15 minutes with Jimmy Barnes

Soul trader: Australian singer, Jimmy Barnes.

Soul trader: Australian singer, Jimmy Barnes.

Born in Scotland, the son of a Glasgow prizefighter but raised in Australia, Jimmy Barnes is one of that country's best loved musicians. With his band Cold Chisel and as a solo artist, he's had 11 number one albums. Interview by Grant Smithies.

You're considered a hard rock singer, but over the last few decades it's been soul that's paid the bills. There've been three albums of soul classics, now there's a new Best of The Soul Years collection, with a new album, Soul Searchin', due next year. What drew you to this sound?

"I have always loved soul singers. When I hear a singer I want them to be passionate and intense, and soul singers like Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett always seemed to do exactly that. I was drawn to them. I always wanted to be in a rock band, but I wanted to sing like a soul singer. When I got the chance I really wanted to record these songs simply because I loved them."

How did you narrow down the songs on Best of the Soul Years?

"It was natural selection, really, just looking at how many the original albums sold and what period of music I was trying to cover. Liberation Records know my material as well as me and have been involved heavily in everything I have done, so I valued their opinions in the selection of songs, too."

Two of Wilson Pickett's biggest hits, 'In the Midnight Hour' and 'Mustang Sally', have been freshly covered for this new 'Best Of'. As a Pickett obsessive, what took you so long? I'm surprised they didn't crop up earlier in the series.

"I really don't know why; they have always been favourites of mine. I guess I just didn't think of them initially, and by the time I did, it was too late. Also, The Commitments film and album came out and had a huge hit with Mustang Sally, so I had to wait until that record was well and truly gone before I could do it."

You recorded Soul Searchin' in Nashville.  Any reason you decided to cut it over there?

"Yeah, we recorded at RCA studio B, which is a very famous studio where loads of great records were recorded. Really, I wanted to record there just because that room sounded so good."

What made you team up with John Farnham to cover 'When Something Is Wrong With My Baby?'

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"I had always been a fan of John's. He's a great singer, and when I was looking at songs, that was one I really wanted to do. That song was originally done by Sam and Dave so I needed someone to duet with, and they don't come any better than John Farnham! I think John made that song come to life, and any time I get to sing with him, I'm happy."

Things seem seriously busy for you at the moment. When can we expect you back in New Zealand?

"Yeah, I have a new Cold Chisel album coming out, plus Best of the Soul Years and the new record for next year. Cold Chisel will be coming to NZ on this tour, and I want to come back solo as soon as I can, too. I really love the place and have a lot of very dear friends there, so I feel a bit like it's my second home."

Besides music, what else has been inspiring you lately?

"My family. They have always inspired me in whatever to do. I'm happy to be recording and singing live, I have a great family, and a great bunch of people always come and see me sing. What more does a man need?"

Jimmy Barnes: The Best Of The Soul Years 1990- 2015 is out now via Liberation Records. Cold Chisel's new album The Perfect Crime is released on Friday, 2 October. Jimmy Barnes and Cold Chisel play at Christchurch Horncastle Arena on Friday, December 4 and Auckland Villa Maria Winery on Sunday, December 6

 - Stuff

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