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February 25, 2021 @ 5:52 pm

Season 2: Episode 4: Bob Ezrin

Season 2: Episode 4

Bob Ezrin

 

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Episode 4 of Song Chronicles Season 2 presents the first of our two-part interview with the renowned producer Bob Ezrin.

Since the 1970s, Bob has been the producer of some of the biggest albums in rock history. Here are some of  the albums he did during his first decade as a producer: KISS’s record Destroyer, Lou Reed’s Berlin, Peter Gabriel’s solo debut, Pink Floyd’s landmark record The Wall, and seven hit albums with Alice Cooper. 

 

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Bob with Alice Cooper circa 1975

 

 

A Toronto native, Bob launched his career at the age of 19 when he got a job with Jack Richardson, a top Canadian producer. In this episode, he reveals the funny circumstances involved with his first producer’s gig: Alice Cooper’s breakout record Love It To Death.

The important mentorship he received from Jack was a reason behind Bob starting the Nimbus School of Recording & Media, a school he co-founded with Jack’s son, Garth.

During our conversation, Bob touches on what he sees his job is as a producer, and why he feels it is vital “to keep the passion and wonder of youth for as long as you can.”

 

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Bob in the studio with Phish's Page McConnell

 

Bob has produced albums for Deep Purple, Rod Stewart, Jane’s Addiction, The Deftones, The Catherine Wheel, Hanoi Rocks, The Jayhawks, Phish and more. 

 

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Bob and Deep Purple's Roger Glover 

 

He also has made soundtrack albums, produced classical acts like 2CELLOS and the Canadian Tenors, and made opera superstar Andrea Bocelli’s first #1 album, Si.

 

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Bob at work on Andrea Bocelli's album

 

In the 1990s, Bob helped start the computer software company 7th Level and the internet radio provider Enigma Digital. He co-produced the star-filled 2009 benefit The Clearwater Concert, which celebrated Pete Seeger’s 90th birthday and, more recently, was involved in the stage version of Berlin.

 

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The stage adaptation of Lou Reed's Berlin

 

 

 

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You will also hear some fascinating behind-the-scenes stories about the making of The Wall, including the studio technology that Bob introduced to Pink Floyd.

 

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Bob welcomes Alice Cooper, Desmond Child and Louise to his studio. Photo by Kyler Clark

 

And this is just half of our entertaining interview with Bob Ezrin! You’ll hear more from him in the next edition of Song Chronicles.

But for now, enjoy the first of our two episodes with the one and only Bob Ezrin.  

 

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February 4, 2021 @ 11:29 pm

Season 2: Episode 3. Jeff Trott

Season 2: Episode 3

Jeff Trott

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“When you make a record, it's like a snapshot of your life at that time.” Jeff Trott, the guest on this episode of Song Chronicles, certainly knows what he’s talking about when it comes to making records. The songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist has appeared on hundreds of albums since he started out playing guitar with the San Francisco-based alt-rock band Wire Train in the mid-80s.

 

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 Wire Train (Left to Right)

Jeff Trott, Kevin Hunter, Anders Rundblad, Brian MacLeod 

 

Jeff is best known for his long-running work with Sheryl Crow, a collaboration that has earned him a Grammy and BMI’s Songwriter of the Year honors. They first met, in a true case of serendipity, in the early ‘90s. Starting with her second album, he has served as a co-writer, accompanist and producer for Crow straight through her latest full-length, Threads.

 

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Jeff with Sheryl Crow's band, circa 1997

 

Jeff talks about his songwriting process with Crow – including how her contributions to his early version of “If It Makes You Happy” turned the tune into the Grammy-winning smash hit – as well as why he finds collaborating such as fascinating, mysterious thing to do.

 

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Jeff performing with Sheryl Crow

 

Now Nashville-based after living most of his life on the west coast, Jeff possesses a lengthy and impressive resume featuring well-known acts that cut across the rock, country, blues, folk, and pop genres. Jeff was awarded Songwriter of the Year by BMI in 1998. Along with hits with Sheryl Crow, such as "If It Makes You Happy”, "Everyday is a Winding Road” ,“A Change”, "My Favorite Mistake” and “Soak Up The Sun”, he's written songs with Counting Crows, G. Love, Clare Dunn, O.A.R., Robert Randolph, and more. He's toured with Tears For Fears, Pete Droge and World Party and recorded with the likes of Aimee Mann, Stevie Nicks, Liz Phair, Wade Bowen and Rob Thomas, to name a few. 

