Fun Lovin’ Criminal turned award-winning radio DJ, Huey Morgan is back with a new band.
The half-Puerto Rican, half-Irish singer-songwriter, who now lives in London, has named his new project Huey and the New Yorkers, after he and his friends’ native city.
It’s his first solo musical project outside of fronting the groundbreaking rock/soul/hip hop/blues FLCs and Huey says it came about by accident.
‘I was writing these songs and they didn’t fit Fun Lovin’ Criminals, so I did it separately from the band,’ explains the owner of one of the most famous gritty laid back New York baritones.
He continues: ‘Then, when I started recording, I was calling these guys that are now The New Yorkers to ask them to play on the tracks.
‘And when the album started taking shape, it sounded like a band, but not like Fun Lovin’ Criminals.
‘I have a new gang,’ excitedly adds the Scooby Snacks singer.
‘They are the best musicians I know, I had the pick of the litter. And they’re my friends too.
‘We’ve been friends for 20 years but we never really got a band thing going until just recently.
‘I asked Tim Latham to help me produce the album. He’s got Grammys and worked with Fun Lovin’ Criminals through our whole career.
‘We made a record as a tribute to our friends.’
These friends are Chris Scianni (strings), King (bass), Fun Lovin’ Criminal Frank Benbini (drums), Pete Levin from Blind Boys of Alabama (keyboards), Naim Cortazzi (ukulele), Danny Clinch – famed for his work with Springsteen and Tupac – (harmonica and artwork) and BJ Cole (steel pedal).
Say It To My Face was recorded in Huey’s Man Cave home studio and released in October. And Huey says he’s ‘still stoked’.
The album explores the kind of eclectic influences celebrated on his radio shows.
‘I wasn’t going to do a dub-step record, I’m not trying to keep up with the times,’ says Huey.
‘It was never going to put on a skinny tie and shorts and dance around like Bruno Mars.
‘Everybody likes different kinds of music. I know that from my radio shows. That rubbed off on me when I was doing this record.
‘One song would sound like legitimate country and another sounded like funk from 1972. The songs are like paintings: each has a different style, you know like impressionist, realist, Dutch master.’
He continues: ‘A lot of the lyrical content is very uncensored, very personal to me.
‘I never would have written a song about my dog dying in my arms, or what it takes a soldier to get though a day, before.
‘I would never have been that direct or to the point, but I feel very liberated by it.
‘At first, I was embarrassed. I thought it might have been a little too honest. Now we’re on the verge of touring it, it’s a dream come true.’
Huey’s chosen to play in small venues deliberately, to ‘keep it personal’.
‘These songs have stories and I want to explain these stories to people who can hear,’ laughs Huey who is already multi-million selling as part of his original band.
He’s also planning to play for troops in hospitals and rehabilitation centres while he’s touring, as well as giving the armed forces free tickets to all his shows.
And he’s donating all his personal song-writing proceeds to the Wounded Warrior Project and Help For Heroes.
‘They’re charities that support veterans, reassimilating them into society,’ says Huey, himself a former US marine.
‘These guys are putting their lives on the line for us and we’re not taking care of them,’ he says. ‘The least I can do is give them a ticket to a show.
‘I’m not looking to make money. I got lucky early on because I was in the Fun Lovin’ Criminals and I got some loot, so I’m giving it to people who really need it.’
Huey’s also written his fourth book, about a soldier who served in Vietnam and when he comes home becomes a rock star.
‘It’s about how he deals with it,’ explains Huey.
So, how did Huey deal with going from being a marine to a star?
‘I went home,’ he says. ‘I got on a plane and went home to New York.
‘My friends break my balls on a regular basis.
‘I don’t go for celeb stuff. You don’t see me in Grazia. I don’t advertise my life.
‘I don’t have women fanning me.
‘I have a wife and kid and they keep me real. My mom definitely keeps me real,’ he adds, laughing.
Huey also owns bars and a tattoo parlour (with Miami Ink’s Ami James) and he’s got a possible movie and documentaries in the pipeline.
But he says we can expect to hear more from Fun Lovin’ Criminals in 2014.
‘It’s our 20-year anniversary next year and I’m pretty sure we’re going to do something.
‘I can blink and remember Glastonbury 1999 or our very first gig,’ says the 44-year-old.
‘I’d like to record some songs and play some shows. I’d like to celebrate.’
Huey and The New Yorkers are at the Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea, on Monday, with support from Mike Marlin.
Tickets cost £15 from wedgewood-rooms.co.uk or (023) 9286 3911.