“I didn’t know what homage was for years. I admitted freely I was ripping off other artists but now I am ‘homaging,’ ” says Chris Isaak with a laugh. On his latest album, “Beyond the Sun,” the Bay Area rocker with the swoon-inducing croon pays tribute to some of his biggest influences: the artists who recorded for Sun Records in Memphis.
Isaak, who plays Indian Ranch on Saturday, was fortunate enough to have spent time with some of them and even become friends with the late Roy Orbison. The affable “Wicked Game” hitmaker and sometime television star checked in to talk about his five favorite Sun artists and some of the things he learned from them. “If you asked me, ‘Chris, in your whole life, what do you know the most about besides roofing?’ I was pretty good at roofing, but close to that is my knowledge of Sun studio and its artists.”
1. Roy Orbison Keep it hopeful. “He had a great thing that he told me. ‘People always think I have sad songs, but if you listen to my songs, I always put a little bit of hope in there.’”
2. Johnny Cash Keep it simple. “What I learned from him is it’s not so important that you play a lot of amazing notes, it’s more important that you play the right notes and you feel it.”
3. Carl Perkins Keep it fun. Isaak recalls asking Perkins what his song “Her Love Rubbed Off” was about. Perkins replied, “Chris, that song’s about a quart too many. I was in the studio having fun and I drank an extra quart and I made that up as I went.”
4. Jerry Lee Lewis Keep it personal. “You can make things your own if you put your heart and soul into it.”
5. Elvis Presley Keep dreaming. “At the risk of sounding cliche: you have a dream and it might come true.”
Chris Isaak plays Indian Ranch Saturday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25.95 at 800-745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com