Dan Auerbach Makes Going Nashville Look Easy

Saturday 03rd, February 2018 / 07:00
By Max Szentveri

Photo by Alysse Gafkjen

VANCOUVER – Dan Auerbach’s lengthy résumé reads as that of a workaholic. Starting in 2011, he and Black Keys bandmate Patrick Carney embarked on a five-year grind of worldwide tours supporting three separate records, after working more-or-less non-stop since 2001. So when the Keys finally took a hiatus in the summer of 2016, you may have assumed the musician would pause to relax. Instead, Auerbach has produced seven albums, launched a record label, begun hosting his own radio program (The Easy Hour, on SiriusXM) and is now preparing to tour in support of the solo album he released last June, entitled Waiting on a Song.

But Auerbach’s ethos is the old adage that if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life. “It’s not work really, it’s what I’m passionate about,” he explains. “I’m very lucky I get to do it, so I do it as much as I can.” After moving to Nashville eight years ago, the Ohio native built his own studio, Easy Eye, and gradually began assembling an inner circle of distinguished local musicians with whom to collaborate on Waiting on a Song. The record’s roster is stacked with titans of 20th century American music, such as hall of fame singer-songwriter John Prine and legendary rockabilly guitarist Duane Eddy—even Mark Knopfler lends his signature finger-picking to standout track “Shine on Me.”

Despite the potentially comical juxtaposition of one of rock hipsterdom’s leading front men working with a band of grey-haired old hands, Auerbach felt like he had met kindred spirits—people who shared “the same disease,” as he puts it, a near-addiction to music-making. “Somebody like [iconic session keyboardist] Bobby Wood—who’s in his mid-seventies—he’ll be texting me at, like, two in the morning with song ideas, just excited about a riff or something.”

This chemistry was exhilarating for Auerbach. “I just got really hooked on writing,” he says. “And I’ve been doing it ever since.” Indeed, he soon became a craftsman-style musician in the classic Nashville vein, punching in early in the morning and diligently writing all day Monday to Wednesday, then recording Thursday through Saturday. By the time the album was released, Auerbach and Co. had recorded a staggering 200-plus songs, of which 10 made the final cut. The result is a sunny, radio-ready collection of catchy, retro-prismed tunes that sounds unlike anything Auerbach has released before.

Auerbach opens his 22-date tour February 10 at Vancouver’s Vogue Theatre, and is audibly excited about the more intimate scale of these shows compared to the Black Keys’ stadium gigs: “I do love playing these sized venues—places like the Fillmore [in San Francisco], the Ryman in Nashville—they are really great rooms. The kind of places where people who really love music go to.” After 17 years fronting the Black Keys, Auerbach’s passion for making music remains as strong as that of the old industry veterans he now calls friends. “Honestly,” he says, “I’ve never had more fun.”

Dan Auerbach performs February 10 at the Vogue Theatre (Vancouver).