 

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During his days with World Party. Photo by Chris Whitten

 

As a producer, Jeff’s credits include working with Aaron Lee Tasjan, Fastball, Leighton Meester, Max Gomez, Martha Wainwright, and Pete Yorn. Probably his most prominent production work, outside of the Sheryl Crow albums, was doing Hootie and the Blowfish’s widely-acclaimed recent reunion record, Imperfect Circle. It’s a job he got rather unexpectedly, with a casual get-together with the band to talk songwriting leading to them asking Jeff to produce their album.

 

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Assistant engineer Sean Badum, engineer Buckley Miller and Jeff during the Hootie & The Blowfish recording sessions

 

Jeff’s production work extends to film and TV too. He did the soundtrack for the Abigail Breslin film Janie Jones and co-produced a couple of Stevie Nicks tracks for the Practical Magic soundtrack. He even got a Daytime Emmy nomination for co-writing and co-producing with Crow the theme song for the Katie Couric talk show.

 

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Despite his seemingly constant stream of work, Jeff did take the time out some years back to do a solo album, Dig Up The Astroturf, which he released on his own label. But even he used this project as a learning experience to discover all the things you need to know about making an album.

 

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Photo by Kim Stringfellow

 

With his wealth and range of musical experiences, Jeff has accumulated all types of illuminating thoughts on what it takes to be a good collaborator, the tricky line you walk producing a band, and what has kept him enthusiastic about making music.

 

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Photo by Steven Weinberg

Please enjoy listening to songwriter/musician/producer Jeff Trott on episode three of the second season of Song Chronicles.

 

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January 29, 2021 @ 8:06 am

Season 2: Episode 2. Robin Danar

Season 2: Episode 2

Robin Danar

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“I work in the shadows.”

 

For over forty years, Robin has operated behind the scenes making performers sound great whether he is manning the board in the studio or handling the front-of-house sound in venues large and small around the world.

The New York City native started hanging out with college DJs in Albany when he was a university student and soon found himself friends with musicians who were going places, writing their own songs. He went to NYC and introduced himself at CBGB, offering to sub for their front of house mixers and after getting the opportunity to fill-in doing freelance for them, hit it off with owner Hilly Kristal, becoming their full-time staff sound man in the late '70s. He got to mix for some iconic bands during their early days. 

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Robin working at CBGB

Robin also took a janitor job at RPM studios – a job that served as a way into learning engineering in a recording studio from mentors like engineer Jim Boyer (Billy Joel, Steve Winwood) and legendary producer Phil Ramone.

 

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Some years later, the word on the street got out that he was known for his skills at getting a whole band, and particularly vocals, to sound great  — so you could hear all the emotion and lyrics. He went on tour to mix sound for the likes of Laurie Anderson, Suzanne Vega, Cyndi Lauper, The Church, The Blue Nile, The B-52's, and more.  

Robin's four-decade-plus career experience gave him a unique perspective where he is knowledgable in every stop along the way of an artist's career. Sometimes called to develop bands A&R wanted to sign, he also produced albums — even one of his own as artist-producer; he'd help performers focus their live performance; he understood how to tune a room, get the audience to enjoy a great mix no matter where they were seated or standing, the ins and outs of how to run a venue, the daily attitudes and devotion of a crew, how to keep performers feeling comfortable and at their best; and most of all, he's been the guy who knows what to do to make sure the artists and the audience can have fun at every gig.

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At work at a show for The Church

 

“My goal is to make the performer be heard the way that they deserve to be heard so they can succeed.”

 

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When he moved to Los Angeles, Robin collaborated with Nic Harcourt and the prominent NPR station KCRW, serving as a producer on the station’s “Sessions” series and "A Sounds Eclectic Evening" fundraisers, where six bands would perform on a revolving stage.

 

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2008's Altered States, a unique producer-as-artist album featuring vocalists like Lisa Loeb, Rachael Yamagata, Pete Yorn, and the Blue Nile’s Paul Buchanan.

 

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At McCabe's with assistant John Calacci 

 

Robin also mixes for shows he's passionate about, such as the revered McCabe’s Guitar Shop. For many years, he has been involved with the Wild Honey Foundation’s benefit concerts, where an all-star lineup of performers put on once-in-a-lifetime memorable tributes to a specific album by much loved bands like The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Kinks, The Band, Big Star, and more. These shows raise money for autism research. Before COVID-19 venue lockdown, these shows were a yearly highlight for the Los Angeles community.

