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Episode 08: Brad Jones

Brad Jones

Today we talk with Nashville-based songwriter, producer, arranger and studio musician, Brad Jones.

Mr. Jones proved himself as a solo artist and songwriter in the mid '90s before hanging out his Producer shingle at Nashville's Alex the Great recording studio, which he co-owns.  He's played bass on tour with Matthew Sweet, he's co-written with Marshall Crenshaw, and as a producer and studio musician, he's played all manner of musical instruments while producing countless albums.

I asked Brad to share some insight into his own music, along with that “something extra” that he brings to the stage and the studio.

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The Blunderbuss
(Lyrics by Brad Jones)

Thanksgiving passes slow on the Reservation
Such a shame they don't live in town
Five helicopters drop down the special ration
And the sky fills with pamphlets

Hiawatha sells her charms
The men have gone to trade for arms
Custer rides in drunk demands a vaudeville teepee show

God's children / The exiles / Tacoma takes up slack for all of us
Ten pilgrims / Four-wheelin' / No buffalo escapes the blunderbuss

Miles Standish calls his men to receive their mission
As the pep rally rages on
Makes speeches 'bout supreme Anglo intuition
And he throws down his compass

But beyond the 13th parallel
They start to fight amongst themselves
Young and scared and lost and hungry
Deep within the woods

God's children / The exiles / Tacoma takes up slack for all of us
Ten pilgrims / Four-wheelin' / No animal escapes the blunderbuss

It's destiny was manifest
(The hand of God was pointed west)
Caterpillar tracks across the hot Nevada sand

God's children / The exiles / Tacoma takes up slack for all of us
Ten pilgrims / Four-wheelin' / No living thing escapes the blunderbuss
Take aim... FIRE!


Brad Jones
Lyric snippet by Amy Rigby


As of this moment he's forty years old

Everything he touches turns to gold

Lamé or gilt-flake, make no bones

Who built the pyramids?

Brad Jones


(Special thanks to Amy for sending this lyric along!)

  Album Artist Songwriter Producer Song


The Blunderbuss  (see lyrics below)

1. a short-barreled large-bored gun with a flared muzzle, used at short range.
2. an action or way of doing something regarded as lacking in subtlety and precision.
3. a song by Brad Jones about Manifest Destiny.

Man'-i-fest Des'-tin-y:
the 19th-century doctrine or belief that the expansion of the US throughout the American continents was both justified and inevitable.


I Tried

This song features wide melodic intervals, soaring, polyphonic vocal harmonies, and jubilant, contrapuntal bass lines. During the second half of the verses and also during the chroruses, notice how the backing vocals feel loose and unstructured, when actually they’re neatly arranged.  What I originally heard as feedback in the breakdown was actually overtones from a sustained organ note.



Mary's Moving Day

An intriguing title and lyrical premise. Notice what Brad refers to as the "escalating list coda." Near the end of the song, after he sings the title line “’s Mary’s Moving Day,” he sings that melody line again and again, each time with new lyrics, while escalating the lyrical payoff with each iteration.



Froggy Mountain Shakedown
Whimsical lyrics and southern-styled pop, all rolled into one.  The title is a more than just a clever play on the 1949 Earl Scruggs bluegrass song title, “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.”  All of these title words are important parts of the story.  Lots of nice wordplay, like when Froggy buys a house with a moat (a house on a lake), and the fun line, “They broke thirteen laws in twenty-seven states.” The guitar and drum work is a blast.  Hans and Brad played all of the instruments on "Mountain Jack" except the drums, which were played by Keith Rodman.  The album title (which first appears as "up the mountain, Jack") is established in this lyric.

See Hans Rotenberry singing this song live at Alex The Great Studio



A Likely Lad

An extremely singable verse and chorus melody, and a sweet, 6th-below vocal harmony. But hang on tight at the bridge, because you’re in for a real joy ride with one chord change in particular. You’ll know the one I mean.



Count On Me

More southern-flavored guitar work, against a snare-clap back beat. Some nice couplets, including: “I took a chance on you / After I blew the intro, knew just what I had to do,” and “Couldn’t you wait a little longer? / I’d wait it out for you.”


(Title / Artist / Album)


Miss July / Brad Jones / Gilt-Flake)

Count On Me / Hans Rotenberry and Brad Jones / Mountain Jack

The Blunderbuss / Brad Jones / Gilt-Flake)

The Blunderbuss / Brad Jones / Gilt-Flake

I Tried / Brad Jones / Gilt-Flake

Mary's Moving Day / Brad Jones / Gilt-Flake

Froggy Mountain Shakedown / Hans Rotenberry and Brad Jones / Mountain Jack

A Likely Lad (Hans Rotenberry and Brad Jones / Mountain Jack


Everlasting Love / Robert Knight / (Single)

Everlasting Love / Carl Carlton / Everlasting Love

Picture Book / Bill Lloyd and Tommy Womack / This is Where I Live: The Songs of Ray Davies & The Kinks

Let's Pretend / Brad Jones / The Raspberries Preserved -- A Tribute

Starless Summer Sky / Marshall Crenshaw / Miracle of Science
(with Brad Jones album credits for bass, engineering, mixing, cello, Fender Rhodes, vocal harmony)

Average Joe / Ron Sexsmith / Other Songs
(with Brad Jones on bass)

Chatterbox / David Mead / Tangerine
(Produced by Brad Jones)


Dave Caruso: “Today we talk with Nashville-based songwriter, producer, arranger and studio musician, Brad Jones.”


  • Miss July
  • Count On Me
  • The Blunderbuss

DC: “I asked Brad to share some insight into his own music, along with that ‘something extra’ that he brings to the stage and the studio.

Brad Jones, welcome to Songwriter Stories! How're you doin’?”

Brad Jones: “Not too bad. How’s it goin’ with you?”

DC: “‘Goin’ great!”

BJ: “Pleasure to meet your acquaintance.”

DC: “Same here. Alright, ‘we’re rollin’,’ just like studio owners used to say.”

BJ: “I mean, I just record on digital all day long and I *still* say ‘we’re rollin’.’ I just can’t help myself. It’s how we learned.”

DC: “Y’know, when I went to AllMusic and when I went to Discogs, and I went to Wikipedia, everything is so spotty these days in terms of credits. It’s a pain in the ass. I can’t tell anything.”

BJ: “Yeah. I hate it. I mean, there’s so many records I do now that nobody has any idea who produced it if they don’t hold the physical product. It sucks.”

DC: “I’d like the listeners who have not heard of you to get a quick introduction to your Nashville recording studio, ‘Alex the Great,’ and your partner, Robin Eaton.”

BJ: “We confederated twenty five years ago.”DC: “Wow!”

BJ: “And we’ve been going strong ever since. Our accountant tells us that it’s unheard of for a partnership to last that long without tears and recrimination. But it’s lasted that long and by our studio being the last man standing, in a lotta ways, we’ve kind of become kind of a quiet, home little institution in Nashville.”

DC: “So fisticuffs aren’t a regular thing there, then?”

