Nathan East On Recording "The Lady In The Balcony"
At the end of next week, Eric Clapton’s remarkable new release, “The Lady In The Balcony: Lockdown Sessions” will be released worldwide. Coming out on multiple formats on November 12, the 17 songs find Eric and bandmates Nathan East (Bass and Vocals), Steve Gadd (Drums) and Chris Stainton (Keyboards) performing renditions of Clapton standards along with an assortment of blues, country and originals. It was recorded live at Cowdray House in West Sussex, England.
The mostly acoustic set was envisioned to be like an "Eric Clapton Unplugged II," but not quite, as three songs were played with electric guitars. Tracks include some of EC’s most famous songs plus “Golden Ring,” “Key To The Highway,” “After Midnight,” “Goin’ Down Slow,” “River of Tears,” and “Believe In Life.”
Where's Eric! Editor, Tony Edser, caught up with EC’s long-standing bass player, Nathan East, to chat about the recording sessions in an exclusive interview.
TE: What was your reaction when Eric called you and said will you fly over from the US?
NE: It was maybe November (2020), I was actually out on a walk, the phone rang and I saw it was him; he just said would I be willing to get on a plane, fly over and do some playing because playing on my own is not working anymore (laughs). I said, are you kidding, absolutely. At that point it was going to be January/February, when things were still pretty heated, but I said man I’d love to play because we were both kind of in the same boat – you’re playing on your own but it’s not as fulfilling, like having a conversation with yourself!
TE: What did you know about the whole concept, or even the set-list, before you stepped on the plane?
NE: He did kind of share with me that he wanted to revisit the format of “Unplugged” and he sent over some ideas for songs, just him playing on his own, acoustically. I was pretty familiar with most of the material, but I like approaching them from a new vantage point of not actually going back to the record, to see what we can come up with. All those songs, they’re so classic, they kind of live in our psyche, it’s nice when you dust them off and bring new life to them.
TE: I noticed you were playing the stand-up bass for some of the first numbers.
NE: Yes, Eric wanted stand-up on a lot of the material which I thought was a good call and very appropriate for that material. I didn’t fly my own over but Dave Maxwell (Production Manager) gave me a few options for hiring the instrument. You never know what you’re going to get but I was pleasantly surprised, I could see that the quality was pretty high. A couple of times I took it out into the garden and took some pictures of it.
I had no amplification, it was quiet enough to hear but Robert (Collins, Sound engineer) put a little bit of the instruments in the monitors.
TE: You’ve always impressed me with your singing when you’ve been in Eric’s bands and others, but here there were no backing vocalists, you were doing it on your own. Were you singing more than normal or did I just notice it more because of the smaller band?
NE: Well, maybe a combination of both but the thing that I appreciated about that particular challenge is now you have to find a note compared to what his note is. If there’s a 3-part harmony and I’m with the girls, I’m usually on the lower bit, but then the note that I would choose when just harmonizing with Eric would have to be relative to what his note was. So that was interesting, and I fooled around with a few different options. It was good fun too because, again, there’s nothing to hide behind, you’re just there! And those songs they lend themselves to the organic nature of the setting. It’s like organic vegetables, they’re just there, very natural (laughs).
TE: On River of Tears, it seemed like you were barreing the fretboard throughout the whole song whilst holding down the melody; that must be tough even for a guy like you?
NE: We did a couple of takes and I don’t know if you can notice but at the end I actually got cramp in my hand and it turned into the claw and I was going “Oh no!” (laughs). Thankfully there were only a few bars left but to do that and have that same discipline throughout the whole tune, which is probably 6 or 7 minutes long, pretty soon it ends up like “Ok, I hope I can keep this going till the end”
“The Lady In The Balcony: Lockdown Sessions” will be released in the United States on:
DVD+CD, Blu-ray+CD, 4K UHD+Blu-ray, 2 LPs pressed on yellow vinyl, and a Deluxe Edition containing the DVD, Blu-ray & CD packaged in a 40 page 12” x 12” hardback photo book, digital video & digital audio. In addition, a CD-only version will be available exclusively at Target.
“The Lady In The Balcony: Lockdown Sessions” will be released in all other global territories on:
DVD, Blu-ray, CD, DVD+CD, Blu-ray+CD, 4K UHD+Blu-ray, 180-gram 2LP, limited edition 2LP pressed on 180-gram yellow vinyl, and a Deluxe Edition containing the DVD, Blu-ray & CD packaged in a 40 page 12” x 12” hardback photo book, digital video & digital audio.
01. Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out
02. Golden Ring
03. Black Magic Woman
04. Man of the World
06. After Midnight
07. Bell Bottom Blues
08. Key to the Highway
09. River of Tears
10. Rock Me Baby
11. Believe in Life
12. Going Down Slow
14. Tears in Heaven
15. Long Distance Call
16. Bad Boy
17. Got My Mojo Working
The full interview with Nathan East appears exclusively in Issue 49 of Where’s Eric! Magazine.