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With singer Skylar Gudasz for a Wild Honey concert (Photo by Steve Appleford)

 

Since its opening in 2015, Robin has served as production manager at L.A.’s acclaimed Teragram Ballroom. After the pandemic hit, he started working with NIVA (National Independent Venue Association) and its Save Our Stages initiative, helping to compile a “bible” of production-focused protocol to help venues reopen safely and keep business flourishing. 

 

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Jeff DelBello, Ken Blecher, and Robin at the Teragram Ballroom

 

Throughout his interview, his hard-earned advice from his experiences within a diverse range of jobs he's excelled at throughout his career is invaluable for those working — or wanting to work — in the music business. Whether it's the value of keeping an open mind for opportunities, the importance of making the artist comfortable for a show or during recording settings, or his thoughts on making and marketing music in the 2020s, Robin shares insights and a work ethic that helps to navigate the changing landscape of music and performance. 

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Please enjoy an entertaining, informative conversation with Robin Danar on the second episode of season two of Song Chronicles.

 

To support Robin Danar's medical expenses, go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/robin-danar-cancer-treatment-fund

And for more information on the Wild Honey Foundation, visit https://www.facebook.com/WildHoneyEagleRock

And for Save Our Stages, go to https://www.saveourstages.com

 

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January 22, 2021 @ 8:45 am

Season 2: Episode 1. Linda Edell Howard

Season 2: Episode 1

Linda Edell Howard

Song Chronicles launches its second season with a truly unique music insider conversation with Linda Edell Howard.

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Linda during her high school cheerleading days

 

 Linda is an attorney in Nashville who has been an advocate for songwriters and artists over the last 30 years. Her expertise, and the focus of our interview, is in the often-complicated areas of copyrights, publishing, and royalties.

 

In her first-ever podcast interview, she generously gives listeners an enlightening music business primer that any aspiring, or even experienced songwriter, would learn from. Linda discusses the significance of sync, blanket, and mechanical licenses, sources for royalties, and how song credits work — and the ways all of these can bring the songwriter, a "small business owner", as she calls them, money. We talk about how performing rights organizations differ from publishing companies, and how both differ from SoundExchange.

 

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    Linda Edell Howard with Charlie Daniels

 

     One of Howard's specialties is in the field of legacy copyrights, especially termination rights. Her mantra “forever doesn’t mean forever” takes us further to her explanation of how songwriters can use the not-well-known termination laws to recapture the rights to their songs. In her world, people and their circumstances are always changing, and so is the value of a copyright. What does this mean for a music business attorney? Changing circumstances open doors to renegotiation, because as is the case with so many deals songwriters make starting out, no one knew the actual value of their catalog at that time they signed their publishing away. There is a window of time, Howard tells us, where those copyrights can revert back to the songwriter.

 

 

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        Linda with Desmond Child

 

  You’ll discover the importance of the numbers 56 and 35 for copyrights, and what black box money and gray box money are — and how they can be windfalls for songwriters. Throughout our conversation, she shares some great insights and valuable tips.

    

 

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         Linda with her husband, Doug Howard

     Linda currently is a partner at the Nashville law firm Adams and Reese, where she leads its Entertainment and New Media team. She was one of the seven attorneys featured in Billboard’s Women in Music 2016 and among Nashville Business Journal’s 2019 Women in Music City Award honorees. Linda takes deep pride in how her work, as she puts it, “actually changes people’s lives.”

 

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Billboard's Women in Music 2016

(Linda third from the right)

 

     As a teenager growing up in New Jersey, Linda aspired to be a rock photographer, hanging out at clubs along the Jersey Shore. She shifted her career goal from album cover design to law after realizing she could help musicians more as an attorney.

 

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          Kelly Putty (Ordinary Hero Foundation), Hillary Scott (Lady A) with Linda

 

      After she graduating law school, Linda would spend her Sunday nights doing “contract clinics” for musicians at the Asbury Park’s legendary Stone Pony club, charging only a pizza slice and a beer. Her law career has included working for the Elvis Presley and George Gershwin estates and at PolyGram Music Publishing Group. More recently, her clients have included Fats Domino, Don Everly, Lady A, Desmond Child, Charlie Daniels, and Gretchen Wilson.