BJ: “Yeah, but like a lot of marriages, that’s how we express ourselves and it works for us.”

DC: “Exactly. If we walk into a session and you have a black eye, it’s *fine*.”

BJ: “Yeah. It’s been known to happen.”

DC: [Laughing] “Okay.”

BJ: “The thing about our studio is there’s sort of an extended-family vibe about it. Because anyone that’s ever made a record there, whether they’re from in town or from New Zealand or wherever they’re from, they come back ten years later and they always walk in and they go, ‘Ah,,, back home again.’ ‘Cause it’s a homey studio. It’s not one of those sterile kind of big production studios. It’s a more homey one.

And it’s got living quarters built into it and lots of weird artwork and cool vintage instruments. It’s just sorta like a lot of people’s second home. That’s what we tried to create. That atmosphere. I work other places too, but I probably do the majority of ‘em at Alex.”

DC: “Where do your artist-clients come from?”

BJ: “I don’t really hang out my shingle. I just sort of sit in one place and wait and see who comes to me. And they just come from all over and they talk to each other. They hear a record that their friend did and they like it so they call me. Ya know?”

DC: “Do you have any relationships with record companies that you *have* to do something?”

BJ: “No. I used to. I mean, back in the record label era, I did have relationships with labels and A&R men. But right now, I could only think of a very small handful of record people that I’ve kinda kept in contact with. And had, ya know, that they send you work. It doesn’t really happen much anymore.”

DC: “And that’s when they say, ‘would you,’ and you say, ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ right — not like you must.”

BJ: “Yeah. No, I’ve never been on the payroll of a label or like a house producer or anything like that.”

DC: “And do artists sometimes pitch you to produce or mix their albums remotely? Do they get in touch with you and say, ‘Hey, I got this thing and I’d like your help?’”

BJ: “It’s usually the artist or his manager that contacts me. I’d say that like 25% of the time, it’s just a label. 75%’s the artist or their manager.”

DC: “Well, speaking of artists, we’re gonna start out with your solo career, which — was relatively short!”

BJ: [Laughs] Yeah, I got into some other stuff!”

DC: “Well, it’s not like you’re not busy!”

BJ: “Yeah.”

DC: “But in 1995 you had an album called ‘Gilt-Flake’ — am I pronouncing that correctly?”

BJ: “That’s right, yeah.”DC: “Where does that title come from?”

BJ: “Well, a gilt-flake is a kind of a thin, gold-based paint that they used to paint frames of a painting or paint the dome of a capitol building. And so that was a very fine, expensive kind of gilded paint. You know, paint that was gold-based.

And at the time, I was wrestling with all different kinds of issues. I was flaking out, personally, on some people that I knew and loved, and I had some guilt about it. And so it was kind of a little bit of wordplay.

And also, kind of like the name of our studio, ‘Alex the Great,’ I did want to invent a couple of words that people weren’t exactly sure what it meant. But at least it kinda burned a visual. You know, you remembered it. I mean, there’s too many records that have names like, you know, ‘Forgetting Yesterday,’ or ‘Until the Next Thing Comes.’ You know, all these vague kind of things. I wanted to put some ‘stuff’ in the title, you know?”

DC: “I like that you’re not afraid of big words and you’re not afraid of odd words or just words that come out of nowhere. Like ‘The Blunderbuss.’

BJ: “Yeah.”

DC: “I had to look it up. I didn’t know what it was.”

BJ: “Yeah, ‘
The Blunderbuss’ has a real odd pattern, it’s not precision-firing, it just kind of mows down everything in its path without discrimination.”

DC: “Yeah. I had to find the lyric on a forum — some stray forum called ‘Octopus Overlords dot com,’ which probably means nothing One person was talking with another person about music and they said, ‘Is there an f-bomb in The Blunderbuss?’ This is something that really happened. I thought you’d find it interesting, that’s why I’m sharing it.”

BJ: “Oh.”

DC: “And the guy says, ‘No, I don’t *think* so,’ and this is what he said about you: ‘Brad Jones is a Nashville-based session musician / producer, worked with both country and rock stuff. If anybody remembers
Foster & Lloyd, or is a fan of — is it ‘Rad Foster?’’”

BJ: “Radney.”

DC: “Okay.
Radney‘Foster or Bill Lloyd’s solo career, Brad Jones is a big part of their music-making process.’ And he says, ‘I never heard an f-bomb in there, but after re-listening again, you have to be hearing the words wrong, although the lyrics are *loopy*.”

BJ: [LAUGHS] “Yeah, they *are* loopy! That song is almost like kind of a hallucination. An American historical hallucination is kind of what that song is.

[AUDIO CLIP: The Blunderbuss]

DC: “It’s got Hiawatha, Custer, Miles Standish, a vaudeville teepee show...”

BJ: “Yeah...”

DC: “And Pampers.”

BJ: [Laughs] “There’s ‘*Pampers*’ in there?”

DC: “That’s what it said.”

BJ: “*Pamphlets.”

DC: “OK, good.

BJ: “Pamphlets.

DC: “Thank you!”

BJ: “That’s even better though. So then... in *that guy’s* telling, the American CIA is dropping *Pampers* from a helicopter.

”DC: “Yes.”

BJ: “That’s even better than dropping pamphlets.”

DC: “Well, it’s weirder and loopier.”

BJ: “Yeah, I’m goin’ with the Pampers from here on out.”

DC: “That’s hilarious. Thank you for correcting that. The ‘supreme Anglo intuition’...”

BJ: [Laughs]

DC: “...reminded me of a
Graham Parker song.”

BJ: “Yeah?”

DC: “It’s called ‘Break Them Down.’ Have you ever heard of it?”

BJ: “No. I know Graham Parker, just never heard that song.”

DC: “He talks about, basically, forcing Western ways on and religion on Venezuelan savages. So yours doesn’t get into any of that of course, but it’s this whole mixing of, you know, westerns and Western-ism, right?”

BJ: “Yeah, yeah. It sounds like it’s kind of a companion piece to what I was doing. Mine was about taking land from other people. It’s about
Manifest Destiny. Maybe there’s a little bit of American guilt on that song. I’m this guy that’s enjoyed all the fruits of us taking this great land from the indians. So I’ve got a little bit of guilt about it, ya know?”

DC: “The person that wrote the lyrics down, didn’t notice that each chorus ends with subtle variation. That’s one of the terms I use when I teach songwriting. You say ‘no buffalo escapes the blunderbuss,’ then you say ‘no animal...’ then you say ‘no living thing.’”

BJ: “I never thought about that but but you’re right. And if you do those things, you do try to make it escalate. You try to make each variation kinda twist the knife a little harder than the variation before. So you gotta put ‘em in the right order.”

DC: “Do you want to talk about how that song came about? What made you think of it? Did you write the music first, the lyric first?”

BJ: “I wrote the... music first, with another guy. A guy named Sam Baylor. And we were just sort of jamming the music. And we really liked it. We liked the music, and so then I went to my room a couple days later and just cooked up this lyric.

