It's hard to imagine a better title for Dave Koz's latest Grammy-nominated album than "Hello Tomorrow." After almost 20 years on Capitol Records, Koz has relocated to the Concord label, and the album feels like a fresh start.
"I feel like a brand new artist, too," Koz said, as we began our interview. "That's a great thing to be able to feel. I have had a wonderful career and feel very blessed. And yet in many ways it's like starting from scratch again, because the business has changed so much. Everything has changed. And everything was brand new this time around. For someone who's been around for a lot of years, it was very refreshing and right on time. I needed that new dose of energy and new way of looking at things."
Gregg Shapiro: You've been generous over the years in sharing space on your CDs with vocalists and other musicians. How did you select collaborators for the songs on "Hello Tomorrow"?
Dave Koz: Each song had its own unique calling, if you will. It was kind of like a casting session really, each song was kind of a script. It was about, "This would be perfect if blank came in," and then we would just call that person (laughs). One of the great things is that I have two co-producers who had so much prestige that people really wanted to be involved in this project. When we called Herb Alpert, for example …
I wanted to ask you about that, since Herb also recorded a version of "This Guy's in Love with You."
"This Guy's in Love with You" is a personal song for me. I love that song and have always connected to it. When I heard it with fresh ears in 2010, this song just sounded like a song written for gay marriage, to me. In my head it sounded like a marriage-equality theme song. With everything that's going on right now, especially of late, it just seems like that song is simple and poignant and a sweet message about love – love of any kind. I recorded that song and I wasn't planning on singing it actually but my producers … encouraged me and said, "You're singing this," and I was like, "Oh my God, I don't know if I can do this." But I did it.
You sound great.
I'm happy with it and I said, "We really should send this to Herb Alpert just for him to hear," because he has been a mentor of mine for many years. I love that man. So I sent it to him, he called me back and said, "I not only give you my blessing but I would like to play on it, as well." So he came in and played on the track and truly that was a "Hello Tomorrow" moment. He was playing on a song that he made famous in the late 1960s.
It's also significant in that it was a breakthrough song for him, because he also sang on his version.
Right. And he had one of his biggest hits, and he is not a singer either. It is not a song that requires you to be a Pavarotti anyway to sing. That's a song that I connect to on an emotional level and really feel a part of it, a part of the message.
"Put The Top Down" is the perfect name for the opening track. It feels like driving along the California coast – or Lincoln Memorial Drive for that matter – in a convertible. Was that always the title you intended for the song?
That's a good question. I remember writing that song with one of my collaborators, Brian Culbertson, and the name of that tune just came. It sounded like a breezy, fun, enjoy-life-to-the-fullest kind of track. It's funky, it's got kind of a carefree attitude toward it, and there was the title and it just seemed to fit.
Each song on this album kind of feeds this overall message of embracing our future and embracing change. I don't know anybody, if you are of a certain age, anybody that hasn't felt to a certain degree in the past couple years that monumental amount of change that is swirling around us in our lifetimes. Many people waking up in 2010 are saying, "My life looks a lot different than I thought it would be." I think that's what the message is of the album, just … surrendering and going with the flow, seeing where these changes and these new things lead you as a human being.
I know it was 20 years ago, but do you have any regrets about the mullet you were rocking on the cover of your first album?
I have only regrets about the mullet I was rocking (laughs). You're very cute in saying that I was "rocking" it. That's probably different than the way I would refer to it. I would probably say that it hasn't worn well. That it's rather embarrassing when it's a record cover that never goes away. The truth is that everybody had that haircut. I wasn't the only one. Unfortunately, I had to have a picture of me on my first CD. So it rears its ugly head constantly in my life. I wear it proudly as a symbol of staying power.