Published Jul 09, 2007Theres a long time between albums and then theres a really long time. For Edie Brickell, she hasnt recorded an album with the New Bohemians since 1990s Ghost of a Dog. In the intervening 17 years, shes put out two solo albums, married Paul Simon (whom she met on Saturday Night Live), and had kids. Now shes back with Stranger Things, a confident and fun album that reunites her with the New Bohemians and has her touring again, including three July dates in Canada. Read on to find out her connection with Exclaim!, her crush on Bob Wiseman and her lack of love for record companies.
How are you?
Im good, thanks. How are you?
Im good. Its hot and muggy but Im in an air-conditioned place so its okay.
I love hot and muggy. I lived in Connecticut too long and Im originally from Texas so Ive been playing the perspective game for years and years and years.
I guess the first question is how did the whole gang get back together? Was it a conscious decision or did it just happen?
Wed always play together every time Id go back to Texas to visit. Before my kids started school I went back to Texas every three months and to escape the winter I could hang out down there for about a month because, like I said, I wasnt really used to this 30 degree and below weather. I would just hang out and eat Mexican food and play with the babies in the yard and then go and jam. Through the course of the years wed collected these songs and wed try to record them ourselves and we did sell a record on the internet ourselves featuring a few of the songs because we like these songs a lot. Then we met Bryce Goggin [producer]. We werent going to do it again unless we did it our way: simply and without any pressure. Because there was so much pressure in the beginning that it nearly tore us apart. We remembered how much fun it was to jam so we always just got together and played. But it wasnt until I met Bryce Goggin in Brooklyn that it dawned on me that it was time for us to make another record our way. Bryce understands a band like the New Bohemians and hes a really laid-back guy and his soundboard is in the same room as the musicians and it was just a big funky mess of room that reminded me of the garages and all the funky houses that we played in and stayed in down in Texas. So, it was very comfortable and it wasnt some slick studio with some record companys producer at our backs. It was basically just having fun like we always have. We really made the record we always wanted to make. Its live, basically, and, you know, some overdubs, but thats a really live feel. Theres a joyful energy to it that I think we didnt necessarily capture before.
Have these songs been fermenting over this time or were they figured out when you got back together with them?
Wed always played. They never really had time to sit because wed always play. Wed jam and write more and to add to a big body of songs and when it came time to make the record we just picked our favourites through the years. So, they didnt really get old and we would play them live. Wed book little gigs down in Texas but then wed play our old clubs where we got started, so, nothing was old, nothing was rusty, it was just a matter of picking up and we had the luxury of time obviously.
Is this a reconnection back to the late 80s, early 90s when you got started with the New Bohemians?
Its a reconnection only in the sense that Brandon [Aly], our original drummer, is touring with us or is doing all this with us, so thats really fun. Because when we got involved with the record company later, Brandon slipped in and out of the scene and Matt Chamberlain, who was also our friend, went on tour with us, so that always felt a little funny. One friend in, one friend out. And we missed Brandon so much because hes just a great guy and he adds a lot texture and beats, like on "Oh My Soul. Thats so Brandon, you know. Hes just such an original, fun guy. We wanted everything to sort of come full circle as we played in the clubs with Brandon and we wrote all those songs with Brandon but when we went on tour Brandon wasnt with us. It was Matt, who, like I said, was our friend because we knew him from another band in Dallas. And then when I went back to Dallas after Id already moved out to New York and started to have a family, we got together and started to play with Brandon again. I suppose it is a reconnection in that sense, but its a connection that never really went away because we always would get together and jam at every opportunity. In fact, they would come up to New York a couple of years in a row just so we could all play. We wanted to do it our way and be very gentle with ourselves, without pressure. Because that pressure, in the beginning, to live up to record companys expectation was overwhelming and now it was what we wanted to do.
Has that freedom been gained with the time between albums?
Yeah, definitely. Because time gives you perspective. But, we just got together quietly and did what we wanted to do and theres a funny bonding that happens when you jam with somebody because theres a lot of goofiness and goofy laughter. You do things that you wouldnt do in normal company. You know, you go into some heavy metal jam or some goofy country jam and youre all just laughing. Its how musicians play on a playground. Its really fun and then to take that into a public arena, well, its funny because you have your connections, like your private jokes, and you have to go out and be a band that everybody expects you to be and you know who you really are.
