Your new solo album, Someday, brings 1960s singers like Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark, and Lulu to mind what with all the catchy hooks and the lavish instrumentation. At the same time, it feels thoroughly contemporary. How did you strike that balance?
I’ve always loved how passionate and energetic the singing was in the 1960s. I was very conscious of crafting melodies that allowed for very emotional singing during the writing process. And, we recorded the music in an old-school way — I sang in the room with the band using a vintage Telefunken 251 microphone, and we went for broke with every take until we had a keeper. David Boucher, our engineer, printed the mixes onto analog tape to add a bit of extra warmth, and then sent those versions to the mastering lab. We recorded on Pro Tools, which is the modern standard, but took advantage of Mitchell Froom’s cool vintage gear, to bridge the ’60s vibe with a contemporary sound.
The NoiseTrade tracks were created in a kind of “mad scientist” manner, recording at my home studio, with Andrew Brassell layering guitar parts and the two of us building percussion tracks out of hand claps, finger snaps, and an odd assortment of instruments and sounds. We had a lot of fun overdubbing layers of background vocals for that ’60s Swingle Singers vibe.
With the wide array of genres and eras you’ve covered as a singer — especially in your Under the Covers series with Matthew Sweet — is it possible for you to have a favorite song? Are there particular melodic characteristics that draw you in?
That’s such a hard question! A song that comes to mind is “Here Comes the Sun.” There is so much hope and beauty in it, with a layer of sadness just below the surface … something about that combination always touches me. I’m very drawn to songs that deal with contrasting emotions, the dark and the light, and of course I’m a sucker for a delicious melody and a catchy guitar riff.