A CONVERSATION WITH JILL SOBULE (cont.)
JS: There was a certain innocence back there and then, too. I was just happy to fill half of The Bluebird. That was as far as my goals extended at that time.
PM: It was just all about the music. The chemistry between you and Michael Rhodes at those shows was awesome.
JS: I've got to play with him again. He's an absolute freak of nature bass player.
PM: Oh yeah, he's the guy with the shaved head running over the blistering sand dune with a spear in his hand thinking it's a good day to die. I've seen him play many gigs like each were his last on earth.
JS: When I did my first record, he came up to Woodstock, we did it with Todd Rundgren. That was a strange experience.
PM: I'm from Philly, so I know about Todd Rundgren, since the days of The Nazz. There were some really high spots on that first record, though fans of Jill could see that it was a Todd record.
JS: Although I don't blame Todd, because it was my first major recording. I think if I wanted to now, I could work with him better, because I'm stronger about my ideas and what I'm looking for. For instance, I'd do a vocal, and he'd say, "All right, that's adequate. Let's move on to the next one." And, you know, part of being a producer is to get the most out of your artist by making them feel special and getting their best performances out of them. And I talked to Todd's girlfriend, and she said, "For Todd, saying something is adequate means that he really likes it."
PM: I wonder if that's what he says in the bedroom too, then. [laughter] But there were some really great tunes on that record. And that disc was followed by a long and still ongoing relationship with Robin Eaton and Brad Jones [of Alex the Great Studios here in Nashville, often touted in Puremusic].
JS: Yep. Well, what happened was, before I got signed by Atlantic, I did these demos with Brad and Robin. Atlantic said, "Well, let's work with a bigger producer" and we did four songs.
PM: Who was this bigger producer?
JS: Well, he wasn't actually that big, Glen Rosensomething. But it was big budgeted.
PM: And was that a New York thing?
JS: No, it was here, but with big session guys. You know, it totally sucked. And my record became based on the demos we'd been doing, instead.
PM: Where the magic was.
JS: And, you know, you learn. Oh, and I did a record in between those two that never came out, with Joe Jackson.
PM: I just heard about that very recently. What happened to all those songs, did they reappear?
JS: Well, a couple did, like "Karen By Night," or "Trains." But I learned after that not to work with people whom you admire. [laughs] Your heroes. I mean, your childhood heroes -- because I greatly admire Robin and Brad, they're my heroes now it's home, and a great chemistry.
PM: On top of their production chemistry and the effects of the fine stable of players they use, there's the unique and fruitful songwriting relationship you have with Robin Eaton. Of your many cowriting relationships, that is the most fertile, right?
JS: Yes, I would say. I don't know how to explain what it is we have, or do. When we get together again, we say, "How did we write that last batch of songs?" I always like to write at his house. If we try to write, we can't write. But once we're just goofing off and don't care anymore, then something can happen. That's our routine. We try to write, get frustrated, and get grumpy at each other. Or I get grumpy at him, he's sweet. Then we write a song. After we say, "Let's just forget it."
PM: Is he more a lyric guy, or equal part music?
JS: No, both, it occurs organically.
PM: There are other cowriters I'd like to discuss, our good friend Bill DeMain, for one. Some of my favorite Jill or Bill songs were written together.
JS: He's such a great writer. We've written some great songs together this last month.
PM: Might some of them appear on your next disc?
JS: Sure, some will show up on their next disc, or mine.
PM: "One Sided" from the last Swan Dive CD [June, see our review] is one of my favorite songs anywhere, anytime. There's something so perfect about it for me.
JS: When we write a song with a lot of minor 9 chords, it stands a good chance of becoming a Swan Dive tune.
PM: And then there's Richard Barone. He's a Jersey cat, right?
JS: Yeah, he was in The Bongos. He's in NYC now, and has been working with Tony Visconti on his new record. But Tony just took a break to do David Bowie's new record Some of Richard's new record sounds very T Rex, it's cool. We hadn't worked together for a few years, and a couple of months ago we got together. Richard and I have a funny routine together, we work for a couple of hours, and then we go shopping. That's our modus operandi.
PM: Clothes shopping?
JS: Sure. Or this time, we did Christmas shopping. continue