John Waite, performing at Fraze Pavilion in Kettering on Friday, is no stranger to sugary pop songs. He scored hit singles in the 1970s as the leader of British rock band The Babys and as a solo artist in the 1980s. He remains extremely proud of songs like “Isn’t It Time” and “Missing You,” but admits the sometimes lushly produced material, often topped off with strings, keyboards and extra vocal tracks, didn’t always fit his rock ’n’ roll sensibilities.
“I never liked big productions, and The Babys got overproduced such a lot,” Waite said recently, speaking over the telephone from his California home. “When we just made live recordings in the studio, it was always better for me than the other stuff that was finessed.”
Now that Waite isn’t beholden to a major record label he can record his material anyway he wants, which lead to 2011’s lean and mean studio album “Rough & Tumble.”
“It’s only a three-piece with a singer but that’s the whole point,” Waite said. “It’s easy to be in a band with a keyboard player and second guitar player and everybody sings backup. This isn’t like that. This is like the ’70s. This is like the stuff we used to listen to when we were kids, and that I still listen to and learn from. It’s where I want to spend the rest of my musical life.”
Waite took a similar unfettered approach on his new album, “Live: All Access.” Released in mid-June, the album is a showcase for Waite’s vocal prowess and his smoking band No Brakes featuring Keri Kelli (guitar), Tim Hogan (bass) and Rhondo (drums). After years of over-produced music, he’s relishing the simple power of the band.
“We’re really on a roll so I wanted to record the live show,” Waite said. “The band has become like a chain. They really seem to have found some new kind of dialog. Everybody is really on their game now and I did want to capture that in case somebody got run over. I’m very proud of it, actually. I think it’s pretty much one of the best things I’ve done. We got something that was sort of outrageous and I didn’t expect that.
“In seven or eight months’ time I think the band will be on par with the bands I lay awake at night thinking about,” he continued. “There’s just something going on inside the band that’s just bigger than what I’ve experienced before.”
“Live: All Access” includes a new version of “If You Ever Get Lonely,” which originally appeared on “Rough & Tumble.” The song, which Waite co-wrote with Kyle Cook, Lisa Drew, Michael Dulaney and Steven Dale Jones, is now getting played on two radio formats.
“Out of the blue, Love and Theft, who are a very successful band in Nashville, released their version as a country single,” Waite said. “We went to radio with our live version and it’s possible it could be a success on the rock radio as much as it’s a success on the country charts so who knows.
“It’s added quite an interesting twist to the live album because nobody expected that,” he continued. “You honestly couldn’t make this up. You just couldn’t. Love and Theft had the number one single last year so that puts an interesting twist on everything. That certainly did surprise me but the really great things in life come at you from nowhere.”
How to go
Who: John Waite with Stranger
Where: Fraze Pavilion, 695 Lincoln Park Blvd., Kettering
When: 8 p.m. Friday
More info: (937) 296-3300 or www.fraze.com
Artist info: www.johnwaitethesinger.com