MR. BIG’S ERIC MARTIN DISCUSSES THEIR LATEST ALBUM “THE STORIES WE COULD TELL…” AND THE INSPIRATION BEHIND SOME OF THEIR OTHER HIT SONGS
Songfacts: If you want to start off by talking about the new album, The Stories We Could Tell…, how does it compare to previous Mr. Big albums musically?
Eric Martin: I don’t really think it compares. I’ve said this recently in a Japanese magazine – you won’t read it – that most of the albums we’ve done, we always took our second album, Lean Into It, as a blueprint. There was a great collection of songs and it was a smorgasbord of music and lyrics. And the sound quality and all that. I think some of our records had tried to be that Lean Into It album, but I kind of look at this one particularly, it’s unique and it stands out.
This is the record that I’ve always wanted to make. At the beginning we had inklings of it where we talked about our influence. We’re all influenced by blues-based rocker bands like Free, even like Grand Funk. That kind of style, or Bad Company. I remember Billy always talking about a band called Spooky Tooth. And Pat with Cactus. Beatles, as well. But a lot of blues rocker bands; we all agreed that we love the band Free, which is the same kind of band that we are: bass, drums, guitar, and vocal. And even though we have some songs that are… I’m not saying formulaic, but some songs are structured. And our first album was more spontaneous, just kind of jamming. Like a rock and soul band would do. Like Free.
That’s how I look at this record. Musically, it’s a little more structured, but it has that feel of our first album. It’s a little bit more on the blues side. Still chock full of rock, but it definitely has a blue tint to it.
Songfacts:…you mentioned the song To Be With You. What was the lyric inspiration behind that particular track?
Eric: To Be With You. I had this girlfriend. Well, I wanted her to be my girlfriend. We were really, really good friends. Her name was Patricia, actually. Patricia Reynolds. She’s remarried. We were really, really good friends.
She taught me how to basically write songs, write poetry. She used to write poetry and read it to me and we’d sit in her father’s broken-down Mercedes Benz in the backyard of her house with trees and weeds growing in it. She used to put crystals up.
I was totally enamored with this woman. She was beautiful. Smart. I mean, brains, beauty, break down the walls, made me crawl on my belly like a reptile.
I just loved this woman, but she just wanted to be my friend. She’d have tons of boyfriends, and maybe she misconstrued promiscuity for love. But I wanted to be the knight in shining armor. That’s what I was, a knight in shining armor. But basically, I didn’t get my feet wet.
I wrote the song when I was about 16, 17 years old. Mainly to impress my sister’s girlfriends, because Patricia wasn’t having me anyway. But I wrote it about her and I wrote it about how I would have done anything to just be more than a friend and a confidante. But as you go up, you kind of go, “Maybe that’s what it was. That was my place.”
And the year before I joined Mr. Big, my publisher at the time set me up with another writer named David Grahame. David was Paul McCartney in the play Beatlemania, and he kind of looked like Paul McCartney. And it was good. It was really short and sweet. I think we might have spent two days together, we wrote two songs.
The first song we wrote was a song called Captured By Cathy’s Kiss, which never saw the light of day. And he goes, “Hey, do you have any other songs?” And I didn’t. I didn’t have anything. I mean, I’d written a couple of other things that were on a couple of solo albums that I did prior – this was 1988, I think. And I reached into my bag of cassettes and I pulled out To Be With You. And my little demo of To Be With You, I had the majority of the lyrics, there was a couple that didn’t make it, that weren’t good, but musically it was more Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It was a little on the folk side for the music. The melody was the same, but the music was kind of folk.
So when I got together with David, we did this demo and we played piano and acoustic guitar. He goes, “Let’s do something like Give Peace a Chance by The Beatles [Ed’s note: Actually this was a John Lennon solo song]. How about just a bass drum and a hand clap?” Which totally breathes new life into it. And then he came up with the second verse part: “Your game of love was all rained out.” I don’t know if he was a baseball fan or something like that, but I thought that was funny and cute. He wrote a couple more things too, but he breathed new life into this song. Gave a little humor, and my music was a little on the stale side. So with the help of the bass drum and the handclap, he gave it a step, gave it a little spark.
Songfacts: What about the song Just Take My Heart.
Eric: Just Take My Heart is about me and my first wife. Stacey was her name. Just laying there in bed the night before both of us are going to go our separate ways. You could hear a pin drop, that’s how quiet it was. She was leaving me for another man.
That was a tough year for me. I just talked to a guy the other day who was going through the same thing, and I said, “So, do you still live in the house?” He goes, “Yeah, man, we sleep in the same bed.” I go, “Me, too. I did the same thing.” It was really, really a tough situation for me.
Lyrically, that’s what it’s about. Musically, it felt a little formulaic, but it was truly heartfelt. Every lyric was exactly what I was thinking when I was laying there right before.
Read Eric Martin’s entire interview with Songfacts here.