What was the driving force behind recording these songs, at this time?
Two reasons really. As you may know, this summer was the 50th anniversary of when Dylan and The Band used it for making the Basement Tapes, and next summer would be the 50th anniversary for Music From Big Pink. Also I was turning 64 and decided it was something I wanted to do, once I found it was possible.
What’s your personal history with Bob Dylan? When did you begin listening to him?
I really began listening to Dylan around the Highway 61 album, although I had of course heard the hit songs on the radio before then. But The Band themselves were even bigger influences. Since they had two keyboard players, and were such great songwriters as well as singers and players, they had a big effect on my own songwriting and playing.
How long were you in Big Pink? What was the recording process like?
We were there for 6 days, although the playing was only for 5 since the first day was just arriving and setting up. By agreement with Don, we rehearsed and they got the recording process together for the first two days, and then we recorded for real for three days, about 8-10 hours each day. Since we had the rehearsals, we knew exactly what we we were going to do.
I asked two singer/songwriter friends of mine whose work I know and greatly respect, Joe Cerisano and Eliot Osborn, to bring material and we did two or three songs from each of them. I asked a harmonica-playing blues singer friend, Wailing Dave Robinson, to come and we did a few songs with him. Richard Lindsey, the bass and guitar player, brought a great instrumental, and we did two instrumentals of mine with my saxophonist friend Charlie Lagond.
And the song I knew I wanted everyone on was an old Etta James song I heard on the soundtrack of the movie Hurricane (also a Dylan reference) called In The Basement. It’s a great fun song about literally having a party in the basement, and we did it with everyone singing and a party track to boot.
In fact the only thing we didn’t get done was a song of mine that I rehearsed and was going to sing called Trouble Flies, but hey, that’s show biz.
How did you come about renting the home? Was this spontaneous, or a recording space you’ve dreamed of working in for years?
The first part of this is answered above, I think. I hadn’t really even thought it was possible before, so it was essentially planned spontaneously. I might have liked time for more jamming and making music on the spot, but we could always go back.