rubin-produced Living In The Present Future was made on the back of his phenomenal success and reflected the speed at which his life was moving. "We finished up two and a half years of touring and then without pausing for breath went straight in the studio and recorded more or less live. It was a very spontaneous album." It repeated the success of its predecessor. In between came a guest appearance on Santana's multi-Grammy winning, multi-platinum album Supernatural.

Now comes Eagle-Eye Cherry's finest album to date. "If you asked me on the first two records who I'd like to be compared to, I'd have said Neil Young or Tom Petty," he admits.

"But if you asked me the same question on this record, I'd have to say that I don't know. That's exciting. I feel I understand the craft of songwriting much better now and I know what I want. It's almost like the first two albums were in mono -- and this one is in surround sound."