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updated: 7/19/2013 5:33 AM

Chris Isaak muses on music, his mirror suit and more

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  • Musician Chris Isaak is performing at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles on Friday.

    Musician Chris Isaak is performing at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles on Friday.
    Photo by Scott Newton

  • Chris Isaak is performing Friday night at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.

    Chris Isaak is performing Friday night at the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles.
    Photo by Sheryl Louis

  • Video: Chris Isaak "Beyond the Sun"

By Riley Simpson

Chris Isaak will rock the Arcada Theatre Friday with his signature soulful songs and his knack for theatricality.

So in an email interview, we asked him about his tunes, his fondness for Chicago and, of course, his mirror suit. Here is an edited transcript:

Q. For whom do you write your music?

A. I write for myself, I think that's the best way to work. Then you have a pretty good shot of at least one person liking the music!

Q. How do younger people relate to your music?

A. I did a show a few days ago, and I walked out in the audience to sing and stopped when I saw a 12-year-old boy holding a sign requesting a song called "Cheater's Town."

I was really surprised that a young kid would be a fan of that song. It just shows you are never going to guess what other people are thinking so you better just stick to "three chords and the truth." I told that kid he needed to spend more time on his skateboard.

Q. Could you talk about your newest album "Beyond the Sun" and what it was like to put together your songs, along with those of Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis?

A. I grew up listening to my dad play records by all these artists. We had a really crummy hi-fi about the size of a shoe box but we really thought we were living when we put on those records. I still remember listening to Jerry Lee Lewis in the morning before I went to school.

Those records just had so much life and fun in them. I didn't know it at the time but all my favorite singers were recorded by one man, Sam Phillips, in one little room in Memphis called Sun Studio. I really got into music because of this music.

Q. Can the audience at the Arcada Theatre expect your suit of mirrors?

A. I just had a new mirror suit made and am going to bring it out. It weighs about 35 pounds, and it's covered in little squares of real mirror. I love to sing, but I also love to give the audience a show, so we dress up like it's Liberace's birthday.

Q. I understand you've been playing with some of your bandmates (bass player Rowland Salley and drummer Kenney Dale Johnson, for example) for many years. What's it like to perform with those guys for so long?

A. We spend so much time together, not just on stage but traveling on "Das Bus." I remember one time my bass player telling a story, and halfway through my drummer stopped him and said "Hey, that's my story. That happened to me, not you!" I think we know each other pretty good at this point!

Q. On a related note, I hope Johnson, your longtime drummer who is going through cancer treatment, makes it back on tour with you soon.

A. Kenney is the last of the real men. He never missed a day's work in 30 years, and when he told me he needed a couple of weeks, I knew it was serious. The good news is he is doing great. He looks great and is planning on being back on the bus soon. I love the guy, he really makes the day shorter. He is always the funniest guy in the room.

Q. How do you like performing in Chicago?

A. I have lots of friends in the Windy City. I love Chicago. I always hit the salvage yards when I come to town. I am fixing up my house, and you always are looking for parts!

Q. You recently turned 57. What are birthdays like for famous rock musicians?

A. Just like everybody else but after 30 we go backwards. I did have Paul McCartney sing "Happy Birthday" to me on my birthday. That was pretty cool!

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