For her new album, the recently released Red River Flower, Americana singer/songwriter Brigitte DeMeyer recorded in Nashville, Tenn., for the first time ever, and she was backed by some ace musicians.
The California-based DeMeyer, who is a showcasing artist at this year’s South by Southwest, recently talked about recording in Music City with the likes of Buddy Miller and Al Perkins.
Medleyville.us: Was it financial or logistical reasons that prevented you from recording in Nashville prior to making Red River Flower?
Brigitte DeMeyer: “Both (laughs). The album we did before [Something After All], we did in San Francisco, and all of the musicians who played on the record lived in Nashville. Plus, there’s a vibe there, you know, and there’s a whole different breed of players out there.
“So [recording in Nashville] saved me a lot of money in hotel fees and airplane fees. I just moved to an apartment for a month, moved out there and got it done, and it was a pleasure. And it was nice because the musicians could come in and go home to their families at the end of the day. I brought my son and my nanny, and my husband flew in and out – I loved it.
“I fell in love with Nashville, and now I have an apartment out there, too, because I go out there so much – the hotel bills are so much more than the rent.”
Would you consider leaving the San Francisco area for Nashville?
DeMeyer: “Oh, yeah, we’re talking about it now. I already have a place out there, and I’m so in love it. I go every month, and I’m thinking down the road if we ever retire, you can live very comfortably there. It’s a very easy place to adjust to – there is no adjustment; it’s just so easy to be there.
“It’s laid-back, and there are really talented people there. You have to work – it’s not like doors just open for you, but if you work really hard, they do.”
Once you decided to record in Nashville, what made you choose Ocean Way Studio?
DeMeyer: “My producer [Brady Blake] chose it. … I recorded and mixed this record in two weeks, where my last record took me two months. If I can afford it, I will never use another engineer [other than David Z, who also mixed the album].”
While you were in Nashville to record the album, were there any nonmusical experiences that somehow found their way into the songs?
DeMeyer: “Most of the songs were written before we went to Nashville, but certain things we did to the songs happened because of Nashville. For example, Mike Henderson played a lot of guitar on the record, and he has a sound that I’ve never heard on the West Coast, ever. You absorb what’s around you, and that’s one of the sounds of Nashville, or the South.
“I had Regina McCrary and Gayle Mayes singing gospel backing vocals on ‘Justice.’ In Burlingame, California, where I live, which is in Northern California – I’m sure in San Francisco, there are a lot of great, beautiful gospel churches. But their vocals, to me, seemed like they came from the South.
“There’s just a vibe [in the South]; there’s a soulfulness there that’s different. It’s heavier there than [in California].”
Buddy Miller is revered by many musicians. What’s it like working with him?
DeMeyer: “I think he’s one of the most humble, talented, sweetest people I’ve ever met and had the pleasure of working with. He doesn’t like people to gush or fawn over him. He’s so good at what he does that people love it, so if they didn’t expect what’s gonna come out of him, they’ll love what comes out of him.
“It’s not like he says, ‘What do you want on this?’ He just figures out something to do. He sang on a couple of songs, and I didn’t tell him what notes to sing – he just picked them. And he played a few guitar parts on the record, and I didn’t tell him what to play – he’s really adept at getting a feel for what you’re making and then adjusting to that. He’s a very flavorful, aw-shucks musician.”
Had you ever worked with Al Perkins before?
DeMeyer: “No, and I’m about to go on tour with him. This is my third project with Brady Blade, and he pulled the musicians together for this. He had met Al, and we wanted to make a grass-rootsy sounding, Southern-tinged album, so who’s better than Al on dobro and pedal steel? He’s just like Buddy – hugely talented, hugely experienced and humble, humble, humble.”
Prior to making this album, had you ever recorded a project where most everything was done live in the studio?
DeMeyer: “The last record I did, we did a lot more overdubs – it was a lot more layered. We did record a few of the tunes on my last record live – everybody in their own booth and us playing together.
“Part of the reason why this record happened so fast was because we played live and the vibe was so good; it was reflected in the music. Very few parts were overdubbed – a few harmonies and a few solo parts, probably less than five.”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
Brigitte DeMeyer at SXSW:
* March 18: Lamberts (with Setting Sun, Greyhounds and others)