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The Elected Catch Some "Sun"

Fresh off the road, Rilo Kiley's Blake Sennett returns to side project

December 16, 2005 12:00 AM ET

Self-professed workaholic Blake Sennett may have spent all year on tour with his band Rilo Kiley -- including an opening stint over the summer for Coldplay -- but that has hardly slowed his prolific nature. Sennett will issue Sun, Sun, Sun, the second album by his rootsy side project the Elected, on January 24th.

"I guess there's no rest for the wicked," jokes Sennett, at home in California. "I can't sit around. So when I sit around, I just start working on songs."

The soulful, rocking Sun, Sun, Sun, the follow-up to 2004's Me First, was inspired by and recorded during his time on the road with Rilo Kiley. Though Sennett laid down basic tracks in a Los Angeles studio, much of the recording occurred in spare moments while on tour, in the back of the bus or in random hotel rooms.

"When I'm on the road, if I feel bad, I have a tendency to be like, 'When I get home everything will be better,'" he says. "But then there's a realization: 'Well, actually, this is my home. This is my life. These are my friends. This is everything. I'm here, so just try to enjoy it. Try to accept that.' I'd never been on the road for a year straight before, and it was a bizarre feeling. It was something that I had to reckon with. So there are some songs that deal with the reckoning of that." Sennett's itinerant year is reflected in tracks like the organ-bleated "Did Me Good" and "Not Going Home," with its chiming chorus.

Nonstop touring also caused the vocalist/guitarist to crank up his vocals on the new album. "When the other record was made, it was more of a bedroom project," explains Sennett. "But this one was heavily influenced by playing live. Touring a bunch, I think I have a tendency to get loud."

Sennett continued following his instincts when it came to naming the album -- after the last song written. "It was recorded so fast that there was no time to second-guess it," he says of the most stripped-down tune on the record. "I love how the album sounds, all the stacked harmonies and the saxophones, and I'm proud of it. But at the same time, it's really premeditated, and that song wasn't at all. It felt honest and raw and kind of fun."

By coincidence, Sennett's Rilo Kiley bandmate, singer Jenny Lewis, is set to release her solo debut, Rabbit Fur Coat, on the same date in January. But Sennett says that, in spite of their initial plans to take the year off to focus on their individual projects, the two will begin work on songs for a follow-up to Rilo Kiley's More Adventurous for a possible late 2006 release.

"At first, the vibe was like, 'Let's take it easy and do what we want for a little while,'" says Sennett. "But then, when we finished these records, we were like, 'Oh shit, we're going to go another year without recording another record -- that sounds like a bummer!' Jenny and I both love writing and recording songs."

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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