Joss Stone, Dave Stewart Get Loose at Blackbird

Sep 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Blair Jackson



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Dave Stewart (foreground) with John McBride

Dave Stewart (foreground) with John McBride

In July, Stewart flew back to Nashville, and with McBride engineering in Studio D (a great API console–equipped rock room, where Grammy-winning albums from Kings of Leon and The Raconteurs have been cut) made Stewart’s entire album in just six days, employing scads of vintage gear. The regimen was that Stewart would write in the morning and then teach the band the songs. Around 1 or 2 p.m., they’d run it down once or twice and then record it live, usually getting a usable take in just a couple of tries. It was love at first twang!

“Then about 7:30 or 8, it was Martini Time, and it was hard to get too much done once Martini Time kicked in,” McBride says with a laugh. “But we’d do overdubs at night usually—background singers, whatever. In five days we tracked 16 songs and overdubbed most of them. A little later we got back together for five more days and we did more overdubs, mixed [on the vintage Neve in Blackbird A] and mastered this whole record. So in 10 days, essentially, we had a record. I’m not accustomed to working that way, and I loved it! It was intense but fun.”

Not long after that, McBride relates, “I get a phone call, and Dave says, ‘Hey, let’s put the band together and do a Joss Stone record!’ So we ended up doing the same thing with Joss Stone, though I didn’t mix that one. But again, the tracking was about six days; same guys, same kind of schedule—including Martini Time!

“After Dave’s sessions, these players were walking on air. They had such a joyful time making that music and just playing like a band. It got them out of the Nashville grind. So when I called about Joss, they were in immediately.”

“It seemed like an obvious thing to do,” Stewart says from his L.A. office. “In jamming with the guys, I knew they could play anything, and in fact they loved Stax and Motown. Michael Rhodes, the bass player, is incredible! But they all are. I knew that Joss had been feeling a lot of pressure in that pop-soul area, and it got to a point where she was getting frustrated. I knew she would have such a good time [at Blackbird] and would really enjoy the process and being surrounded by great players. When people have a great time in a recording environment, usually something sparkly happens. Then there’s also the fact that we get on so well, just as mates. We have a very similar attitude.”

Stewart and Stone have been friends for years and worked together many times. “When she was 16, I asked her if she would come and sing the track ‘Alfie’ at Abbey Road,” Stewart remembers. “Then I got her to sing a duet with Mick for that soundtrack [Alfie], and we became friends and we’d knock about. We’ve been making up songs and just hanging out—she’d come round my house and we’d enjoy ourselves. We’ve also performed together at various things. Then I asked her to be part of SuperHeavy, which has been going on for a couple of years, jamming and such. So we’re very comfortable together.”

Three of the songs Stone and Stewart co-wrote for LP1—including one they came up with during the SuperHeavy sessions at Henson Studios in L.A. earlier called “Newborn”—predate the Blackbird visit, while others were tinkered with and completed in Nashville, taught to the band and then tracked in the same manner as on Stewart’s album. Though Stone would always sing with the band, most of the keeper vocals were done later.

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