Fee Waybill Rides Again: The Tubes’ lead singer goes solo for hard-driving rock record

by Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

The Tubes’ lead singer, Fee Waybill, says he’s happy his new solo album, “Fee Waybill Rides Again,” has seen the light of day. It’s been a passion project for him and his longtime writing partner, pop-rock star Richard Marx.

“We’ve been working on this record on and off for seven years, Richard and I,” he says.

“The first song we wrote was ‘Faker.’ I went back and looked at my lyric sheet and it said ‘2013.’ Over the years, we did one here and one there. We had rough versions of some of the songs and then years went by.”

In early 2019, Waybill and Marx decided to do something with the songs.

“We had been dragging this through the dirt here for six or seven years,” he says with a laugh. “We tweaked here and there and redid some stuff, wrote a couple new songs.”

Besides “Faker,” the album features the melodic and soulful “Say Goodbye,” the hard-charging political commentary on “Promise Land” and the crossover country vibe, “Still You on the Inside,” written by Marx, Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger, and Chris Daughtry.

The talented guests on the album also include Michael Landau, Vertical Horizon singer Matt Scannell and drummer Josh Freese (Nine Inch Nails and Sting).

“Don’t Want to Pull the Trigger” is a hard-driving, relentlessly addictive addition to the album. It begins with a voice memo that Marx sent to Waybill.

“He originally texted me that little intro part and I was listening to it on my phone,” says Waybill, who has written songs with Marx since 1983. “Elizabeth, my wife, heard it and said, ‘That’s so cool. Why don’t you attach that somehow to the intro of the actual recorded song?’”

Arizona boy

Waybill’s album cover—designed by The Tubes’ Prairie Prince—recalls a very Arizona red-and-orange sunset. It makes perfect sense: Waybill moved to Scottsdale in the 1950s and grew up at 68th Street and Osborn Road in Southwest Village. He remembers riding his horse around town and hitching it up in front of drug store or movie theater.

Things have changed. Now the area is full of hipsters, and parking spots now lie where hitches were located.

“It’s all different, but I grew up on a horse until I was about 16, 17 years old—until rock ‘n’ roll music took ahold of me,” he says. “Until I moved to California, I was on a horse every day. It’s great to get back to it. Now I can play gigs and ride horses.”

He attended ASU, where he hoped to study oceanography and transfer to Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego—until he discovered acting.

“I was ensconced in the theater department at ASU,” he says. “I still love the theatrical stage. There’s a little theater in Augusta, Michigan, called the Barn Theatre, it’s the oldest for-profit summer stock theater. I started working there in 1998 doing the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show.’”

He starred as Frank N. Furter, but his favorite play is “Spamalot,” for which he plays King Arthur.

Waybill was scheduled to return to Scottsdale to play Talking Stick Resort in September for his birthday. The COVID-19 pandemic nixed those plans. He enjoys traveling to Arizona in better times, either to perform or to see his brother, who lives on a ranch in Cave Creek.

He’s looking forward to the time when concerts return. He isn’t interested in streaming shows, although he’s frequently approached to do them.

“I don’t want to do it,” he says. “I keep turning them down. This is not what we do. We try to reach them eye to eye and translate that joy from across the footlights.

“I don’t want to play at a drive-in with everybody sitting in the tailgate of their car with a crappy speaker hanging from the window.”

COVID nearly stopped “Fee Waybill Rides Again” as well.

“The whole music business shut down,” he says. “But we thought everyone is sitting at home quarantining. We thought it would be nice to give them something to listen to, spread the joy a little bit.

“I’m so glad we did. We’ve received such a good response. It has brought a little bit of joy to people who are hunkered down in the house wearing a damn mask.”