Chris Isaak has been around for quite some time now, thrilling audiences with his stage show and a list of songs that have brought him some well-deserved fame, including “Wicked Game,” “Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing,” “Dancin’,” “Somebody’s Crying” and “Speak of the Devil,” just to mention a few. He’s appeared in movies (“Silence of the Lambs”) and on TV (as a judge on “The X-Factor Australia” and in his own series on U.S. television), and penned songs for others as well as himself. Backed by his band, Silvertone, he’s performed all over the world and even in Maine a couple of times and when it was learned that he’d be returning to Maine for a performance at Savage Oakes Winery, 175 Barrett Hill Road in Union.

I put in for a phone interview and, much to my surprise, I was granted one. He called on July 11 and I found him to be an affable, easy-going gentleman more than willing to talk about all aspects of his life and his career. Somehow, retirement came up at the beginning of our conversation.

Q: You’re not planning on retiring any time soon, I take it.

Isaak: You know, I went to Stevie Nicks’ 70th birthday party and I went, “Oh my God, I can’t believe that the new 70 is 20!” I mean, when I was a kid, I thought 70 was like, “Sit down, you’re done,” you know? Now I look at other people and I’m seeing people that are very active and are taking better care of themselves, and then they are hanging together better. I mean, Mick Jagger’s 75 and he’s out on tour. Fleetwood Mac’s going out on tour and some of them are now in their 70s, but you’d never know it, because they’re singing great and they have a lot of energy. For me, I am the antithesis of what people think about rockers, “Rock and roll, oh yeah, you guys party all the time and go drinking!” And I think, “I don’t drink. I’ve never smoked a cigarette in my life. I don’t do drugs.” People go, “What do you do on the road? It must just be one party after another.” And I tell them, “It is fun, it is a party but my party is on stage.” If you went to the hotel and wanted to find me, look in the gym, because I go every day. I want to feel good and be in shape. I’m too cheap to buy another stage outfit. Those flashy suits cost a lot of money. I don’t want to have to get a new one every tour. If you do stuff and you keep active, that’s the best thing.

Q: You’re coming back to Maine to do a show in early August.

Isaak: I have to say we have fond memories of Maine.

Q: What can folks expect from your show there in Union at Savage Oakes Winery?

Isaak: I’m going to brag now on my own band, because my band has been the same guys for 33 years.

Q: What? Amazing.

Isaak: Yeah, the same musicians. I always laugh when people come up and they go, “You guys sound just like the record!” and I go, “We are the record. We’re the guys that played on the record.” After we’d been together for three or four years I thought, “We’re not going to get any tighter than this,” because we’d practiced and played all that time; and after seven or eight years I went, “Wow, we did get tighter — this is probably as tight as we’re going to get!” But then after 15 years I discovered that you continue to improve if you work at it.

Q: Wow, by now it must be like a psychic connection with you guys after all that time together on stage. You must almost know pretty much what the other guys are thinking.

Isaak: A lot of times I’ve started songs where I just start singing and they will just follow me. Once in a while, just for the hell of it, I’ll see if I can stump them, because I know a million old songs, and so I’ll throw in a Hank Snow song or an early Ernest Tubb’s or some old blues song, and they’ll follow me just tight. And the audience does not now that it’s the first time that they’ve ever played it, and I’ve told the audience that, too. But we like to put on a show. I mean the guys don’t come out in T-shirts and jeans; they’re in suits, and I’m all dressed up. It looks like I raided James Brown’s closet, or more accurately, Liberace’s closet; how’s that? I have one suit that I wear that has 35 pounds of mirrors on it, and I’ll bring it out — now the music’s the important thing, but we try to put on a show — and we mix it up. I’ll play “Wicked Game” and “Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing,” but there’s gotta be some romantic ballads, then we rock and roll, and then I’m talking to the audience, then there will come a part where I get offstage and go in the audience, and we’ll have people from the audience come up on stage sometimes. You try to put on a show where the audience doesn’t know what’s coming next — something new.

Q: Now speaking of something new, are you working on a new album? The last one, “First Comes The Night,” came out three years ago.

Isaak: I am working on new stuff. I did an “X-Factor” show in Australia where I was a judge and my guy won. I was a coach for one of the young singers and he won the show. I also made friends with a lot of the other people, and one of the other contestants was a group, Jess & Matt, a duo that really could sing good. So I recorded a couple of songs with them, and that album just went to the Top 10 in Australia, so that was a lot of fun. And then I’ve been writing in Nashville, where I spend a fair amount of time now, on a bunch of my own material that I’m ready to take back into the studio again and put it down.

Q: Out of all that you do — the acting, the TV shows, the songwriting, all of that — what do you enjoy the most?

Isaak: I love to sing. I mean, that’s the most fun part of my day usually. That’s the part of my day where I really know what I’m doing and I’m having fun doing it. … (S)inging and being onstage is really what I like to do.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article about your show at Savage Oakes?

Isaak: I’d say, “You come down to see this show and you don’t have to know all of our music, but if you want to be entertained, we’re going to start on time and we’re going to entertain you. You’re going to have a good time. We pride ourselves on it.” So whether or not they know all the music doesn’t matter; we make it a show. James Brown is gone. I’m vying for the new title of “Hardest Working Man in Show Business.” There ain’t enough fun in this world. Seems like everybody’s arguing and yelling at each other and everybody’s got their point of view. We have a point of view: Have fun. That’s our policy.

Lucky Clark as spent 49 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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