A Conversation with Chris Botti
Mike Ragogna: Chris, recently, you played the national anthem and it not only made national news but you also brought Reggie Wayne to tears. That must have been an amazing moment for you.
Chris Botti: I think I did one interview with the Indianapolis newspaper after I performed that, you're the first person to ask me about it since then. But in my career, I've been very fortunate to have some really nice, freaky things happen, like Oprah Winfrey wants me on her show or something like that. Who would've ever thought in a million years that the cameras would be somehow fixed on this legendary football player on the exact moment that he starts tearing up? If I would've just played the anthem and that hadn't happened then they would've just said, "Hey Chris, nice anthem." It would've just been that. The drama of not only him being affected like that but also the TV cameras catching it is just the wildest thing. You practice millions and millions of hours playing trumpet and then this one thing comes along and everyone remembers, it's so nice. A lot of credit is due to David Foster for playing those beautiful chords underneath me. I kind of had a backseat role in all of it, but it was pretty thrilling.
MR: For most artists, just performing the national anthem on Monday Night Football is pretty intense as it is.
CB: Yeah, and I've done a few of those. I did the AFC Championship and countless other regular football games for NFL, and I did World Series as well. Those are always really fun opportunities to play.
MR: Chris, you have a residency coming up at New York City's Blue Note between December 15th and the first week of January, and not only are you playing but you're having guests a slate of special guests join you. What's it like to take over the Blue Note?
CB: We tour about two hundred fifty, three hundred days a year. The band is a well-oiled machine in that respect. We have a very serious outlook on gigging and performing, so for us to come to New York at that time of year, which is always special, and then to play that legendary jazz club and do forty-five shows in twenty-one nights--I think we're doing a couple of days where we have three shows in one day--it's a rush. And you don't have to get on an airplane so you can walk to work. It's fantastic. This is our tenth year, so people have come from all over the world to make December fun for them in New York. It's taken a lot of time for us, traveling around the world, where we were in Istanbul last month or Republic Of Georgia and everyone's like, "We'll see you at the Blue Note in December!" You get a feeling that the word has actually spread and people will actually come to the show. It's really a nice feeling.
MR: So It seems like if you're an established artist and you don't have Chris Botti on your project at some point or you're not duetting with him on one of his records then you really haven't quite made it yet. I think that's the rule now.
CB: [laughs] That's hilarious. From your lips to my manager's ears.
MR: Why do you think there's so much demand for you?
CB: There are a lot of jazz musicians that don't have a real appreciation and affection for certain styles of popular music. A lot of jazz musicians might work with a singer because they think they'll get more exposure, but it's not resonating from their core that they enjoy playing with singers, but I love that. My first gigs were with Paul Simon and Frank Sinatra years ago. I like the way my trumpet sound leans up against the voice. Obviously I've had so much success, but it's because I like it. It's been my way into a whole audience of people who may not know about jazz. Most jazz musicians don't really go to the playbook of popular music, they walk on stage and look at their feet and play music and sometimes I wonder if they even are dialed in with what the audience is thinking. I've worked with so many popular musicians that I learned a lot from them and in return I think when they sit in with us and play with us and make music with my band we show them in a very flattering light, the sound is really good and we take care of the great arrangements and stuff like that. I think word spreads that we're a good act to be associated with. I think that's probably the long and short of it.
MR: Did I mention you made Reggie Wayne cry?
CB: Honestly, I've been shaking my head for the past week and a half since that happened. I'm in disbelief, it's lovely. There again, if Reggie Wayne hadn't been affected like that, it would've just been, "Hey, nice anthem." It's the power of television and the power of that situation. It's really nice.
MR: What is the state of jazz, in your opinion, these days?
