Erica Henderson Humans and vinyl records. They're like two peas in a pod. Like…
- Posted on Apr 12th 2011 10:00AM by Steve Baltin
What were you recording today?
I was recording a duet with Edie [Brickell], my wife.
Will people get to hear that?
We don't even know what will happen with that. We decided to start to document how we sing together. We have a really nice blend, so we started to put down a couple of songs. Eventually it'll lead to either a family album, just as a document, or something else. That's in the distance.
Was this album written in a concentrated period of time or do the songs cover a range?
Most people would consider it a wide range. For me, it's about the same all the time. It takes me about two years, two and a half years, something like that, to get 10 songs. Maybe I'll throw out one song. For me, it's average, but for most people, it'd be really a long time.
I don't consider it that long either. Even in the '60s and '70s, I didn't put them out that fast, nor did Simon and Garfunkel. It was really the Beatles who were able to do that, but with the Beatles, they had three songwriters. They had a lot of material [laughs].
If you were to even the score and put together a band of songwriters, who would be in the group?
I could probably work with pretty much anybody, really. I've already recorded with Stevie Wonder and I toured with Dylan, and we used to sing duets -- not very well [laughs], but we gave it a try.
You asked Dylan to sing on the new album, so it couldn't have been that bad.
It was not terribly rehearsed, put it that way. Actually, we did some songs really well, I thought. We did 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door' really well, and actually, we did 'The Sound Of Silence' really well. But when we started to do covers of other people, like Johnny Cash stuff or Dion or stuff like that, it wasn't overly rehearsed. We just went out and played.
What was the first song written for the record?
The ballads were written first; 'Amulet,' 'Love and Hard Times' and 'Questions for the Angels' were the first three songs written. Maybe that's part of its strength -- that I spent a lot of time on the ballads. I was interested in beginning from another premise than rhythm. When you start with the rhythm, if you get a really good groove going, you're perfectly happy to play one chord or just a few chords and just repeat it, like on 'Christmas Day' or 'The Afterlife' or 'So Beautiful, So What.' That's just the same pattern repeated, but they had good grooves and you don't need to get into a lot of changes on rhythm.
Were those the songs that emerged first, or was it a conscious decision on your part to try and start that way?
What happened was thinking back on ['Surprise'], the record that I made with Brian Eno, the record before this, and thinking about what I really liked about the record and what I wanted to continue to explore. There was a song called 'Everything About It Is a Love Song,' and it made a key shift that was really interesting to me in its bridge, and the chords that came out of it were interesting chords and not typical chords at all. When I thought back on it two, three years later, I thought that was really the most interesting thing to me, so I thought, "I'll try and start thinking about harmony again."
Is there anything on 'So Beautiful, So What' that you imagine could be the jumping-off point for the next album?
There's nothing on the album that I've lost interest in, so I have to wait for a while. Eventually, things will drop away and what's left is what you feel like doing again for fun and enjoyment, and that's the best way to start: relaxed and anxious to do something that's fun. One of the good things about not writing pop hits anymore is that I don't feel any pressure. I don't think what's going to be the hit on the album. I just go wherever I'm interested. Right now, the thing I'm most interested in musically is transferring the information from the album to the band and to live things, because that changes songs somewhat.
Lyrically, this record deals a lot with religion and spirituality. Was that conscious, or something that just emerged naturally in the writing?
Probably more the latter. I was very surprised myself that five of the first six songs had either god in it or some sort of religious reference, like 'Getting Ready for Christmas Day,' which is hardly a religious song. In fact, none of the songs are religious. They're not really about religion. There's a couple of them that are speculating about god.
I don't know where the impulse comes from, once the beginning of a song comes. I recognize when there is a line that is interesting to me, like when I began 'Love And Hard Times' with "God and his only son," I was immediately interested in the song because I was thinking, "Now, what am I gonna say about this?" Really, it's not even my religion. I don't actually feel I have any religion, but anyway, I wondered what it was that was going to come out.
Once the second verse came around, and god said, "We gotta get out of here; these people are slobs," I then said to myself, "The rest of the song is going to have to be a straight love song. That's just enough cynicism. We don't need to go anymore." That creates part of the tension that makes the last line of the song feel like it's a release and a relief. I didn't plan any of that. I never do. I don't write lyrics first, anyway. I write music before I write lyrics.
What would be the song you hear at the pearly gates?
The two records that are my idea of heaven are the Elvis Presley record of 'Mystery Train' and 'Bo Diddley,' by Bo Diddley. Those are probably my two favorite rock 'n' roll records.
Download 'Getting Ready for Christmas Day' (MP3)
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