Q&A With Dwight Yoakam

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


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How did you end up doing the writing collaborations on this album?

On track one, “Take Hold of My Hand,” I had the basic chorus and that opening laying around unfinished for 20 years. I came up with it originally in ‘90 or ‘91. Then Kid Rock and I had threatened to do something together for a while, and he lives out here on the West Coast some of the time. He was here for a few days, and he said, “You want to come out?” And I said, “Sure I got something.” Well, I happened to find this, and I went,”I haven’t thought about that thing in years.” All I had was: [sings] “Take hold of my hand/And I’ll do what I can/And make everything right/At least for tonight.” And I think I had the beginning of the second A section, too: “Press your lips against mine/And I promise to find/A way out of the pain/Someplace safe from the rain.” But we had to figure out what the rest of the song is about. That’s what we did that night.”

On “Never Alright,” Ashley Monroe came to my office and she had this idea that was just that: the words “never alright,” and a melody that went up; it ascended. I listened, and I said, “I think that’s one I might be able to saddle up and ride, but would you consider letting me shift the melody, maybe make it descend? And she liked it, so I said, “Okay, what if we go over to E minor instead of C [like she had it], and I liked that because there’s more of a melancholy moment to it. The song led us the rest of the way. We stared it down, and about four hours later we had the song.

Are you just always writing songs—is it a constant part of your life, even when you’re not working on an album project?

Yes, it’s been that for me for a long time. I feel like somebody with wool socks, wool pants and a wool jacket walking through a briar patch. Always collecting song ideas.

You had several mixers work on this record, which is maybe more common in the R&B or pop world than in country music.

Yes, we listened to some different mixes of some of the songs. Marc and I would listen, and sometimes Lenny would be the deciding vote if I wasn’t sure where something should land. In the end, Chris Lord-Alge mixed some things. David Leonard mixed the title track. I’d never done that before, where I’ve had, in this case, four different mixers, but it leant itself to the emotional journey of each track. Each guy would mix in a different way. You would have a different fingerprint, and in some cases you end up with something that sounds more raw, or has more air in it, more aggressive. There’s space that might not be there where some of the others would mix.

Also, I don’t think we would have gotten “Waterfall” mixed without Chris. He just nailed it. He got it. It was an interesting bit of an education for me in, again, being open to allowing others to translate or interpret my material.

Barbara Schultz is a contributing editor to Mix.

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