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Garrison Starr

A Conversation with Garrison Starr (continued)

PM: I thought that the four CD-size cards inside the CD case was a really ingenious little idea.

GS: Did you like that?

PM: Yeah, totally cool, because I realized once I took the cards out that oh, you can make a different cover every day. "Oh, I'm tired of that cover, now I can use this."

GS: Exactly. Well, that was her idea. I can't take the credit for it, I have to say. I don't know if everybody has understood that. That was strictly a commercial thing, so the promotional gifts and copies have that, but the regular CDs don't.

PM: Right. Yeah, I wondered about that.

GS: But that was Sharal's idea. So it's nice to have somebody on my team who thinks like that, because I don't.

PM: Someone who has those kinds of ideas.

GS: Exactly. Well, I haven't really had a manager or anything at this point. I mean, Sharal is not my manager, but she does a lot of managerial duties because I don't have one. And she has done that, so she thinks like a manager.

PM: Well, if she comes to Nashville, or when I'm in L.A. next, I hope to meet her sometime, because she sounds like a real character.

GS: Well, I can give you her information. You should track her down. She would love that.

PM: Great, because my brother just got some new digs in Santa Monica, so I want to go and check it out...

It's the curse of advance copies that you never have any credits. So I want to talk about who cut these amazing tracks with you.

GS: Sure. I mean, Neilson Hubbard played and co-produced.

PM: Yeah, he's your partner in perfect crime, all the time.

GS: He's my brother, pretty much.

PM: But he not only co-produced but co-wrote the record this time, right?

GS: Well, not all the songs. I'll tell you the ones that he did co-write. We co-wrote four of them. "Understood," "Changeable," "Stay Home Tonight," and "Fireworks" were all co-writes with Neilson.

PM: Well, there's not a bad song in the bunch. But those are four really good ones.

GS: Thanks. Well, and then "The Girl Who Killed September" is actually Neilson's song.

PM: Oh, really? Oh, that's interesting.

GS: And I've always loved that song so much, and I wanted to cover that. And again "Gold Rush Heart" is Jason's song. So there are two covers on the record, which I'm so excited about.

PM: Now the last one was whose song?

GS: Jason Wilkins. Do you know him?

PM: Sure, though not personally. Wow, great song.

GS: "Gold Rush Heart" is his song. Neilson brought that to me and had said, "Dude, would you be open to like listening to a song to possibly cover it, because I just think you would sound great singing it?"

PM: Wow.

GS: Yeah, I just really decided for this project to be open. I wanted Neilson to produce it, and I really wanted us to go in together and make music, and I wanted to hear what he had to say, and really kind of take some direction from a producer for a change.

PM: And did you cut it at his place?

GS: Yep, the whole thing.

PM: Wow. And so who played? You and Neilson played, obviously.

GS: Yep. Kirk Yoquelet played drums. All three of us played drums, actually. Kirk and Andy Hunt. I can't remember if Neilson played drums on "Little Lonely Girl" or not.

PM: I love that song.

GS: I think we all four did. I wrote that one. The rest of them--the last four that I didn't mention are all mine.

PM: Right. Who played electric?

GS: Well, I played a lot of the electric guitar.

PM: Wow.

GS: Actually, Neilson did, too, and so did Andy Hunt, who engineered. Neilson uses Andy a lot. Well, Neilson is doing a lot more engineering now. But Neilson uses Andy on a lot of his records because he just gets great sounds. Andy was sort of a protégé of Jacquire King.

PM: Right.

GS: Well, Andy worked with Dennis Herring for a long time, but he worked with Jacquire King for longer. He kind of came up under Jacquire, and he learned a lot of skills from him.

PM: I see. Yeah, I got to meet Andy Hunt, because there are a lot of good electric sounds on this record.

GS: Most of that is Andy's work. I mean, Neilson did some engineering, but Andy engineered and mixed the record. I mean, Neilson mixed "Stay Home Tonight," and he mixed "Spectacle." But Andy mixed the rest of the record.

PM: So what was the preproduction process all about? Was there much of that?

GS: Uh-uh, not really.

PM: You just went in and cut it.

GS: Yeah, because see, Neilson and Kirk and I had been on the road together for over a year, so we went in and--I mean, I guess the preproduction--I guess Kirk and Neilson and I did little bit of preproduction, in that we talked about--because we built a lot of loops--organic loops, though, we made the sounds, with our voices, our breath, claps. Like "40 Days" starts out with those claps.

PM: Right.

GS: There's a lot of just organic loops that we built that started the songs, and that we would play to. Instead of a click track, we would play the loops.

PM: That's interesting. Why did you do that? That's such a cool idea.

GS: It was Neilson's idea, honestly.

PM: Organic loops.

GS: He just really wanted to do some kind of tribal percussive thing, he was into that, and he thought it would be a really cool way to do something different. And it was awesome, it was really fun to play to that stuff.

PM: Yeah, because I know I have a question coming up about those percussive vocal techniques.

