Q&A With Dwight Yoakam

Sep 1, 2012 9:00 AM, Mix, By Barbara Schultz


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So we kept trying different things, and then Jonathan Clark on bass did a little choked kind of gliss—just a two-note like a pulse, half fooling around with it. It was just a root, and I said, “That’s cool. Just do that. Stay on it.” That became the bed of the verse.

Then I turned to Mitch [Marine], who was sitting over there on drums, and said, “What would you play for a Beatle-like sound?” And he actually did something that was very tribal, and I said, “Hey, we stole a little bit from the Beatles, let’s steal more. Let’s put towels over the drums.” So we covered the drums. That’s the old Abbey Road trick on “Come Together”: to go beyond dead with the drum sound. So we covered the drums with towels, and that’s how we cut the verses. Then on the chorus, it releases: He pulled the towel off the snare drum and played it wide open on the back beat. I was in the adjacent iso booth at Paramount, and I was playing the electric guitar, but then I stopped and just instinctively went: I need to just sing it with those two. The first verse ended up just having little kind of accent moments of electric guitar—very subtle, just below the radar, not being played with any intent.

And all that led to a wonderfully happy magic garden to explore. By the second verse, there’s an organ pad that Brian Whelan’s playing underneath—really a growl—and then on the B section, he comes in with that kind of lullaby piano answer.

“Trying” is another example. On that, I sang a bass melody over the mic when I was sitting, just playing down the arrangement—playing the stack of the song down to them—and I said, “What if you went like this [hums a line similar to the intro to “My Girl”], and so [Jonathan Clark] started playing a variation on what I just sang, and it was great. I said, “I like that. Do that. Can you repeat and invert it?” With a live band, they become your fingers on the piano. They realize your direction. That’s what’s good about having musicians who are capable enough to let go of the orthodox approach.

Is arranging normally this collaborative for you?

Yeah. It’s just the nature of it. You don’t know till the day; you only have a blueprint. In previous albums, my former producer, Pete Anderson, and I would be very specific. We’d tell everybody exactly what we wanted: “On the second half of that verse, the dobro starts here.” It was more like an architectural rendering, whereas this was a more of a thesis treatment on arrangement.

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