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Willie Nile

A Conversation with Willie Nile

Puremusic: How do I find you this morning? Are you well?

Willie Nile: I'm all right, a little under the weather. I was not feeling so good yesterday, but I'm a little better today.

PM: What do you have for weather in the city?

WN: I think it's around high thirties, forty degrees, chilly out. But where are you, what's your weather like?

PM: It's nicer today in Nashville. It seems like forties, and pretty blue skies.

WN: We had a global warming winter, I guess. A buddy of mine said, "You know what? I kind of like this global warming deal."

PM: It's great to hear a new record from you. I'm a big Willie fan. And Streets of New York certainly upholds your reputation for excellence.

WN: Thank you, Frank. I appreciate that.

PM: A long time in the making, this one?

WN: Yeah--well, it took a couple years to make. There were a lot of starts and stops. I mean, it could have been done in a month and a half, really, but we had people traveling. Andy York, who played lead guitar on this, plays with Mellencamp--he has for eight or nine years, something like that.

PM: Did he take [Mike] Wanchic's place, or somebody else's?

WN: No, no. Mike is still with the band. I forget who he replaced, but he's been there for like seven, eight years. So he was gone for five months at one point. And I waited for him. He's worth the wait. And there were other things that--it was dragged out over a two-year period. But I'm thrilled with how it came out. It doesn't sound like it was done over time.

PM: No, no. It doesn't sound like that at all. It sounds like it was recorded in a week.

WN: Yeah. "Back Home" is me and the piano, just a live take, as is "Streets of New York."                                                

PM: I love those two tracks.

WN: Thank you.

PM: I mean, I like all the rocked out stuff, too, but those two tracks I really, really like, because you hear a whole different side of the artist there, where it's just him.

WN: Yeah. Those were just real quick, bang. And "Back Home," I played to a drum thing, but it was just piano vocal, and added a few things. "Streets of New York" is just me live. And even "Bo Diddley in Washington Square" is a live vocal. Larry Campbell's stuff was added, the fiddle and mandolin and the Cittern. And I think Fred Parcells, also, who played tinwhistle in "Black 47."

PM: Is Larry Campbell a friend of yours?

WN: Yes.

PM: I hear he's a major dude.

WN: He's a really nice guy, and a great player. I played with him when he played with Greg Trooper some years ago. I played with him in Norway with Trooper's band, I think it was '87 or something. And I knew him from the scene in the Village before that. What a great guy, and a great player. I was really happy for him for keeping the Dylan gig for so long. He's a master.

PM: That's a tricky gig, I imagine.

WN: That's what they say. I'm really lucky, [guitarist] Andy York is another master player. And my rhythm section, Rich Pagano and Brad Albetta--

PM: All those guys are just crazy good.

WN: Stupid good, for sure. Brad Albetta, the bass player--

PM: I'm such a big fan of his from like his work with the Wainwrights and stuff.

WN: He produced Martha's record and he produced Teddy Thompson's new record. A major talent. And Rich Pagano is a great drummer. I mean, they're all producers.

PM: Exactly.

WN: Rich mixed most of the album. Well, he mixed, I think, eight tracks. And so I mean, with a band like that, the four of us, basically, and then the additional players were Larry Campbell on two of the tracks. He played on "I'm Asking Annie Out" and "The Day I Saw Bo Diddley in Washington Square." And Jakob Dylan sang on the choruses of "The Day I Saw Bo Diddley in Washington Square." Great guy, Jakob.

PM: So they say, right?

WN: Strikingly so.

PM: Did you know him previously? He's a buddy, or--

WN: I had met him a couple years back when the Wallflowers were opening up for Mellencamp. And I was in Buffalo, so I went with my kids. And I went to see the show. And they introduced me to Jakob. I had met him years earlier when he was younger. And he said what a big fan he was, and influenced, and things like that, just very nice things.

PM: Really?

WN: And he said, "We should sing together." And so I asked him, and he couldn't have been nicer. I mean, he's a nice man, and a talented guy, great songwriter.

PM: That's an amazing cast of characters.

WN: Yeah. There's a bunch of different guys playing. Rami Jaffe, the keyboard for the Wallflowers, plays B-3 on "Game of Fools." And Rob Hyman from the Hooters plays--

PM: Rob I know. He just did a record on my brother Billy, in their Elmstreet Studios in Philly.

WN: Really? Rob plays on "Back Home," and on "Lonesome Dark-Eyed Beauty," does masterful work. I'm so blessed to have people like this playing. And blessed to have had some really strong songs.

PM: Great songs.

WN: Thank you. It was a joy. And I'm sitting on two more albums of material that are every bit in the same ballpark, every bit as good.

PM: Do you mean uncut songs?

WN: Yeah. I've got two more albums. I'd like to put another out in the Fall, if I can get to it. It's just not stopping, this writing. And I write with a friend of mine a lot, Frankie Lee.   continue

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