A Conversation with Lori McKenna (continued)
PM: And Bittertown, I know it's not brand new, but that's a monster record.
LM: I was just thinking about Bittertown this morning, because I was thinking about my son David's birthday tomorrow. Bittertown came out May 11th of last year, and David came on May 13th. And basically I was thinking how lucky I am, because I still love that record. I think a lot of people go through this thing where they make a record, and then it's the second thoughts, like, oh, I should have done this, or I should have put that song on, or all these things that you just second guess about.
LM: And that record, I'm just so--I keep telling people that I'm just happy that I got to be on that record [laughs], because I really am proud of it. I still love every song, and I love the way everything happened--I wouldn't change one thing about that experience.
PM: That's really unusual, that you wouldn't change a thing.
LM: It's so unusual. But then my next thought was, I'm ruined now. Because it's sort of like the first time--it's like falling in love, like you can't ever go back.
PM: "I'll never be that innocent again."
LM: I know, I know.
LM: But I really was just put in a great spot with Lorne Entress, who produced the record.
PM: What about him? That guy is magic.
LM: He really is. And I'm so proud of him, and I'm so happy that people recognize really the genius that he is, because he really can do no wrong. And he really can do everything.
PM: What kind of a man is he? What kind of a guy is he in the studio and otherwise?
LM: Well, that's the thing, too, you can almost assume that if somebody is that good with one thing, then there's got to be shortcomings somewhere.
LM: And maybe there are, but I've never noticed any. I mean, I met Lorne just a few months before we went in to make the record. He's a great human being, he really is. He's great to my kids. He's just a great guy. And in the studio, I can get scared pretty easy. But Lorne is a patient and loving producer. And he just takes something that's working and that's good, and he just steps it up, he just brings it up a level. That's what he does for everybody. He would sometimes say to me, "Well, just sing it again, not really sure why, but just sing it again."
LM: The critiquing was never there. And he'd kid around with Kevin Barry, who played all the bass.
PM: He's a silver-fingered devil, that guy.
LM: He's a great guy, and also a funny character. You put them all together, and it's a real good atmosphere. Because, really, being in the studio for twelve hours listening to myself, it sort of makes me want to jump off a bridge. So it's truly lucky when the people you're working with are super-talented and also very entertaining, it makes it fun.
PM: It's so unusual that a guy goes in and he tracks the bass and the guitars and the lap steel, et cetera, and it sounds really like different guys.
LM: Kevin is amazing like that. And he played some piano, too. Lorne doesn't have kids, but Kevin has kids. And Kevin and I would get in these conversations about our kids. Lorne would just patiently stand there for [laughs] a half an hour while we're going on and on about this, that, and the other thing. And then he'd say, "You guys want to make some music now? What do you think?"
PM: So is Kevin Barry a singer/songwriter, too?
LM: I think Kevin does write some songs. And he didn't sing much for me, but it turns out that--I've heard from other people that he is a great singer. He's kind of shy about his singing.
PM: Because Lorne did some really good singing on the record.
LM: Yeah, Lorne can sing anything. Lorne actually has a pretty impressive range. He can pretty much sing background to anything. And he did a lot of the background singing for the basics, for the tracking, that Chris Trapper and Buddy Miller ended up singing on the record. Well, with Buddy Miller, I think they pretty much just sent him the song and he worked his magic on his own.
PM: Did he just do it here in town? He did it in his own studio?
LM: He did. I don't know the technology, how it works, but I think they basically emailed him the tracks.
PM: Traded files.
LM: Yeah. Because Buddy Miller was going on the road like the next day.
PM: Yeah, Buddy sounded monster on that track.
LM: Oh, man, he's just...I mean, how lucky am I?
PM: I don't recall ever hearing him sing with anybody except Julie and Emmylou before.
LM: And Kasey Chambers.
PM: Oh, right, right. Kasey Chambers.
LM: I'm a Kasey Chambers fan. I got to open for her a couple years ago. And I sat there in the audience and thought, "That's what I want to be when I grow up." [laughs]
LM: And Buddy is on her records. But Julie Miller, that voice is just the greatest thing, and to hear them together--and just the fact that he took the time to do that, I was just so--I really am still just so happy. We already knew that that was going to be the first song on the record, and to have that voice on that opening track is just perfect.
PM: And it's the perfect track to start Bittertown, because it really opens the piece, like theater.
PM: It's almost like one of the players came out and set the stage for what the show was going to be, like Shakespeare.
LM: Oh, that's great. Yeah, everyone pretty much agreed that that was going to be first. And it has that great--the drum starting. Someone called it the greatest folk drumming ever.
And I thought, does that make sense? But it was. [laughs]