An Interview with Brent Bourgeois
I speak with Brent Bourgeois, who releases his first album in twenty years in June. Joseph Arellano
You have an album coming out next month, Don’t Look Back, which is your first in two decades or so. Why the long break from recording and what, if anything, inspired you to create music again?
When I made my last record in 1994, I had just moved my family to Nashville at the encouragement of my good friend and co-producer Charlie Peacock. He promised me work as a producer, which was great because I had always been as interested in producing records for others as I had been in making them for myself. I made the determination that whichever road was more fruitful would be the one I would concentrate on. While the album Come Join the Living World was considered a success by many in the industry, my producing career was really bearing fruit and it was an easier career to consider with four young children.
Producing led to a job as VP of A&R at Word Records, and after that, I was considered “too old” to be reconstituting my recording career. With the collapse of the music industry in 2002, I moved my family back to Northern California and had nothing to do with the music biz for over ten years. About a year and a half ago, I was invited to mentor a young singer/songwriter from Malibu. This involved writing songs, and programming them on my computer, and then producing her in the studio. Well, it got me writing again, and one thing lead to another, and here we are.
The new album seems, on a first listen, to be a very eclectic collection of songs; kind of like Tom Petty’s Wildflowers. Did you deliberately set out to include various styles and types of music or is this a product of being creative?
I just wrote ’em as they came. I was just happy to be writing again, and didn’t much concern myself about having a coherent style. I think this collection of songs could reasonably be called a walk through my career. I’m not re-inventing the wheel, but the main thing for me was that I liked them, and I hadn’t liked anything I had written for years.
How would you describe the album in one sentence?
A walk through my musical history with most of my best friends.
Are all eleven songs on the new release original?
You have a great 80s-style track on the album, “Deep Blue Sea.” When I heard it what went through my mind is, “Rick Astley is back!” Tell us about the song.
That’s funny. I always think about the Saturday Night Live “Night at the Roxbury” skit with Will Farrell, Jim Carrey and Chris Kattan when I hear “Deep Blue Sea.” I don’t know where this latent dance track streak is coming from. I never indulged in it back then. I think it’s because I finally learned how to use an arpeggiator.
“The High Road” is a Beatles/Badfinger-ish emotive ballad on which Julian Lennon accompanies you. What’s the back story on his involvement?
I first met Julian Lennon in about 1986. My band Bourgeois Tagg opened for him on a couple of shows. He was a big fan of the band; in fact, we walked into the hall where we were playing with him for the first time and he and his band serenaded us with a perfect rendition of one of our songs. I think one of the things that caught his ear with both Bourgeois Tagg and my subsequent solo material is the persistent Beatle strain that permeates all of it. I grew up on all things Beatles, and their influence can’t help but pour out of my music.
I reconnected with Julian on, of all things, Facebook. He had “liked” a number of my posts over time. When I wrote “The High Road,” I immediately thought of Julian, but had no idea if he would be interested in singing on it or with me. I was very pleasantly surprised when he responded quickly and positively and we set a time to record in Los Angeles after his trip to Africa and South America. He walked into the studio, and upon hearing my first vocal line in the song said, “Now THAT’S Lennon!” It’s a trip to hear those pipes with that obvious DNA singing this song. Oh, and by the way, Julian is doing really good works around the world. That’s why I have agreed to donate a portion of the proceeds of every record I sell to his White Feather Foundation, which is dedicated to bringing safe, clean drinking water to people in need in Africa.
The full Bourgeois Tagg band plays on the song “Psycho,” which sounds like it was recorded back in the day. What prompted you to invite your former band members to play on the track?
I knew I was going to have them on the record. It was just a question of how much and which song(s). Larry Tagg and Michael Urbano are also playing on “The High Road,” and I think that sounds like a Bourgeois Tagg song, too. They also played on another one that didn’t make the cut. Lyle Workman was a little more difficult to pin down because of his schedule. And it is no accident that it sounds like that. I got the producer and engineer of our first record, David Holman, to mix it.
Let’s ignore for a second the title of the new album. If you could look back with the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, would you have sought to keep Bourgeois Tagg together for a longer period of time?
Everything happens for a reason. One can always play “what if” games, but they are rarely productive. But I made three solo albums instead, moved to Nashville and had a great career there, produced records, worked at a record company, made many of the relationships that are in full force on this new record, etc. If I had to do it again, I would have probably done everything the same. I may have handled it a little differently. 🙂
There are additional prominent musicians that play on and assisted you with Don’t Look Back, right?
Well, yes. Todd Rundgren is singing and Kasim Sulton is playing bass on “Poor Me.” A slew of great Nashville musicians populate the record: guitarists Jerry McPherson and Chris Rodriguez, drummers Aaron Smith, Steve Brewster, and George Lawrence, and bassist Mark Hill. Charlie Peacock produced and played piano on “All She Ever Wanted.” Singers Molly Felder and Rachel Lampa are featured. And Wayne Kirkpatrick played and sang on “Without You.”
Out in California, Vicki Randle added percussion to a couple of songs, singer Michele Tumes is featured on “Don’t Look Back,” Paige Lewis is the female voice on “You & I,” and my son Adrian is playing acoustic guitar on “The High Road,” which also features 77s guitarist Mike Roe, and Los Angeles studio whiz Tim Pierce. I also got a couple of high-profile mixers involved along with David Holman. John Fields mixed “Poor Me,” and Ross Hogarth mixed “The High Road.”
What’s the release date of Don’t Look Back and, most importantly, how can your fans purchase it?
We are releasing the record as part of our Kick-Finisher program on June 2. Those who sign up to sell and help promote the record will get first crack at selling it. Signups to be part of the promotion team are at wwww.kick-finisher.com. We have invented something like the opposite of Kickstarter. I pay YOU to help sell MY record. It will be available later in the summer on iTunes and Amazon.com.
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