If Billy F. Gibbons' new solo album, The Big Bad Blues, seems extra authentic, it's probably because Gibbons and his studio band didn't know they were recording at all for a large part of the process.
No red light usually means no pressure. And a relaxed musician is more likely to give a great performance, as most engineers will tell you.
Gibbons described the record's "casual" origins in a new interview Q104.3's Out of the Box with Jonathan Clarke. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer with ZZ Top says he was at the studio in his hometown in Texas with drummer Greg Morrow and engineer/bassist Joe Hardy when the three started jamming.
"Jimmy Reed, Albert King, B.B. King — all of this stuff started coming forth," Gibbons recalls. "And after about the third day, our buddy Greg Morrow, who was beating the sides off the skins, he said, 'Well, I gotta pull stakes.' Joe stepped forward and said, 'Well, do you guys want to see what we've been doing the past couple of days?'"
The rest of the players had no idea they were being recorded during all that time. Gibbons says upon listening back to what they put down, he was thrilled with what Hardy captured.
The Big Bad Blues is a mix of covers and originals by Gibbons. It also boasts a collective of musicians, including former Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver drummer Matt Sorum, harmonica player James Harmon and guitarist Elwood Francis, who holds down a day job as Gibbons' guitar tech in ZZ Top.
Elsewhere in the Out of the Box chat, Gibbons answers some of the most Google's most frequently asked questions about him, how he learned percussion from jazz legend Tito Puente and what ignited his friendship with Prince.
Gibbons says he first took notice of Prince after hearing "When Doves Cry" in the '80s — specifically the song's fiery guitar intro caught his ear.
The two didn't meet, however, until 2004, when they were each inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Gibbons says he met up with Prince at a bar in Hells Kitchen afterwards, and they spent the entire night talking guitars.
"It really reinforced my belief at how dedicated [Prince] had been as a performer on the guitar," Gibbons said. "I think as a technician, his performing style was somewhat overlooked until later on in the game. I asked him about 'When Doves Cry.' And he sat there in his quiet manner and said, 'Yes, I, too, am trying to relearn it.'"
Watch the full interview above!
For tour dates and more information on Gibbons' new album, The Big Bad Blues, go here.
Check out "Missin' Yo' Kissin'" from the new album here: