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Patty Griffin

A Conversation with Patty Griffin (continued)

PM: I always feel that our subjects are uniquely revealed when they talk about their friends and their fellow musicians. So let's talk a little bit about a mutual friend of ours that you've performed and recorded with a great deal, the very musical Doug Lancio.

PG: Ah, you know Doug.

PM: He's a good buddy, yeah.

PG: Oh, cool.

PM: So tell me your feelings and impressions of him.

PG: Dougie... His wife Amanda says we're "Sonny and Cher."


PM: That's funny.

PG: She goes, "That's all right. I'm cool with it. I understand."


PG: I thought that was hilarious. She just told me that. Because I do feel like he and I have a communication musically that's pretty rare. And he's so tolerant. He's one of the most tolerant, patient human beings I've ever met in the whole world. On top of being a brilliant, soulful player, he will wait it out until you find your way, and he'll support that. He's my bandleader, and I couldn't really do that myself. But he directs unusually--he waits for the whole picture to appear to him, and then he goes forward. He's not ego driven, he doesn't have to convince everybody that he knows what he's doing.

PM: Yes, that sounds like Doug Lancio.

PG: But he knows what he's doing. And I think what's really sweet about him is that he doesn't even realize it.

PM: I first met him in the late 80s when, aside from just doing music, I was dealing Mesa Boogie amplifiers here in Nashville.

PG: Oh, really?

PM: And you had to kind of come to my house to try them out. So I met all the good guitar players in town at the time, and Doug was among them. You could tell, I mean, he was just really a kid then, almost--

PG: Yeah.

PM: He was still playing with the Questionnaires. And you could tell right away, just a few notes into him checking out an amplifier, that, oh, you're one of those guys...

PG: Yeah.

PM: You know?

PG: Yeah.

PM: And I even said to him at the time, I said, "You were good at the guitar right away, right? You were the kid on the block that got it right away." He said, "Yeah, yeah. I guess you could say that, I got pretty good right away."

PG: Yeah.

PM: He's in that very rare crowd. But let's pick two others out of this really sharp roster on the record and talk about them, how you feel about [bassist] Glenn Worf or [cellist] Jane Scarpantoni?

PG: Oh, man, Glenn is just like--I'm not really well versed in the great studio players. [Producer] Mike McCarthy hired Glenn to do upright bass tracks. He'd worked with him before. I work with a really great bass player J. D. Foster [who is all over the record as well] but McCarthy said, "Hear me out on this. You're going to really love what Glenn does." And he just sort of showed up.

When you're making a record, it's almost always chaotic, and you have no idea how this pile of mess is going come together. And there's something about Glen's demeanor and his ability together that started making everything gel for me. As soon as he arrived I went, "Oh, okay. This is going to be great. Everything is going to be fine." [Glenn is very calm and friendly, and can go from invisible to propulsive in seconds.]

I think the thing that really blew me away was when he did "Stay On the Ride." We worked him like a dog. We didn't have him for very long, so we worked him very hard. He came in on "Stay On the Ride," and that was his first take. He was learning the song, and I went, "Oh, my God, that's absolutely perfect." And of course, he's a great musician and he said, "That was my first take, I need to do more." And he did more, but we stayed with the first one because he just had such a great instinct and feel. He's a really intuitive and connected player.

PM: It's amazing what some people do on the first pass. So often it's just the one, before you think about it.

PG: Right, give me what came out of your heart and your instincts.

And Jane Scarpantoni is, wow, I mean, what can you say about her.

PM: Thanks--I've never met her, that's why I asked.

PG: She's a little tiny New Yorker. [laughs]

PM: Really?

PG: And she's just a lovely person. We already had put the strings down, and she came in after everybody and just kind of beefed them up and made them a little more--I don't know what the word is for it, but she did her thing to them. She has a thing that she knows how to do. A symphony cellist is more of a team player, and she's in situations where she's got to lead the way, as far as strings go; she has her own distinct personality, and it's really great, powerful.

PM: And speaking of strings, John Mark Painter [of the great Fleming and John] did a characteristically amazing job. Is he an old buddy, or was he a new friend?

PG: He's a new friend. I know I've met him over the years briefly in passing, probably at coffee shops and places like that. But I'd never worked with him. I'd been hearing about his talent for a long time. He was great. He did a great job on all of that stuff.

PM: So this new record, Children Running Through, even for you, is a particularly stunning recording. Do you feel it's the best stuff you've done so far?

PG: It's hard for me to say. When I talked to Mike McCarthy a year ago last July, we had a sort of map of what we wanted to accomplish with it. And I think he really paid attention to that, and kept me to it. And we went through the checklist. [laughs]

PM: Wow, that's interesting, the map.

PG: Yeah. I feel, personally, like the old classic recordings are just heads above anything new I've ever heard, as far the recording of vocals go. And that is entirely his school of thought. I mean, he's a vintage equipment person, and he spent months on EBay looking for the right microphones for this.

PM: Wow.

PG: And he really put time and thought into how to record it so that the vocal would have some semblance of the warmth that the classic vocals did.

PM: Was he using old RCA ribbon mics, or Neumanns, or...?

PG: We have one of those, and we have a big Neumann that we used, right, that kind of thing.

PM: I mean, he had a great singer to work with, but he got some really uncanny vocal tracks, for sure.

PG: Yeah, he's good.

PM: So how did you come to work with him? Where do you know McCarthy from?

PG: He's really good friends with a really good friend of mine here. And I've met him over the years.

PM: Now when you say "here" today, do you mean L.A. or Texas?

PG: Oh, in Texas. I've never lived in L.A., I just have an L.A. phone number. [laughs] Anyway, I know that he worked with a lot of different punk bands and boy pop bands and things like that, but I think it was really the engineering background that made me feel like I was going to be all right, because he's technically really proficient and gifted. And it turned out he's got some great arrangement skills as well.     continue

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