“I didn’t really get to know my real father,” says Vedder, expanding upon a subject which inspired early Pearl Jam single Alive. “I met him maybe three or four times as a kid, but he was, you know, a friend of the family. It would have been nice to have been in a room with him at some point before he died when I was 13. It would have been nice to share that I knew that he was my pop, but it didn’t happen.
“But the crazy thing that did happen was that about 10 years ago, the Chicago Cubs, some of their old timers get together and play baseball for about a week, and I would go down there every other year and hang with these guys, learn about the game more so I can teach my kids more, you know, I coach baseball.
“One of the ex-players, this erudite badass trumpeter, who used to play third base, his name is Carmen Fanzone,” Vedder continues. “He also became head of the Musicians Union in Los Angeles – an incredibly cool individual. I saw Carmen playing the horn in a little club in Arizona, and this guy playing keyboards with him had been best friends with my dad. Two years later, he brought me some photos of them in little basement studios. Then a couple years after that, he brought me five songs of my dad singing, on a disc. I carried that disc around for two, three months in my suitcase, not ready to hear it. Finally, I got the guts, and after a couple bottles of wine played it one night in Argentina. And he was good. It was incredible – like he left a message for me.”
Together with producer Andrew Watt (Ozzy Osbourne/Miley Cyrus), Vedder assembled “a little collage” around his father’s voice, and included it towards the end of the 13-track album.
“I thought of the record like a setlist – by the end, that’s when you start bringing out special guests,” he explains to MOJO’s Keith Cameron. “We had Stevie and Elton, Ringo was an incredible addition… and then my pop gets to be on a record with those guys, which is not too shabby.”
Due for release on February 11, Earthling was recorded with producer Andrew Watt in summer 2021: Vedder has already released two songs from the album, Long Way and The Haves, and a third single, Brother The Cloud, will be released tomorrow, January 14.
Revealing how he came to work with the much-in-demand Watt, Vedder tells MOJO, “He was working on the Morrissey record, some of the best Morrissey stuff I’d heard in years, so I was curious to see his studio. He was working a lot with [Red Hot Chili Peppers’ drummer] Chad Smith and [former RHCP guitarist] Josh Klinghoffer, getting great sounding results. And so just as we were visiting, we started writing. One song turned into two, then turned into three and four within two days. It felt like the starting gun had gone off.
“We were still in semi lockdown, so people were energised to create,” says Vedder. “I was inspired to write quick. Everything was sounding great, and his ability to mix and have everything be loud… It was just a new adventure, and it was inspiring.”
The track list for Earthling is:
2. Long Way
3. Power of Right’
4. Brother The Cloud
5. Fallout Today
6. The Dark
7. The Haves
8. Good and Evil
9. Rose of Jericho
12. Mrs. Mills
13. On My Way
The new issue of MOJO is out now.