Up until recently, Joseph Arthur wasn't sure he wanted to put out a full album of Lou Reed songs. Was it too soon? Could he do the songs justice?
But now with the release here, Arthur, who was friends with the late Reed, is feeling pretty good about the way the album turned out. That wasn't always the case, though.
"As it came to releasing it, I kind of got pretty afraid of it all over again...but so far, it feels like the reception to it has been pretty great. So now I'm feeling more confident about it," Arthur told CBS News.
Reed, the influential punk-poet of rock and roll, died on Oct. 27, 2013, at age 71. Arthur had been on the road for three weeks at the time, and when he returned, producer Bill Bentley floated the idea for an album of Lou Reed covers. So, Arthur entered his home studio in New York to see what could come of it.
"I started recording it in a simple way and it just seemed to work, so I just kept going," he said. "It was a way for me to process, mourn and celebrate Lou at the same time. It felt rewarding on a personal level."
"Because I was by myself and it was a personal undertaking, I didn't really have any fear...You don't know if anyone's ever going to hear it, so you kind of have a fearlessness about it," Arthur continued.
His experimentation turned into stripped-down versions of Reed's songs with Arthur performing acoustic, bass, guitar and piano. "I decided I wouldn't have any electricity and no instruments plugged in and keep it very minimal. I thought that kind of brought something very unique to it," he said.
He didn't belabor over which songs to record either; everything came pretty naturally. Prior to last fall, Arthur had only performed Reed's songs live once -- while at SXSW during a tribute to Reed several years ago.
"I really didn't over-think it," he said. "My initial thought was to just do more obscure ones. But as I was doing it, they were coming out so different so I was like, 'Let's try Walk on the Wild Side.'"
The 12 songs on the collection, titled "Lou," also include "Dirty Blvd.," "Heroin," "Wild Child" and "NYC Man."
"'Wild Child' was the last song that I recorded for the record," Arthur recalled. "It was a little bit more difficult than the other ones had been...It was a bookend. The first one I did was 'Coney Island Baby'....I feel like the record has a really good flow and it tells a story."
Of "Wild Child," Arthur said, "I think it adds a great energy on the record because it's a bit up and it's funny -- more of an exuberant song. I think it's early in his songwriting and he's exploring characters. It's surreal."
A longtime fan of Reed, the 42-year-old singer-songwriter was first introduced to the rock-poet at New York's Club Fez back in 1996 when Arthur was performing a live audition for Peter Gabriel.
"Peter Gabriel brought him to my show...to see if he was going to sign me to a label," said Arthur. "We had dinner afterwards. And I just saw him through the years...and we became friends later after we started to hang out a lot."
Reed's music continues to inspire Arthur today. As he works on a new solo album (it's being mixed right now) and another RNDM project with Pearl Jam's Jeff Ament, Arthur keeps little nuggets of inspiration from Reed close by.
"He was really into words that were strong and true -- not too much alliteration and flowery stuff...That's stuck with me just hearing him talk about that directness. His poetry was just so direct...He was very funny and sweet," said Arthur.
When asked what Reed would think about his "Lou" album, Arthur said, "For me, I would be honored and flattered and touched if somebody did that with my music, so I guess I kind of feel like it's OK to do it. There's no way to really know if he would like it or not, but I feel like he would. It's an odd thing dancing around death but it's something we all have to do. It's a natural part of life."
Arthur says he's looking forward to performing the songs while on tour this spring and summer. He's still getting the live versions down and doesn't intend to make these upcoming shows full-on Lou Reed tributes, per se, but fans can expect a few tracks from "Lou" throughout the set.
"To me, Lou is such an in important force in music that it's cool to really take a moment and really celebrate him the way I can," said Arthur.
Check out this exclusive video premiere of "Wild Child," recorded at Arthur's home studio: