“It was just time to step away for a while,” reflects Eagle-Eye Cherry thoughtfully from his home in Stockholm, Sweden. “I was coming off of a lot of touring and promotion in support of my third record, and I could feel myself starting to burn out.” Reemerging nearly seven years later from his self-imposed exile, Cherry found himself with a new perspective, surveying a deeply altered landscape. “The idea that time is relative makes more sense than ever to me now,” he explains. “It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long, but when I sit down to figure it out, I’m amazed by just how much time has passed.
“During the time I was away,” he continues, “my life had changed completely. And so had the music industry...”
In the years leading up to the release of “Can’t Get Enough”, available during autumn 2012 via Universal, the wholesale fragmentation of the record label-driven system that Cherry had become accustomed to was well underway. The digital revolution had confounded the industry’s old guard, and had made the means of production and distribution more accessible to musicians than ever before. Eager to return to the scene, and armed with a growing arsenal of compelling new material, Cherry decided not to wait for a label’s blessing to begin recording.
“I had some demos of new songs,” Cherry recalls, “and with those I took the pulse of the people around me. I realized pretty instantly that the business as I knew it had changed. Things were not going to move fast if I did it the old way. I knew I had to just go ahead and make this record.”
The clarion urgency of “Can’t Get Enough”, suggests an artist reinvigorated by his time away and eager to reassert himself, while the tenor of its creation—exploratory, relaxed, unencumbered by industry interference, and taking place against a backdrop of major upheavals in Cherry’s personal life–took Eagle-Eye back to his earliest days as a recording artist.
“As we were really getting into the recording process for this record,” he recalls, “my mom [the Swedish artist Moki Cherry] passed away unexpectedly. That put a halt to everything. The interesting thing is, when my dad [the pioneering, uncategorizable trumpeter and multi-instrumentalist Don Cherry] died, I was just starting out—a bit unfocused, still finding my way. When we lost him, I realized he had done so much in his lifetime musically and otherwise, that I owed it to myself to get my ass in gear. I had to stop wasting time and move forward. That’s how my first album came to life. The same thing happened when my mom died: I knew I had to get out and get to work.”
The result of that work is the most concentrated, dynamic work of singer/songwriter Cherry’s career: a compellingly immediate collection that expertly balances uncluttered pop craftsmanship with the distinctly human combination of vulnerability and wonder that has made Cherry a beloved live performer the world over. “I made a conscious decision to keep it straightforward and simple,” Cherry explains. “I chose my collaborators, and we all agreed that this is what we were doing: stripping it down and making it as direct as possible.”
Working variously with co-producers Klas Åhlund of the Teddybears, the Cardigans’ Peter Svensson, and longtime guitarist and sideman Mattias Torell (“Tonto to my Lone Ranger,” says Cherry affectionately), the sound of “Can’t Get Enough” is tight and controlled without being fussy. Cherry’s songs—hooky, inquisitive, and above all heartfelt—are front and center. Leadoff single “Can’t Get Enough” is disarming in its clarity, its groove and melody virtually inseparable and equally infectious.
Cherry is quick to acknowledge a debt to Swedish musicians’ hardwired dedication and distinct approach to pop music. “Long before I was born,” the Swedish/American songsmith says, “my dad was touring and working with Swedish musicians. Then bands like Abba and Roxette made people take notice. Swedish musicians have a great work ethic and a strong pop sensibility, and simplicity. Swedes are also very comfortable with the English language…but the fact that it’s not their native language lends a certain naiveté which is perfect for pop songwriting.”
Swedish was Eagle-Eye’s first language, and while fluent in English as well, his lyrics take a certain outsider’s delight in highlighting contradictions and posing questions that are simultaneously miniscule and elemental. “I’m a perpetual outsider,” he says, mischievously. “When I’m in the States I feel half Swedish when I’m in Sweden I feel half-American.” Reflecting Cherry’s gifts as a natural storyteller, the songs on “Can’t Get Enough” establish conflicts, probing and dismantling them in a plainspoken fashion that make even the most complex notions immediately relatable. “I do sometimes like lyrics that are a bit less direct,” he says, “but this time it was challenging to not overcomplicate. In the end I really enjoyed what we ended up with …” By plainly laying out fundamental contrasts in a song like “Free” (“When you hated me / you freed me to love…”), Cherry is at his captivating best—both innocent and provocative.
As the album was being recorded, Cherry tested select songs onstage to encouraging response. “Introducing new songs into the set,” he reflects, “actually raised the intensity of the show. When I was writing these songs—especially ‘Go Simmer Down’—I could feel that crowd would get into it and go wild. When we actually started playing it for people, I wasn’t disappointed.”
Ironically, the DIY roots of “Can’t Get Enough” made it appealing to a number of labels—although experience has taught Cherry to put his art before commerce. Labels began gravitating towards “Can’t Get Enough” as it was nearing completion. “Although at first,” Cherry notes wryly, “labels would start meetings talking about how hard it is out there right now, about how it used to be. It was a very negative, depressed vibe. Universal, who we eventually partnered with to release the album, were the first guys to come right in and say ‘we love the music’—what can we do with it? That made an impact on me. Their priorities were the same as mine.”
As Cherry put finishing touches on “Can’t Get Enough”, he and his girlfriend welcomed the arrival of their first child, Daisy—a fitting conclusion to the cycle of loss, confusion, and renewal that fueled the album’s creation. At last, Eagle-Eye Cherry fully revels in his own abilities—as a musician, songwriter, producer, and collaborator in life and music. “I’m a little old-school,” he admits, smiling. “So as the industry changed, I had trust in myself more than ever. For this album, I truly wrote the music for me first—and I couldn’t be happier with the results. Now I am just really excited to give it to people…”