I don’t really know why that lyric went to that music. But I had obviously been reading a lot American history and some of the injustices of our history, you know, not just the glory part, but the sort of embarrassing part. And I just had a lot of imagery cooking up in my brain and I thought it was just kind of interesting and fun to just sort of get it out. And I was trying to make a song that was kind of unlike some of the other songs that were going around. You know? I was trying to do something different. And so it was fun. It was kind of an experiment.

I haven’t really... that style of writing... I never really went back to it much, because shortly after that I came to realize that you can write one or two songs per album that are like that, but if you write a whole album that is that kind of historical thing, kinda like the way The
Decemberists do, that ultimately, I don’t think it’s as lasting music, ‘cause the most lasting music has men and women in it. And The Blunderbuss is just a bunch o’ dudes.”

DC: [Laughs]

BJ: “Y’know what I mean? There’s no women in there.”

DC: “‘Cept for Hiawatha’s in it.”

BJ: “Well, yeah, but I even got
Hiawatha wrong, ‘cause — this is embarrassing — y’know, I studied Spanish, so I figured anything that ends with an “a” has to be the feminine. Hiawatha must be the indian princess. To my embarrassment, later I found out that Hiawatha was a dude.”

DC: “No way.”

BJ: “Yeah. So even that I got wrong. But at least the poetry of it’s right. The intention of it. You get the intention that *she* sells her charms.

DC: “Well, you’re in good company on the mistakes, because
Chris Difford [of Squeeze] in ‘Pulling Mussels (From the Shell),’ he says ‘I feel like William Tell, Maid Marian on her tiptoed feet.’ And Maid Marian’s not from William Tell. So y’know... it happens.”

BJ: “Well, we poets, we’re allowed to conflate things. I don’t think that’s against the rules. In fact, when you write music, especially when you write lyrics, I think you’re *supposed* to be in kind of a disoriented dream state. That’s really how you get the best stuff.”

DC: “I love that.”

BJ: “And then later, on a different day, you can be more clear-eyed and edit it the way you see fit. But really, the creation is supposed to happen in a slightly confused and delirious state. That’s when the best stuff comes out, y’know?”

DC: “Well, and you said something really interesting when you were talking about recording, on
Recording Studio Rockstars, on an interview — and you talked about how mistakes are important, if you can recognize when they work.”

BJ: “Oh, yeah. Very true. Also, if you work fast and recklessly, which I think is the best way to work, then mistakes are gonna happen, but if you work slow and cautiously — at the first stage, anyway, of your creation — you might end up with a more sterile creation. I think it’s almost better to work fast and reckless, early. And then later you can get all reasoned and bring out your red pen.”

DC: “Good stuff.”

[AUDIO CLIP: ‘I Tried’]

DC: “[On] the song ‘I Tried,’ you have a lot of vocal harmony on the intro, and layering and feedback. Talk about intentional or unintentional mistakes, in the middle there’s a breakdown where there’s a little bit of space and there’s feedback. And at the end, there’s what sounds like more intentional feedback.”

BJ: “I actually don’t remember the feedback. I haven’t listened to that song in a long time, but I want to now ‘cause I always really liked the lyric and the melody of that song. It came from a pretty heartfelt place. And I did have a kind of a breakup of sorts in Minnesota. So that song is close to my heart.

[NOTE: Turns out it’s not feedback, it’s just harmonics.]

All I remember about the song is that I was trying to have a really fresh melody. And my idea with melody — and I try to impart this on other people — is some of the best melodies use a lot of upstrokes. They’re not just showing the downbeat, but they’re showing the ‘one and,’ the ‘two-and,’ the ‘three-and’ — lots of upstrokes. Y’know what I’m talkin’ about?”

DC: “The rhythm of the melody, is what you’re saying.”

BJ: “The rhythm of the melody. The pulse in the rhythm of the melody isn’t just... like a quarter-note melody that you’ll just bore people to tears goes like this... [Sings every syllable on a down beat]: ‘Here I am in north Da-ko-ta.’

But if you go [sings some syllables on the off beats]: Here I am in north Da-ko-ta.’ Do you see what I did?”

DC: “Totally.”

BJ: “I put a bunch of the notes on the pushed beats instead of the straight beats.

And also, the other thing that I was trying to do with ‘I Tried’ — ‘cause I was already pretty conscious of melody writing and how to do it — is I was trying to put broad intervals. A lot of people do lazy melody writing where one note just leads to the next note, which happens to be the note right next to it on the scale. But I’m trying to make a few broader jumps. You know, jump up a third or jump up a sixth or whatever. And so I was trying to make a fresh melody with colorful lyrics with lots of ‘furniture’ in it. You know, I had ‘disconnected phone’ in there and I had an actual state that I named, I named ‘Minnesota.’ And other stuff in there that I was trying to get in there to make what I considered a good melody and a good lyric. “

DC: “I wrote down that I liked your melodic vocal leaps. And that you sound like you’re having a good time singing.”

BJ: “Yeah, I’m trying to make it sound joyful. I ‘m also trying to make my *bass line* sound joyful. I was really into a thing at that time where — like, my bass parts, I still play bass on a lot of my productions. My bass parts right now are a lot more supportive and a little more serious. But at that time in my life, I was really into sort of joyous, almost funny bass playing. You know, that was my thing.”

DC: “I think people dig that. I certainly do. When I listen to...”

BJ: “Yeah, me too.”

DC: “Power pop isn’t my only staple, I don’t like to listen to it all day long, because it’s too narrow, but melodic pop, let’s say, bass should be... a singer of its own, in a way.”

BJ: “Yeah. It can be. Exactly. And the beautiful thing about bass is it’s perfect at taking the back seat for a few bars and then right when the time is right, it can leap out and take a little liberty. And that’s when the joy and the expression can come.”

[AUDIO CLIP: ‘Mary’s Moving Day.’]

DC: “I love, in ‘Mary’s Moving Day,’ the way the buildup to the final chorus runs long. And you keep doing the cycle over and over instead of just once, and you change the words every cycle. And then at the end of the cycle, you do a tag ending where, instead of ad libs, you keep changing the rhyme, changing the line to match what you were saying in earlier choruses but works really, really well.”

[AUDIO CLIP: ‘Mary’s Moving Day’ buildup section.]

BJ: “Well thanks. I didn’t realize that ‘Mary’s Moving Day’ did that but looking back on it I applaud myself for doing that ‘cause it’s something I do preach to people now. I’m always looking for what... I don’t really like lists, but I *do* like list *codas.*  I like a coda that builds. And I do try to encourage people to rearrange their arrangements once in awhile where they do a little escalating list like that.right before their closing.

And really, if you really wanna see what the ‘err’ list song is, it’s ‘
A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.’ Have you ever noticed that one does it? Each time he does his little list, it takes him longer to get through it. Until later in the song, it’s like, you gotta get through like eight or nine of ‘em finally, to get to the end of his list. And *man,* the sweat really builds when you do it like that. That guy, man, he was... that song was the king of all list songs.”

DC: “When the lyricist does that or when the singer does that, it gives the musicians something to do over each of those repetitions too...”

BJ: “Oh, yeah.”

DC: “Because they know they have to vary it somewhat and...”

BJ: “Oh, exactly. It’s a great opportunity for the band, you know? An opportunity for the drummer to go to quarter-note feel, an opportunity for the bass player to go up an octave. Yeah, it’s great. It’s the kind of arrangement framework that musicians love to hang their stuff onto.”

DC: “So this was a one-off album — you never made another one by yourself, of a whole album?”

BJ: “No, I never did, although I did recordings after that. But I did do an entire album about five or six years ago, with a pal named Hans Rotenberry.”

DC: “Next on my list. ‘Mountain Jack,’ 2010.”

BJ: “Yeah, so I mean, I kinda consider ‘Mountain Jack’ my other solo record, even though it’s a buddy record, it’s Hans and I together. But I did write... I wrote a lot of the lyrics on that album and a lot of the melody and I just feel like I’m very invested in it. I like ‘Mountain Jack’ better, really. I just think it just adds up better. But it might not have that youthful effervescence that ‘Gilt-Flake’ had, that people liked. I just always wanted people to hear ‘Mountain Jack.’ I just love it. And I like hearing my melodies sung by a better singer than me. I *love* hearing Hans Rotenberry on these melodies.”

DC: “Froggy Mountain Shakedown,’ when I put that on, first of all the lyric blew my mind, I love it so much.”

[AUDIO CLIP: ‘Froggy Mountain Shakedown.’]

DC: “Froggy did exclaim: ‘If there’s a lady here who’ll let me near, I’m game.’”

BJ: “Yep.”

DC: “So awesome. Is that you?”

BJ: “Thank you. Yeah, I wrote most of that lyric. Hans wrote the thing about the... ‘True love blossomed at the wave pool ground.”

DC: [Laughs]

BJ: “And Hans wrote, ‘He turned up that woofer and the tweeters came around.’”

DC: “So nice.”

BJ: “He wrote a bunch of the key, kind of interesting little, idiomatic little, sorta like, the little snippets that are idiomatic. Those are Hans’. But it was kinda my story. It was my idea to make it be about like borrowing too much money and getting in a hole — which America was doing at the time. You know, at the time, America was digging itself into an economic hole. Everyone was running up credit card debt, you know? And so there was sort of a timeliness to it. But the music and the guitar riff is Hans’ — I think Hans wrote pretty much all the music.”

DC: “So does that mean he wrote some of the melody, too, or does that mean you took [utilized] his melody?”

BJ: “I wrote some of the melody. I think Hans probably had most of the melody.”

DC: “Well there’s a lot of whimsical lyrics, especailly on that one.”

BJ: “Thanks. I think it’s the best song that I’ve ever written. I’ve thought this many times. And the reason I think that is I think it just has a beginning, middle and end. And I think it has a really good ending. When he runs back up the mountain to see if his dad’ll bail him out. I just love the whole thing. You could almost *hear* him runnin’ up that hill. Y’know, sweatin’. He’s in trouble. And I just... I love everything about it. I just think it turned out so good. It’s probably my favorite thing that I’ve ever had a hand in.

DC: “Getting back to ‘The Blunderbuss,’ you said you can’t write one of those on every album, but this is like you one-upped yourself on that. Because you took something...”

BJ: [Laughing] “Oh, thanks!”

DC: “...whimsical and it has a story and a beginning and an end and it works in a way that we don’t have to hear it and like... our minds are being blown, for sure, because it’s odd when we first hear it. But we *get* it right away. You don’t have to get into it heavily to go, ‘Oh, I know what he means.’”

BJ: “Yeah. Yeah.”

DC: “That’s a real trick.”

BJ: “I’m just delighted that you singled that one out, as you can tell. I’m really high on that song. There’s a lot of other songs that I’ve done that I’m quite ashamed of and [laughing] never want to talk about again. But that’s not one of ‘em.

Also, just as a side note, there is a wonderful video on YouTube of Hans, singing that song in my studio, live.”

DC: “Oh, I’ll have to dig it up.”

BJ: “And he really tells the story. The camera’s right in his face and it’s not lip-synched, it’s him, singing the track. So it’s him, actually —probably five years after we cut the album — him singing the song again. And it’s just great.”

DC: “One of the things I do is I have a Writers Room on the [Songwriter Stories] website, so for each guest, we have a link to the interview, a link to the Writers Room and a link to the website.”

BJ: “The website is just a billboard. What you wanna link ‘em to is
our YouTube channel.  The YouTube channel is called ‘Alex the Great Recording.’ And that’s got about fifteen different, black & white, vocalist videos that we shot last year. We got fifteen of the greatest vocalist that Rob and I have produced or worked with and we had them come into the studio and do a black & white, closeup vocal video, not lip-synched.  There’s some good ones in there.”

DC: “A Likely Lad” is more of a smoothly melodic piece. Compared to ‘Froggy Mountain Shakedown.’”

[AUDIO CLIP — ‘A Likely Lad’]

DC: “The division of labor — you’re pretty much done explaining that. What about music? Who played what?”

BJ: “Hans and I played everything and then our friend, Keith Rodman played drums. And he played drums last.”

DC: “No way.”BJ: “Hans and I played the whole thing to a click track and got everything how we liked it. And we might put a temporary or dummy drum loop in or something on a couple of ‘em. And then Keith came in an played drums. But all of the guitars are me and Hans, sharing the guitars.

DC: “Now, you wouldn’t normally, with a band, suggest someone do that, and yet it came out perfectly, like I can’t tell you did it, which is the trick.”

BJ: “I *would* suggest it to a band. And also, I really like solo records. I like hearing a record where a guy does all his own overdubs — I think those are cool records. That first
Paul McCartney record is *cool*! And it’s Paul playing everything, ‘cause he knew what every song was — he knew the exact right next thing to put on. And the thing that happens when a man overdubs to his own stuff is it amplifies his particular thumbprint. Like, every artist or singer or songwriter or has their own personal thumbprint. But if you get too big a crew on there, sometimes that personalized gets kind of obscured. But if, with each overdub you actually *amplify* your thumbprint, your choices, your way of constructing a phrase, you get a real strong musical statement.

And then the other thing is — don’t get me wrong — I love ensemble tracking. In fact, I do more ensemble band tracking now than I ever have. But I do do it in a kind of a special way.

So I was just proselytizing about the virtues of a guy doing his own overdubs and my example was that
Paul McCartney first album.”

DC: “Sure.”

BJ: “It’s cool. But then some people get too much up into their own self and they need to have a roomful of guys that they can bounce ideas off and hear the song in a whole new way that they weren’t imagining. And in that case, band tracking is the way to go and I do a lot of it now.

And my whole thing about band tracking is to put an artist who has written his song in with a bunch of guys that he might not have even met before. He might not have even played with them before. One of the guys that I pick might even be kind of an outlier. The reason he’s there might not even be clear right away. ‘What? He brought in an *accordion* player on *this*?’ Y’know.

