Paul Weller is a trailblazing anomaly in a lot of ways. As the former frontman of two largely influential British bands, the Jam and the Style Council, he’s played everything from angry punk rock and classic British pop to soul, funk, jazz, and R&B.
Now, as a successful solo musician, Weller, who's nearly 60 years old, still makes records, tours and experiments with all sorts of different genres of music, proving that he’s never completely satisfied with his extensive back catalog, and he’s not interested in looking back or reforming either of his previous bands just for old times’ sake.
Perhaps the only thing that’s been a constant in his career is association with British mod subculture; he’s such a figurehead for the subculture that he even has the nickname, the Modfather, and has his own mod fashion range called Real Stars Are Rare.
This year, Weller released A Kind Revolution
, his 25th studio album (his 13th solo album), and he’ll perform songs from it on Sunday, Oct. 8, at House of Blues. The album is quite different from his previous two albums; it includes more piano ballads and fewer guitar-centered tracks. It’s largely influenced by jazz, funk and soul. Apart from the album’s first two tracks, it has a fairly slow tempo.
The album also includes several high-profile guest spots. The soulful lead track “Woo Se Mama” includes vocals from PP Arnold and Madeleine Bell, the funky “One Tear” features vocals from Boy George and the jazz track “She Moves With the Fayre” features Robert Wyatt on trumpet. Josh McClorey from the Strypes plays guitar on three different tracks.
“A lot of times, it’s dictated by the songs, and it’s never really conscious,” says Weller in a recent phone interview when asked about the album’s new direction. “It’s just the way the songs come out. With ‘Long Long Road’ and ‘The Cranes Are Back,’ I just sat down on the piano and wrote those songs on piano.”
The title, A Kind Revolution
, implies a few different lyrical themes.
“I just thought it was a good title for the record and a good title for the times as well,” says Weller. “So, the album’s not in any way thematic or a cohesive statement, but I think the intention was trying to put some love in there and kindness and compassion and all those things, so maybe that went into the music, I would hope any way.”
He’s also not interested in slowing down any time soon as he confesses that he’s still just as excited by the musical process as he was when he was younger.
“I just loving making music, and I love seeing a track come together from a little tiny idea and all of a sudden, into the night, you’ve got a tune going on,” he says. “I’m always fascinated by that. I’m also always still looking to see whether or not I can write my greatest song, which is probably an impossibility. I suppose there’s still that competitive thing within myself.”
As a writer of dozens, possibly hundreds of songs since he first began writing, it’s astonishing that he is still able to expand into new territory. However, Weller admits it’s not always easy.
“There’s times when I play a certain chord sequence, which I think, ‘Wow that’s really great and different’ and then I realize I used the same thing 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, or whatever,” he says. “There’s things that I think just come back to you as a writer.”
Although Weller still loves the music he fell in love with while growing up in the ’60s, he’s very much in the know when it comes to new music as he praises his recent UK tour support, young Brighton psych rockers, White Room, and his upcoming US tour support, British folk singer-songwriter Lucy Rose.
“If I hear ‘Waterloo Sunset’ or ‘Strawberry Fields’ or ‘Reach Out (I’ll Be There)’ or whatever it may be, those are the things that turned me on to music in the first place, so they’re always going to be special to me, but outside of that, if I had like a playlist or something, I would probably have just as many new tunes that I’ve heard this year alongside all the things that I’ve always held to be great,” he says. “There’s still great music coming out.”
One reason why he’s not interested in reforming the Jam or the Style Council, despite the high demand from fans, is that he thinks the recent rise in musical nostalgia hurts new bands that are trying to break through.
“Rock 'n' roll or rock or pop or whatever you want to call it, back in the day, it was always looking forward, and I don’t know when that changed or why that changed, but it definitely has changed," he says. "I think there’s also so much young talent in general out there and if you look at the festival bills, in England any way, they’re only ever headlined by people who just got back together and newer bands are way, way down on the list.”
This year marks the 40th anniversary of In the City
, Weller’s first album with the Jam. After all the decades of commercial and critical success, one would think Weller would get tired of making music or just want to take a break, but he’s still writing and creating all the time.
So, what’s his secret to success and longevity as a musician?
“I’m not blasé or cynical about any of it, and I think that makes a difference," he says. "If you still love that same thing, it changes everything.”
Paul Weller, Lucy Rose, 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $35-$41.15, houseofblues.com.