CB: I'm slightly selfish or cynical, I'm not sure what the right word is. For instance, if you were interviewing John Mayer, you wouldn't necessarily say to John Mayer, "So John, how do you compare to Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones?" When that exploded, or when The Beatles came out, there will never be a time like that that's going to affect rock 'n' roll again. The way information travels now and the way that there's no more mystery, in a lot of sense, to an artist... When Michael Jackson got up and moonwalked for the very first time in the twenty-five-year Motown reunion, he wasn't on Entertainment Tonight and tweeting the next day. You had this unbelievable mystery behind this incredible artist. That's the way it was with jazz. We romanticized a lot of the artists, Miles Davis, John Coltrane. I don't think jazz or rock 'n' roll will ever be that way. So getting back to John Mayer or getting back to me, my job isn't necessarily to say what the state of jazz is, or even comment on it. My jazz is to make sure that I've got Chris Botti fans. That's really all I care about. That's there it gets selfish. My job is to walk into a venue and play a show and when we leave that venue the only real currency I have anymore musically is how long it takes for that venue to call us back and rebook us. That's it. Grammys, all that stuff aside, that's why we value the blue note. We keep going back because it keeps growing and growing and growing and growing and you can see it and you can hold on to that. I went and saw Wynton Marsalis at the Lincoln theater last night, I'm a big fan, I love really talented jazz musicians, I think it's great, but for me to comment on the state of what's happening with that trend of music it wouldn't be honest, because really I just kind of care about my own band and my own career. I think it's a good, healthy selfishness, but that's what I get into.
MR: That's fair. The only reason I bring this up to an artist like you or David Sanborn is because you guys have inherited the mantle of those artists that are considered major jazzers.
CB: Well, thanks for that. That's very nice. David Foster said a great quote to me one time, he said, "Michael Bublé will never be Frank Sinatra, he's just trying to make sure there's no one between him and Frank Sinatra." And Bublé's kind of running the business now. I've just been super fortunate to have been associated with the right people and keep a sense of myself. I think ultimately if I could just crystallize what I was longwindedly saying, I think your job as a performer is to make sure you're the only guy in your lane. Wynton and I play the same venues, but we're totally, completely different. I'm not trying to be in his lane at all, whereas there are countless other jazz trumpet players that are exactly in Wynton's lane and they're behind him. If you want a pure bebop trumpet player you're going to go to Wynton Marsalis. There's countless others that want to be in Wynton's lane and are in Wynton's lane, but he's at the head. If you use references like Sanborn, I think when he really blew up on the scene around '85, he had his lane. There are countless saxophone players that try to sound like him, they stand like him, they hold the horn like him, it's crazy, man, but he's held his lane. He has a really identifiable imprint. When you hear his sound you know it's David Sanborn, and ultimately for an instrumentalist that's what you want to resonate with an audience, you want to have your sound have a real imprint on someone so they say, "That's Chris Botti, I got it." Maybe that's happened.
MR: What do you feel is that Chris Botti "sound" or imprint? I know as an artist, it's difficult to verbalize that, but are there aspects of your playing that you've identified as being especially "you"?
CB: I think for the most part, it's purely sound. The trumpet doesn't care about the national anthem or anything, it's just going to beat you down every day. So you need to practice it hours and hours and hours a day, otherwise it will take control of you rather quickly. You can't screw around on the trumpet. You've got to be able to tame it and play it beautifully. A lot of trumpet players are concerned with other things, but I've always been someone that holds first and foremost the tone of my instrument. I think that's what defines you as an instrumentalist, David Sanborn being a great example. It's harder on other instruments to have that super unique thing. On a piano, anyone can play a note, they just strike it, but on the trumpet it's much, much more difficult. Sometimes you can't get a note out and it takes months and months and months and months and months. So because of the wind and the closeness to vocal quality it can give you a personality rather quickly. Most people don't have a great personality in the trumpet because it sounds like a marching instrument. That's really been my focus, to make the trumpet sound beautiful, and I'm unapologetic about that. A lot of guys want to be edge or whatever, but I want the trumpet to sound beautiful.When we hit the stage we go crazy and do all the macho cha cha, but when I do it on records I want it to sound pretty, I want it to sound elegant.
MR: How much does improv take over? What is the ratio of structure to improv for you?
