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Billy Bob Thornton

Puremusic: Your film reputation considered and aside, let's just talk today about Billy Bob the musician.

Billy Bob Thornton: All right.

PM: Musically speaking, this record is far from your first rodeo. What kinds of music were you involved with growing up?

BBT: Well, I was in a band from the time I was a kid, you know. In my first band, we played a lot of songs by The Dave Clark Five, Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Beatles, that kind of stuff. I played drums, and drummed in quite a few bands through the years. Once I got into high school, I branched out a little bit and started playing in my uncle's Country band for a while, and I was a singer in a Soul group. That was in the early 70s.

PM: You played drums and sang, or you were the front man?

BBT: No, I was the front man. I always thought it looked funny when the drummer was the lead singer. The only person that could get by with that was Levon Helm, you know.

PM: Right, because his cymbal setup was such that you could see his face pretty good.

BBT: Right. Otherwise, it always looked goofy to me. But one way or the other, I ended up being the lead singer for a bunch of groups. When people hear Private Radio, they say "You sing all these deep, moody things" or whatever. But my second record, which is all 60s pop covers, I sing real high and out there, very differently.

PM: You mean there's already a second record out?

BBT: No, it's finished, but not released yet. It's something I've always wanted to do. Many are tunes that first made me want to get in a band.

PM: Oh, that's right. I remember seeing a story about that record on CBS Sunday Morning a little while back.

BBT: Exactly. It's really cool, and we'll play some of that when we do our European tour in March. We'll do about five of the covers with the Private Radio songs.

PM: Who will you bring on tour from the record?

BBT: We'll have Greg Stocki on drums, Brad Davis on guitar, and Steve Arnold on bass. Those are the only three who are on the record.

PM: [Keyboardist] Barry Beckett won't go.

BBT: No, Beckett won't go, he got sick recently, though he's doing fine now. But he's gonna wait till he gets more of his strength back before he gets on the road.

PM: I didn't know he went on the road anymore.

BBT: He doesn't, but we're good pals, so he was planning to go with us. But we got a guy, Mike Finnigan.

PM: One of the greatest.

BBT: Yeah, Mike's great. We got him and another guy on guitar named Randy Mitchell. He's very talented, been on the road with a Soul act that slips my mind at the moment. And a percussionist who's actually out of Nashville named Sam Bacco.

PM: Sure, he's a friend, we've played and recorded together. He's amazing.

BBT: Yeah, Sam's coming with us. And Stocki can't do the whole tour, so Sam will take over on drums for the last five gigs.

PM: He's so in demand as a percussionist that many people don't know he's also a good kit guy.

BBT: It should be fun, rehearsals have been going well. One thing we're gonna do is take our own sound system.

PM: That's cool, because house systems abroad can be a hassle sometimes. I hear a lot of nightmare stories. Where are you headed, the UK, or Germany and the continent...?

BBT: Some of all of it. London, Dublin and Edinburgh... I think we're probably going to play the Cavern Club in Liverpool, just for the history's sake, if nothing else. Then we'll do a couple of USO shows in Germany, and Berlin and Hamburg besides those. Then off to Stockholm, Copenhagen, and Oslo, all those places. I've never been to Scandinavia, it's something I've always wanted to do.

PM: And they're bonkers for good American music in Scandinavia.

BBT: Yeah, the record sells good in Sweden. It's really big there.

PM: So, you have a good man over there, then?

BBT: Yeah, the Mercury guy in London, Ian Snodgrass, he's fantastic. He's the guy.

PM: That's great, because, even with great Triple A or Americana records, marketing in our own country can be very difficult. In Europe, they don't draw all those lines between formats.

BBT: No, they don't care. If they like it, they like it. Plus, they enjoy more serious things that might not be able to sell a bunch of records here. Serious songwriters with darker material frequently do better there than here.

PM: Tom Waits is a god over there.

BBT: Absolutely. He's a good example. But one way or the other, the record sells well internationally.

PM: Aside from those we've mentioned, who were your biggest musical influences growing up, and who are they now?  continue

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