Tag Archives: steve barton
Music. Songwriting. Inspiration. Discovery. Faith. Family. Transcendence. Our life is art, and this is Defying Gravity…
“trouble holding back”
growing up on 45s of the beatles, dave clark 5, the animals…well you get the idea, not alot of blues. although the electricity of the blues masters runs through all of these records. at the time, i just didn’t know it. i was exposed to country music at a young age by my grandfather. liz anderson, lynn anderson, johnny cash etc. he was the first person to create mix tapes on his tandberg reel to reel tape recorder. no two songs were alike. what they had i common was, he liked them. one day, i played him a song from the first grand funk railroad album. didn’t go over well. then i played him “back in the ussr” from the white album. it made it to his mix tape! never a ballad or a sad song. always upbeat. “i like it loud, and i like it fast” he once told me after a sold out show by lone justice at the palace in los angeles. a few years before that, while i was discovering glamrock’s t rex, i found jimmy reed. he had it all. country, blues, rock and roll, all rolled up into one. it was his powerful songwriting. i was hit between the eyes. i found out years later, he was the most popular blues artist of the fifties. his groove was so deep, no one wanted to follow him on stage. i’ve discovered many other blues artists over the years from robert johnson to howling wolf, but the first cut is the deepest. Jimmy reed cut me deep on first listen, and still does to this day.
in the fifties and sixties, america was painted black and white. that was the real world where people of color had to use separate bathrooms, sit in the back of a bus or stay in their own hotels. in the world of music, there were no colors to be seen. anyone could listen to the rolling stones back to back with the supremes on commercial radio. black and white kids were dancing in the streets on dick clark’s american bandstand. martha and the vandellas had as much to do with the civil rights movement as martin luther king jr. the influence of the blues was seeping through the AM radio, i just didn’t know it. i had to dig for it, and find it. once i did, the could see that the original pipeline to the golden age of rock and roll was connected to the blues. ask elvis. ask brian jones. ask lennon. you can ask them by listening to their records. spin the 45s of “hound dog”, “satisfaction”, and “revolution”. they were slaves to the masters of the blues. “chains…and they ain’t the kind that you can see.” every artist sings the blues. even if they cover the production in sugar. the blues is in the foundation, the ground floor, in the dirt before the building of the record is even built.
my co writer, sam lorber, and i wanted to write another song together. somehow we tapped into the blues. the way a blues song doubles the opening line to reinforce the power of it. the simplicity of the chords (1-4-5 for those who play). before recording the song, i added a non blues section at the end, encouraging the track to go into a pshyodelic section. i added electric mandolin, wanting it to sound like the harpsichord in “lucy in the sky with diamonds.” we added melloton as well. when i play live, i sometimes have a string quartet that comes in at the end to help build the ending. treveor manear added the electric guitars inspired by jimi hendrix (an inspirator).
there are songs, and there are records. my favorite records happen to be great songs. however, i’ll listen to a record where the song is second to the style or production, and gain something from that listening as well. i think brian wilson once said, people listen to records. so i keep that in mind. when i record, the song needs to work on a solo instrument (guitar, mandolin or piano are what i tend to write songs with). when a record is being made, i consider the choices and follow my instincts. when we recorded this song, i left out the bass as a tip of the hat to jimmy reed. at the time of the recording, the white stripes and black keys were not in vogue yet. i’m glad that these artists have picked up on blueprint of the blues. i wasn’t trying to follow or create a trend. i was just following my heart as an artist to create a record based on a song i believed in, that would stand the test of time. to paraphrase bob marley, no record, no song. yet without the song, at least in my world, there is no record.
sam and i wrote the lyric before katrina. “swept up in the moement/washed away in the flood…”. then i realized that “ain’t no work in missisippi” was on the album as well (also written before katrina hit), and there lies the subtle connection between these songs. that really is how the album was put together. i wasn’t looking for a concept album like tommy or sgt. pepper, although i could probably turn marvin country! into a country rock opera if i spent time with it (maybe one day i will!). i just wanted a spider web thread running through the album, something you couldn’t see, but just feel as the album was being experienced.
so recording a blues song felt like the right thing to do. if you take the time to listen to the album, i hope you agree.
I stayed home Sunday mornings when I was too little for Sunday school and watched Mahalia Jackson on TV. I had no idea who she was or what she was singing about, but I knew it was real and I knew I was moved. Even in the psychadelic 60s I listened to Elmore James, Arthur Crudup, Curtis Mayfield, and Etta James more than anything on the radio. That is until Hendrix. Those were passionate times and I wore everything on my sleeve. When Marvin and I started working on this song, I was ranting about something, and, well, you hear the product.
Here’s a special performance by Steve Barton of his song “SUPER FANTASTIC GUY” (from his new LP PROJECTOR). This was filmed in his backyard after our interview segment on May 12, 2012. Be sure to catch his episode in full HERE, featuring an exclusive demo from the “Projector” sessions.
Here are a few pics from this weekend’s video/podcast shoot with guest contributor and songwriter Steve Barton. We discuss his new album, “Projector”, how the powerful and emotionally stark material on this record was informed by his father’s passing in 2009, about writing songs as a healing and therapeutic endeavor, the touchstone albums for him during his time, PJ Harvey and the Plastic Ono Band, the first Translator album in 26 years – “BIG GREEN LAWN”, and whether or not Steve uses stick or aerosol deodorant.
Steve also gave us a beautiful essay and an exclusive demo of the Projector song “PLEASE”, which will be available for download for a limited time. Coming only to Defying Gravity Music on 5/31/12…
And while you wait, here are a few links to fill you in on the global “PROJECTOR” conversation…