But I put him in the room and then I don’t do any pre-production. The only pre-production I do is with the artist, about what the song means. Once he and I know what the song means, and what the arrangement should be, then I put him into the studio with the band and I have ‘em figure out the song right there with the mics already up. And I try to capture everybody in the room’s first response to the song.

So a lot of the records of mine that you hear that are finished, mixed records, you’re hearing the sound of a drummer, or a bass player or a keyboard guy that has only known the song for maybe 45 minutes or an hour. The song is totally new to him and that’s what is on the record. You’re hearing the guy’s knee-jerk response to the artist’s song. You’re hearing his first reaction.

If the first reactions aren’t right, or the guys in the band are fighting themselves, that’s when I step in as the air traffic control guy. I go kneel next to the drummer and I whisper something in his ear that might unlock it, or I whisper something to the bass player. But I’m just there to quietly whisper things that will eventually make this thing unlock and unlock quick. And hopefully to the delight and the inspiration of the artist.”

DC: “That sounds very much like a movie director that understands how to work with actors. You don’t tell an actor how to act, because that’s counter-productive and it pisses them off.”

BJ: “And you know, it’s interesting that you say that. It’s really interesting you say that, because when I was coming up and I’m trying to learn all the tricks of the trade. of *course* I read
George Martin’s biography and of *course* I read about Phil Spector and his technique. But I kind of got to the end of that saying I didn’t really... there wasn’t that much more to learn from reading those books of the great producers.

And I found myself getting *way* into the memoirs of film directors. By reading
Bergman’s memoir I learned *way* more about record making then I did from reading some interview with Butch Vig. The Kurusawa memoir — I learned a *whole* bunch about making a team and making your team work and what actors’ motivations were and *also*, telling a story.

That’s why I was talking about ‘Froggy Mountain Shakedown.’ In a way, I was trying to make a little movie. And good movies have a good beginning, a good middle and a good ending. And then, like you said, when you’re at the studio, it is kinda like a movie shoot. You’ve got a team and you’re trying to get this team to tell a great, colorful story.”

DC: “Well, one of the things that songwriters run into is that there’s a glut of music right now, so being heard is impossible. But if your song reaches people on an emotional level, has a story, has some kind of momentum, and interest — human interest — then it can rise obove the pack. But if it doesn’t, it’s just the same as everything else.”

BJ: “So true.”

DC: “I’m just gonna put my two cents in here that you and Hans need to get together and tour these two albums.”

BJ: [Laughs]

DC: “Just, you know, revisit it, have some fun with it.”

BJ: “I like that idea. Touring both albums as a package. That’s a cool concept.

DC: “Yeah, ‘cause you could go together and you could bring some more musicians you like and pick the rooms you wanna do it in and I would be there.”

BJ: “Oh yeah, that’s a good idea. I like that.”

DC: “Put it in the back of your mind.”

BJ: “I will.”

DC: “You were in a group called ‘The Long Players.’ Or you still are?”

BJ: “Yeah, there’s kind of a rotating cast. There’s different bass players that do it, but in the last few years, I’ve been on like 80%. 80% of the time, it’s me on bass.”

DC: “Tell us how that feeds into your arranging and production skills when you do things like that. How does learning about other music and getting inside other changes feed into your other production work?”

BJ: “Well, the first thing it does it it makes you chart out the song. And when you actually are forced to sit down and chart out the song, whether you do it on paper or just mentally — sometimes the chart’s just in your mind — but by charting it out, you realize: ‘You know what’s weird about this song? They start with the chorus, and never come back to it again.’ That’s weird. But somehow that works. I never realized till now that that’s what it did.

Or there’s other songs, I’m trying to think of an example that... oh, I can think of a good example. There was a big song called ‘
Everlasting Love.’ Do you know ‘Everlasting Love?’”

DC: “Depends on which one. There’s two.”

BJ: “Written by
Mac Gayden and Buzz [Cason]... Anyway, Mac & Buzz wrote it, they’re national guys. So it was a big hit in the sixties and even Pearl Jam did a cover — a lot of people covered it. Everlasting Love. So I had to chart it out one time and only by charting did I realize is that, wait a minute... This song starts out with this really long verse, but I’ve heard this song a million times and I *still* don’t really recognize this verse. It’s the most inconsequential, invisible, nothing verse you’ve ever heard in your life. And then they get to the chorus and it’s like, oh yeah, *this* song. I’ve heard this song. This is a great song.

And by charting it, I realized the producer that day did a really smart thing. The producer knew that the verse was shit and the chorus was where the whole game was. And so, back in the sixties they acted *super* recklessly about stuff like that. He just jettisoned the verse after that first verse. They never even came back to it. They get through that flogging, lousy first verse and then they get into the chorus [laughing] and they just keep rockin’ the chorus the whole rest of the song. And so by charting a song out, you realize those things.”


DC: “I think Mr. Jones’ comments about this song deserve a little sidebar analysis before we get back to the interview. So here’s my take on what he just said.

Brad was referring to the original version of the song, as recorded in 1967 by
Robert Knight. Let’s listen to Knight’s version, and notice that he sings the melody squarely on the beat:

[AUDIO CLIP: ‘Everlasting Love’ as sung by Robert Knight.]

Now let’s listen to
Carl Carleton’s dance remix from 1974, with agrees with Brad’s earlier advice about pushing the melody to the off-beats:

[AUDIO CLIP: ‘Everlasting Love’ as sung by Carl Carleton.]

Now let’s hear the modulation and first chorus, and notice that although the song returns to the intro, which has the same melody and chords as the verse, it goes right back to the chorus after that, with no further verse lyrics:

[AUDIO CLIP: ‘Everlasting Love’ as sung by Carl Carlton.]

Personally, I like the verse to ‘Everlasting Love,’ but that’s because I was raised on the Carl Carleton version, which has a couple of improvements over the original release.

[Keyboard demonstration begins]

The original starts on a I (one) chord, then it plays a IV chord with a 1 in the base, and an added 6th (because that 6th is in the melody). Then it goes to *another* IV chord, without the 6th and it’s still over 1, and then it returns to the I (one) chord. So that third chord isn’t as interesting as Carl Carleton’s version.

In Carl Carleton’s version, he does a I (one) chord, a IV chord over 1 with and added 6th (because it’s in the melody), and then he makes a *minor* IV chord, and that minor creates tension and interest for the ear. Then it returns to the I (one) chord. That, plus the pushed eighth notes on the melody are big improvements on the intro and verse of this version.

For a comparison of these versions, and other recorded versions, see Wikipedia, under ‘Everlasting Love (song).’

Okay! Let’s get back to our interview with Brad Jones.”


BJ: “So here’s what I do, because you know, my whole thing about songwriting *now*, now that I don’t write much and I produce — but I still consider myself a song activist — because the first thing I do when an artist brings me their batch of songs is I look at each song and I un-focus. Before I listen to the song, I try not to listen to any of the details. I just unfocus and I listen to the whole thing go by, and then I decide ‘what’s the strongest part of this song? Is it the verse? Is it the bridge? Or is it the chorus?’

