A month before his 2019 Christmas tour, CeeLo Green shared a surprise: he had recently finished recording a soul record in Nashville – "like if Al Green did a country album," he said – with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys producing.
Green asked to keep the news quiet until the release of the first single, "Lead Me," which arrived April 10, along with the announcement that his first album in five years, "CeeLo Green is…Thomas Callaway," will be released in June (pre-order here).
A glistening dose of soul coated with Green’s flawless voice, “Lead Me” (which you can hear below) is, said Green, “about being led by love…you’re asking the spirit and the cosmos to be led by example and your instinct and intuitiveness and your will. It’s about being faithful as a servant.”
Green explained that the album – titled after his birth name – was born organically after Auerbach reached out and told Green he wanted to write.
“We were friends and had some history, and I jumped at the opportunity. It was an honor and a compliment,” Green said. “We were messing around in the studio and I didn’t know that he was secretly recording and compiling material for me. The whole process was a first (for me), to sit and write with an acoustic guitar and organ and with seasoned musicians from Nashville and Muscle Shoals, all of these wonderful elder statesmen. It was a really enlightening experience.”
Dan Auerbach (left), CeeLo Green and chief engineer Allen Parker at Easy Eye Sound in Nashville. Photo: ALYSSE GAFKJEN;
Credit: ALYSSE GAFKJEN;
Credit: ALYSSE GAFKJEN;
Green said he especially enjoyed the old-school recording process of the musicians playing live at Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound studio while he laid down his vocals. Atlanta native Allen Parker, manager and chief engineer at the studio, mixed Green’s project along with Auerbach.
“It will remind you of the old days of Motown when everyone was doing one take all the way,” he said.
Green is still active in Atlanta favorite Goodie Mob, but all upcoming dates have been postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. But, Green is still slated to return to Las Vegas Aug. 11 for his third residency, “Man in the Mirror,” which will be staged at The Flamingo.
“Literally the whole set is mirrors. Everything. I mean everything. I was inspired by Bruce Lee in ‘Enter the Dragon,’” Green said. “I did my best to be all-inclusive to all of the many parts of my career span. I still believe in the golden era of entertainment. I still believe in grandiosity and pageantry and costuming and lights and cameras and action.”
While Green has resided in Miami for three years, he also still lives in his hometown of Atlanta, which he said will always hold his heart.
To help his community, Green is participating in the #DoYourPartChallenge by partnering with Lyft to provide essential workers in Atlanta with transportation. From April 11-14, Green will give away rides to those who have a critical need (such as hospital workers, transit workers and fire responders). Contact Green via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to receive a ride code for up to $10.
Melissa Ruggieri has covered music and entertainment for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2010 and created the Atlanta Music Scene blog. She's kept vampire hours for more than two decades and remembers when MTV was awesome.