CB: First of all, if someone comes to my show and thinks that I'm just going to play the stuff off of my record, they always go, "Holy s**t, we had no idea that it was going to be like this." The reality is if you go see Lang Lang or you go see Joshua Bell play a classical concert, people stand up and they freak out when they play all the super flashy Paganini chop stuff. They go crazy for it and it makes them stand up, but when that same audience leaves and they go home, what do they listen to? They listen to Chopin's Nocturne, or Brahms. If you relate that to jazz, when I make my records I want it to be elegant and beautiful make people get emotional about it, et cetera, but when they come to a show? Sure I wan to have some of that beautiful stuff in it, but I also want them to rock. I want them to feel like they saw a great trumpet player, the band is appealing, we're stretching all the boundaries of what we can do with the stuff and they have a show with an actual pace to it, an up and down and up and down and it moves from classical music to jazz to R&B and rock and moves around like that. That again is what's going to separate me from someone like Wynton who comes out and just deals the swing and deals with it beautifully, right? That gives us our own unique flavor to a show and I believe that no one else is doing it like that. That's what gives us an audience all around the world.
MR: Getting back to your residency, what do you think is behind the legacy and magic of the Blue Note?
CB: Well, first of all you're literally jammed into this tiny little club, it's only two hundred fifty, three hundred fifty people? You're waiting outside in line and you come in and get this lovely vibe from the actual audience resonating on the stage. I'm right on top of the tables that are sitting right in front of me. There's no distance, you're just literally on the stage. It's wonderful. People come in and they're just excited and then when you hit the stage you're not dealing with just projecting out to an audience, they're literally on the bandstand. They're privy to conversations we're having or fun we're having, they can see the expressions so well. They love intimacy. We have people from all over the world who come to our shows and they come back and say, "Man, we loved your show in Istanbul," or "San Francisco, but it's so cool to sit so close at the blue note and feel the energy from the audience." This is just very unique. No other time of year is like that for us in that unique fashion than the blue note, it's just a very unique place.
MR: And, of course, guaranteed, you'll be slipping in Christmas material because, after all, it's the holiday season?
CB: Eh... I quote a couple of songs because it's the season, but there are enough people doing Christmas tours. We just kind of do our show. We don't necessarily do a lot of Christmas stuff. One of the reasons it was so nice to do the Blue Note at Christmas was because I looked at the map and thought, "Every act is doing 'so-and-so's Christmas Tour.'" I thought, "Well this is great because I can just go to New York and stay away from touring America in December when everybody's going to want to go to so-and-so's Christmas Tour. It's been really nice to not have to do that and to play music and have people come from around the world that are into it.
MR: Chris, what advice do you have for new artists?
CB: Right now it's much, much, much more difficult than when I was coming up. I would say that the generation before me said it was much easier for them than it is for me. Because there is really no more record industry and it's all cascaded down the cliff a young artist really has one option, and that is that it has to resonate organically. In other words they need to impress literally the person in front of them at one little club and hope that somehow it grows organically from there, because if you don't have that ability to make people talk about you then it's probably not going to happen for you. And all the other stuff, the fame, or having a record contract or any of that other stuff is just kind of in the cards or not and it's something that you just don't know. Nowadays more than anything you need to focus on, "Are you impressing the person in front of you while you're singing or playing?" The record business is done. It's sad, I don't know how it happened, I just look at it and see talented musicians all the time and I go, "Wow, I don't know how they're going to get out there."
John Mayer and I got signed to Columbia Records the same year. We became friends over the last year and he said something really interesting to me in about 2008 when we were hanging out. He said, "You know what? If you had an audience by 2007 or right now, you have a shot. Otherwise the garage door is closing." As the years have rolled out, he's really right. There's always going to be one little bubblegum pop star that rises to the top, but you're talking about an industry that's lost eighty percent of its revenue. Put that in coal mining or gold or the stock market or anything--Can you imagine if the stock market went down eighty-five percent? I don't mean to be too doom and gloom, but it makes me wonder. And at the end of the day the thing that will resonate is playing live gigs and being able to do something on an excellent level. That's always going to be there and that rings good for people that really value their craft. What I would say to a young person is really go back to the basics and be true to you instrument or your voice and really try to be as organic and unique as you can. That's really what you've got to hang your hopes on, and it's worth hanging them on.
MR: What you said about emphasizing playing live truly makes you good at your craft. It forces young artists to make sure that they know their instrument and not just how to program a computer or know production techniques, though they also have their value.
