by Ryan Meehan
Blackie & the Rodeo Kings is Colin Linden (The Band, Bob Dylan, Bruce Cockburn), Stephen Fearing (multiple Juno award winner), and Tom Wilson (Junkhouse, Lee Harvey Osmond) — they’re all known to have successful careers of their own. Colin has also been involved with the ABC show, Nashville since the inaugural season. His friends T Bone Burnett and Buddy Miller asked him to play a tune by Charles Esten, who plays Deacon Claybourne. (He played a version of the old Blind Lemon Jefferson song, “Matchbox Blues.”) His role evolved into “guitar coach” for a number of the young actors . . .all of whom by the way, sing and play their own parts. Eventually, Colin was asked to supervise the music shoots and he continues to appear in many episodes. There are many reasons to rip open South and review it — AllMusic described the band as, “one of Canada’s leading roots rock acts…a collaboration between three well-respected blues, folk, and rock musicians.” South marks the band’s eighth studio album and follows their ambitious Kings & Queens, which was deemed “a truly great male-female duets album” by the Nashville Scene, and featured Lucinda WIlliams, Emmlou Harris, Roseane Cash, Amy Helm, Mary Margaret O’Hara and others. We were fortunate enough to have Colin Linden is our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: You recently played in Bob Dylan’s band…What was that whole experience like and did you have “South” finished before that happened back in July?
CL: Playing with Bob Dylan was an unbelievably great thing. I love his music so much and I always wished that one day I could play with him. Bob, the band and the crew were really great to me and I loved it. Bob was amazing every night. Totally focused, completely in touch with every note everybody played. Lots of spontaneous playing, but all very geared to supporting the song and the moment. ‘South” was already completed by the time I started playing with Bob.
RM: How did the recording process from this record differ from that of “From the Water” or “Kings & Queens?”
CL: We recorded most of “South” at my home studio in Nashville. It started as an all-acoustic, primarily trio album. Our idea was to play the songs as though we were sitting around a table informally. We initially planned to record acoustic versions of songs that we had already recorded- with one new one from each of us and maybe a couple of interesting covers. It was meant to be a vinyl-only release we could sell offstage. We loved how it sounded, so it slowly evolved into our next “real” album– with almost exclusively new material, and with Johnny Dymond and Gary Craig on bass and drums. It did, by the way, stay an acoustic album. There’s organ on 2 songs and electric bass on a few…but no electric guitars. Every record seems to have its own story and this one was as different from “From The Water” or “Kings & Queens” as anything…
RM: You work on ABC’s hit series “Nashville”…How did your role as a coach of the talent eventually progress to being the supervisor of some of these shoots, and eventually appearing in the show?
CL: I got involved with “Nashville” through my friendship with T Bone Burnett and Callie Khoury. Callie is the show’s creator and T Bone was the executive music producer. T Bone worked very closely with Buddy Miller, and they had me come in to play on some songs. T Bone and Callie thought it would be cool to have me play those parts onscreen. This led to me meeting and getting to know the actor/singers, and that led to me being asked to teach them their parts and help them get into their characters’ musical worlds. All the actors sing all their own parts, and they really sing well. They all play too, so my role was teaching them the parts that we played in the studio, so they could replicate them accurately on camera. They all actually learn how to play them. As the season went on, I was asked to supervise the shoots to make sure that the look of the playing is right…When Buddy Miller inherited the role of executive music producer this year, he kindly has had me continue to play on most of the music sessions, and the producers have asked me to continue on too.
RM: When it comes to the way you approach songwriting, is there any key of music that you don’t really find particularly appealing and try to avoid? What’s the highest number of keys you’ve ever played a song in before finally settling on one final draft for recording?
CL: I love all the keys….They have different sounds and characteristics. Some are more guitar-like, and I tend to write in them a little more. Highest number of keys….don’t really know…With “Kings & Queens” I had to consider the keys a lot more to accommodate having a female vocalist join in. It was a pretty big factor in matching songs with singers.
RM: My favorite cut off the new disc is track ten “Fleur Du Lys” which features some of the more colorful lyrics on the album…What are the lyrics to that song in reference to?
CL: It’s about falling for a girl with a Fleur Du Lys tattoo.
RM: What is the one thing in the music industry that you haven’t had the chance to do yet that you are really interested in doing? In ten years do you think you’ll have been able to say that you’ve accomplished it?
CL: I want to be a lot better than I am at playing guitar, singing, writing songs and producing. If you had asked me any time in the past 35 years, I would have answered, I want to play with Bob Dylan! So maybe I should say, I hope to play with him some more.
RM: The band’s sound is much more stripped down than a lot of modern artists…In your opinion how has modern recording technology allowed people to abuse the process to where you lose a lot of that originality and simplicity that made the albums we all listened to growing up so great?
CL: I don’t think the technology is to blame really. It has made the recording process much more accessible to people, but can also tend to make it a little more isolating. It can also offer so many options that it becomes a little easier to lose the forest for the trees…and lose sight of the strengths a record may have. That being said, I don’t think that recording fidelity has particularly improved just because frequency response has.
RM: What’s up next for Blackie and the Rodeo Kings in 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
CL: We hope to get out there and play for people a bunch this upcoming year. We also have a pretty big-scale project that we hope to begin soon….and that will likely take a year or more to finish.
Official Website: http://blackieandtherodeokings.com/south/
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/blackieandtherodeokings
Blackie and the Rodeo Kings on Twitter: https://twitter.com/therodeokings
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