Transcribed from a 1995 Warner Brothers Press Release
Clapton discusses the making of his new album "From The Cradle"
Nothing but my soul to save from the cradle to the grave.
And it was one of those things, you wake up in the middle of the night and run downstairs and write it down. I didn't know what it meant. And I thought, well, I would abbreviate it, the front, "From The Cradle," the title. What it means I think is that this music I'm making here has been my motivation. It's the thing I've turned to, the thing that has given me inspiration and relief, in all of the trials and tribulations of my life. I've always had this incredibly secure place to go... with that, with the blues. And this is the first testament to that, that I've ever made, really, on my own. And it's quite scary but in the same time, you know, it's about time too. It's long overdue.
And kind of, soul music was rare. The merest glimpse of Bo Diddley or Chuck Berry would send me into frenzies of delight. So, when I heard what was behind that, that was like the front scenery of what I was to later discover. And when I found the stuff that was behind it, that made that come into being, you know, the Muddy Waters and beyond that, the Robert Johnson, and beyond,that the work song, it did something to me emotionally, for sure. But then there was also something much deeper going on which I cannot define at all and probably never would be able to.
Interviewer: What's given you the confidence now to think that you know this is really what you want to do and you'll get away with it?
I think "Unplugged" helped a great deal. Age. A certain amount of rediscovered security in myself. But I think you still need to see... no matter how I feel about me, I still need to see results. I still needed some kind of exterior proof. And "Unplugged" was definitely that.
So when it did well, and when it did phenomenally well, I was very surprised, and, of course, very pleased. And it freed me up to a certain extent. I'm not saying that I'm completely different and changed by this experience, but I'm willing to take the gamble based on that evidence of saying that was me in one respect. But this is really, really me. To make this record about my blues influences and my upbringing is much more me than "Unplugged" was.
It's taken a lot of courage for me to go back. I mean I'm really retracing my steps back from John Mayhall and the Blues Breakers. And that, I mean there was a stage there when I was with that band, which it started with a blues band, with the Yardbirds, to go to John Mayall and then when I was really leaving John Mayall, in my head I was going to an even more hard core blues situation, which backfired. Although it came out to be a great hybrid, it wasn't my intention to go that way. And now what I'm doing is I'm going back to that jumping off point. it's almost like I'm just leaving John Mayall now and I'm producing my own blues band. And (laughing) it's taken me 30 years of meandering around the back streets to get there. And I don't know why, I don't know why. I just always felt very afraid of being true to myself. And I think that's quite normal in a way. I think everybody is. I'm not unique in that. But right now I want, I want to do it. And I don't--I have this funny feeling that I don't know how long it will last. You know, I mean sometimes I come in here [the studio], we've been making this album on and off for quite a few months. And sometimes I come in and I'm listening, today I was listening in the car to Steve Winwood's "Back In The High Life" album and thinking, "This is great," you know? I would love--but I'm kind of stuck in this blues thing now and I've got to see it through, and I wonder how long I can do it. And it may be that I'll just stay here. Maybe that's all right. Maybe it's all right for me to stay doing this, because it's what I do best.
But really the bones of the thing is coming from inside me and my need to pay back the tribute to all these people that I heard from day one, from the cradle to the grave, really, that I want to emulate and pay back and say thank you to. And I'm actually trying as hard as I can to replicate what they did. But doesn't come on, I mean, it still comes out as me, which is the beauty of the whole exercise. Because I used to think that pure imitation was not that good enough, but of course there is no such thing. And I'm finding out. And as close as I'm trying to get to the original, it still sounds like me doing it.
We did Eddy Boyd's song "Third Degree," which just blew everyone away for a little while, and it was so, some of them have been so accessible. When we listened to that, we listened to his recording of it. We went out there and we did it in two takes. It was just easy. I've always loved "Reconsider Baby," the Lowell Fulson song, and that was the same. Yesterday we did the Ray Charles song from "Sinner's Prayer." And I didn't think I could ever do this song, because vocally it's very, very dynamic. It looks like a very hard song to sing. And we did it very quickly. It's a wonderful process of working. We do everything live. So if one person make a mistake, we all have to do it again, or we accept the mistake. People have asked me about song writing in the past in which songs have meant the most. The ones that meant the most to me over the years are the ones that were the easiest to write. Like "Wonderful Life." And that was the most successful, because it just fell out.
Well, I used to think that me, I could make any kind of music, but the guitar playing would always be the blues. You know, if I took a solo I would always make sure that I could find some place to put the blues in. So that I knew, even if nobody else did, that I was still with one foot on the path.
What happens to me when I listen to these songs. I go... I go away. And I like going away. I still like going away to music. And these things do it to me better than anything else.
It is still a fix for me to come here, have a band of musicians. I walk through that door on the other side of the room, pick up my guitar and will start work.
For me it takes a great deal of studying and discipline to sing the blues. A black guy from Mississippi it seems to be what they do when they open their mouth without even thinking. I know we go back to that thing about--I'm qualified to sing the blues because of what has happened to me. But I still don't think I'll ever do it as god as a black man. Muddy's songs have been the hardest. He meant a great deal to me, and his music still does, probably more than anybody else's. I don't know why. It was the first, really, that got to me and is still the most important music in my life today, the music of Muddy Waters. And it's been the hardest for me. When I've approached Muddy's repertoire, I've always gone for the less well known songs. Like I've done "Blow Wind Blow" and I've done "Standin' Around Crying" or you know, things that are not necessarily that well known to his audience. "Hootchie Cootchie Man" is like the crown jewel, isn't it? I mean it's like the lion's den with this one. And we'd done it dozens of times. And to most people it probably sounds all right. But to me it just is not good enough. And so we do it again and again and again. And I don't know what that is. It's some kind of perfectionism in me. I love this man so much that I want to do it absolutely perfectly, and of course that's not possible.There are a lot of musicians that put a touch on the other areas. I can't. I have tried to play folk music, play country and western, play even jazz, and a lot of pop music. But I do this best. And that's been given to me to do. As much as I've questioned it and railed against it, and been stubborn about my path, I'm back on it. This is me, in terms of my musical identity. Where I've come from and what it means. And wherever I go in the future will be as a result of this.