CB: And I think I'm--in a weird kind of way--living proof that there is an appetite for people that want to go to a concert at night and see real musicians dealing, playing their instrument on a high level. We brought up people like Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon, Sting--When Sinatra was on stage he's turn around and see Count Basie. When Paul Simon was on stage he'd turn around and see Michael Brecker. When Sting was on stage he'd turn around and see me or Branford Marsalis or whomever. And they cared and they spent huge amounts of money on hiring the best possible musicians that they could find to be in their band. The Rolling Stones, too. They hire great sidemen to be their bands. Nowadays? The kids that are coming up don't have any appreciation for that at all. They care about dance moves, they care about how somebody looks in their band, but they're not going out and finding a Michael Brecker to be in their band, or a David Sanborn.
The whole way people value the currency of what goes on up on their stage is different. Most musicians are either playing to backing tracks or half backing tracks or their dance moves are super important. I've got news for you. Frank Sinatra wasn't dancing around the stage because when you dance around the stage, you breathe really heavy. It's just changed. John Mayer's one of the guys who still really values music. He has Steve Jordan in his band, Pino Palladino... He goes for the best and that's why he makes good records and that's why he's a good live act. I think he's the Sting of his generation. He makes really, really good records. If you listen to the architecture of his music, each song has a real clever guitar hook and of course the songwriting's excellent and the singing's great. He knows what he's doing, and that's rare now. It's really, really rare. A lot of things have become about something else, but he's an old school guy and I dig him for that, I think that's fantastic.
MR: Beyond the Blue Note Residency, what's up in your future?
CB: We're filling up 2015 pretty quickly. Really I probably don't know what's on the horizon except for touring. In October we just went out and did nine countries in a month. It's so nice to see finally a real strong foothold in touring abroad internationally, and being able to carry my band. My band is nine people now. We come in with a concert violinist and two singers, it's a show. To be able to travel the world with that band, a lot of jazz acts have to pick up local rhythm acts and play standards, but I can come in with my full show and incredible musicians in the group and feel so lucky to be able to do that, and at the same time I'm sitting around watching the record industry fall apart, so I feel really lucky to be able to do that. So right now 2015 is going to be a real, real busy year touring, and at the end of the year I'll probably start thinking about making another record or doing another TV special or something.
MR: So Chris, how many Grammy wins are you up to now? 30? 40?
CB: [laughs] One of my records won a Grammy a while ago and then I won another for producing a Brecker Brothers record and then two years ago Impressions won for best instrumental pop. Like I said, when an actor gets their academy award they walk on stage and that's their moment to shine, that's fantastic, but I believe that a musician's night to shine is every night they walk on stage. Tonight I'm going to play Newark, New Jersey. We're going to walk on stage and there's going to be twenty five hundred people. That's your Grammy. You've got to be really focused on how that is your award. To walk on and entertain those people and then leave and have them happy, that's your Grammy. Actors don't get that. Not movie stars, they get press junkets and Kraft Services. They don't get the immediate response from their audience, that feeling of the applause. That's why the Academy Awards are so huge to them, that's when they get to feel an audience. I walk on stage every night. You know when the New York Yankees go out and touch that little thing? I kind of mentally do that every single night and feel super, super fortunate to be able to do what I do.
MR: And another perk--or reward, or virtual "Grammy"--is being able to call the Blue Note your home for three weeks.
CB: I always refer to it as summer vacation. Roseanne Cash wrote a great OP-ED in The New York Times a few years ago about how in summer vacation all their friends are having barbecues and stuff like that and musicians work. You never get a summer vacation as a musician; you're touring. In a weird flip of the switch we look at the Blue Note as our summer vacation because we actually get to enjoy one place for a long time and it feels like home and we have a great time. Of course we're working really hard, but that doesn't matter, it's really fun for us. We enjoy it a lot. We always say, "Welcome to our summer vacation" when we take the stage.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
A Conversation with Madeleine Peyroux
Mike Ragogna: Madeleine, since your latest project is a retrospective, let's start from the beginning. When did the desire to become a recording artist begin?
