With a song catalogue that includes one radio hit after another—“Do You Believe in Love,” “Heart of Rock & Roll” and “If This is it”—Huey Lewis and the News is one of the most popular groups of all time.
And while the band still tours around the country, its lead singer hasn’t been embracing the musical world of today.
“I don’t Facebook. I don’t Twitter. I’m so old school,” Lewis says. “I fish, I ride my horse, I play golf. I just do everything outside where there’s no electronics.”
But thankfully, he still sings and sounds as great as he ever has.
This quintessential American rock band got its start when two rival Bay Area bands merged in 1979. Taking the name Huey Lewis and The News, the band offered a brand of straight-ahead rock and roll that has outlasted countless trends.
“We weren’t spring chickens at the time. I had been in the band Clover and made two records and did sessions as a harmonica player living in London,” Lewis says. “By the time this band formed, I knew how to stick to my guns substantively and I knew what I wanted to do. It was blues and R&B based, but with a modern edge.”
While the band has always had a huge following for its live shows, over the past 25 years or so, Lewis says he’s had to work to get his music heard.
“The music business isn’t what it used to be and there’s very little market for a pop record,” he says. “If you are over 28 and are a white male, you better be doing country. As a pop writer, it’s hard to write when there’s no audience, but we do write and we do original stuff.”
Unfortunately, most of that stuff hasn’t been available on any record. The band’s last release was 2010’s “Soulsville,” and even that was their first full album in a decade’s time.
“It’s soul-oriented and sax-oriented, Memphis based music,” Lewis says. “This was a labor of love for us. The only reason to do anything anymore is if it’s a creative challenge and this was.”
Problem was, the album sold what was reported as less than 50,000 copies, which is a long way off from when Sports was selling that many in a single day.
Lewis does hint that new stuff may be coming in 2016, although he’s not even sure how to promote a new recording anymore.
“Even if you release a new album, any radio station is only going to play the old stuff. But it’s a calling card,” he says. “We’ve got four songs finished, and three of them are mixed and we’ve got another two in the oven. And I’ve got ideas for another two. I don’t know if it’ll be an album or an EP or whatever. I don’t think it matters, to be honest, because I don’t think we’re going to sell that many. But as a storyteller, you need a new story to tell.”
On July 26, Huey Lewis and the News tells that story as they return to Wolf Trap, a venue they’ve become quite the regulars at.
“I’ve always had great memories of Wolf Trap,” Lewis says. “There have been some very memorable shows. We had Stevie Ray Vaughan open for us, Bill Kirchen opened once… Some really fun times.”
Lewis previews that he and the band will play a generous portion of the hits complete with a three-piece horn section that was added about 15 years ago.
“We’ll also play what we consider the greatest misses, our favorites that weren’t hits and are really for our hardcore fans,” he says. “When you play music the way we do—which is old school—nothing is on samples and it’s a team sport. The songs just begin to play themselves and that’s the best feeling in the world. When you find that spot and it sounds good, it’s the most fun thing in the world. You can only do that when it’s different every night.”
In their heyday, the band would play close to 200 dates a year, but now it’s a more manageable 60-75.
“It’s enough. You don’t want to take too much time off, but at the same token, you don’t want to go six weeks at a time without playing. I absolutely love playing live,” Lewis says. “As I get older, my voice is actually better than ever, but you have to be smarter. Think about Sinatra at the Sands when he was 55, he was at his best. It’s age and wisdom. Admittedly, my range isn’t what it used to be, but that doesn’t matter. It’s still a good time.”