Poised at the brink of innumerable seemingly incompatible contradictions, musician and songwriter Eagle-Eye Cherry not only reconciles them all -– he harnesses the friction and fashions from it a powerful, personal sound that is both accessible and provocative. For instance, Cherry calls Sweden home, although he was born to an iconic American father and has spent a great deal of time in the US. His music is contemplative and intimate, yet has resonated widely and achieved international popular success Read more on Last.fm
Poised at the brink of innumerable seemingly incompatible contradictions, musician and songwriter Eagle-Eye Cherry not only reconciles them all -– he harnesses the friction and fashions from it a powerful, personal sound that is both accessible and provocative. For instance, Cherry calls Sweden home, although he was born to an iconic American father and has spent a great deal of time in the US. His music is contemplative and intimate, yet has resonated widely and achieved international popular success, most notably via the propulsively seductive single "Save Tonight" and a string of subsequent hit singles in Europe, Australia, South Africa, and Brazil. His newest music seeks to fuse his homespun, handmade roots with a widescreen sense of scope.
"I'd hesitate to say there's been a master plan," he reflects on his career and recordings. "But, at the same time, you can definitely trace a journey through my music."
Eagle-Eye's wide-ranging sensibilities and ability to incorporate seemingly contrasting impulses can be at least partially credited to his upbringing and heritage. He is the son of musician Don Cherry, who is often quickly defined as a jazz artist but whose art is in fact much more expansive, incorporating an array of international concepts into a complex tapestry that is only just now beginning to be fully appreciated. "He will probably be the most fascinating person I will have met in my life," Eagle-Eye reflects, still in awe.
"Don Cherry wasn't only my father: he was also a great friend who had an amazing perspective on life, very much about living in the now. He will always be a major inspiration in all that I do."
Raised in bucolic, rural southern Sweden – "An unbelievable place; dirt roads and lakes and stuff," Cherry remembers – Cherry left to attend school in Manhattan, where his outgoing personality and quick wit lead him to embrace drama. While he also played drums in a few fly-by-night outfits, acting was his chief concern as he entered his twenties. "After a while," he explains, "I started getting a lot of work, and in New York, the money was really good.
It wasn't like I was consciously forgoing the family business, it's just that I was the class clown, and loved acting." Through the triumphs and trials of his sister (and occasional collaborator), trip-hop pioneer Neneh Cherry, Eagle-Eye was privy to both strange mechanizations of the music industry and approached with caution, on his own terms.
As Cherry's sense of self developed, he decided to pursue songwriting more seriously. At the relatively late age of 26, he returned to Sweden and began composing in earnest. "Sweden felt like a safe environment to start in. The apartment I had rented in Stockholm happened to have an acoustic guitar in it," he recalls.
"I'd never really played before. I had played drums, and had bought some equipment to help me learn about sampling and programming, but the guitar gave me an outlet of expression and forced me to simplify my ideas."
The eventual result was 1998's debut album Desireless, which began as a European release and slowly extended its reach into an eventual worldwide smash. "It didn't feel like I exploded," he says. "For me, taking every step into consideration, it was a slow build." The irony of the album's humble beginnings did not escape Cherry.
"I had made a mellow album, thinking I could tour clubs with an acoustic trio," he says, with a trace of awe still tangible. "I had no idea I would be playing huge radio shows or venues with over 20,000 in attendance."
The release of Desireless sparked off two years of constant touring, performing, and promotion – pausing briefly to contribute a lead vocal to Sanatana's enormously successful Supernatural album. This whirlwind of activity directly fed into the creation of Cherry's sophomore project, Living in the Present Future (2001), which featured a duet with sister Neneh and production by industry titan Rick Rubin (Def Jam Records, Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Dixie Chicks, Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc.). "I felt like it would be dangerous for me to take a break," Cherry explains.
"The final song I wrote for Desireless was ‘Save Tonight,' and I could tell that my next album would be more uptempo, more optimistic." Cherry immediately responded to Rubin's insistence on quality material and preference for feel over technique. "I like the simplicity of Rick's style, and the fact that he likes to record live. There's something that happens when musicians are playing in a room together, looking each other in the eyes. It's magic."
Eagle-Eye spent another year on the road, then returned home to Sweden to decompress.
"I got back in early 2002 and was able to sort through a lot of stuff," he recalls. "On the road you live in a bubble and you have to put a lot of things on the back-burner and decide to deal with them later. I needed to take a break and to clear out the closet." He began work on his third album, Sub Rosa, which was released in Europe in 2003. Sub Rosa was Cherry's most concentrated attempt to blend his signature warm, immediate style with the textures made possible by sampling and technology.
"I've always been fascinated by those kind of techniques," he explains. "I knew I wanted one day to work in that vein. So on that record, I thought about the production a lot more. In the past, I found solace in songwriting with simple parameters.
This time the sound is definitely bigger and more panoramic."
"But," he quickly adds, "it's got an organic base from demo-ing the songs in my apartment. With a laptop you can get them down, and a lot of that ended up on the record. Then we built it up from there in the studio and combined technology with the live thing." In addition to the cinematic richness of Sub Rosa's production, the album benefited greatly from Cherry's increasing depth and perspective as a songwriter. "I like the idea of the songwriter as storyteller," he explains.
"On a lot of these songs I've really tried to step outside myself. I feel I understand the craft of songwriting much better now, and I know what I want. It's almost like the first two albums were in mono - and this one is in surround sound."
Cherry is currently sequestered in Stockholm, working on his fourth record. "I have been exploring writing songs in a very acoustic environment," he explains.
"I have also done some co-writes with various people including Peter Svensson from the Cardigans. Some songs will remain acoustic; however, some may end up going electric once they get into the studio. The big difference this time is that, in the past, I have always gone straight in to the studio after finishing touring and promotional activities, hammered out the new album, and released it without any thought. This time we have stepped back and gone to the next level…raised the bar."
Despite the wide range of methods and contexts he has explored, Cherry is quick to point out the common ground that binds his expanding catalog.
"The constant thread throughout is my voice," he reflects. "People might not immediately recognize it, but when you listen to my albums there are many different kinds of soundscapes – but my voice is always the same. I have also come to find that there is often an underlying blues influence, perhaps more obvious in songs like ‘One Good Reason' but even in a song like ‘Shooting Up In Vain.'"
Although he is now something of a veteran writer and performer, the balance between inspiration and effort remains a source of wonder for Eagle-Eye Cherry. "You don't want to question too closely where it comes from," he concludes.
"It's a fragile thing. I realized the day that I wrote ‘Save Tonight' I could just as easily have gone to the park to play football and the song would have been lost. It's like having butterflies flying around the room. Then the phone rings and they all disappear out of the window.
At the same time, you can't take it too seriously. Don't get too intense. And remember: it's about making music, not about wearing shades and having a cool outfit." Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..