Growing up in the “landlocked farm town” of Stockton, Chris Isaak was raised on a healthy dose of the classics.
“My dad had a box of records and we just listened to them over and over,” he said. “And even though it wasn't that many records, they were all great.”
He learned the songs of Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins by heart.
“I didn't realize it at the time but all these artists, all this great music, came out of one little room in Memphis, recorded and produced by the great Sam Phillips.”
Paying homage on his latest CD, “Beyond the Sun,” Isaak traveled back to that “little room” at Sun Studios and channeled the masters he listened to as a kid. It's a classic mid-career covers album, with the musician looking back over his shoulder at the music that shaped him.
At 58, the less-pompadoured troubadour has lived out many passions as amateur light heavyweight boxer, surfer and classic car collector. No longer land-locked, these days he lives near San Francisco's Ocean Beach, where he surfs as often as he can.
For some, his name always evokes black-and-white images of rolling in the waves with supermodel Helena Christensen to the twangy reverb of the Herb Ritts-directed video for “Wicked Game.” The haunting “Baby Did a Bad, Bad Thing” would follow.
For others, he's that actor who pops up randomly in David Lynch films or “The Silence of the Lambs,” or episodes of “Friends” and “Hot in Cleveland” with Betty White.
Before he plays Rodney Strong Vineyards on Sunday, Isaak took time out for an email chat about James Brown, his toughest fight in the ring and what it's like to sweat through a 35-pound mirror-ball suit in July.
Q: You always have great banter between songs with the band. Is that something that's always come naturally or something you eased into over time?