John Waite is having a rough morning.
It’s 9 a.m. on the West Coast and his French press just “exploded,” leaving him without one of his favorite beverages.
“It was leaking all week,” Waite confesses. “The side of it just fell out. It went kaput. The one thing I live for is coffee.”
Waite also lives for touring. This month he’s heading out on select dates with Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo. The tour, which features Benatar and Giraldo with a full band, comes to the Arizona Federal Theatre on Saturday, September 11.
The jaunt is among the few shows Waite has had since the pandemic began.
“It’s like we’ve gone to warp speed overnight,” says Waite, who fronted the Babys. “We did a private huge, outdoor show a couple months ago in Gilroy, near Sacramento. We’re doing another private event big deal in Dayton, Ohio.
“From there, I’m going to England to see my mum, finally. This is really serious. All the gigs that were moved. It’s all happening at once. I’ll be in Holland in September for a 10-day trip around Holland.”
He says he wishes everyone would get the vaccination and wear a mask.
“People are dropping dead,” he says. “Then they’re saying, ‘I was wrong. Get the vaccine.’ Famous last words. It’s common sense. I hope we can get through this in the next couple of months and have a tremendous new year. It’s just a matter of getting everyone on the same page.
“There are people who say, ‘You’re not going to tell me what to do. In doing that, they’re making it more dangerous to go out because they’re not vaccinated. It’s kind of selfish. I’d like to say something nice about it, but this is a pandemic. It stopped the world turning. This couldn’t be any bigger.”
Waite, who lives near the ocean in Santa Monica, handled the pandemic well. The water was soothing and reminded him of being “on holiday.”
“Red wine came in very handy,” he says with a laugh. “Well, a lot of red wine, but that got ridiculous. I put the cork back in the bottle.”
Waite spent the pandemic creating music. He recently released the third of a three-volume CD acoustic set, “A Wooden Heart,” which is selling well, he says.
“I can’t believe it,” he says. “I don’t know if people are just bored at home. We’re hard pressed to keep it in stock. We’re in the second reprint.
“It was a distraction during the pandemic. There’s also a documentary on yours truly that is being filmed. I had camera crews in the studio, in my condo, on the street. It’s a big deal, really. It’s a top-flight thing. They had two cameras at the same time, and makeup and people being interviewed all over the world.”
“A Wooden Heart” — along with his 1984 single “Missing You,” which reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart and Top 10 on the U.K. singles chart — is the focus of his set list in Phoenix.
“There’s a set list of about 25 songs,” he says. “Obviously, there’s a real urge to get behind the ‘Wooden Heart’ release. Because it’s selling that well, people are coming to the shows to see it.
“We stop in the middle and play three or four acoustic songs. We do Bob Dylan’s ‘Not Dark Yet.’ I’m pretty proud of that one. It’s a real commitment to do a Dylan song. It’s a lifetime of music. We stop and talk, and people ask questions. I walk out to the mic and hit the ‘on’ switch. It’s all about communicating with people.”
Occasionally, guitarist Kyle Cook from Matchbox Twenty joins Waite on stage and in the studio.
“Kyle and I are like brothers,” Waite says. “He’s in a whole new world in his personal life. He’s very creative.
“We met cold in a songwriting room in Nashville and just hit it off. I was wearing a black suit, and he was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. We couldn’t be any more different, but we had the same intentions musically.”
The two wrote three songs together and then went on the road after Waite’s 2011 album “Rough & Tumble” was released.
“We did a song called ‘Evil’ on ‘Rough & Tumble,’” he says. “That was us in his house in Nashville with one amp, one guitar, one mic and me playing bass. I was playing the groove from ‘Isn’t It Time’ from the Babys.
“He put the mic on the amp and played the Telecaster. We kept all of that and went in the studio and put real drums on it. He played the guitar solo. It’s the greatest thing. Isn’t it weird that you can get a song that you record in the spare room and it becomes a single?”
Country singer Tim McGraw originally had “Evil” on hold for two months, but when he passed on it, Waite and Cook recorded it.
“We were going to have this gigantic hit, but we threw it together in a closet,” he says with a laugh.
Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo w/John Waite
When: 8 p.m. Saturday, September 11
Where: Arizona Federal Theatre, 400 W. Washington Street, Phoenix
Cost: Tickets start at $48.50