KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Musician-producer extraordinaire Nile Rodgers has one request of Knoxville as he gets ready Jan. 30 to play the Tennessee Theatre with Chic.
“Please, blow this joint out for us. Make that room packed!” he told 10News on Wednesday.
Rodgers and disco-funk-soul legends the Chic Organization are in the middle of a national tour, mostly with Cher. It’ll be Rodgers and the '70s legends exclusively when they come to Knoxville.
Rodgers, 66, who has worked with everyone from Robert Plant to Avicii to Duran Duran to Mick Jagger, promises the audience will get an earful.
“Our show is all Top 3, Top 5, No. 1 records. Every single song in the show -- even if you’ve never even heard of Chic -- you will know every single song that we play because I’m the co-writer of tons of songs.”
That includes his collaboration “Let’s Dance” with the late David Bowie and “Get Lucky”, the irresistible single he did a few years ago with Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams.
Of course, the music will all be in the Chic fashion.
Chic and Rodgers played Bonnaroo last year. The set list at Manchester included “I’m Coming Out”, “Le Freak” and “We Are Family”.
That gives you an idea of what you’re in for later this month at the Tennessee.
“You’ll hear it the Chic way because we are wholly committed to R & B, soul and dance music,” he said. “That’s what we do. I think we do it very well. And I say that with complete humility.
“I love this style of music. And I love the fact that we still keep the old school tradition alive. We’re a real band. There’s no Pro Tools, rigs, there’s no secret backing, anything.”
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He stages shows the way he remembers them from his youth: Fun, friendly, inclusive, jamming.
“When I first started going to festivals and shows there was that feeling of camaraderie that’s just unbelievable. What we do…we hope at our shows that people meet new people or they take their first date there or they take their wives there.
“I’m from the free love generation. I’m from the generation that went, Oh, wow! every other word,” he said, chuckling.
It’s hard for the multi-Grammy winner and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer to think of an artist he hasn’t worked with. Or to think of one he’d still like to work with.
The New York native’s career started in the early ‘70s and he hasn’t stopped over nearly 50 years.
He’s worked in countless genres as well – classical, pop, rock, dance, R & B. The only thing he hasn’t done is a record in a foreign language, and he notes he’ll likely get around to that as well because he’s produced so much music that’s done well outside the United States.
But Rodgers said he doesn’t like to consider himself the definitive authority or master of all. He’s always looking for new approaches to take, new styles to explore, new sounds to make.
That’s why he likes working with young artists. They teach him things, he said.
Last year, he was tapped to be chief creative adviser at Abbey Road Studios, the London home of such landmark musicians as the Beatles and Pink Floyd.
He’s made Abbey Road in St. John’s Wood his United Kingdom base. At the studio, he’s an ambassador, a consultant, a guru.
“They created this very special position for me, not knowing what I would bring to the party. And it’s been nothing but amazing,” he said.
Despite all the accolades, the honors, the adventures, the ups and downs, Rodgers said at heart he’s really just an old “hippie” who likes to have a good time with his friends.
“We come from that generation that was insanely celebratory,” he said. “Right after the Vietnam War is basically when disco hit its stride, and we’ve tried to keep that feeling alive in our music, because we want to be true to that art form and the spirit that brought that art form about.”
And he promises you’ll have a good time later this month at the Tennessee.
“Believe me: When people leave that show, and I say this with total, total humility, when they leave that show most people will say, That’s the best show I’ve ever been to in my life. Even if they saw us at Bonnaroo.”