Was there something about that place that was particularly inspiring?
It was really about being in the space. Originally I was just going there to hang out and write—kind of take a little vacation. I filled up my car with some gear and went up there. Dave and I got together, and in the first day we wrote four songs that are on the album. I knew this wasn’t just throwing stuff at the wall. We were really getting at something.
So once you felt that, you started making the album?
We literally ran around town filling Ryan’s station wagon with gear. Everyone in town knew Lettuce. Everyone knew Soulive. All these people started coming by the studio. Nigel Hall was in town. The London Souls were there. It was like this weird vortex, and we were just having a blast. We’d take a break and go to the lake or go for a hike. There was no pressure. That’s how it came together.
Were you thinking you were making your solo record?
We were experimenting with the sounds as we were writing the songs. We were like kids playing around in the mud. What started out as a writing session became an album. I came home to Brooklyn with 30 songs. Some became songs for Tedeschi Trucks. Some for Aaron Neville. So it was a really productive week.
You went to Maine to get away from everything and actually found quite a bit of activity. Was that ever a distraction?
It just excited me more and more.
So, it was the right kind of distraction?
Yeah. I plan on doing more and more there. I like the idea of getting away.
Is Maine the new Brooklyn?
It could be. There’s amazing food up there. There’s amazing coffee. All the things we love here. And the summertime is just beautiful.
The old gear, the space, the time; it sounds like it all allowed you to be inspired sonically to write the songs, as opposed to using the modern technology of a home studio to mimic the gear and the space.
That’s a really, really important thing that people don’t talk about. The sounds have to inspire you as you’re playing it. As a producer, I have so many artists say, “Let’s just get it done and we’ll mix it however.” I’m like, “No, no, no. The performance is affected by how you’re hearing it.” That’s why this record is so important. “Jezebel” wouldn’t have been written like that if it didn’t sound that way. The drums sounded a certain way, so we started playing this Zombies, ‘60s sort of vibe. It was all one inspiration unfolding in front of us. Not to mention the old tape machine was making noise. You can hear the noise on the record. (Laughs)
What took so long for you to sing on record?
Part of it was being around such great singers. I’ve tried to do this many times, and a lot of times my attempts at doing this turned into making other people’s albums. Nigel Hall’s album—half the album was out of demos that I made. When I met him and he started singing them, I was like, These are your songs.
So singing isn’t brand new for you?
I’ve been singing since I was a kid. I was in musicals, and choir in high school. Part of it, for me, was that it wasn’t “cool,” once I got a guitar in my hand. I was always writing songs on the side, and demoing them in my home. I’ve got hundreds of tracks on my hard drives.
How do you go from years of demos to trying the real thing? What changed?
Dave Gutter really kicked me in the butt. He would say, “Dude, you should be doing this.” I wasn’t a fan of those acrobatic singers. That’s not me. I’m not going to even try and do that. I love Bob Dylan and Jerry Garcia. They are what they are. The most important thing about listening to them is their style, the honesty in their performance. It took me awhile to own mine. Not to mention being just straight-up busy. It’s hard to say to your best friends, “You know this thing we built for 20 years, you go do that and I’m going to go do something else.”
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