John Doe Balances Punk and Country With X and the Sadies

By zollo (Paul Zollo) (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By zollo (Paul Zollo) (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Originally published in Spinner, July 2, 2009

Several years ago musician John Doe toured with Wilco, who were taking fans’ requests of what songs the group should perform onstage through their Website. That gave Doe an idea of doing something similar for his own band, X. So for the Los Angeles punk group’s current ‘Total Request Live’ tour, X fans have the opportunity to vote for their favorite X songs for the band to play in their city. “It’s fun,” Doe, 56, tells Spinner about the experience. “It’s a little bit more work but I have made so many set lists [that] it’s not difficult.”

On the group’s official site, xtheband.com, fans can pick their five favorite X tunes from a list of approximately 40 songs prior to the group arriving at a tour stop. So far, it’s led to some interesting picks. “‘The Have Nots’ was the biggest surprise,” Doe says. “Even when we wrote it and released it, we didn’t play it that much. Another big surprise was ‘Under the Big Black Sun.’ We never played that one very much either. It’s also a little surprising that each night is very different.”

Songs that have been consistently voted by the fans were tracks from X’s classic 1980 debut ‘Los Angeles,’ such as ‘Johnny Hit and Run Paulene’ and the title track. Explaining the legacy of the album, Does says “I guess it would be a combination of the songs we had to choose from at the time because we had most of the songs that were both on that record and [X’s second album] ‘Wild Gift’ written by the time we recorded Los Angeles. And then the community, what was in the air musically in the world, the kind of energetic and newness of the people that were hanging around in L.A. at the time.”

In addition to playing punk rock with X, Doe has maintained a solo career since 1990. This past April, he released a country album called ‘Country Club,’ a collaboration with Canadian group the Sadies. With the exception of a few original compositions, the majority of the album consists of covers of songs previously recorded by Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and others.

“That was our aim, to do something that was old-fashioned, sort of like comfort food that sounded like the ’50s and ’60s,” Doe says of Country Club. “We didn’t want to use strings or horns or any of those choirs and things like that. So it has more to do with the way Ray Price sounded or Buck Owens — pretty much the honky tonk country western.”

‘Country Club’ also contains a song he co-wrote with Exene Cervenka, X’s other singer and songwriter, called ‘It Just Dawned On Me.’ Doe says that he and Cervenka — who recently disclosed that she has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis — are currently writing new songs together, which may lead to the first new X music in over 15 years. “We have three or four songs,” he says. “We just have to get them rehearsed and worked up. Hopefully we can do some recording.”

After X finishes its tour on July 24th in Costa Mesa, California, Doe will perform with the Sadies for three scheduled dates in Oregon and Utah. In addition to playing music, Doe also blogs for KnowTheMusicBiz.com where he answers people’s questions about the music business. And then, starting in August, he will resume coaching a girls soccer team. “I started doing it about six, maybe seven years ago, and it’s just really awesome,” he says. “The energy that is emitted by 15 teenage girls is really f—ing crazy. Now that’s punk rock. “

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