Acoustic Guitar, May-June 1994

Paradise Found:  Rickie Lee Jones Moves Deeper into
World of Acoustic Music*

By Simone Solondz

Tell me about producing Leo Kottke's new record, Peculiaroso [Private Music].  Have you ever produced before?

Only myself.  I did Girl at Her Volcano, this one [Traffic from Paradise], and The Magazine.   I've done about half of my records.  It's really different doing someone else, especially because I have an artist's and not a producer's temperament.

Producer is a weird job.  It's partially a creative job -- why not try this? why not try that? -- but a producer is also an environment, a tone that people come to the project with, and I think that's mostly what people pay for.  A lot of producers put so many of their ideas on another artist's record -- I don't think they are such good producers.  But they're worth their money if you like to come to work.  If just having them sit there makes this flavor that you bring to the record, well that's really what a producer is.  Leo insists that I did that part of the job.

Do you remember any particular break or cut on Peculiaroso that your presence inspired?

I know one thing I did.  I would watch Leo.  Like so many other artists, once he said, "OK, we're going to do a take," I'd watch him stiffen just a little bit.  I thought, "The way to get this guy is to sneak up on him."  And so I had him start running the tape, because he'd sit and play a whole take before he was going to do the take.  And they're all technically perfect, but the one he didn't know he was doing would just have a lightness, especially in his singing.  So I did catch three in a row on the day that I was able to take control a little bit.  I caught three wonderful takes by just keeping the tape rolling and saying something like, "Can you play that for me once?  How does that bridge go again?"

And those are the takes that are on the record?

Yeah.  One is a really beautiful tune with a vocal, called "Parade."  I got some nice vocal performances from him. I love the quality of his voice so much.  It's so midwestern...integrity, masculine, rich.  The main thing he did was work with a trio on about half of the tunes.  I helped a little bit on that, but my preference is the moodier, quieter stuff.

As producer, do you oversee what the engineer is up to?

I'll ask.  I have a minimal knowledge because of my experience -- that is, I have some knowledge because of my experience.  I'm not technically minded, but I'll say, "Why aren't you using Dolby?  Why are you using 16 direct?  What is the meaning of this?" just so I'll understand what they're going for technically.  But I don't get into it or tell them what to do.  They know better than I do.

Was your music influenced by Leo?

Yes, I think my whole life was.  It opened both of us up a little.  We made an effort to play together and talk and exchange books.  We'll probably do some work, some playing-out, in the next six months.  It's very, very fun to play with him.

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