Excerpt from Blair Jackson’s Interview with Jackie Greene
Jackie Greene: Boy Wonder Grows Up
Jackie Greene’s new album, Till the Light Comes, is going to surprise a few people. The songwriting is, as you might expect, uniformly strong, freely moving from the personal to the more opaque, often within the same song – or even the same line. Over the course of six albums, Greene has established himself as a first-rate singer, capable of delivering wispy ballads, uptempo rockers or deep blues with equal authority, so the quality and diversity of his lead vocals is to be expected, too. No, what’s most different about Till the Light Comes is the overall sound of the album, which leans heavily in a ‘60s psychedelic pop direction. There are glistening harmonies that recall The Beatles, Byrds, Beach Boys and other groups, rockin’ Rickenbacker (and a million other) guitars, Mellotron, swirling B-3 organ, even electric sitar! Greene’s previous two Steve Berlin-produced albums – American Myth and Giving Up the Ghost – certainly had their share of adventurous sonic touches, but nothing quite like this.
I sat down with Greene in the control room of his Mission Bells recording studio in San Francisco for a far-reaching interview about the album, his deep creative connection to Tim Bluhm of The Mother Hips, the influence of his tenure with Phil Lesh & Friends on his current music, and how his ever-increasing fame is affecting him.
Several nuggets from this interview appear in the July ’10 issue of Relix, but we thought his rabid fan base might enjoy seeing (nearly) the whole interview in the relix.com exclusive.
Tell me about how work on Giving Up the Ghost and the way tunes from that album evolved over the last couple of years affected how you worked on this new album?
One of the main differences is the last record was done in pieces in many different studios and with different players, so there was an element of… unrest, maybe. It ended up being fine – I’m pleased with it – but this one was all done here, top to bottom. And the other thing I really like about it is it’s like a record that was made between friends – like what you saw when you arrived and Tim [Bluhm] and I were having lunch? That’s sort of how the record was made. It’s Tim and me and/or Dave [Simon-Baker, engineer/singer] and the drummer and the bass player from the Mother Hips, and the guys from my band, and that’s pretty much the guys on the record – all the guys who play on it are people I know well personally. So it was really comfortable.
As far as playing the songs from the last album live, there’s always a sort of after-the-fact evolution of songs, some songs more than others.
Where did Dave Simon-Baker come from?
He’s been working at studios in Marin for a long time. I know he used to do hip-hop records in the ’90s, which is why he can deal with the low-end so well – like that 12-string bass. I met him in NY. He was doing sound for ALO and we played with them on a show. And he knew Tim, and then Tim convinced him to move to San Francisco, and he had a Pro Tools HD rig, which you see over there.
He’s a real engineer. Tim and I are fake engineers… He’s really meticulous. I tend to work really fast. I’m more like the Bob Dylan approach, whereas he’s more like George Martin.