At what point did you decide to utilize an orchestra?
Bob was the person who introduced me
to live orchestra. After he had written one or two arrangements,
we went into the studio and I heard the live orchestra, and I absolutely
flipped. Even the orchestral music, on its own, was so engaging,
and so emotional, and added so much more to the track. From day
one, the idea was to make an album that was so honest, so simple,
and so straightforward, that the songs themselves would tell Bob
and me how to produce them purely from their nature or style. The
idea was to use the natural ambiance of the room, and to avoid going
the route of modern technology, with digital effects and so forth.
We wanted the album to be warm, honest, and truthful.
When I first
started teaching myself how to play piano - God knows how many years
ago - I found that I loved the expression of the instrument, because
it got me into an emotional grove.
The album is beautifully produced. There are lots
of subtle things going on that don't get in the way of the song, and
yet they would be missed if they weren't there.
Absolutely. That was one of the problems
I experienced in the past. I felt a lot of the songs on earlier
albums got swallowed up by the production. There was way too much
going on, to the point that you could barely hear the vocals half
Was there a deliberate decision, at some point, to
stay away from rock-oriented songs, and stick to a lush sound?
Well, obviously, I find that the older
I get, the truer to myself I become. And I'm sure that on future
albums there will be [even] more classically oriented, ballad-type
stuff. When I first started teaching myself how to play piano -
God knows how many years ago - I found that I loved the expression
of the instrument, because it got me into an emotional groove. Long
before I began writing actual songs, I was writing improvisational,
20- or 30-minute classically oriented pieces. My main influences
were - and still are - people like Keith Jarrett.
A bit later, though, I started thinking,
"Well, if anyone's going to listen to me, then I had better
try to create a song.' It was a matter of teaching myself to knock
a 30-minute musical piece into something with lyrics and hooks and
so forth. So this album is really the first chance I've had to show
the other side of these things I've always loved. This kind of material
touches me more deeply than up-tempo pop stuff, and I find it more
challenging as well.
Does that mean that 'I Don't Wanna Know,' which has
obvious Beatlesque qualities, was a kind of concession? Were you thinking,
"Well, I'll give the Beatles' fans something?"
Oh, very much so. It was actually a
last minute decision to put that song on the album. After I felt
I had proved my self-worth as a writer - and felt comfortable and
happy about what I was doing - I thought, "You know, after
all these years of critics saying, "He sounds just like the
Beatles," or "He sounds just like his Dad," and my
shying away from that ... I mean, it was an impossible situation.
People were comparing one album of mine to the Beatles' entire catalog.
So I just decided, okay, I'll sit down and write a mid '60s Beatlesque
song, and sing it as close to Dad's nasal, throaty style as possible.
People were comparing
one album of mine to the Beatle's entire catalog. So I just decided,
okay, I'll sit down and write a mid '60s Beatlesque song, and sing
it as close to Dad's nasal, throaty style as possible.
And part of it, too, was that this
time around, when people say, "You know, you sound just like
the Beatles," or "You sound just like your dad,' I wanted
to be able to say, "Well, yes I do. Now that we both recognize
that, can we move on?" I mean, the comparison bit has been
done for over ten years now. The similarity is obviously there,
and I've come to terms with my influences. So the song was done
specifically for that purpose, and it was fun to do, really.
© 1999 Performing Songwriter