In America, Jimmy Barnes is perhaps best known for his powerful vocal presence on the cover of “Good Times” that he recorded with INXS for the 1987 movie The Lost Boys.
While that song was a modest U.S. chart success for Barnes, he’s fared much better back home in Australia with other releases over the past 35-plus years, both as a member of Cold Chisel and as a solo artist.
Hindsight, released Jan. 27 via Mascot Label Group’s Provogue label, marks the 30th anniversary of Barnes’ solo career and finds him revisiting chart hits and deep cuts with some notable guests. They include E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt, longtime Journey members Neal Schon and Jonathan Cain as well as singer Mahalia Barnes, who shares lead vocals with her father on “Stand Up.”
Jimmy Barnes checked in earlier this month and talked about doing this duet with his daughter, the concept behind Hindsight and other topics.
Medleyville.us: Who or what inspired the idea to remake choice material from your back catalog for your latest album? Was there something more to it than just marking the 30th anniversary of your solo career?
Jimmy Barnes: “I came up with this idea as a way of not just celebrating 30 years of touring but celebrating 30 years of life. The songs on this record have not only marked important landmarks in my career but also mark important points in my life. The people I work with on this record shared the studio with me, but they also shared the journey, this life with me. They toured with, traveled with and/or inspired me for the last 30 years. This record is very special to me.”
You’re right up there among the biggest music stars ever in Australia. That said, do you have a theory as to why you’ve haven’t had the same level of success in America?
Barnes: “I think that to be successful in America takes a lot of things. I mean, the amount of time and work that bands like AC/DC and INXS and many other bands that have achieved success in the U.S. is incredible. You need to spend a lot of time actually touring there, sometimes leaving your family and loved ones behind. You need the right people behind you and around you to make it work, and you need the right songs at the right time. A band needs a certain amount of luck to put everything into place at the right time. The most important thing, of course, is you need the right songs. Any band that has achieved success there, I tip my hat to. I can sing, but that’s not all it takes.”
You’re no stranger to duets, and Hindsight has its share of them. Was singing with daughter Mahalia on “Stand Up” any different from singing with the likes of Tina Turner or Joe Cocker in the past? Or did it require special preparation for either one of you?
Barnes: “Mahalia and I have been singing together all her life. She has sung in my band as well as having her own band for 16 years or so. For a few years now, I have had — as I would do with any of the great singers, be it Tina or Joe or whoever — to be mentally prepared. I get nervous singing with such great talents, but I have found that whomever I work with, I always learn something.
“Mahalia is a frightening singer. She is amazing. I learn something new every time I sing with her. In fact, as she was growing up, I played [for her] nothing but singers like Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner and Mahalia Jackson — I named her after Mahalia Jackson — so she has learned from the best. She was also around when I sang with all the great singers I’ve had the pleasure of working with.”
One of the songs you revisit is “Stone Cold,” which you previously did more than 20 years ago. Whose idea was it to remake this one as a duet? And was Tina Arena your first choice for a duet partner?
Barnes: “Tina has been a favorite singer of mine for a long time. I watched Tina come from a television background to carving a career worldwide as a singer. When I cut this song in L.A. with Joe Bonamassa, it sounded great, and I thought would it be great to get Tina on this, too. So we sent her the track — she was living in Paris at the time — and she took it into the studio and just nailed it.
“The other connection there was [Hindsight producer] Kevin Shirley. Kevin has worked with Tina in the past and knew how good she was. I think between her and Joe, they make this version of the song a winner. My son Jackie Barnes plays drums on this, too, which makes it even more special to me.”
You’ll be 60 in 2016. What have you done through the years to maintain your range and the strength of your voice?
Barnes: “All I’ve done is keep singing. I work a lot, and I think that like anybody, be it an athlete or a painter or a writer or whatever, the more you work at what you do, the better you get. I sing better now than I have at any time in my career. Hard work and the fact that I love what I do keep me at the top of my game.”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
Photo courtesy of Mascot Label Group