GS: Oh, and I wanted to tell you, too. I forgot about "Brightest Star," that's a three-way--it was me and Neilson and Kristen Hall. I didn't want to leave her out.

PM: Ah. What's she like?

GS: She's awesome. She's hilarious, and she's a total character.

PM: Yeah, people say that she's just a super talented person.

GS: She is. She's totally a talented person. I mean, Kristen is truly a larger than life character.

PM: Wow. Now, she is the person that used to be in Sugarland, too, right?

GS: Oh, she started Sugarland. She wrote all the good songs.

[Then we, umm, discussed Sugarland for a little bit.]

GS: I'll tell you a funny story. Kristen, when she was first sort of percolating that idea, she told me about it. She said, "Dude, I'm going to start a country band, and I'm going to make a million dollars."

PM: Oh, my God. You could have been in that band.

GS: No, because I wasn't really what she was looking for. We talked about it. And she was like, "I'm going to go to Nashville. I'm going to make a million dollars and start a country band." And I was like, "Dude, good luck. Man, that sounds awesome." And I said, "I know you're going to do it. Call me when you do it." And she had said, "Hey, listen, what do you think about this girl?" And she played me some stuff with Jennifer Nettles singing. I said, "That voice is the most irritating voice I've ever heard. I hate that."

PM: Yeah. Right, truly irritating.

GS: Kristen goes, "But I'm telling you, it's what's going to make us rich." I was like, "All right..." Next thing I know, like a year later, there they are everywhere. It was crazy. Yeah, it's awesome. I mean, I don't know the numbers but to my knowledge, she's made enough money to be able to hang out for a little while at least. So that's really great. And I'll tell you, Kristen is a champion for her friends and for other people who she thinks are talented. She's generous in that way.

PM: Yep.

GS: She's not selfish with her talent and stuff. She really tries to get other people involved. I mean, she's brought me in on a couple projects with up and coming country artists who she thought were going to explode.

PM: Amazing.

GS: And I mean, the "Sweet Ride" thing, the song that's now getting licensed for Brothers and Sisters, that's a song that I feel really could go somewhere. And you never know, I mean, Kristen is demoing things, and turning songs in all the time. And Kristen has actually just made a record with Neilson, and one of the songs that we wrote is on it. So she spreads it around, which is a wonderful quality.

PM: So what's the record she just did with Neilson like?

GS: It's really pop.

PM: Oh, I got to get up with her, then. I got to cover that.

GS: Yeah, you should touch base with Kristen, because she's got some stuff going on. I don't think she's going to tour behind it, but she's not going to have to, because she'll be able to just--I mean, I would imagine she could sell several thousand copies of that without much promotion at all, just spreading the word around.

PM: Yeah. And she'd just be a good chick to know. She just sounds like a great person, and a real great artist and all that stuff.

GS: She's a gem, and you would love her. And I would totally recommend that you reach out to her.

PM: So this Girl that Killed September record, how long did that take to track at Neilson's this time?

GS: Two weeks.

PM: And how did you do it? What did you cut live? Or did you just--

GS: I'm trying to think. First of all, there was a rule on this record that I could not play acoustic guitar. The only way he would let me play acoustic guitar--which was fine with me--but the only way he would let me play acoustic is if I played a lead or some part. He really wanted to get away from the strumming Americana thing.

PM: That's smart.

GS: Well, he was like, "That's the only way that we're going to able to construct these songs in a different way."

PM: And to get a pop sound out of it, you've got to get away from that Americana strum. Right.

GS: Exactly. So that was really fun. And it also forced me to have to think outside the box. For instance, I played piano on "Little Lonely Girl." So that piano stuff is me.

PM: Great.

GS: And I'm not like great at piano, but if I practice and poke around I can get stuff together.

PM: Yeah, make the right sound.

GS: Yeah. That song is not one take, but it was close because I really worked at it. But it forced me to have to pick up other instruments and do other things. A lot of the record wasn't really cut live.

PM: Right. You just put it together piece by piece.

GS: Yeah. We tried to get--what we would do is build a loop, and then we would sort of get a vibe going. We would record some things as if--if we got keeper stuff, that was great. And actually, I think we might have done "Fireworks"--that vocal was going to be scratch vocal but we kept it because there was an energy to it that we couldn't beat. So that was actually live.

PM: Yeah. And I'm not one of those guys that thinks that, oh, to get the sound you've got to all be in the one room, cut it live. Bullshit. It's a painting. You don't have to do it all in one stroke. Every record's different.

GS: Totally. Well, and I've done that. Like The Sound of You and Me, there was a lot more stuff cut live there. And part of the reason for that was that Alex the Great [Brad Jones and Robin Eaton's studio in Nashville] is a bigger studio. Neilson's place is really small, and it's tough to get like one live track because all the tracks bleed together. You really have to commit to that. Most of the time you have to plan that out in advance, because of the bleed factor.

PM: Yeah, and you can't fix anything that went down bleeding, right.



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