 

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         Linda and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer Dickey Lee

 

We are delighted to present our first episode of Season 2, 

an enlightening conversation with Linda Edell Howard.

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October 9, 2020 @ 12:43 pm

Episode 12. The McBroom Sisters

Episode 12

The McBroom Sisters

 

"Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?"

 

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After spending years working on other people’s projects, the McBroom Sisters have just released their own album – and done so on their own terms.

 

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In this episode, we talk with Durga and Lorelei McBroom. These incredible sisters are on the shortlist when some band needs a powerhouse guest vocalist, and they each boast star-studded resumes that any musician would envy.

 

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                          Durga and Lorelei on stage with Steve Hackett

 

     Lorelei has done major tours with Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, and Rod Stewart, along with working with a diverse range of musicians, including Nile Rodgers, Mark Collie, Chris Isaak and (with her sister) Steve Hackett from Genesis. Her songs have been recorded by Sister Sledge and Earth, Wind & Fire’s Philip Bailey, and, for the past decade, Lorelei has been a featured vocalist for the acclaimed Australian Pink Floyd Show.

 

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Lorelei singing with Rod Stewart

 

    Durga also has sung with Pink Floyd – both in the studio and on tour. Her techno rock duo Blue Pearl, with Killing Joke bassist Youth, scored a hit with “Naked In The Rain” and she collaborated with Billy Idol on his Cyberpunk album. Durga has performed with numerous Pink Floyd tribute groups, and now fronts the tribute band Pink Floyd Legacy.

 

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Durga performing in the Pink Floyd Show UK

 

   In our conversation, the McBroom Sisters talk about how their busy careers resulted in their debut album taking seven years to finish and how the pandemic factored into completing it. The album’s title, Black Floyd, reflects their extensive connection with Pink Floyd’s music and also pays homage to the many black musicians who influenced rock ‘n roll.

 

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   Besides putting their own stamp on several classic Floyd tunes, the sisters also showcase their own original material on Black Floyd, which includes co-writes with long-time Pink Floyd collaborators Jon Carin and Guy Pratt as well as Motörhead’s late frontman Lemmy Kilmister.

 

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Louise with Lorelei and Durga

 

Our host and producer Louise is also one of the album’s guest performers, singing with them on “Wish You Were Here.”  Durga and Lorelei candidly discuss being black women in the rock world, the image of women in society, and how they have used their sexuality in empowering ways.

 

 

 

Please enjoy this insightful conversation with Durga and Lorelei McBroom on episode 12 of Song Chronicles.

 

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September 25, 2020 @ 12:12 pm

Episode 11. Gloria Estefan - Part 2

Episode 11

Gloria Estefan

Part Two

 

Song Chronicles proudly presents its eleventh episode, the second of a two-part conversation with Gloria Estefan.

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Gloria Estefan has lived a phenomenal life since arriving in America with her family from Cuba when she was two years old. As a teenager, she joined the Miami Sound Machine, where she also met her future husband Emilio. The group slowly built a following over the course of a decade, first finding success in Latin America before hitting it big internationally with “Conga” in 1985.

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Whether with the Miami Sound Machine or solo, Gloria has been a regular on the charts, racking up hits with “Can’t Stay Away From You,” “The Rhythm is Going to Get You” and “Anything For You” in the ‘80s; "Coming Out Of The Dark," "Mi Tierra," and "Oye” in the ‘90s, and “Wrapped/Hoy,” “Out of Nowhere,” and “Hotel Nacional” in the 21st century. She has sold over 100 million records worldwide, ranking her among the top-selling artists around the globe. And that success continues with her recently released album, Brazil305, which debuted in the top 10 on Billboard’s Tropical Albums chart.

The many prestigious accolades that Gloria has received almost match the number of her hit songs. She was the first Cuban-American to receive the Kennedy Center Honors and the first female singer to be awarded Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year. Gloria and Emilio were the first couple and first Cuban-Americans to receive the Gershwin Prize as well as the first couple to get the Presidential Medal of Freedom. A cultural trailblazer and role model, Gloria also has been honored for her humanitarian and philanthropic work by organizations like MusiCares, Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, National Music Foundation, and Billboard.

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Gloria and Emilio receive the Medal of Freedom from President Obama

Alex Wong/Getty Images North America

Talking from her home in Miami Beach, Gloria shared some of her experiences during the pandemic. There were some things that she enjoyed — like doing interviews from home and being able to do her own hair and make-up (she also revealed that she’s known as the “eyebrow queen”) — and things that she disliked (such as not being able to easily get together with the rest of family, especially her 8-year-old grandson).

