A new CD is being released Tuesday by hometown kid Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft. The CD features his songwriting and collaborations with Joe Walsh, Chrissie Hynde, and Heart.
Joe Walsh performs “Six Strings From Hell,” a song Allen co-wrote with John Bohlinger, one of his band mates from The Underthinkers. The band is featured throughout the new CD, “Everywhere At Once”.
Allen says it doesn’t get any better than having a legendary performer like Walsh sing one of his songs.
“It’s amazing to be in the studio with somebody of that caliber, listening to their musicianship, their singing and their playing. And think of how many times you’ve heard their songs—but they’re singing one of your songs,” Allen said.
Allen has been playing guitar since he was a kid growing up in Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood. He says he rarely went a week without picking up the guitar, even during his busiest days at Microsoft.
“Typically, after a hard day of programming at Microsoft or after Microsoft, I would go home and put on a record and then try to play along with it,” Allen said. “Early days, that would have been Buddy Guy, or B.B. King or Jimi Hendrix, who I was fortunate to be able to see when a couple of times in Seattle when I was a teenager.”
The songs on “Everywhere At Once” vary from rock to soul and funk, and even include a country-ish song with Chrissie Hynde.
Although most of the songs were written before the guest artists were selected, Allen did write one song with a particular artist in mind, Ann Wilson from Heart.
“I was thinking about her approach to singing, and that amazingly powerful voice that she has when I wrote ‘Straw Into Gold’. I had no idea whether she and Nancy were going to like it. And they did, so that was fantastic,” Allen said.
Wilson is a longtime friend of Allen’s.
“He likes to rock and roll in the true sense, and is fortunate enough to be able to do it exactly the way he wants,” Wilson said.
And sometimes “the way he wants” can be pretty unorthodox.
“The side of him that always is a mystery to me, an exciting mystery to me, is the whole submarine thing. ‘Let’s take a band over to Europe for five weeks and just go jam on a submarine.’ I mean, nothing is impossible, nothing is unthinkable for Paul Allen; he can do what he likes. And so in there, inside that quiet respectful person somewhere is a wild man,” Wilson said.
Allen says for someone like himself who tilts toward the analytical, jamming allows him to tap into his creative, intuitive, more emotional side.
And it looks like making this new CD did that, too. A photo in the liner notes shows Allen in a recording studio, listening back to the music. He has a big smile on his face—not exactly looking like a “wild man”, but definitely happy with what he hears.
Proceeds from “Everywhere at Once” will benefit the not-for-profit EMP Museum, which was founded by Allen.