One Voice: Steve Gadd & Edie Brickell

steve gadd and edie brickwell

DRUM!: Tell me about the actual recording process. What when down first, next, etc.?
E.B.: Well, it’s so live, those guys all play things right the first time. It is so, so live, and then Steve preserves the integrity of that live energy. But, please, I will let Steve say more. I just wanted to say that because I don’t think Steve would toot his own horn like that. [laughs] But that’s how it goes down. It’s amazing.
S.G.: It all starts out with whatever idea Edie brings in. Sometimes it’s a complete song. Sometimes it’s like an idea. And when the process happens, Eddie gets into this zone creatively, where it’s like there will be a bunch of things that she has already demo’d, and on the way in, she will write a completely new thing, and the choices are limitless. So, we listen to a bunch of things and we all just decide what’s the next thing we are going to work on. And then the process is, we just listen to Edie play it a bunch of times. And she’ll either play the demo, or if it’s a new one, she sits and plays it live. I listen to Andy Fairweather Low on piano and start learning what the chords are.
We all love the ideas that she plays originally on the guitar. They all become part of the arrangement. And then it’s just, for me, it’s about listening to the song and trying to find the way that it flows the most naturally, what kind of groove will make it feel the most comfortable – for Edie to sing and for us to do what we do. And from my point of view, Edie’s ideas encompass so many different kinds of music. It encompasses anything that she has ever heard, from funk to R&B to old jazz albums. I mean, all of those ideas show up in Edie’s songs, in my opinion, and so there’s a lot of different ways to cultivate them.
And then it becomes trial and error – then it becomes like, you know, how to make the form interesting. But it’s a fun process. I mean, I really love it and, and what Edie was saying about preserving the life – it’s like, in my experience, in the studio, over the years, a lot of the magic happens on earlier takes before the musicians are trying to just repeat what they did on the earlier take, while they’re still just listening and letting the music sort of take them for a ride. And so that’s what we try to preserve.

DRUM!: So are these mostly one-take songs or were you pasting some stuff together after the fact?
S.G.: Once we learn what the form’s going to be, you know, it’s a couple of takes.
E.B.: … “Look At Now,” was one of the very first takes, though. Steve wasn’t going start it with this drum roll, and I was like, ’Start it with one of those drum rolls!’ Because just when he’s playing around in the studio, you can tell he’s just listening to his drums, the way that he plays them, it just has so much personality, and I want him to always insert as much of that in there, because you don’t get to hear that as much on other people’s records. I don’t anymore, anyway. It sounds like all the older records that I love. So encouraging all these guys to play as much as possible and bring a lot of music back into recordings is very exciting to me, especially because they can all play it so beautifully live. I mean, so many of the records that I love to listen to are way back, like early Bob Wills, and Duke Ellington and, sort of, big band jazz era. You get a sense – or, Stéphane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt live at the Hot Club – the way that that energy comes through on those recordings is so different from newer records where everything does feel processed and layered. You get a sense of air in the music and the band, and Steve understands that and knows how to do that. And that’s a very exciting artist statement.
S.G.: It’s like an approach, and Edie’s voice, to me, is so beautiful that it challenges me to allow her to be able to just tell the story and not have to shout it. Just be able to tell it and not have to, you know, say it over someone else’s playing. It’s about allowing every instrument, including Edie’s vocal, to have enough room and not have to fight to be heard.

DRUM!: Steve, when you’re approaching this type of music, as opposed to if you’re playing something on the opposite end of the spectrum – fusion or something really instrumental, is the challenge really about leaving as much space as possible, or is it more about placement?
S.G.: You know what, the challenge is always to let the music play me. You know what I mean? It’s not about thinking about another kind of way that I used to play and if I should do that now or not. It’s just, when the music is so strong and the writing is so beautiful, it’s just about not making it happen, but more allowing it to just sort of grow and blossom. You find the right groove and the right approach to allowing the foundation of the song so Edie can sing the song, and then after that it’s all coloring it and maybe leaving some more space in certain spots.

DRUM!: You had mentioned Edie’s voice being a driving force. Do you find yourself playing differently to Edie’s voice than, say, James Taylor or Eric Clapton or somebody else you’ve played with, even if it’s a similar song structure?
S.G.: When I’m working with Edie I only think about Edie. It’s not about anything else that I’ve ever done. It’s only about trying to just be in whatever I’m doing. That’s it. It’s just about being in the moment. The thing is if you allow the music to play you, then it’s not about necessarily doing something that you’ve already done before. It’s like all of a sudden you could be doing something that you never did, which is the way I’d like to approach it, because you keep growing that way. I think that you go into the studio with a completely open mind.
When you work with musicians like this it’s just about allowing it to be, allowing it to grow, allowing people to share ideas. And these are guys that love music. I mean, Edie and all these people that are in this project are people that have been playing music their whole lives and people that love what they do and bring a lot to the table. And that’s what’s so beautiful about when we’re all together because there’s a camaraderie there and a certain love and respect that we all have for the music and each other. And I think that’s why we have so much fun when we’re in that creative situation.

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