Madeleine Peyroux: I never really thought of it. When it first started, it didn't have anything to do with the thought of making records. For some reason that was sort of a taboo for me. I had gotten copies of other peoples' records growing up and I knew it was out there somewhere, but perhaps it's because my dad was so involved in the theater that I always envisioned things in the context of a stage and a live performance and a life audience. Recording was a big leap, and I guess it still is, but I think that the whole idea of it was sort of a mixture of music itself seeming to have some kind of pacifistic environment attached to it. It was already a place of solace for me, and a combination of a way to socialize and meet people and learn what was out there without being completely destitute. In some ways it was just a way to survive.
MR: Yeah. And it was in the house, right?
MP: I suppose so. The irony is the only thing my dad didn't do artistically and creatively was music. The one place where I had some kind of sway over him as the head of the house was when my mother and I could play songs and he would just be quiet and stop complaining or whatever it was that he was doing at that moment. Music was a safe place. My father's influence was based on what he had been doing for a living up until the point where we came into the world. He taught film and theater, drama, he produced and acted in his own plays in college as a teacher at various universities. He's an academic but very much involved in the theater. He did his thesis on ancient Greek theater. There was a lot of creativity in the household, from theater spreads poetry, literature, philosophy and even drawing and stuff like that, but in music he apparently had not been able to find his self-confidence, I suppose. He would either play records over and over again or listen to us play songs from our little songbooks.
MR: So mom was more of an influence with your musical interest?
MP: That's true, yeah. She didn't get a lot of say in what was going on around the house besides at that point, so yeah, for me it became a place of solace and safety and security and all that stuff.
MR: Was childhood challenging?
MP: Childhood was tough, yeah. I used to be very eager to grow up and have freedom and self-responsibility and authority and things like that. I left home pretty soon after I saw there was a place I could go, when I met street musicians when I was a young teenager.
MR: Do you think they inspired your wanting to perform?
MP: Well, I think I always loved playing music, but then I discovered that there was such a thing as stage fright when I got out playing on the street and I realized no matter where you go you're on stage. But there was a community of musicians and performers and other various creative folks that would hang out at this one cafe. I did everything at once, sort of. I joined this street band and I started hanging with all of the people I could meet over there at the cafe, I left home and left high school and jumped in without any expectations in terms of a career, but I think that I was pretty clear about what was going to make me happy.
MR: What about you getting discovered? What's that story?
MP: The way that it happened was that this street band had a few connections back in New York, namely the leader of the band, Dan Fitzgerald was an old New Yorker from upstate. For whatever reason we decided we'd come to New York for a couple of months, it was fall or winter time of 1990. We did a benefit for some guy over at a place in Midtown and we played a bunch of little clubs around the city at that point. Unfortunately, it's not that easy to come over to New York and just play a bunch of little clubs nowadays, but maybe it's a little bit more similar. But somebody saw me from Atlantic Records, a guy named Yves Beauvais, he wrote the liner notes for the Best Of. I think he tells the story of that night from his perspective. I was just in New York for a month, I was able to see my father again after several years and just hang out. It was easy! Then the fact of the matter was that I didn't understand what it would mean if somebody were to come up to me and say, "I want to make a record with you." I remember meeting Yves Beauvais that evening and saying, "Well, I'm going back to Paris tomorrow, so I guess that's not going to happen." I certainly didn't have any expectations for any of this. Eventually I became overwhelmed by the street life and couldn't do it anymore and ended up back in New York City where I got a phone message from the same gentleman, Yves Beauvais and it was about two years later and he still wanted to make a record. So I said, "Well shoot, I have nothing else going for me, I might as well try.
MR: Did he take that same stance with you?
MP: Yeah, he really did. He co-produced the album, but he also sent his secretary on the road to help tour managing when we did our first road trip, he came out to drive the car a few times although that wasn't such a good idea, but he was great.
MR: [laughs] Wait, now I have to hear about this car ride!
MP: Well at the time he had been living in New York for a good fifteen years and I don't think he'd ever driven before. [laughs]
MR: Madeleine, when Atlantic stepped in, what was going through your mind? How did you absorb the experience?