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Gloria with her daughter Emily and niece Lili

She has kept busy during the pandemic not only working on the release of her new album, but also developing a Facebook Watch series, Red Table Talk: The Estefans that she is doing with her daughter Emily and niece Lili. One thing that she loves about doing this show is that it allows her to spend more time with her daughter.

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Gloria performing with Emily

Emily Estefan is an up-and-coming singer-songwriter and Gloria talked about trying to coax her to release more of her music and not be so caught up in making recordings sound perfect. Her advice to her daughter — as well as any musician — is that making music is about “the free expression of emotion, a thought (and) an idea.”

We also had a candid discussion about the highly sexualized ways that young female performers are often presented nowadays. While believing that everyone should express themselves as they want to, she cautions to think twice about doing a lot of “booty shaking” because it can come back to haunt you. Gloria, who revealed that she always tries to “elevate” with her music, said that there’s “no need to do something outside of your comfort zone…(and) it would be a shame if you did it to get attention.”

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Gloria performing in 1991

ABC Photo Archives via Getty Images

One thing that has kept Gloria balanced — during the pandemic as well as before — is something that happened to her 30 years ago. In 1990, Gloria was very badly injured in a tour bus accident. She was nearly paralyzed and had to learn to walk again. A lesson she took away from this experience was to take what happens in life with a grain of salt. “I’m happy that I can do anything,” she said. “It’s a joy!”

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Please enjoy the second part of my conversation with Gloria Estefan.

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September 18, 2020 @ 6:02 pm

Episode 10. Gloria Estefan - Part 1

Episode 10

Gloria Estefan

 Part 1

 

Song Chronicles is proud to present its tenth episode, part one of a two-part conversation with Gloria Estefan.

 

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The Cuban-American singer achieved worldwide stardom in the mid-80s. Her long, successful career has been recognized with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Kennedy Center Honors, the American Music Award for Lifetime Achievement, and induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Additionally, her life and musical career with her husband Emilio serve as the basis for the Broadway musical On Your Feet!

 

I spoke with Gloria from her home in Miami Beach on August 19, the week after the release of her long-awaited album Brazil305. During our conversation for Song Chronicles, Gloria spoke on a wide range of topics, from her start in the music business to the art of songwriting and music that has influenced her.

 

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She also speaks about the importance of family — throughout her life and during the pandemic — and a mother-and-daughter theme runs through the interview. This seems quite appropriate since I got to know Gloria in 2013 when she performed at the White House as part of the Gershwin Prize ceremony honoring my mother Carole King.

 

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Gloria Estefan performs at the Gershwin Prize ceremony honoring Carole King

Photo by Pete Souza. Courtesy of The White House

 

Gloria came from a family that was full of musicians. Her mother was a born performer who actually won a Shirley Temple contest that included a trip to Hollywood. Gloria’s grandmother, whom she described as being very forward-thinking for her time, was ready to take Gloria’s mom to Hollywood; however, her grandfather forbade them from going.

 

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Gloria's mother and grandmother

 

Gloria was two when her family arrived in America from Cuba. As a child, Gloria enjoyed singing but she was introverted and shied away from performing. Her grandmother, who was like a stage mother to her, urged Gloria to sing, telling her “you won’t be happy unless you do what you are meant to do.”

 

Gloria shares the funny story about the first time she met Emilio Estefan in 1975 when she was 17. His accordion was covering his shorts “so it looked like he was naked” but “he had great legs.” That summer, Gloria saw Emilio’s band, the Miami Latin Boys, play at a wedding. He asked her to sing; she did and got a standing ovation. He asked her to join his band but she said no. Eventually, though, she said yes, remembering what her grandmother had told her. Her mom, however, was quite upset over her joining the group, so Gloria got her cousin, Mercy, to join too.

 

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That is Gloria on the right

 

Emilio loved the first song Gloria ever wrote, “Tu Amor Conmigo,” so much that it was put on the band’s first single. Since there were now girls in the Miami Latin Boys, they needed to change their name. Gloria says that she didn’t like the name Miami Sound Machine; her idea was simply Miami, but the new name served them well.