It’s the same kind of harsh yardstick that whoever that guy was that produced ‘Everlasting Love’ — he did the same thing. And it’s triage. You decide real early on, before you get any further, after the first listen, and you decide: ‘what’s the motor of this song? What’s the very strongest part of this song and how do I make that part of the song happen more often?’ That’s my number one thing I do when I assess a song and figure out how I can help the artist make it better.

And then sometimes I find surprising things. And the artist doesn’t always like what I’m saying, but sometimes they come around to it and you get a stronger song. Once in awhile, this happens: I find that the bridge is actually stronger than the chorus. And I go back to the artist and I say, ‘Look, you’re gonna hate me for this, but can we just make the bridge happen three times?’ And make the chorus just happen once? And in effect, we’ve made the chorus become the bridge now.”

DC: ”That is awesome.”

BJ: “And it’s actually worked a few times and the artist has been open to trying it. So that’s the kind of overview, big architecture, first-listen kind of criteria that I have to bring to it when I assess a song for the first time.”

DC: “So let’s take an example of you playing bass and talk about what you gleaned from learning to play songs just like the record. You were on a song that was on the album in 2002, ‘This is Where I Belong: The Songs of Ray Davies and The Kinks,’ and the song was called ‘Picture Book.’ You were working with Bill Lloyd and Tommy Womack and you played bass on that and there’s a lot of theory, a lot of scales in there.”

BJ: “Yeah, I can’t remember much about the the bass part on ‘This is Where I Belong,’ although I do love that song. I *do* remember learning the bass line on ‘Picture Book.’ And that was great, ‘cause it made me realize, ‘Wait a minute; a bass line can be involved with little chromatic notes and it can be really its own little architecture.’ Especially when you do what The Kinks did, which is double it with a twelve-string guitar. And if you can get the guitar player to double your bass part, man, suddenly just everybody sounds better.”

[AUDIO CLIP: ‘Picture Book’ by Bill Lloyd & Tommy Womack]

DC: “Theory all over the place!”

BJ: “Yeah, I would say that there’s a little sort of thing I say to melody writers. And I would say it to The Kinks guy that cooked up the bass part, too. It’s like, ‘Good job! Because, Dude, you cooked up a bass line that I can draw on a chalkboard with chalk and the students at the *very* back of the school room can very plainly see the shape of that melody you’ve just written.’

Bad melodies are just like I was saying earlier — they’re just this sort of vague line that goes across the middle of the chalkboard and the guy at the back of the room can’t even really tell what that is. But if you do a good, graphic melody or bass line that has that good shape you can draw on a chalkboard, and you know that that’s what it is, then you’ve got something. And that’s what that Kinks bass line is. You could draw that stair-step and it’d be really visual. Especially when it goes back down the three tseps at the end. That’s the little hook at the end.”

DC: “Beautiful. Another way to record a cover is to not follow the original recipe at all. That’s what you did with the 1996 album, ‘
The Raspberries Preserved — A Tribute.’ You had one song called ‘Let’s Pretend.’ I bought that *long* before I knew who you were, ‘cause I’m a Raspberries fan. I’ve had it for years. And when I was looking for songs that were by you, this Brad Jones credit came up, so I said, ‘Okay, well he got a girl singer, that’s cool, whatever.’ And I listened to it today...”

BJ: [Laughing]

DC: “I listened to it today... and for the first time, an hour before this interview, and I’ve heard it a million times, I said ‘Oh... my God, that’s Brad singing. It *is*, isn’t it?”

BJ: [More laughing.] “Not afraid to show my girlie falsetto.”

DC: “It’s... awesome! But I didn’t know. A lot of guys have to be macho when they sing, you know what I mean? And you’re just like, ‘I’m going where this song takes me.’ And it’s awesome.”

BJ: “Yeah, yeah. That’s what I was trying to do, yeah, trying to make it beautiful and pretty.”

[AUDIO CLIP: ‘Let’s Pretend’ as recorded by Brad Jones]

DC: “Do you remember that far back, what made you go for this style of arrangement with the song, ‘cause it’s not like the original.”

BJ: ”Yeah, I don’t remember why. I have no idea why but I do remember I wanted the verse to be real kind of mystical and suspended and mellow, so that when the chorus came in, you’d be surprised at its grandeur. And it always did sound like a very grand, elegant chorus to me. So that was just my way of emphasizing the grandness and the elegance of the chorus. It’s this sort of white carriage with white horses that has gold trim that just sort of appears on the screen, just sort of rolls in you know? That’s how I wanted the chorus to sound.”DC: “The original song is so amazing, because the verse, the pre-chorus and the chorus are all individually amazing. [Demonstrates each section.] It’s wonderful.”

BJ: “Yeah. It’s a great tune. I’m so glad they let me do that one.

I’m so glad they didn’t make me do ‘Go All the Way.’ Which, of course, is their biggest hit. But think about it... Now that we’re all grown-ups now, go look at that song again. The reason that song was a hit and is beloved, is it has a kick-ass intro, and it has a kick-ass outro. But listen to those verses — it’s corny! It’s 50s music. So it just goes to show you that even a song like that, you can make people love it if you make a kick-ass intro [laughing] and a kick-ass outro.”

DC: “I like it.”

BJ: “‘Cause that’s the motor of it, to me.”

DC: “Well, I don’t put down music like The Archies, so... ya know, I’m a weirdo.”

BJ: “Ha! [Laughs] Yeah, I *like* some of The Archies.”

DC: “Now I want to get into some more covers and then I want to get into you as a producer. I wrote down that you played some bass on ‘Good Friend,’ which is alternate takes of
Matthew Sweet stuff, and it was live, apparently, right?”

BJ: “Yeah. I was in his band.”

DC: “You were in his band?”

BJ: “At the time. I was in his band for maybe a year or a year and a half.”

DC: “Was tt after [the album] ‘
Girlfriend’ or before ‘Girlfriend?’

BJ: “It was after ‘Girlfriend.’ It was on the ‘Girlfriend’ tour. So Matthew’s a great bass player. He played all his own bass parts on the album. But my job was just to get in there and play his bass parts live and sing some of the harmonies with him. I was trying (maybe I failed) but I was really trying to just be a good employee and play Matthew’s bass parts the way he had put ‘em on the album. I wasn’t trying to reinvent them at all. But they were good bass parts. I liked...

And Matthew influenced me. He said, ‘No, dude, use a pick. And don’t be afraid just to do some plump eighth notes. You know he... everybody I’ve ever worked with has influenced me, at least just a little bit. I mean, if you’re not getting influenced by people, then you’re not living life, and you’re dead, basically.”

DC: “I’m gonna talk about two more covers — artists that you basically played bass on their music. So
Marshall Crenshaw is next. And you toured with him in 1996 according to my records.”

BJ: “I also toured with him in ‘91. I was in his band for about a year.”

DC: “Sweet.”

BJ: “So on the 1996 ‘
Miracle of Science’ album, you mixed and engineered, played cello, Rhodes, bass and vocal harmony.”

