Jonathan Wilson is a busy man, most recently producing Father John Misty’s third album, Pure Comedy, plus appearing on Conor Oberst’s Salutations and Roger Waters’ Is This the Life We Really Want, in addition to serving as musical director (and lead guitarist) on the former Pink Floyd member’s massive tour last summer. And amidst all that, Wilson (above, performing “Moses Pain”) somehow managed to make time to complete his third psychedelic-folk gem of an LP, Rare Birds (stream it below), which just dropped this past Friday. “Musically, Wilson serves up a heaping helping of psychedelicized, occasionally spacey, generally measured and reflective rock, often indebted to late Beatles/early ELO, prog, glam and mid-period David Bowie,” says American Songwriter. “A strikingly original, complex and inspired work, one that requires your attention and rewards repeated spins.” And according to NPR Music, “You can tell that Wilson is a student of rock and pop in all its forms, and at the same time he’s an utterly original and irreverent thinker who’s evolving with blinding speed. Rarely have those qualities been balanced as elegantly as they are here.” But, of course, his music is best experienced live and in the moment, and touring behind the new album, Jonathan Wilson plays Music Hall of Williamsburg on Wednesday night. Queens duo the Shacks open the show.
Tag Archives: Roger Waters
Lucius return to New York City to play SummerStage in Central Park on Friday night, and Holly Laessig, one half of the band’s lead-vocals tandem, rang up The House List, from Oklahoma where she and Jess Wolfe were rehearsing for singing background for Roger Waters at Desert Trip, to answer Five Questions.
Plenty of musicians change their sound from album to album. Was that a clear intention in moving from the folkier Wildewoman to the poppier Good Grief? Or was that just how your sound evolved? It’s funny. People comment on how different the two are. But Wildewoman was recorded over a few years, and we were in no rush at the beginning because we didn’t have anything to be rushing for—we were just starting out. And we took our time and made it right. We came out with Wildewoman and we had kind of put the band together throughout and after making that record. So when we toured on it, things started to change, and the sound started to change. And the show got a lot more energetic, and the audience was reacting a lot more to the show than the record. People commented a lot how the live show and the record sounded so different, and that the live shows were so much more energetic. I think by the time we got to the end of that cycle, it was where Good Grief was picking up naturally, but from just listening from a record standpoint, there does seem to be a bigger difference than it felt like.
How was recording Good Grief different than recording Wildewoman? We took a different approach to it. We got off the road—we had been touring for, like, a year-and-a-half straight. And we were exhausted, and we decided to go to L.A. to kind of decompress and start writing. So Jess and I took a few months to write, just the two of us. And we would send the guys rough demos and then they would do their own versions of the same song—and kind of build arrangements around them. So when we went into the studio, we had at least two versions of everything. And we worked with Shawn Everett—he did the Alabama Shakes record with Blake Mills—he’s like this crazy alien angel person [laughing]. He’s one of our really closest friends, and he’s always got these wild ideas. So we were really excited to get into the studio with him. He had an idea to make communication easier with five very strong personalities in the studio. To kind of smooth things over and to get everyone’s voice heard, he thought it would be helpful to come up with a bunch of reference tracks: “For each track that we’re gonna work on, think of a song that you think could influence this.” So it could be “I like the sound of the tone on this Rolling Stones track.” Or “I like the way these vocals were recorded on this West African tune.” And we would all pick one or two songs and put ’em in a box, and he would pick them out one by one—it was all anonymous. And we would listen to everything, like 10 to 15 songs, and write down on a dry erase board everything we like about each one. It could be very specific, as far as a recording technique, or it could be more vague, like a feeling. And once we had this dry erase board of notes, we would then start working on the song. So it was a really interesting way of going about it, and I think we got a lot of good stuff we would’ve normally not even considered.
How did your appearance on Roadies come about? And any chance you’ll be adding “Willin’” to your set list? I mean, I don’t think we could top singing that with Jackson Browne, so probably not. Fair. Rafe Spall, who is one of the actors on Roadies—so the story goes: Rafe’s friend Rafe, which is hilarious to me. The first Rafe I ever met, and I met two of them in one day. His friend recommended our music to him, and he was playing it one day on set. And Cameron was like, “Who’s this?” And Rafe said, “This band Lucius.” And he said, “Well, let’s get ’em in here. See if they want to do an episode.” So we met him, and he’s the nicest guy ever. And we said, “Yeah, absolutely, we’d love to do this.” It was a really cool experience. It was really inspiring to see Cameron Crowe as a director and a leader. Everybody who was there, from the actors to the makeup people to the crew people to catering—everybody—was like, “Yeah, we work really hard, sometimes we work late hours, but we’re happy to do it because Cameron’s the man.” And he really was. We had some lines, and I was incredibly nervous about it because it’s not what we do normally. So there was this one line, and I was like, “This isn’t how I’d normally phrase this.” And I was trying to get my head inside it so I could say it the right way. And I asked him, and he said, “Let’s go over it.” And he dropped everything and took me aside, and he would’ve gone over this, like, one line with me for as long as I wanted—very, very patient. It was great, and we got to sing with Jackson Browne, and Jim James was on the set. It was cool.
For some bands, live shows are like a theater piece in that the set doesn’t change much, but the performers are aware of the subtle nuances each night. And for others, every night’s show is different than the one before. Where do you land on that spectrum? Like as far as each night being different? Yeah, I mean, a band like U2, they play pretty much the same set most nights, but it’s not the same show obviously. But someone like Bruce Springsteen or Pearl Jam, they change their set every night. I guess for each leg of a tour, we tend to stick generally to the same set. Some songs we change a little bit, but it’s nice once you get into a groove to stick with it, the transitions go more easily. But every show’s different regardless, especially because of the audience—not to put it all on the audience—but the vibe and the venue and the city, everything can really make a break a show for the performer. If your audience is really giving back to you, and you’re bouncing off of that, sometimes we have funny banter or things can change, or we’ll decide let’s do this song instead because they’re liking the up-tempo ones. So occasionally, it’s just, like, fly by the seat of your pants. But it’s definitely nice to get into a groove.