 

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That first single was a big hit in Latin America, where they played to large crowds, but it wasn’t a hit in America, where they still played weddings. This taught her that fame “can go away as fast as it comes,” adding that “it was important that I had a good ten years before worldwide success exploded” because it allowed her to be more relaxed and honest on stage, which in turn made her a better live performer.

 

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Gloria and Emilio on their wedding Day

Courtesy of Gloria and Emilio Estefan

Gloria married Emilio in 1980 on the day that she turned 21. She admits that they are “a rare combo.” She says that they are two different types who “empower each other” and are “strong-willed but not (with) big egos.” She also describes Emilio as "the biggest feminist that she knows" with "no qualms with women being in positions of power."

 

She admires his “uncanny ability to zero in on the one line or one part that I was having doubts” about in a song. This has strengthened her skills in crafting songs. Much of her songwriting is inspiration-based, with her “inspirations (coming) through me not from me.”

 

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Emilio was the inspiration for “Un Amor Especial,” one of the songs that has remained important to Gloria over time. At the time she wrote this song about a life-long love, it was wishful thinking, but it turned out to be a wish that has come true.

 

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Another tune that has stayed significant to Gloria is “Nayib's Song (I Am Here for You),” which she wrote for her son after the very severe 1990 tour bus accident that they were in. The song speaks of having faith to survive a tumultuous time — a message that still holds true for her today, particularly because her grandson is the same age now that her son was then.

 

Our conversation frequently turned to music that played a big role in Gloria’s life. Stevie Wonder’s Songs In The Key Of Life and Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road were albums that she “wore out copies of (while) poring over every lyric.”

 

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Stevie Wonder with Gloria

 

Gloria also explains her very olfactory memory for music, resulting in her associating certain songs with certain smells. So when she hears Seals & Crofts's “Summer Breeze,” she will smell freshly cut grass, or smell a laundromat when she hears Gerry and the Pacemakers’ “Ferry Across The Mersey.”

 

During the pandemic, Gloria has increased her music listening because “I need to feel more.” Her choices range from P!NK and Alanis Morrissette to Nat King Cole as well as Cuban greats, like Cachao and Celia Cruz, and the fabled Mexican songwriter Agustín Lara.

 

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Gloria sings on stage with Celia Cruz

 

She credits her broad musical tastes to growing up on her mother’s eclectic record collection listening to the such musical greats from Latin America, Cuba and the United States, such as Carmen Miranda, Sérgio Mendes & Brasil '66, Jobim and Johnny Mathis. She mentions how “I was over the moon to do a duet (“Mary's Boy Child”) with Johnny Mathis.”

 

Her mother’s record collection also held a lot of Brazilian music, which influenced Gloria throughout her career. The first Miami Sound Machine album included a cover of the Antonio Carlos & Jocafi song “Malvina” and the 1983 MSM album, Rio, featured new lyrics to popular Brazilian songs. The title of her new album, Brazil305, is a nod to Sergio Mendes’s band with 305 representing Miami’s area code. The new album also led Gloria to make a documentary exploring Brazilian and Afro-Cuban music that should come out in 2021.

 

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Brazil305, which contains older songs of hers redone in various Brazilian musical styles, is also a very personal effort for Gloria. In our conversation, she talks about how, back in 2016, she played the demos for her mother, who loved them. However, her mom died soon afterward following a brief illness. When Gloria went to finish the album, she wasn’t able to sing the songs because the music was too connected to her mom.

 

Gloria waited over a year to return to the studio, but it was worth the time because she was able to sing the songs with the joy that they were intended to have. The album’s release, however, was delayed then by the COVID pandemic along with the George Floyd shooting. Gloria, however, feels that now is the right time for the album to come out because the “message of music is we are one.” She says she feels honored to have the opportunity to put music out into the universe that is healing and soothing.

 

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Please enjoy the first episode of my conversation with Gloria Estefan.

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September 4, 2020 @ 9:17 pm

Episode 9 Al Schmitt - Part 2

Episode 9

Al Schmitt
Part 2

 

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Song Chronicles is proud to present the second of a two-part interview with Al Schmitt. This episode, done via Zoom on August 7, took place three days after the first interview after Al emailed to say that he had some additional stories and memories he wanted to share. It’s a testament to his generosity and work ethic that Al would take the time to follow-up because he wanted to make this interview even more special even after a great first interview – which is a fascinating conversation on its own.

 

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Al Schmitt has spent his 70-some year career making things better. The universally revered engineer and producer has received awards with the most notable all-time Grammy winners – and the top among engineers - as well as receiving the honored prestigious Grammy Trustee Award.

