Black Keys star in a Nashville state of mind on solo album

The Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach took the communal songwriting approach that’s the hallmark of Nashville to recording his new solo album, and called the experience 'magical'.

Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach. Photo by Scott Gries / Invision /AP
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Dan Auerbach, the frontman of Black Keys, tells us how Nashville supported him as an artist.

The recording of Dan Auerbach’s latest solo album was so magical he wanted to film the process, which included collaborating with some of the most seasoned session musicians in rock history.

But the Black Keys frontman also felt he needed to keep his recipe safe.

“We filmed it but I didn’t like it,” he says. “I mean, I don’t like to give up my secret sauce – but at the same time, it felt so special I wanted to document it.”

Waiting on a Song – his second solo album, after 2009's Keep It Hid – was recorded last summer in Auerbach's studio in Nashville, Tennessee.

It features musicians including Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Duane Eddy, 14-time Grammy winner Jerry Douglas and Johnny Cash’s former bass player, Dave Roe.

Recording in a city with such a rich musical history also influenced the recording of the album. Auerbach, himself an acclaimed producer, said he adopted the communal songwriting approach that is Nashville’s hallmark. He describes the approach as “life-changing”.

“We got into this schedule where we’d write Monday through Wednesday, and we’d record Thursday through Saturday every week,” he says. “It was really amazing. And I sort of haven’t stopped ... It’s just something I’m planning on keeping a part of my diet.”

Did you feel under any pressure while working with such seasoned acts?

I think you kind of rise to the occasion or you don’t get it done ... because we’re all there to serve the song – that’s what’s most important and that’s kind of the common thread between all of us.

How did being in Nashville shape the album?

[Nashville] supports the music business – whether you like the music or not, it’s the music business there. So it affords a lot of musicians to live comfortably in Nashville, and I get to benefit from that because all those guys are there and I get to tap into that energy and do some really creative recording at my studio with these guys who love it.

You moved to Nashville from Ohio in 2010. Do you plan to stay for a while?

I don’t ever want to leave. They had a hard time getting me here [to New York].

The album has an old-school soul and R&B feel, especially Stand By My Girl.

Bobby Wood and Gene Chrisman, who play on the record, played on Natural Woman by Aretha [Franklin], I'm in Love by Wilson Pickett, Son of a Preacher Man by Dusty Springfield – some of the greatest soul records of all time. That's the thing, it doesn't sound like it – it is it. Those guys are the sound of those records. It's them. It's hard sometimes to kind of wrap my head around it. Like, what you're hearing doesn't sound like a style, it is the root of the style because the guys who invented it are playing it [on my album]. It was kind of a trip when you're there having Duane Eddy play a guitar solo and it's like, 'Man, that sounds like [Duane Eddy] – oh man, it is Duane Eddy'.

It is just that most people do not know many of their names.

Of course – and that’s always how it’s been. In actuality, when you look at most of the records that have been popular in the history of American music, it’s really just a handful of musicians that made all those records. Motown/Stax, Wrecking Crew, Philly – there were just little camps that made all these records, and I’m just lucky to have a few of those guys in my stable now that work at the studio all the time and have become a part of my process.

How are you balancing your bands, the Black Keys and the Arcs, with your solo stuff and also producing for others?

I just work all the time but it’s easy because I like it. I have the studio down the street from my house. I have all these great people. It’s a joy, really. I love it – it’s my hobby and my profession.

Waiting on a Song by Dan Auerbach is out now

* Associated Press