[AUDIO CLIP: ‘Starless Summer Sky’ by Marshall Crenshaw]

BJ: “I love Marshall. He’s been a real mentor to me and a real helper to me. A great friend and an inspiration, too. It’s always just wonderful to play with him. You know, he just cooks up the most amazing chord progressions and melodies. It’s just fun for any musician to play that stuff. And I just really enjoyed playing on that album. I can’t remember much about it, but I just loved playing with Marshall. He’s the best.”

DC: “Alright, let’s talk about
Ron Sexsmith, the album is ‘Other Songs’ and the song is ‘Average Joe.’

[AUDIO CLIP: ‘Average Joe’ by Ron Sexsmith]

BJ: “That’s some bass playin’ that I’m really proud of.”

DC: “Oh my God. Blows my mind.”

BJ: “Thanks. Thanks, yeah, I love that one. That whole, that entire album is just great. And I’m just real proud of that stuff. And Ron was wonderful to work with. And [Producer] Mitchell [Froom] and [Mixer / Engineer / Producer] Tchad [Blake] were fantastic and they were supportive of what we were doing and it was just great.”

DC: “Beautiful.”

BJ: “You know, I played that whole record, sitting in a folding chair, directly across from Ron. Ron and I were in the same... drummer is in a booth, Ron is on a folding chair about six feet away from me and I’m sitting there, learning the song by watching his fingers. And he’s singing the album. And that was kind of a thrill, ‘cause I’m hearing his wonderful voice in my headphones, singing his album. ‘Cause he didn’t go back and re-do the vocals. Those *were* the vocals. That *is* the album.

It was kind of a thrill being right there. It might be part of why it sorta forced me to find a better way to play each song. ‘Cause it just seemed kind of important, sitting there, right next to him, you know? It was great.”

DC: “Now we’re gonna do a quote and a question. I do a quote from somebody you worked with, and then I ask a question.

BJ: “OK.”

DC: “Alright. You produced and recorded David Mead’s album, ‘Tangerine’ in 2006 and his album ‘Almost and Always’ in 2010. In a 2006 interview, on an official David Mead fan site, about the Tangerine album, here’s what David had to say about you: ‘Brad Jones can play every Beatles song there’s ever been on three different instruments, or he can play Rachmaninoff on the piano. Not only that, but he thinks orchestrally, and he understands a ton of different instruments and what kind of timbre they have, and where they would fit in well.’ David also said you taught him a lot about arrangements. So that’s the quote. And here’s my question: Using a song from either of those albums, could you share a little bit about the decision-making process for choosing what kind of arrangement would you write for a certain kind of song. And since we’re talking about David Mead, please include in your answer, the most important instrument in any pop song arrangement.”

BJ: “*Wow*! The most important instrument... in any... I guess it’d be the voice. And maybe even the background vocals. And then I’ll have to build from there. After you’ve got that figured out, then you know if you’re gonna frame guitars or pianos or neither, you know? And then as far as that particular album...

I don’t know, I just remember that album had a lot of wonderful variety. I just know that I just love all those songs. I love everything David does. I know that he and I just got right into it together. I think every single step of the way making those records with David was he and I, together, finding stuff. I don’t ever feel like I was like, bossing around the arrangements. I just had ideas and he had ideas and we just threw ‘em in there and we got ‘em goin’, you know? I just know that I love that record and I love the flavors and all the textures on that album, I love his songs on that album.

I love ‘Chatterbox,’ I think... to me, you hear the word ‘power pop’ get thrown around? I have a different interpretation of the word ‘power pop.’ To me, ‘Chatterbox’ is power pop.”

[AUDIO CLIP: ‘Chatterbox’ by David Mead]

BJ: “‘Cause it’s pop, and it’s *punchy* and powerful. But it doesn’t sound like what classic power pop sounds like. It’s more gadgety than that. But to me, that’s a super, super successful, high-energy, high definition pop song. And that owes a lot to David.

I will tell you one thing about the album. The song, ‘Chatterbox’ is mostly built on David’s demo. He had a *kick-ass* demo of ‘Chatterbox.’ And I believe that we actually pulled — not just played elements, but *pulled* elements — from his demo, physically, we threw ‘em onto our grid, and built around ‘em. So hats off to good demos. When I recognize a good demo, I never get threatened by it. I get excited by it. And I wanna use as much of it as I can.”

DC: “They can be structurally... they can be the girders to your piece.”

BJ: “Yeah, exactly.”

DC: “Alright, a second quote and question are about bass layering and guitar layering. I just interviewed Bill DeMain, who, along with Molly Felder, you recorded and produced 10 albums for their group ‘
Swan Dive.’ When Bill and I were talking about their song, ‘Better to Fly,’ he said you’re a fantastic bass player, but you’re also very creative with sound. He says that on that ‘Mayfair’ album, you played a lot of electric bass, but you sometimes would double your bass with a standup bass or a Moog in different parts of the song. Do you happen to remember how you recorded the bass parts, either on that album or on that song, how you made your decisions about what to layer and what order you did ‘em in?”

BJ: “I don’t remember the order, but I do like doubling bass stuff, it becomes more like chamber music and more mysterious. I would probably start with an electric bass. And if I knew ahead of time that I was gonna double it with an upright bass, I might make that electric bass be sort of muted with the butt of my hand, using a pick. And I know that that works really well with upright bass. That’s a great doubling sound. They used that sound on Music Row in the 50s & 60s in Nashville. But you hear it on the L.A. stuff, too.

You know a pick, like, okay, we’ll use a pick And the picked electric bass goes well with a fingered upright bass. That’s a good combination. And then when you double something with a Moog bass... or I like to double bass parts with 12-string guitar, too. That’s it’s own unique sound, too. And you can also make it happen just for one part of the song. And that way you’re defining different sections of the song. And that’s good for scene shifts.”

DC: “When you’re playing electric bass and upright bass, where your fingers are touching the stings, not like a
Moog, do you find yourself trying to match the vibrato exactly or do you like it being slightly different and that’s part of the appeal?”

BJ: “Yeah, I wouldn’t try to match... I don’t use much vibrato, but if I did, I wouldn’t try to match it. It’s the same reason that when I have people double-track their vocal, I don’t let then hear their vocal their doubling to. I just make them sing the thing again. And that way, they sing it their own way each time and it’s not sounding too carbon-copy.”

DC: “Excellent. So my next quote is from *you.* In a 2016 interview for ‘Recording Studio Rockstars,’ by Lij Shaw, you said, ‘Every record is its own puzzle.’ I often use that same analogy myself in songwriting classes. I talk about how writing a song is like building a jigsaw puzzle, except the shapes of the pieces aren’t pre-determined, and every new piece you build can influence and change the shape and effect of all the pieces it touches. You change a word, and it changes the connotation of a whole line or stanza. You change one chord, and the line feels completely different. Would you care to elaborate on your own comment, on how this whole thing works with recording, instead of with writing? So when you’re recording, you’re making a new recording, ever piece you change, affects the other pieces.”