 

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Al Schmitt with Tommy LiPuma and Paul McCartney

 

Al’s unrivaled resume crosses generations and genre lines. The 90-year-old master of the soundboard has worked with a seemingly endless list of musical superstars: from Miles Davis to Madonna, Quincy Jones to Nina Simone, Dolly Parton to Brian Wilson, Elvis Presley to Bob Dylan, Liza Minnelli to Luis Miguel, Kenny Rogers to Kenny G., Linda Ronstadt to Rod Stewart.

 

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Al with Ray Charles

In this episode, Al shares some of his favorite moments from his illustrious career – like the time in the early ‘60s when he hung out in a hotel suite with Sam Cooke and Cassius Clay (just weeks before took the name Muhammad Ali). Cooke was helping out Clay, who just had gotten a record deal, and Al recalls how funny and irreverent to two men were - “I never laughed so hard in my life.”

 

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Al had a long-running working partnership with Henry Mancini, which started with the Peter Gunn record and resulted in Al’s first Grammy for the Hatari! soundtrack. The acclaimed composer, Al reveals, had a great sense of humor as well as a great way to endear himself with session musicians – here’s a hint: it involves how doing one song past 11 pm made the musicians very happy.

 

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Al at work at Capitol Studios

 

When Al was a kid, he used to play hooky from school to go see Frank Sinatra sing at the Paramount Theatre. And Sinatra was one artist that he had long to work with but never had – until producer Phil Ramone called him to engineer Sinatra’s Duets album. It was a job, Al says, he would have done for nothing. He talks about how the studio was set up for Sinatra and how the singer wanted to do this “this way” in the studio as well as what a thrill it was just to be part of Sinatra’s dinner party for three nights.

 

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His Sinatra stories also involves the fabled U47 microphone, a subject close to Al’s heart because he is a self-described “microphone freak.” During this episode, Al discusses how much he enjoys mic-ing a room and trying them out in different placements, moving the band around the room. He fondly remembers his time at RCA where he would experiment in the studio every day and discover the ambience and best recording spots in the room. Al also describes his process of working with an artist to make for the most rewarding and productive recording session.

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Diana Krall with Al Schmitt

 

During my conversation with Al, he speaks too about how he developed such a strong work ethic as well as his various interests outside of the studio. Additionally, he shares how he has continued working during the COVID pandemic, having recently wrapped up engineering jobs on upcoming releases by Diana Krall and Melody Gardot.

 

 

 

 

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August 28, 2020 @ 5:28 pm

Episode 8. Al Schmitt - Part 1

Episode 8

Al Schmitt
Part 1

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Song Chronicles is proud to present the first of a two-part interview with Al Schmitt. These episodes offer a unique behind-the-scenes look - from a master of his craft –  on what happens on the other side of the glass when musicians go into a recording studio.

 

 

 

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Al Schmitt is the definition of a living legend. During his unparalleled career, the 90-year-old engineer/producer has worked with an incredible list of musical giants: Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington, Sam Cooke, Barbra Streisand, Henry Mancini, Ray Charles, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Steely Dan, Celine Dion, Queen Latifah, and more are names that only scratch the surface of a  career of the highest excellence: his knowledge and work ethic makes the greatest of greats want him at the helm. The arc spans far and wide with Frank Sinatra to Bob Dylan singing Sinatra, as well as Nat King Cole & Natalie Cole’s “Unforgettable”.

 

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Al Schmitt with Niko Bolas

 

 

Now in his seventh decade at the board, Al has hardly slowed down. He has just finished mixing a new album from Diana Krall, with whom he already has earned three Grammys. In fact, Al has won more Grammys – 20 – than any other engineer and ranks among the top 15 of all-time Grammy winners.

 

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During Neil Young sessions at Capitol

(Neil Young and Niko Bolas pictured) 

 

 

I met Al when he came to speak to the members of the Blackbird Academy’s audio engineering program that I enrolled myself in last year in Nashville. He came in with his good friend, and fellow producer/engineer, Niko Bolas, who I've been fortunate to know since I was 18, when I was recording at Record One in Sherman Oaks (a studio once owned by Allen Sides as part of Ocean Way), where Niko was working alongside producer/engineer, Val Garay. 

 

I spoke with Al recently, August 4, 2020, during the quarantine. We spoke via video on Zoom, talking about his illustrious career, innovative recording techniques, and the musicians who he’s worked with.

