Catching Up with Chris Isaak


The singer, songwriter, sometime actor and self-confessed failed tap dancer owes Tom Cruise a dinner. Big time.

What is your greatest strength?

I can take a punch and keep on going.

What is your greatest weakness?

A green rock but I’m not sure what you call it on this planet.

What scares you?

I don’t like drunks with machetes. But I’m sure there are exceptions...

What’s your favourite karaoke song?

I never sing karaoke. I did happen to walk in while someone was singing Wicked Game at a karaoke restaurant. They looked at me then looked really nervous. I thought they were doing a great job.

What virtue do you admire most in people?

I love loyalty.

If you could do another job, what would it be?

I’ve had the same band for 30 years. If I had those guys I’d be happy throwing hay or putting on roofing – my previous job skills.

What’s one thing about you that would surprise people?

I’m a failed tap dancer. I wanted to be in show business and in my small town I saw the sign “Tap-Dance Lessons by Bill Jacoby”. I walked in and made a deal; I’d clean the studio and wax the floors in exchange for lessons. I still love Fred Astaire. 

What’s your idea of absolute happiness?

I don’t enjoy wild parties but I love building things. One time at a party, I saw the owner’s dog outside looking chilly and unhappy. I got a bunch of people and we built a doghouse in two hours. It was very funky and when it was done, the dog walked right inside. I love a project.

If you could have dinner with two famous people, who would you choose?

Jerry Lewis – I think he’s hilarious and a genius – and Tom Cruise. For years when

I wanted to get into a crowded restaurant I’d make a reservation for Chris Isaak and Tom Cruise. I’d walk in and say, “Is Tom here yet? Well, I’ll just order a chicken dinner until he gets here.” I think I owe him a dinner.

What travel experience is on your bucket list?

I’ve been to so many places, either singing or surfing. I boxed in Japan as a light heavyweight for a year. I’d love to go back and visit again. I might even remember some of the language.

How do you switch off?

I’m no Picasso but I love to draw cartoons. I have a desk in the cellar next to the washer and dryer. It’s really warm and I can sit and draw and listen to the radio and the world seems a very friendly place.

If you could turn back time, what would you change in your life?

Now that my father is gone, I wish I could walk in the front door after school and spend a day with my family. I guess you can’t go back but maybe in heaven... I’d better be good.

What is your greatest achievement?

My friends. I didn’t choose all of them – they just volunteered or stepped into my life – but what a cast of characters! That I’ve been able to keep them for so long is the best thing I have ever done.

Who is your personal hero?

My brothers.

Where would we find you at a party?

Designated driver, sitting near the icebox and the food.

If you were an animal, what would it be?

A Maltese! My best friend is a Maltese. I’d love to have a conversation with him in his own language. I bet he has good stories. I would love to know what he knows.

What would you spend your last $20 on?

The essentials: dog food, a snappy hat.

How would you like to be remembered?

I really don’t think anybody is remembered. Some of my favourite stars are sort of unknown nowadays. The world moves on. I bought my own spot in the cemetery after my dad died. I bought my dad’s spot and the adjoining ones. I realised then that

I know where I’m going after I’m gone – right back home. And that ain’t bad! 

Chris Isaak’s latest album, First Comes the Night, debuted at No. 2 on the ARIA Charts. He is touring Australia April 6-17. 

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