"It just came out of my mouth," Foo Fighters singer-guitarist Dave Grohl says of the title of his band's new studio album and HBO rock & roll travelogue, Sonic Highways. The Foos were filming in Chicago – one of eight American cities where they recorded a song apiece for the TV show and the record, calling in special local guests such at the Eagles' Joe Walsh, Trombone Shorty and Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen. "I said all of these people and places are connected by something, like a musical map of sonic highways," says Grohl, who conceived the project and directed the HBO show. "We thought, 'Whoa, that actually makes sense. And it sounds cool.'" Produced by the Foos with Butch Vig, the songs on Sonic Highways are based on ideas "we've jammed on for a couple of years," Grohl says. He and the Foos developed the tracks at their Los Angeles studio, then shaped and cut each one in its respective city as cameras rolled. Grohl completed his lyrics at the last minute, drawing on inspirations gathered at each stop. One song, "I Am a River," recorded in New York, includes a loving nod to the late Lou Reed.
"The other thing," Grohl says, "is you can hear the rooms" where the band recorded. "Some of them are fucking small. The tracking room at Rancho de la Luna [in Joshua Tree, California] is like a minivan. We were crammed in there. But it fucking sounds great."