Multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter and producer, A.J. Croce brings his 2015 tour stop to City Winery Chicago, 1200 West Randolph Street, Chicago, IL 60607, on Tuesday, April 28th, at 8:00pm. One of the most significant songwriters of his generation, Croce has performed, co-written, and worked with many of the biggest names in music. And, if the name Croce sounds familiar, his legendary father, Jim Croce, was a rare masterful songwriter and performer whose tragic death in a plane crash cut short a career on-the-rise.
“I’m really looking forward to performing in Chicago at City Winery,” says Croce excitedly. “I’ve played at City Winery New York and it’s a great venue, so I’m really looking forward to it! Chicago’s been a great place to play for a long time. Last time I believe was at Space and that was a really nice venue. A lot of people came out and it was great!”
A.J. Croce’s career began with his first tour at age 18 opening up for B.B. King. “He heard me play at the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in New York; it was the induction of my father and he heard me play piano,” states Croce. “It was really complimentary and he asked if I wanted to go out and open for him.” In the span of a 20+-year career, Croce has headlined festivals, concerts and major listening venues worldwide. He has been seen and heard on shows including Jay Leno, David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, Austin City Limits, Good Morning America, E!, and CNN, and he has shared the stage with an innumerable list of eclectic artists from Béla Fleck to James Brown, Lyle Lovett to Morphine, Rod Stewart to Ben Harper and Ray Charles to Willie Nelson. “I played at Ravinia [near Chicago] with Ray Charles” remembers Croce. Willie Nelson stated, “A.J. Croce has wisdom beyond his years. With his music, he represents his generation with a profound sense of honesty in his lyrics and quality in his delivery. The future of entertainment is safe in his hands!”
Croce’s eighth studio album entitled, Twelve Tales, (released February 4th, 2013, on Compass Records) was his most ambitious to date and was recorded with six illustrious producers over the course of a year. He traveled to record the album in five cities across the country, allowing each producer to select two new songs to record. Legendary producer Cowboy Jack Clement (Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash) signed on first for sessions in Nashville, Tennessee, and were some of his final sessions before he passed away. Croce then went on to record sessions with Allen Toussaint (Dr. John, Paul McCartney) in New Orleans, Greg Cohen (Tom Waits, John Zorn) at Tom Waits’ introduction in New York City, five-time GRAMMY Award winner Kevin Killen (Elvis Costello, Peter Gabriel) in Stamford, CT, and in Los Angeles for sessions with Mitchell Froom (Crowded House, Los Lobos) and Tony Berg (Fiona Apple, Bob Dylan).
“I was touring at the time,” explains Croce on how he chose the producers. “I was writing and I made a long list of all of the sort of dream producers I could think of working with that I hadn’t worked with. That’s how it came about. Because, everyone is really busy on that list, and everyone is doing tons of stuff, so we tried to find a formula of being able to go in and record live over a couple days. I never had more than a couple days with any of the producers. First person to sign on was Cowboy Jack Clement, which really made the project come together a lot quicker because his name meant something to a lot of people. Then, Allen Toussaint signed on. Once Allen was part of it, then everyone was interested. I had really hoped to work with GRAMMY Award winning producer Joe Henry (Bonnie Rait, Solomon Burke, Susan Tedeschi), but time did not permit us. Our schedules just didn’t work out. So, it was just about who was available and when we could do it.”
Croce adds, “Mitchell Froom’s place was really comfortable and small, kind of like my studio which is just a small room with a bunch of different instruments. Mitchell had an approach that was really inspiring to me because I had always approached recording vintage instruments which it’s always important to me to have great full sounding beautiful instruments. He loves vintage instruments, but his approach was to see what sounds he could get out of them that nobody else had heard before. The beauty of the instrument is just a facet of what’s going to be there anyway. What can we do to see if we can make it different. And, because it was just he and I recording everything live and David Sharpe engineering it was the three of us in a room and it was really casual. All the sessions were done very quickly. The one with Cowboy [Jack Clement] we did two songs in five hours. We had an hour to spare because you’re in Nashville so you do just three hour sessions. It was really relaxed and fun. The same thing with all of them. The one in New York I did with Greg Cohen, Marc Ribot and Jake Wilson, we did that and the overdubs in four hours; two songs in four hours. That was the way a lot of these things were put together. The really hard part for the producers was how they were going to put their sound to it. So, it took a lot of pre-production and thinking ahead of time, and of them and I talking about ideas of what we planned to do.”
Recognized as an accomplished songwriter, Croce has written with artists including Robert Earl Keen, GRAMMY Award winner Gary Nicholson, Roger Brown, GRAMMY Award winner Will Jennings, and GRAMMY Award winner Leon Russell. “I got a call that he wanted to write and I’ve always been a fan.” explains Croce of his collaboration with Leon Russell on Rollin’ On. “I’ve played with him over the years. I’ve opened for him four or five times before then. I’ve hung out with him a couple times and that was it. He wanted me to come up with the music or melody and he said he would do the words.”
Listening to Croce’s Twelve Tales one cannot help but hear many influences. What Is Love, for example, is a track that has the sound and lyrical quality as if it were written by the late John Lennon. “I think when I was trying to write that song,” explains Croce “I was really trying to be simple; finding the right words. I think that, in that way, I was thinking of Everly Brothers or Buddy Holly or one of those classic early rock ‘n’ roll kind of things that has the sincerity. I think those were influences he had too. I think that happens a lot. I know early on in my career someone said reminds me of Dr. John and I really didn’t grow up listening to Dr. John, but I did listen to the people he listened to.
Fans attending the City Winery Chicago show on Tuesday will be in for a special treat. It is the 20th Anniversary of the release of Croce’s That’s Me in the Bar and will be the only show that features a handful of songs from the album. [from A.J. Croce biography]
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Tuesday, April 28th, 2015
City Winery Chicago presents
JOE LOUIS WALKER
City Winery Chicago
1200 West Randolph Street
Chicago, IL 60607
Doors: 6:00pm / Show: 8:00pm