Chris Isaak put out a studio CD, Mr. Lucky, in 2009 and even in his own view, he hasn’t had much luck with retail sales of the album.
But Isaak, as much as any artist, knows that *Mr. Lucky* is not necessarily dead in the water. His biggest hit, “Wicked Game” from the 1989 album *Heart Shaped World,* is a prime example of how an album can get a second life.
“The thing came out on our record and nobody noticed it,” Isaak said of “Wicked Game.” “A couple of years later it was in a movie (David Lynch’s *Wild At Heart*) and it was a hit. So I never give up (on an album). I know one rule of thumb is make good records. Do good shows, and your audience will notice and they will find you. And I feel real proud of that ‘Mr. Lucky’ album. I think we had a lot of good songs on there.”
Isaak’s view of Mr. Lucky is worth noting because it would be easy to assume he has put that 2009 album in the rear view and moved on. In June he released a concert CD, *Live At The Fillmore,* and he is now actively promoting that release with a run of year-end concerts, and on the day of this interview, an appearance on the “Tonight Show.”
He joked that he had lost count of the number of times he had performed on the “Tonight Show,” but remembered his appearances dated back to when Johnny Carson was the show’s host.
Indeed, Isaak has been in show business longer than it might seem. Now 54, he released his first CD, *Silvertone,* in 1984. He still hadn’t connected commercially after the release of *Heart Shaped World.*
But in 1991, a radio station music director in Atlanta who was a fan of Lynch’s films saw *Wild At Heart* and was struck by “Wicked Game.” He put the moody ballad into rotation. Soon, as other stations followed suit, the song became a top 10 hit.
Since then, Isaak has seen his songs “Baby Did A Bad Bad Thing” (in Kubrick’s *Eyes Wide Shut*) and “Somebody’s Crying” also cross over to radio, albeit with more modest success than “Wicked Game.”
In fact, Isaak can credit his work in television, as much as his music, for helping him sustain what is a very viable music career.
In 2001, he launched “The Chris Isaak Show” on the Showtime cable channel. It featured Isaak and his band at the time (bassist Rowland Salley, drummer Kenney Dale Johnson and guitarist Hershel Yatovitz) portraying themselves and the lives they lead as professional touring musicians.
The series was well received and continued through 2004. Isaak also acted in Silence of the Lambs, That Thing You Do! and A Dirty Shame, as well as the HBO cable series, *From the Earth to the Moon.*
Isaak plans to continue to pursue acting work, depending on what his schedule allows.
“I love acting and I love doing the TV,” he said. “This past year, somebody offered me a full-time role on another TV show. I turned one down because it would have meant I would have had no time to tour. The number one thing for me is to play and make music. So I turned that down. But I’m always looking to do something, and films, if they come at the right time, or TV, as long as I don’t have to give up my guitar playing or riding around with my ne’r-do-well friends on the bus.”
Music is clearly front and center on Isaak’s schedule with his December tour dates, supporting the 17-song *Live at the Fillmore* CD.
Considering that throughout his career, Isaak has been famous for the quality of his concerts and the easy-going humor he displays on stage (along with his singing talent), it’s rather surprising he hasn’t released a live album until now.
And from the sound of things, Isaak wasn’t exactly focused on putting out the CD until others in his camp started talking up the idea.
“I kind of forgot about it,” Isaak said of the Fillmore recording, which was done at the end of a tour in 2008. “A month or a couple of months later my engineer had listened to the tapes and he called my manager all excited. My manager then called me all excited, and I said ‘OK, great. Let’s hear it.’
“I was kind of incredulous that is it really going to be good?” he said. “(But) I went ‘This sounds great.’ It was one of the only times I ever heard a recording that sounds like a live show. I think the guys were playing great. We had been at the end of a long tour. They were in a good attitude, and it comes across. You can just tell people are having fun on that record.”
Chris Isaak performs Saturday December 11 at the Singletary Center.