What new music have you been listening to? We’ve been listening to the new Angel Olsen record a lot. It only came out a couple weeks ago, I think. We’re excited to be playing with Big Thief in Central Park. And I’m stoked to see them ’cause I love that record. I love Alabama Shakes. We went to see that show at the Greek, and it was so good. That’s a good one to groove to, for sure. Was that with Kurt Vile? Yeah, and I love that record too. And Kurt Vile’s on the bill for One Big Holiday in February. Oh, yeah. That’s gonna be so fun! —R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog
Tags: Angel Olsen, Big Thief, Blake Mills, Bruce Springsteen, Cameron Crowe, Central Park, Desert Trip, Five Questions, Jackson Browne, Jess Wolfe, Jim James, Kurt Vile, Lucius, My Morning Jacket, One Big Holiday, Pearl Jam, Preview, Rafe Spall, Roadies, Roger Waters, Rolling Stones, Shawn Everett, SummerStage, U2
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Love for Levon: A Benefit to Save the Barn – Izod Center – October 3, 2012
Levon Helm is a towering figure in American music and the main reason a band, well the Band, that was actually four-fifths Canadian could be considered quintessentially American. After Helm was diagnosed with cancer, he began hosting Midnight Rambles at his home barn/studio—ridiculously intimate affairs filled with music that kept onlookers smiling for days. And despite Helm’s passing, it was clear that the barn and the Rambles would continue. But, of course, there are bills to pay. So last night at the Izod Center, a monumental group of performers—those who had worked with the Band, performed with Helm or appeared at one of those fabled Rambles—gathered to pay tribute to the musical icon and help raise money to finally pay off the barn.
There were far too many talented people involved to list everyone, but the night started with a bang as Warren Haynes, backed by the Dirt Farmer Band, did a rousing version of “The Shape I’m In” before Gregg Allman joined him for a riveting “Long Black Veil.” From there a cavalcade of stars, including Bruce Hornsby, Jorma Kaukonen, Marc Cohn, the Wallflowers and Allen Toussaint, appeared. Lucinda Williams said, “God bless, Levon Helm. His spirit lives on,” after concluding “Whispering Pines.” And then the fist set closed with John Hiatt and Mike Gordon doing a lively “Rag Mama Rag.”
And while that first set was particularly great, the second one was something special. Highlights included Ray LaMontagne and John Mayer on “Tears of Rage,” the Dierks Bentley–led “Chest Fever,” with Garth Hudson laying down the winding “Genetic Method” organ intro, and Larry Campbell eliciting a big crowd response to the “Drink all day, rock all night” line in “Tennessee Jed” as Mayer rode shotgun on guitar. Then somehow the ante got upped once again. First, a jammy “Up on Cripple Creek” with Joe Walsh and Robert Randolph (“Jersey boys are here,” proclaimed Walsh), and then the house band ceded the stage to My Morning Jacket.
The five-piece launched into “Ophelia,” with the crowd throatily singing along, and “It Makes No Difference” before bringing out Roger Waters and G.E. Smith for “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Of course all of this was just a lead up to the night’s inevitable conclusion, everyone onstage for “The Weight.” Longtime Levon Helm Band members Campbell, Teresa Williams and Amy Helm rightfully took the first verse, accompanied only by Campbell’s guitar. And then Mavis Staples sang, and then Allman and Haynes. And then Grace Potter, Eric Church, John Prine, Jim James and everyone else took turns trading verses across the stage, before turning to Waters, center stage, singing, “You know I’m a peaceful man,” with smiles everywhere. It was hard to tell who was having more fun, the people in the crowd or those onstage. It was just one of those nights. —R. Zizmor | @Hand_Dog
Photos courtesy of Joe Papeo | www.irocktheshot.com
Tags: Allen Toussaint, Amy Helm, Bruce Hornsby, Dirt Farmer Band, Eric Church, Garth Hudson, Grace Potter, Gregg Allman, Izod Center, Jakob Dylan, Jim James, Joe Walsh, John Hiatt, John Mayer, John Prine, Jorma Kaukonen, Larry Campbell, Levon Helm, Lucinda Williams, Marc Cohn, Mavis Staples, Mike Gordon, My Morning Jacket, Photos, Review, Robert Randolph, Roger Waters, Teresa Williams, the Band, the Wallflowers, Warren Haynes
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Sometimes you want to see an all-star lineup of musicians performing together, and other times you want to support a great cause. But with tomorrow’s Love for Levon: A Benefit to Save the Barn at the Izod Center, you can actually do both. American icon Levon Helm may be gone, but his musical legacy and studio, home to the Midnight Ramble, remain. And so we’re all trying to pay off the barn together. The star-studded Love for Levon lineup includes Roger Waters (who counts the Arkansas Razorbacks baseball cap Helm gave him among his most treasured possessions), My Morning Jacket, Gregg Allman, Garth Hudson, Joe Walsh, Bruce Hornsby, Mavis Staples, Allen Toussaint and John Prine—plus a host of others, and maybe even some surprises, too. This is most certainly one not to miss.
Tags: Allen Toussaint, Bruce Hornsby, Garth Hudson, Gregg Allman, Joe Walsh, John Prine, Levon Helm, Love for Levon, Mavis Staples, My Morning Jacket, Preview, Roger Waters, Video
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