BJ: “Yeah, that’s true. And that’s why I like ensemble playing, with people that have not over-thought the song. People that might have heard the song just a half an hour ago. Because I’m always fascinated by seeing what a guy will play. For instance, a guy listens to the song... You say, ‘Hey, take these headphones. Go listen to the tune that the guy wrote. We’re gonna track it in about a half an hour. Go listen to it.’ So he comes back and he’s got his idea in his head, what he’s gonna do. The minute he hears what the drummer’s doing, he throws that out the window, instantly responding to the drummer’s idea. And so, what you get is this sort of interaction of molecules, or protons, that are jetting around in unpredictable fashion...”

DC: “Chemistry.”

BJ: “And when things are going right, you get this alive thing, that turns out not quite like what any of the people thought it was gonna turn out like. It’s this instant and reactive hybrid, from people reacting to other people. So that’s the part of the puzzle that I like. There’a little bit of chaos theory involved. Not like in methodical puzzle-solving. It’s more like, ‘let’s throw these chemicals into this beaker and let’s shake it twice, and let’s make sure the record light is on while we’re shaking, [laughs] and let’s see what we get. And then we’ll listen to playback and we’ll decide what failed about the experiment and we’ll go back and we’ll tweak that. But we’ll find out what’s right about the experiment and amplify that.”

DC: “I read in an interview that
Amy Rigby wrote a song about you called, ‘Brad Jones,’ for your birthday.”

BJ: [Laughing] “Yeah, she performed it at my fortieth birthday, it was a surprise birthday party. And man, that made my day. It was *funny* too! It was really funny.”

DC: “I can’t find it on the Internet, I don’t think she’s recorded it.”

BJ: “I don’t think she ever recorded it. But it went something like... ‘Who built the pyramids? [Singing] Brad Jones! Who cured cancer? [Singing] Brad Jones! Brad Jones! Who invented the wheel?’ You know, all this grand stuff, it was [Singing] ‘Brad Jones.’”

DC: “She’s funny.”

BJ: “She’s awesome. Yeah, I love her. She’s is a great writer.”

DC: “Well, through you and my recent guests, I’m starting to listen to Amy Rigby and I’m starting to listen to Jill Sobule, and I really love what I’m hearing.”

BJ: “Oh, Jill is a fantastic writer. And a lot of those great Jill songs, she has co-written with Robin Eaton, my studio partner.”

DC: “Including ‘I Kissed a Girl.’”

BJ: “That’s right. They wrote that in about ten minutes. Yep, they wrote it quick and we recorded it the next day. So there’s a case for recording something while it’s fresh.”

DC: “I have a beauty pageant-style question for you. If you were a Marvel superhero musician or producer, what would you say is one of your main superpowers in the studio?”

BJ: “I really do think my superpower is assessing a song. I think I’m really good at picking out what’s right and what’s broken about a song. I really think that’s what it comes down to and everything I do instrumentally or sound-wise just stems from what we found out in that first inquiry about what’s making this song tick. What is the motor of this song. What’s good about this song. How do we turn it up?

I think that’s kinda what I do all day long. I think that’s my main job. I don’t know about ‘superpower.’ But I’d like to think that’s sort of my main job. That’s what I do and hopefully it’s why people come back and want to make a second record with me. ‘Cause I made them sound better and I made the song sound better. I *hope* that’s what it’s doing. I never feel like I get a gig because a guy felt like I made his snare drum sound better. I always think it’s because I made his vocal sound better or his song sound better.

And I guess vocals are the other part of it. I’m very much a vocal producer. I think about the singer and the key he’s in and his motivation and how loud or soft he’s singing and how he phrases — I think about that the entire time. Everything stems from that.

That’s how I mix, too. I always start my mix starting with all the vocals and then I start putting in the instruments.”

DC: “Tell us about a recent accomplishment that you’re really proud of.”

BJ: “Well, I’m just like all artist people — they always think the last thing I did is the greatest. So on my mind is the last record that just came out which is a
Hayes Carll record. It’s called ‘What it Is.” And it really is excellent and Hayes just really brought it and everybody — the team was great. So that’s what’s on my mind today.”

DC: “What have you got going on, coming up?”

BJ: “There’s a few things coming up, but the thing I’m kind of excited about is I’m doing something I’ve never done before. I’m creating music for a TV show. And it’s giving me an opportunity to just compose. Just to do instrumental music. That’s my instrumental writing. And I really enjoyed that. And the show is going to be on either Hulu or Netflix or something this summer. It’s called ‘
Perpetual Grace, Ltd’ and it stars Ben Kingsley.

And they’ve got me doing some of the background music. And I also did some of the sung music. The guy that created the show sort of does a little songwriting himself and so he wrote songs that are actually sung. Those songs, all I did with those was co-produce those. And they’re also in the show.

But the show has a definite palette. There’s a certain sort of batch of instruments, sounds that get used throughout the show and I’m sort of writing to those sounds. And it was a real thrill for me to sort of put that hat on for awhile. And I’m curious to see how they put it to picture. I haven’t seen any of it yet. They only have rough cuts. And I’m gonna work a little bit more on it this summer. There’s a little more work to be done, still. So that’s kinda the thing I’m excited about now.”

DC: “That sounds great. What about artists that are coming in? Do you have people coming back that are repeat and you’ve got new people?”

BJ: “Yeah, I’ve got a repeat that’s coming back in May that I’m thrilled to be working with again. She’s an artist that not many people know about. Her name is Jenifer Jackson. That’s Jenifer with one ‘n.’ But she was a New York singer-songwriter who I did a few records with in the 90s and early aughts. And I always just loved her ethos. Her music is very much like a beautiful haiku. Very thoughtful melodies and chord progressions and very Zen-like, simple lyrics. And she’s a beautiful singer and she has a fantastic harmonic sense. And she just does the kind of music that’s really the kind of music that always gets shoved aside because it’s too quiet and thoughtful. It’s not loud or controversial enough for people to go viral about, you know what I mean? And I’d like to believe that when all this is over that for her sake, that she turned in an amazingly beautiful body of work that’s very meaningful and very much her style. She doesn’t sound like anybody else. But we’ll see if that happens. But I’m so delighted to be working with her again. Jenifer Jackson.

I do records that are loud and flashy and artists that people have heard of and then I do these other records that sort of... and I keep coming back to some of these artists, I keep working with them even they’re never breaking through to a bigger audience. I just like being involved in their oeuvre. And would like to believe that merit will win out in the end. She’s definitely one of those.”

DC: “Beautiful. I’ll have to look for her.”

BJ: “Yeah, you should.”

DC: “Well, I really enjoyed talking with you today and learned a lot, and I think that you’re gonna add a lot to the conversation.”

BJ: “Well good, thanks. You’ve been wonderful to be interviewed by. You are obviously very skilled at this. Thank you so much for doing this and for choosing me to do it. I really appreciate it.”

DC: “My pleasure. Well, I love your work and...”BJ: “Yeah, that’s the other thing. Thank you for listening. You actually took the time to listen. Thank you so much.”

DC: “Thanks. Take care, Brad!”BJ: “Okay, man. See ya.”


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