'80s rocker Huey Lewis still hip, still square, and workin' for a living
Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
Published Sunday, August 24, 2008 4:20PM EDT
Toronto - He made a name for himself in the '80s as one of the decade's biggest chart-toppers, but these days you're more likely to find Huey Lewis tending to his 200-hectare property in Missoula, Mont., or fly-fishing.
That's according to a new MuchMoreMusic reality show called Where You At, Baby? which catches up with old hitmakers to see what they've been up to since ruling the radio. (Remember the radio?)
Lewis appears in the first episode Tuesday, welcoming show host Matt Wells at the Missoula airport, taking him to a grocery store, making him dinner and going fly-fishing.
The affable Lewis, who gamely reminisces about his past but offers no shocking revelations, says he had no qualms about welcoming a Canadian TV crew into his home.
"I think the Canadians do a better job at this sort of stuff -- they're a little smarter and little more loftier than they are here in the States - and so I thought, why not?" Lewis says by phone from New York where he was performing with his band, the News.
Lewis adds, though, that he has yet to see the episode.
"You've got to enter these things with good faith, anyways. If they're going to chew me up, they're going to chew me up."
No worries, Huey -- there are no harsh jabs here, but there is a bit of creative editing. When Wells arrives at the airport, it's made to seem as though Lewis meets him there for the first time. In reality, Lewis says they met earlier in New York, where they did some filming around the city and Lewis invited Wells to Montana.
"They show up with cameras and stuff (in Missoula) and as they're unpacking the cameras and setting them up in my living room I'm thinking, `What have I done?' " jokes Lewis, who lives alone on the expansive property, part of which he leases to a local cattle farmer.
But it doesn't seem there's much to hide, with the 58-year-old saying he spends much of his off-time fly-fishing, hits the road about 100 days out of the year for gigs and plays the odd corporate event to subsidize overseas tours.
Throughout, he and his band are working on new music, but there's no word yet on when an album might be ready.
"There's obviously no hurry; the world's not waiting for a Huey Lewis and the News (CD) and new material," says Lewis, who most recently contributed the title track to the Pineapple Express soundtrack.
"And nobody that we play to live cares, either, frankly, but as a storyteller you need a new story every once in a while. I think you make a record for yourselves and nowadays, and especially in today's pop market, if you will, with music being so segregated -- you know, rap over here and country over here -- there is no station for us, so it's liberating in a way."
He says they've got about four songs written so far, which they've been workshopping in front of fans at their concerts -- veritable hit-parades of past glories such as "If This Is It," "Doin' It All for My Baby" and "Stuck With You."
There are no firm plans to visit Canada but Lewis jokes that as soon as the MuchMoreMusic reality show airs, "the public's going to clamour for my appearance."
"We've done these package tours with (fellow '80s-era band) Chicago," he notes.
"They never get tired of playing, it's crazy. They work harder than anybody and we had such a good time on the last one, so there were some plans afoot to maybe tour Canada, which should be great."
Despite not having as many hits abroad as at home, the gravelly voiced singer says European audiences seem to have a better handle on what the band is all about than do others.
"We were more of a pop band in America," Lewis notes. "In Europe we've never had that many hits - `Power of Love' was pretty much our only really big hit -- and so they actually see us as a real rock band, a rhythm and blues, rootsy rock band. And our fans are not pop fans but the intellectuals."
"(The audience is) mostly guys, they're all smoking cigarettes and it's fantastic. ... You can do a Johnnie Taylor song and they know what it is. They don't know what it is in America, but they'll know it in France."
Other episodes of Where You at, Baby? are set to feature former teen queens Debbie Gibson and Tiffany, Loverboy frontman Mike Reno and white rapper Vanilla Ice.