This albums seems more muscular, or more louder and rockier than the last ones. Is this where the songs went when jamming it out or was it a decision?
Thats the way the band has always been and its with the nudging of record companys production to take that eclectic sensibility or rock-ier sensibility and mould it into a poppier format. That made sense for them and this makes sense for us. Basically, it was our goal to show another side of the band that we knew that we loved. Whether anybody else did or not [laughs].
In that sense, is this a kind of a reclaiming of the identity of Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians?
Yeah, it is. Thats very well put.
Whats the difference between working with the New Bohemians and doing the solo stuff like your last album, Volcano? Is it just as fun or an entirely different beast?
Its really different because, for Volcano, people looked to me to see am I happy, satisfied, does it sound good? Im not used to that. Ive always worked with the New Bohemians and theyre loudmouths with their opinions [laughs]. Im just sitting there and if something hits me the really wrong way Ill say "Nah but for the most part I feel like people know what it is they want to express and you should respect what that is and join up. You plug in where you need to plug in and you do your part and they do their part and you have a really cool sound. Unless theyre doing something thats been grating on your nerves, you leave it because they know their instrument best and they know their part. When I was a soloist, people would play something for me and look at me and say, "Was that all right? Is that what you wanted? and I wasnt really accustomed to that. I would always say "Yeah, that sounds great. When they look to me for direction, when the song is right there, I always think, "Well, the song speaks for itself. You play what you feel based on the song, the framework, the body. Being a producer, in that sense, was hard for me and a little bit uncomfortable because, as I said, Im used to everybody knowing exactly what they wanted to play. And doing it.
I have a trivia question for you.
Do you remember the last time you played in Toronto?
Yeah, I do. I remember the club and being there but I dont remember the exact date. Why do you ask?
It was in March 1992, I believe, at the Opera House.
Oh, that. No, no. I played again for the Volcano tour. Ha, ha, ha.
Well, you played in 1992 at the Opera House
With Bob Wiseman at the launch of a magazine called Exclaim!, which is the magazine Im doing this interview for.
How funny is that? That was a really fun night. I played with Bob and Don Kerr. Im crazy about Bob Wiseman. I had a super-crush on Bob Wiseman. Way back in the day. It was, alas, not reciprocated. [laughs]
You were in Toronto at the time, werent you? Working with Bob Wiseman?
Yeah. Before I was married. We met on the Blue Rodeo tour and I just thought he was absolutely adorable and I couldnt believe what a magical musician he is and all those instruments he could play and that energy. I really did have a crush on him. I thought he was phenomenal. But not seriously, not away from the real desire of my life. As a musician, I had a major crush on him. Its unbelievable what can do. I really respect his musicianship a lot.
Those sessions you were working on with him. What ever happened to them?
The record company didnt like em. Its funny, I wanted to work with him but I hadnt written very many songs and it was like hunt and peck. I guess I didnt have enough songs or hadnt written enough songs and my heart wasnt really in it anymore. I was just more interested in going back home to New York to start my family and be there and be away from music and the music business and what Id gone through with the New Bohemians and touring made me weary and embarrassed a little bit. I wasnt just ready to keep going and I didnt live enough to write well. And to slow down and stop because I was at a go! go! go! pace. Its funny because musicians can keep going because theyre constantly playing but I think as a songwriter, for me anyways, its wise to step back and live a little bit and then write and then look at the songs youve written and say, "Are these good? instead of recording every single song that you write and assuming that its quality [laughs], which is basically what I was doing. I look back and I think "Oh my god, thats good but really embarrassing. So I didnt give myself time to grow, basically. And, another point is, that, if Id been a guy, theres no way there would have been any break in time recording, touring, playing with New Bohemians or anybody else. But, because I wanted to have kids very early in life, because, certainly in my family, all the women had kids really young, and my clock was just ticking. I was ready and I just wanted to have my family and settle down and enjoy kids. I love kids. And my heart was hurting that I wasnt doing that yet. And thats basically what happened. I feel for the [New Bohemians], though, I know if I could have told them when I was 18, when I joined the band, look, I going to want to have kids and stop doing this then maybe they would have found somebody to play with, but it didnt work out that way. When I stopped, it kind of stopped them a little bit. They went on because theyre great musicians. They didnt really get a fair shake and it was because my interest waned really immediately because there was too much attention and it was too embarrassing and after I met my husband thats all I could think about. Thats a really long answer, I think. [laughs].