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Willie Watson

A Conversation with Ketch Secor of OCMS (continued)

PM: Speaking of Rawlings and Gillian, I really thought that was an amazing record you guys just made with him. [David Rawlings produced the new OCMS album.]

KS: Well, thank you.

PM: I mean, that's a fantastic disc. How far do you and the guys go back with David Rawlings?

KS: I guess the first time that I was ever made aware of them was when I was in high school, when I saw them play in concert about ten years ago. I saw them open up for David Grisman and thought they really stole the show.

PM: And was that around here, or--

KS: It was up in New Hampshire. So that's when they made themselves known to me. And we made ourselves known to them on January the 12th of 2001, when we made our Grand Old Opry debut at the Ryman. They were listening to it on the radio. Like a lot of players in Nashville, if you're not working on a Saturday night, you're probably at home doing your laundry with your loved ones, listening to the Grand Old Opry.

PM: [laughs] Really?

KS: Yeah, that's what I do, and play cards.

PM: That's great stuff.

KS: So they heard us play our couple of tunes there, and that's when we registered with them as a band.

PM: So that show--what turned out to be a fated show at the Opry--how did you get that gig?

KS: Well, through a whole lot of other twists of fate, Marty Stuart got us that gig. And it all kind of started when we met Doc Watson on the street corner. That was sort of our big break.

PM: That's an amazing story--that his daughter saw you playing in front of a pharmacy in Boone or something?

KS: Right. That's right. That's how it went down.

PM: That's rock 'n' roll.

KS: Yeah. And a lot of things like that have happened. The way it happened, it's like bing, bing, bing. It all involved these players who took us under their wings. And it's kind of a classic approach to being in a country band in Nashville. Sometimes I think it sounds too made-for-TV to be real.

PM: [laughs] And some of those players involved were Doc himself, Marty Stuart, and then Gillian and David? What other musician buddies gave you a hand up along the way there?

KS: Definitely my friend Tom T. Hall.

PM: Really?

KS: Yeah. Tom came out to a bunch of our shows and was really supportive of us when we first got to Nashville.

PM: Wow. An unlikely group of people.

KS: Well, it might seem unlikely in the fact that none of the music is the same, and that the characters are very different, but the one thing they have in common is that all of those people have hearts full of country music. They're all about music. And whether it's country music, or whatever it is, each one of those players is a real life musician. They're the kinds of players who are going to play all their lives and are going to be constantly contributing to the body of American music.

PM: Right to the grave.

KS: Yeah, yeah. And that's what I'm setting up here as well. That's what the Old Crows are hoping to do, whether this is as a band or as individuals, or however it falls.

PM: That's the kind of guys you are.

KS: Yeah, we want to be like that. We want to be like the mainstay.

PM: That's a beautiful thing. What kind of a producer was David on the disc? There are so many kinds. What was his role?

KS: Well, Dave just told us to play it again.

PM: [laughs]

KS: He didn't have a lot of fancy stuff in there. I mean, it was a very natural environment, both at Studio B and at Woodland.

PM: Have they changed Woodland around much? Gillian and David acquired it at some point, right?

KS: Right. They bought it about two years ago.

PM: Yeah.

KS: They recorded their album Soul Journey there, and that was the first album made at Woodland in probably 15 years. And then ours was the second.

PM: It's exciting. I mean, they really get into the historic rooms, B, and then Woodland. Michael Rhodes once said to me, "Oh, that's the best live room in Nashville. That's the one, Woodland."

KS: Yeah, it's very sweet.

PM: And as a producer, David wasn't, like, getting into the arrangements--was he big on mic placement? Who was engineering? I forget.

KS: The engineer was Matt Andrews. He tends to do a lot of his work over at the Sound Emporium for some big name acts. But he's a fantastic guy. He's from up in Coshocton, Ohio. And I'm a Buckeye myself. So we like to talk about Clinger and stuff like that together.

PM: [laughs] And they had incredible old microphones and shit like that going on?

KS: Yeah. Great old microphones. I guess one of the things that Dave did in the production sense is he created this thing that sort of looked like a swingset--we called it "the rig," and it refers to the microphones. We're a live band, and in our live set, you'll see us with a whole lot of microphones in front of us. Dave's microphone setup had all these great big booms and all these huge stands and racks. So it looked like we were squaring off against some kind of like futurama machine, with all these angles and metal and steel poking out at you, with all these funny old mics and--

PM: And you just step up to the rig and let it rip.

KS: Yeah, that's how it went down. It's all live. There are a couple of things that we had to do a few overdubs on, but primarily the record is an entirely live record. And it was pretty much up to us to make the sound come alive. It came alive because we made it that way.

PM: The group just jumps like a son of gun, it's fantastic.  

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