This is an interview with Richard Bennett. Richard is a brilliant guitarplayer from America who has been working with Mark since he released his first solo-album “Golden heart” in 1996.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you became a musician / producer?
- I always loved music as far back as I can remember and actually had a record player around the age of 2. Guitar in particular held a facination for me and my parents purchased a little Mexican instrument for me when I was 11, there was no stopping me from there. After many years of studio work in Los Angeles, I began to feel I could produce records myself and began pursuing that direction through the contacts I had made since 1968. From here, I will direct you to the biography section of my website for further details, www.richard-bennett.com
Who were your musical inspirations when you started playing the guitar ?
- I was primarily interested how the guitar worked in the contest of regular vocal records, in other words non-instrumental pop music. For instance, the electric guitar part on A White Sport Coat by Marty Robbins really caught my ear as a kid.
I’ve also asked Chuck Ainlay this question, but I’ll also ask you, since you are often on other side of the sound board. Could you describe an ordinary day for you in a studio in Nashville ?
- The musicians usually begin arriving about a half hour before the downbeat call, getting instruments out and tuned as well as mic checks for the engineer. Seldom do you know what songs you’ll be working on. In a three hour record date it is usual to get two songs. In a three hour demo session they try to get 4 to 6! There will usually be a demo CD of the songs and a chord chart for each tune. We listen once or twice and begin playing. While listening, I determine what I like about the guitar part on the demonstration CD and incorporate that into what I come up with. The level of musicianship is so high with the studio players that an acceptable take is often arrived at after only a couple of passes.
How did you meet Mark, and how did you become a member of his current band ? Were you a fan of his music before you met him ?
- I was recommended by several mutual friends including Chuck Ainlay and Paul Franklin when Mark was asking about guitar players for some sessions he was planning in Nashville. These recordings ended up being the majority of the Golden Heart record. I was flattered and honored to get the call and somewhat intimidated as I was a fan as well. I remember thinking what the hell can I add to this guy’s music? He’s already got the guitar stuff covered brilliantly. So I went into it blindly and simply was myself. Things worked out between us very comfortably and I feel priviliged to have worked with Mark for 10 years now.
What’s it like to be working with Mark in the studio ? And on stage ?
- It’s very relaxed in the studio, no hurry, taking as long as we need to learn each song and figure out the best approach as a group and individually. When we do begin rolling tape we record as a group and not one piece at a time. On stage we can take each song’s arrangement and expand or develop it even further as we continue to explore the song. That’s the great thing with music, it reveals itself to you in layers and facets, always unveiling another little secret.
Can you tell us a little bit about your Guitars and amps ? Which ones you like best, and the ones you use the most when you are recording ?
- It’s hard to go wrong with my 1954 Telecaster, 1956 Gretsch 6120 or some kind of Strat or Les Paul. They are really the meat and potatoes of the guitar world. That said, I have so many instruments that I use on a regular basis from arch top jazz guitars to electric 12-strings. As for amps, I use a Fender Vibroverb that’s about 12 or 13 years old now, a re-issue that’s very good. Also a Tone King amp with one 12″. These amps were made several years ago and are no longer in production but sound great and are excellent in the studio. I occasionally use a Vox AC-30 if I need more power, but in the studio I play relatively quietly compared to most. For the Rainy Decade album I used an amp that the engineer had, a Supro Combo with a single 15″ speaker that I love. It was seldom turned up past 3 and I think it sounds big as a barn.
You have recently released a solo album, “Themes of a rainy decade”. Can you tell all the Norwegian fans where they can buy it, and maybe tell them a little bit about the album ?
- The best way to get a copy of my record is through my website at www.richard-bennett.com From there it will direct you how to order a it. The album itself is very melodic and in fact a lot of guitar players might not like it because there is no grandstanding, wailing distorted noises or jamming. I primarily wanted to make a record that concentrated on the compositions, melodies and arrangements. I kept thinking that whoever was listening should be able to hum the melody after they’d heard the tune, sort of like Theme From A Summer Place or Stranger On The Shore. I spent a great deal of time writing until I had what I wanted, and I’m pleased with the results.
You are also a music producer. Can you explain what you actually are doing when you are the producer for an artist ?
- In the simplest and most ideal terms, a producer helps an artist make the record that’s in the artists head. However the producer is also the person responsible for bringing the record in on budget, hiring the studio, engineer and musicians, often picking material and a liason between the artist and the record company. The producer is ultimately responsible for completing and turning in an acceptable album. To some degree a producer is part arranger, if not knowing at least sensing if something in the track is not fitting musically and being able to make an alternative suggestion. A producer has to be able to work with the artist to get a compelling or at the very least, appropriate vocal. Throughout all of this, the producer must at times be a hand holder when the artist is insecure, a phsychologist when the artist, musicians or engineer is having a crisis and an authority figure to keep things on track, on time and on budget. A friend of mine says producing records is a 5 cent an hour baby sitting job. However, when you’re responsible for giving birth to a great album, all the problems are forgotten and it’s a proud and great feeling.
Will you be a part of Mark’s Band for his new tour?
- I plan to be out next year touring with Mark and look forward to it.
What music do you listen to when you come home from work?
- Everything from Sarah Vaughn to Bert Kaempfert, Johnny Horton to Johnny Hodges, Charlie Parker to DJ Shadow, on and on and on. I have an extensive 78rpm collection so I’m listening to all eras and styles of music. At the moment I’m really loving The Polyphonic Spree’s new record Together We’re Heavy. About the only thing I don’t listen to is modern country music. I find it artistically and musically bankrupt.
Any advice for musicians /guitarplayers, who starts out today?
- Listen, listen, listen to all kinds of music and all eras of music. Always be passionate and enthusiastic about playing. Often in a working situation you might not like the song you’re working on but you can always find some small thing about every tune that will keep you interested and involved. Always try to contribute something to every playing situation. That doesn’t necessarily mean being the star, often it’s a simple little part or a well played rhythm part……but ALWAYS be passionate about it.
What album are you most proud of that you have been involved in making?
- I’ve played on far too many records to be able to.
What’s your next project?
- I’m booked to play on a new album by Amy Grant in a week or so and also I’ll be going to Italy in September to play at the Pensa Day Festival. On return from Italy I will begin playing on the new Cerys Matthews album, her second solo project away from Catatonia and my second with her.
What do you think of Norway ? Are you familiar of some of the artists here?
- I’ve spent so little time in Norway that I cannot comment on the country. We all have mentioned how much we’d love to have more time to explore your beautiful land. I too would love to do some listening to Norwegian artists as I’m not familiar with anyone apart from Geir, who I enjoy very much.
Thank you for your time and help, Richard!