MP: I was a little bit in shock by the opportunities afforded me. I got to meet James Carter and Cyrus Chestnut because they just happened to be in the Atlantic studio. It was awe-inspiring. For a long time, I walked around with my jaw wide open and without any idea what to say to people. Once the record was done, I kind of resigned myself to the thought that this would be my only record ever and that I would have to just accept that it was a great experience and move on. Then we took off! We started touring, and then the realization that this was going to become something bigger turned out to be more problematic than the opposite.
MP: I don't know, perhaps because I wasn't as prepared. I had really no idea what to do next. It was halfway though the year when somebody told me that I should be working with a manager in order to help deal with all these things and to think things through and figure out what we're doing next. So we did that, but it became a very provisional relationship that didn't go anywhere. I think once that was all done I went back to where I was before, which was this mindset of, "What should I be doing?" and then realizing that this is the only thing that I really can do, at least at that point. I hadn't finished high school, I'd gone back to get my GED before I signed with Atlantic. Beyond that, I didn't really have any plans. Having a plan seems like a really big part of having a career.
MR: For many, yes, but also a lot of it is luck and being in the right place at the right time, right?
MP: I really was! And the fact that the music industry is so different now is a constant reminder of how lucky I was to get involved with someone like Yves in a time like the early mid-'90s, right before the end of any cultural center to a music business. Aside form all the incredibly complicated and difficult issues that surround intellectual property and big industry and small industry and technology and all of those things, there's this culture that I feel has been missing now as a result of the financial problems that we have in the music business. It's just gone.
MR: And I imagine keeping up on social media needs a lot of attention and that's in addition to the energy it takes to be an artist.
MP: Yeah, and part of that is because of how the attention span has changed. The whole idea of a long-playing record is obsolete, too. Sequencing is out.
MR: Maybe given the shape of social media platforms, it's easier to market a single than a whole project. You remember how expensive that used to be? And whether you're using an LP or a single, you're still using that same amount of time to tell a story or unfold what your craft or art is.
MP: Uh-huh, but a story should be able to last longer than three minutes.
MR: Speaking of telling stories, this assembly of music top to bottom tells a particular story of your career. When you listened to this top to bottom, what story does it tell about you as an artist?
MP: I've tried to be part of the legacy of the Great American Songbook from the later twentieth century. As a singer I've tried to continue recognizing what American culture has to offer in popular song. That sounds pretty grandiose, and I don't mean it to, I'm trying to be as specific as I can manage.
MR: And what kind of a mirror is it for you?
MP: Well it does paint a sort of melancholy picture. Or if not melancholy, nostalgic. There's something that can be very wonderful that can be taken from that, and that's why I think I've always felt comfortable with that. But it also gives me a lot of perspective on what's lacking there. In order to really have a full picture of a human being, which I think is always the main question for any artist of any kind, "Did I cover everything? Did I get a full picture?"
MR: What do you believe is your contribution with your body of work? All of it, not just your Greatest Hits.
MP: Oh God, all of it? I'd like to think that this feminine and gentle and understated character that American women are seeing in pop music is deeper than we've given it credit so far. I guess one of the main things that I've tried to do is to reach into male songwriters and say, "How much of this is really universal and can be seen from a feminine point of view and can revive our understanding of the American woman in a way?" I think that the amount of conflict and pain that we all have to deal with can be somewhat softened and made more digestible if we look at how all of these things are universal across the sexes. I think that was important to me from the very beginning, to understand who this female character is, who she is, for everyone. And isn't she tough, tough enough to say the same things that man says about everything, about love and life and sex and pain.
MR: Beautiful. You're also in the musical lineage of folks like Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell...and you can hear your love for Billie Holiday in your recordings. How does it feel to be in those musical bloodlines?
MP: Well, if anything it sounds very daunting. Very scary. It sounds like a challenge, really. You're talking about songwriters, and I'm talking about interpreting. Laura Nyro and Joni Mitchell are people that represent a certain female aspect of performance, too. I think Billie Holiday had that same toughness; a lot of the early blues women had that same aspect of depth, like Bessie Smith. They made you realize that this is a woman that could be able to talk about anything if you'd listen. I only see myself as part of the legacy because of the chronology of the time I was born and what I grew up with and where I live and how I live.
MR: Maybe I'm just getting the vibe of the artist alone.
