One Voice: Steve Gadd & Edie Brickell
On the eve of the release of Look Out Now!, the sophomore album from Steve Gadd and Edie Brickell’s side project, The Gaddabouts, we spoke with the pair about the unique bond of rhythm and melody that brought them together for the first time 12 years ago in New York, and led to this powerful 17-song, double-album follow-up.
Together with guitarist Andy Fairweather Low and bassist Pino Palidino, Gadd and Brickell craft lush, café-cool folk-rock gems full of airy, real-time energy captured in the almost-live recording scenario you’d expect from musicians of this caliber. Though Gadd – on conference call from Maui where he was kicking back for a little well-deserved r&r – produced the album and was the driving force in the band’s creation, the ever-humble drummer was quick to point to Brickell’s guiding hand as the band’s lyricist and chief songwriter. Brickell joined us from her home in New York, which she shares with husband Paul Simon, Gadd’s employer at the time he and Brickell first met back in 1992 when Gadd was out on Simon’s Graceland tour. And even from 5,000 miles apart, their conversation crackled with the shared enthusiasm and energy that comes through so crisply on the album.
DRUM!: Can you tell me about how the songs were built? Did you come in with a lot of preconceived ideas and prep, or was it a very organic in-the-studio, see-what-happens kind of process?
Steve Gadd: This last album was pretty organic. We just sort of came in and things just started to happen. Edie had some ideas, and they sort of evolved after we all got together.
Edie Brickell: Yeah, big time. You give these guys a little kernel of an idea … I’ve used this analogy so many times, but you give them an acorn, and within minutes you have a gorgeous oak tree with these guys. They fully realize the potential of any idea and make it so much bigger and better than anything you could have dreamed of.
DRUM!: Edie, when you’re writing songs, do you have a particular drum beat or pattern in mind, or are you strictly thinking melody?
E.B.: No I can’t touch that. I mean, I feel a sense of rhythm, but I certainly wouldn’t know how to communicate that. And Steve is so intuitive, and obviously the best there is, he just makes it swing and groove so hard. There was one song in particular called “Free,” that I came in, I was playing it super-straight, and he looked over at Dino [Paladino, bass], and said, “We’ve gotta make this thing groove.” [laughs] And it just transformed into this beautiful swing of “Free.”
DRUM!: Edie, when you come in with a song written, I imagine you have a particular tempo in mind. Are you married to that, or are you open to the idea of it getting faster or slower, depending on the band’s input?
E.B.: Basically Steve is the leader here. We play it how he feels it and hears it. He always hears things more on an enlightened level. [laughs] His instincts are just so on and so electric, he’s just a natural leader. He pulls everybody into this space that he’s in, and we all have a good time. And I’m not just saying that cause he can hear me. [laughter]
DRUM!: Steve, at this point in your career, I imagine when you walk into the studio, there’s a lot of trust from the other musicians, engineers, producers, even people whom you haven’t worked with before. But do you think people have a hard time telling you, “That part really didn’t work; let’s try something completely different.” In other words, do you think people have a tendency to defer to whatever you want to lay down?
S.G.: Nah, we share ideas. At the end, someone has to make a final decision, but I got guys together because of what they bring to the table and how much I love what they do musically, and also as people, as my friends. Because this is a special project that I wanted to not just hire people but I wanted to share it with them. And they’re respectful of that, so we all give two hundred percent. The goal for all of us is to allow the music that Edie brings in to be the best that it can be and to be what Edie wants it to be. And it’s like, as it blossoms, everyone sort of gets it along the way, you know what I mean?
E.B.: The personality of the players is what makes it so musical, though. You know, you can come in with any chord progression but it’s the personality of the players that breathe the life force into it. It’s like that Frankenstein lying on the table and the band comes and gives it the electric shock that makes him walk out of the room. [laughs]
They got the parts, but they need to be electrified, you know?
DRUM!: Edie, when you’re recording this stuff and playing it live, how important are the drums to you as a singer? Is that something that’s a subconscious addition where if it’s working it’s working, or do you find yourself actually focusing on the drum parts?
E.B.: Before I met Steve, it’s interesting, I always noticed singers, but I hardly knew what people’s names were because my introduction to music was my mom’s record collection. So I knew there were a lot of songs that I loved. Then when I joined a band, The New Bohemians taught me to pay attention to who the musicians were. I sort of started to hear those different personalities emerge, and before I knew who Steve Gadd was, I was very attracted to his records. And later, when I met him, then I found out, Oh my god, he’s the drummer on that and that and that and that, and I have always been a big fan. [laughs]
And yeah, I have been drawn to what he does, so the mystery of the magnetism of musicians to come together when you have always loved them is sort of an amazing gift and honor to be in that studio and play with somebody who I always loved, even when I didn’t know it.