By ANDREW DALTON Associated Press
INGLEWOOD, Calif. — Technically, Eddie Vedder’s new album and tour is a solo project.
But the longtime Pearl Jam frontman was anything but alone on this almost accidental venture. “The Earthling” was about collaboration and camaraderie.
“It’s my picture on the record cover, but there really should be so many people on it,” Vedder said when he first played the finished album for a small group of friends and reporters. in a Hollywood studio. “People just kept raising the sounds by contributing.”
He features a group of his peers, including producer Andrew WattRed Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and former Chili Peppers guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, plus guest stars such as Elton JohnStevie Wonder and Ringo Starr who made the process feel like fantastic camp.
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The album is like a tour through music history in more ways than one. Released in February, it now tops the Billboard album sales chart, which measures traditional in-store CD and vinyl purchases.
“Years ago, selling records seemed a bit scary; then all of a sudden you didn’t sell any more records,” Vedder said during the group’s Friday tour at the YouTube Theater in Inglewood, Calif. “We sold enough records of this last week to actually be the #1 record. So I’m not scared anymore.”
Vedder has taken on more purely solo projects before, including the 2007 soundtrack to “Into the Wild” and 2011’s “Ukulele Songs.” He said the loneliness was great at first.
“I didn’t have to argue with anyone else,” he said during the listening meeting. “But it turns out you end up arguing with yourself.”
He said that meaningful music comes from “allowing yourself to listen and accept the idea of the other”. In this case, the other guy was Andrew Watt.
Watt, the Grammy’s title producer of the year, who has recorded records with John, Ed Sheeran, Cardi B and Ozzy Osbourne, co-wrote every song on ‘The Earthling’, produced the album, y played bass and other instruments and played guitar with the touring band, aptly nicknamed the Earthlings.
Vedder was in Southern California to play the “Vax livegig in May 2021 when he asked Watt, a self-described “superfan” of Pearl Jam, if he could drop by his studio.
While they were hanging out, Vedder started tinkering with Watt’s instruments. Watt became interested and began to join him. The songs began to flow in rapid succession.
Vedder said he knew they had to make an album as soon as it got past a two-song single.
“Watch out for the third song,” he said with a laugh.
They got the group together and got a wish list of guest stars.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench lends his Hammond organ to a pair of songs, including the album’s lead single, Petty-inspired “Long Way.”
John duets with Vedder on “Picture”, a song that originated when Watt asked Vedder to write lyrics for an album by John.
“I have to be Bernie Taupin for a weekend,” Vedder said.
John, 73, “was really rockin’ on the catchy song, Vedder said, but Wonder, 71, rocked even harder, providing a fiery harmonica for the punk-paced “Try.”
“He didn’t even flinch when he heard the tempo,” Vedder said. “It was an incredible thing to see.”
When they were recording the Beatles-esque “Mrs. Mills,” named after an old piano from Abbey Road Studios, Watt said, “We could have Chad do it. Or we could call Ringo.”
They called Ringo. Starr, 81, agreed.
“With a little help from our friends,” Vedder said with a smile.
An even older guest appears in the final moments of “The Earthling.”
“The voice at the end was an old lounge singer, who hardly ever got paid,” Vedder said. “This guy is my father.”
Vedder barely knew his father, but a CD with old recordings fell into his lap.
Vedder and the Earthlings, whose touring version also includes singer-guitarist Glen Hansard and Jane’s Addiction bassist Chris Chaney, were full of joy and warmth during their show at the YouTube Theater.
They were joined by Tench for “Long Way” and a pair of Petty covers. Police drummer Stewart Copeland participated in two of the recalls.
And Vedder’s 17-year-old daughter, Olivia, joined them for a rendition of a song she and her dad did last year for the “Flag Day” movie soundtrack. She received some of the biggest cheers of the night when she sang the chorus: “I am my father’s daughter, come hell or hell.”
Director “Flag Day” Sean Penn, whose Vedder films provided many songs, was in Ukraine make a documentary at the time. Vedder admired his attempt to deliver the news from a war zone, but pleaded for him to stay safe and not “become the news”.
Moved after singing with his daughter, Vedder, 57, revealed he was diagnosed with COVID-19 around six weeks ago.
“I literally saw my life flash before my eyes,” Vedder said. “It was pretty serious. To go through that and then be back in a room like this, with so many people facing that direction and listening to us, it’s really, really an honor.