MP: Yeah. I would just say that it would be my greatest desire, really to have been able to say something real and true in that context.
MR: Madeleine, what advice do you have for new artists?
MP: Make sure you're enjoying it. The bottom line is always going to come down to whether or not you're enjoying what you do, no matter how you do it. Beyond that, try to do one thing at a time. [laughs]
MR: Is that what you would've told yourself when you were starting out?
MP: Yeah. Sure! I think focusing on one thing at a time would've helped me a lot because I think I would've spent less time worrying about the big picture without actually doing anything about the big picture. I think that focusing on one very tangible goal is a blessing for anybody. It's hard to find out what that should be, but that should change over time. I think I've drifted a lot. In a way, that's given me a whole lot of artistic joy, because that leaves the mind a lot of room to wander around. ON the other hand I think that I have a lot of unfinished projects and unfinished concepts or songs or poems or ideas that have not been executed and I don't know if that means that they're good or bad, but I think that finishing something is part of the whole process of being an artist and being able to step back and say, "Okay, that's done now." That's been one of my biggest problems, letting go.
MR: What will you be working on in the future? It sounds like you might already have an idea.
MP: Does it? [laughs] I have a few ideas of different kinds of things I could do in the future, but at the moment I'm throwing songs around to see about another recording that I feel might go much closer down to a bare bones style of recording with a lot less production value and a little bit more elbow grease to the sound.
MR: [laughs] We talked about Joni Mitchell, you worked with Larry Klein, her ex-husband and a famous producer with acoustic artists. What was the creative environment like working with him?
MP: He's sort of a master of the double-edged sword. He's very organic and allows for a lot of spontaneity, but he also has an extremely precise concept of what's going to come about before we go into the studio. I also enjoy the fact that I don't need to know what that is very much. I don't think that he tells anybody what the whole end result is going to be like. I think he has a sort of mystical approach in a way, where he believes that a certain type of person is going to fill a certain role and something that comes from them personally but also something that follows his minimalist attitude. I think that's the perfect marriage. You've got a minimalist producer who's willing to give the vocals a whole lot of room and then you've got a producer who's willing to give a musician freedom.
MR: You were talking before about more minimal, are you going to be more independent in how you release your records in the future?
MP: I have no idea. I just have some ideas for what direction the next record I'd like to make will take sonically and songwise. I don't have a grand scheme or anything other than, "This is going to have to be fun." It's going to have to be fun and it's going to have to be pared down with not a lot of instrumentation.
MR: I want to ask you one goofy question, since this was kind of a deep interview. What is something fun that most people don't know about you? Like are you secretly a marathon runner?
MP: [laughs] No, I wish I were. It's the opposite, I'm a movie addict. I just sit and watch movies constantly and try to explore as many as possible. I'll never get there. I'll never cover them all. Classics of course, but foreign language films especially. I don't think that that's so surprising thought, really.
MR: Did you ever get the acting bug?
MP: When I was a teenager, I was in love with acting. We had a wonderful little production company at high school in Paris in the American section of the high school. I acted in a couple of Chekhov plays and I was really looking forward to playing the lead in a very, very dark play about Thomas Payne, a very odd sort of Brechtian approach with a whole lot of lines. I was really gung ho for it and it was exactly that month that I found that I was going to have to change schools or drop out because otherwise I'd be expelled for not going to class. It's all my fault, but I was heartbroken. I think I left my acting dream right then and their. Left that behind because I didn't have another opportunity since.
MR: But that's why God invented music videos.
MP: [laughs] Yeah, so far so good.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
TWIN HIDDEN TAKE ON LORDE
According to the Twins...
"This is our attempt to get Lorde to invite us to her next birthday party. We're already dressed and ready to go. It's long been a dream of ours to attend one of Lorde's birthday parties--regardless of the vibe--close-knit family group etc.. She's been a strong influence on us from the start. We loved her original, and we've been wanting to dive head-first into the deliciously sparse and atmospheric sound-world she creates. When we did the cover, we tried to draw out more colours and tinker with it mischievously. Particular colours we had in mind were red, orange and yellow. We hope that she approves and we expect our invitations in the mail."