Lucky Numbers, guitarist Dave Stewart’s third solo album in as many years, is a well-crafted collection of songs adorned with key elements of blues, country and rock.
Recorded on a boat in the South Pacific with a core group of seasoned Nashville musicians, Lucky Numbers offers a window into the mind of a true modern-day storyteller.
Songs like "Every Single Night," the album's first single and music video, delve deep into the circuslike success Stewart achieved with singer Annie Lennox in Eurythmics. Tracks like “Satellite," "Drugs Taught Me a Lesson" and "How to Ruin a Romance" provide an interesting perspective into Stewart's personal pain.
I recently spoke with Stewart about the new album, his guitar work and some memorable moments he's shared with Lennox.
GUITAR WORLD: What was the recording process like for Lucky Numbers?
In the past, I had recorded with players from Nashville at this great studio called Blackbird. This time, I decided to get them a bit shocked and like a fish out of water. So I pulled them out of Nashville and flew them to the South Pacific, where we went on a trip around Polynesia on a boat and recorded the whole album. We would literally all just be standing there in a circle looking at each other while we were recording. It was a very live experience. That's why on the record you'll sometimes hear me stop and say things like, "Ah! I f---ed it up again!" [laughs].
Tell me about the personal connection you have with the song “Every Single Night.”
That song dips into parts of my life. It’s looking at the kind of circus Annie and I had created with Eurythmics. In the song's opening line, I say, "Everything seemed impossible." Or when I sing, "In your eyes I could see everything. The whole world was ours." It was a moment in time when you knew something huge was going to happen for two people. You knew it was going to be something unbelievable, but you just didn't know how it was going to turn out.
How about the song “Satellite”?
I just started playing that riff and singing about being out on a limb. The "limb" could mean being on drugs, but it could also mean being in a successful band or something else. You can see the world, but in a way it feels like you're inside of a bubble. It's an impressionistic comment, lyrically. Sound-wise, it’s kind of Led Zeppelin-ish.
Can you give us the abridged version of how Eurythmics originated?
Annie and I were playing in a band called the Tourists. There was a great songwriter [Peet Coombes] who was writing most of the material, so Annie and I would just play the songs. But Peet wasn't doing very well at the time. He was drinking and taking a lot of drugs that were making him ill.
In fact, when we were touring Australia, he got very ill and actually had to go home, and Annie and I were left to carry on with the tour. I remember we were sitting in a hotel and began talking about it just being the two of us. Once we got back to England, that's when we decided to do our own thing.
Can you tell us how you and Annie wrote a few of Eurythmics' biggest songs? Starting with "Sweet Dreams."
Annie and I were scribbling away, trying to write songs. We didn't really have any money at the time, but we had managed to get this weird drum computer. It was one of the first audio/visual ones where you could actually see the screen in black and white. I remember I started to get this rhythm going and suddenly Annie perked up and said, "Oh, what's that?!"
Then she started playing a different part and the two of them together made that familiar riff. That's when Annie really got inspired, and the very first words that came out of her mouth (literally, without even thinking) were "Sweet dreams are made of this." The whole song was written in about 15 minutes.
"Here Comes the Rain Again."
Annie and I were sitting in a hotel room in New York, overlooking Central Park. I had just bought a small keyboard and was in the room playing this little riff when Annie walked in. Around that same time, the skies over Central Park started to get really dark. While I kept on playing the riff, Annie sat down near the window and just started singing "Here Comes the Rain Again." Right from that moment, we practically had the whole thing.
Are there any memorable moments that stand out over the course of your career?
I remember the shock Annie and I had when Stevie Wonder flew over to give us our Lifetime Achievement Award in England for the Brits. It wasn't so much the fact that he had just flown over, but that he had learned our entire set and sat in and played on all of the songs with us. We had never even rehearsed them with him, and he was just amazing. Then there were times when we played for Nelson Mandela, or when I wrote songs with Bono and Paul McCartney, or writing an entire album with Mick Jagger. There are so many special moments.
Tell me how you first started playing guitar.
My father had given me a guitar after I had broken my leg. Back then, I quickly realized I was able to make a tune on it. Then one of my cousins, who was in the armed forces stationed in Memphis, sent me a bunch of Robert Johnson, Mississippi John Hurt and Big Bill Broonzy albums in a box.
Those were the first guitarists I learned from, and that's when I started really getting into playing. So much so that it would drive everyone mad because I'd sometimes play for eight hours a day [laughs]. Then I started getting into Bob Dylan, the Beatles and the Stones. It wasn't until I was 15 that I actually started writing my own songs, but it was really the blues that first got me into playing.
For more about Stewart, visit davestewart.com.
Photo: Michelle Shiers
James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, GoJimmyGo.net. His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.