 

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Al Schmitt and Steve Genewick

Al developed his love for the studio very early in his life. As a child, the New York City native hung out at the recording studio owned by his uncle, Harry Smith. Not the folklorist Harry Smith but the Harry Smith (née Schmitt) who ran the first independent recording studio on the east coast. He was starry-eyed with his uncle’s work and life. Les Paul was his “Uncle Les,” who took young Al to hockey games, boxing matches, and bar.

 

Smith instilled in Al some valuable lessons about studio work, such as: “You’ve got to treat your equipment like a Swiss watch and it’ll take care of you”. Al says that’s why you’ll never see him putting coffee and stuff like that on his console.

 

His uncle also lined up an apprenticeship for him, then 19 and just out of the Navy, at Apex Recording Studios, where he received tutelage from another of his mentors, the fabled engineer/producer Tom Dowd, who Al describes as “one of the great engineers of all time.”

 

It was at Apex too that Al ran, quite by accident, his first recording session for none other than Duke Ellington – and a very kind Duke, who told the novice engineer: “Don’t worry son, we’re gonna get through this. It’s gonna be fine.”

 

Al has become known for his clean, unembellished sound, which he developed early on when he only had a few microphones to work with. This taught him the importance of mic placement to get the sound right for a take, particularly because there wasn’t the technology yet to go back and fix a take.

 

I've always been an experimenter with microphones and how to set up things,” he reveals. “I set up a big band one day and the next day I'd set them up exactly the opposite and I'd move them around the room until I got the best place.”

 

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Al Schmitt & Niko Bolas with John McBride, visiting the students in Mark Rubel's class at The Blackbird Academy 

(we all wore ties in their honor) 

 

 

After close to a decade in New York (where he also worked at Atlantic Records and Fulton Recordings) in 1958, Al moved to Los Angeles. He was an engineer first at the highly popular Radio Recorders studio before moving over to RCA in 1963.

 

A few years later, Al convinced RCA to promote him to a producer, but there was one downside of a dream job: because of union rules, he could no longer work the board. “I could reach over and do something like on the echo or whatever, and (then they would) call me up on the carpet for touching the board.”

 

It was also time-consuming. “Eddie (Fisher) would be 2-5 (pm) and then Jefferson Airplane would be 8 ‘til 3, 4 in the morning. And by the time I got home, I'd get a little sleep. And, I'd have to come back to work because I had 11 artists that I was taking care of. So I had to do budgets. I had to hire arrangers for artists.” He quit this RCA job, but the Jefferson Airplane hired him back as their producer, persuading him to finish the album because they loved his work so much.

 

Al went on to produce several more albums for the band and for others; however, by the early 70s, he realized how much he missed engineering. So while he has continued to be a producer (on albums for Neil Young, Jackson Browne, Al Jarreau, George Benson, to name a few), the bulk of Al’s massive, and impressive, body of work has been doing what he loves best – being an engineer.

 

Not only has Al achieved great success in his prolific career – he has worked on over 150 gold and platinum albums – but he has achieved in an amazing range of genres: jazz, rock, pop, country, soundtracks, holiday music, Latin, rap, and blues.

 

 

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Capitol Recording Studios, Al's second home 

 

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August 21, 2020 @ 1:49 pm

Episode 7. Peter Case - Part 2

Episode 7

Peter Case
Part 2

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Peter in Venice, California with his dog Mattie

April 8, 2019

photo by Louise Goffin

"I write to know what I think" - Peter Case

 

In the follow-up to Episode 6, which was Part One of this interview, the conversation continues that took place on April 8th, 2019. To bring us up-to-date, Louise makes a Zoom call to Peter in August 2020 to find out how his music, recording and touring plans have changed, in response to the pandemic. 

When asked on the spot to give his shortlist of perfect songs, here's what he said:

Bob Dylan -Desolation Row
The Beatles- Penny Lane (Lennon-McCartney)
Hoagy Carmichael - Stardust (Hoagy Carmicheal-Mitchell Parish)
The Drifters - Up On The Roof (Goffin&King)
Otis Redding - A Change Is Gonna Come 
( Everton Bonner / John Christopher Taylor / Sam Cooke)

If you haven't listened to Part One, you can listen at the link below: 

https://www.songchroniclespodcast.com/e/episode-6-peter-case-part-1/

 

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