Although she was helped out by a variety of music industry veterans – including her father, the acclaimed bassist Rob Wasserman — singer Sara Wasserman clearly was in charge during the making of her debut album, Solid Ground (That Other Label).
She co-produced Solid Ground and co-wrote six of the songs for the album, which was seven years in the making. As for bringing in the star guests, that was entirely her responsibility.
Aside from Wasserman’s father (who plays bass on six songs), the most famous musician with the biggest role on Solid Ground is Aaron Neville, who sings on “Fly Away” and had a hand in writing “I Am a Song” and “Fresh Out of Tears.”
Wasserman met Neville when she was 8 years old and he was taping an NBC show; they got back in touch during the 2004 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. After playing a solo ballad version of “Fly Away” for Neville at his house, Wasserman says he asked to be part of the project and subsequently recorded a vocal part for the song in New Orleans. He later gave her a notebook of his poems and lyrics, “just thinking I would appreciate it, being a [fellow] songwriter,” Wasserman recalls.
Neville let her leaf through his black notebook of writings from the past 30 years – ” ‘Yellow Moon’ was in there,” Wasserman says, referring to the 1989 Neville Brothers classic — and pick out anything that interested her.
“I was blown away that he gave it to me to begin with,” she adds.
Her first choice was “Fresh Out of Tears,” then “I Am a Song,” and she wrote melodies for both. With co-writing help from co-producer Randy Emata and Wasserman’s father, she had two more tracks for Solid Ground, a pop- and jazz-flavored collection featuring plenty of piano (courtesy of Emata) and Wasserman’s sultry vocals.
Little did Neville or Wasserman know at the time that the notebook exchange would be so important: Neville’s New Orleans home was among the many that were flooded in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.
“Thank god he had given it to me because [it contains] some pretty special words,” she says.
Recording with her father was a special experience, and Wasserman says she just let him do his thing.
“Randy and I were very gentle about changing things, and [my father] doesn’t take anything personally,” she says. “He has no ego whatsoever. He’s the most modest person you’d ever meet. I don’t think we ever really told him what to do. He just goes in and does what he does, and it’s great.
“Sometimes he’d do a little too much,” Wasserman adds with a laugh, “but he’s amazing at what he does. I’m just glad he was able to contribute as much as he did.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Sara Wasserman concert and radio appearance schedule (subject to change):
* July 25: Seaside Park – Bridgeport, Conn. (sitting in with RatDog)
* July 27: Interview with KCSM-FM‘s Jesse Chuy Varela
* July 28: Yoshi’s – San Francisco (with Henry Butler and Rob Wasserman)
* July 31: Joe’s Pub – New York (with Henry Butler and Rob Wasserman)