"For The Newly Blue" interview

Richard Bennett interview : For The Newly Blue ,release 2013

Interview Richard Bennett new album April 2013: For The Newly Blue

Richard Bennett
For The Newly Blue
Release April 2013

Tracklist :
Your New Blue World / Until My Baby Went Away / Nashville Nocturne / Roustabout / A Parting Glance / Skin Of Gold / Port O'Call / Softly Come September / Blu-Bam-Bu / First In No One's Heart / Russe Roulette / Velvet Rain

Richard Bennett is for many people best known as guitarist in Mark Knopfler’s band. But Richard lives in Nashville , is one of the top session guys there , played on many albums , is much respected , played many years in Neil Diamond’s band and his fourth solo album called “For The Newly Blue” is now released (April 2013). We had a very nice chat with him , asked about music in general and his new album of course.

Q. Richard , I suppose we can describe your first solo album Themes album as twangy , Code Red was a bit about the years 40’s and 50’s and Valley was a bit about your early career in Phoenix , how would you describe “For The Newly Blue” ? A : Depressing. No, just kidding. The titles of the songs are kind of downcast, but the music itself would be right at home on any of the previous records, it's melodic stuff. I suppose this collection is different in that it has several country leaning things as well as a little more steel guitar in it.

Q. Can you explain us where you did get the album title from and how much songs that are on the album ?
A : As I was working my way through the making of the record I realised I had a pile of tunes with some rather glum titles and I liked that. I began thinking of the album in that way, as perhaps a collection of songs that people might get into if they'd just broken up with somebody or were dealing with some disappointment. At that point For The Newly Blue popped into my head and after living with the title for several months it stuck. There are 12 songs on the record.

Q. How do you choose your album art ? These are always very nice and look very well prepared . Is there a special story behind the newest ?
A : This album's layout, like the Valley Of The Sun record, was done by Lucy Kane. Lucy's a wonderful graphic artist with a great eye. I'll have a rough idea or an image that I like and we'll work on it together. One of her roles is to save me from making any stupid artistic decisions.

Q. What are your own favourite songs on this album?
A : This will sound terribly egocentric, I promise it is not, but I like them all equally for different reasons. I recorded songs for this album that never made the record because I felt they didn't hold water or I'd become bored with them in the end. So, I've assembled 12 tunes that I do like and they all hold up for me. I firmly believe that if you don't really like everything on the record then how would you expect anyone else to like it?

Q. Did your six weeks guitar course from Mel Deal in 2011 influenced your album?
A : Actually, I took a couple of 6 week courses with Mel Deal at the Nashville Jazz Workshop. He's a brilliant musician, a wonderful teacher and a great fellow. Most of this record has little to do with jazz per se, but the last tune on the album is, so I suppose some of Mel's good guidance might be present.

Q. It’s a well known fact that you don’t like it when there are too much notes in a song , are the new songs also “stripped down” , I mean that there’s not a single note too much in the songs ?
A : Well, that's all subjective. Some might think there are too many notes in my stuff and others, not enough. It's not that I don't like busier playing, it just depends on what is being played. I hear a lot of guitar players and other musicians as well blowing their brains out, and technically they're very evolved to be able to do that, but it's just a load of notes that sound like a machine gun. On the other hand some of the greatest jazz guys played a lot and yet it was so musical and pleasing. Part of the reason I lean to a simpler style is that I've never been a particularly fast guitar player so I've had to work within my limitations while all the while working on overcoming them if possible. In the end, that's really the definition of somebody's style... making their limitations work for them. I guess that's mine. Some of the tunes on Newly Blue are very stripped down, others are quite full.

Q. Is there a central theme for this album or are these all separated songs ?
A : There's a thread of loss or alienation in all these tunes.

Q. On Valley Of The Sun is a song called “A Sunset Ride” which reminds a bit to Chet Atkins , are there on the new album songs that are played with someone specific in mind?
A : Everybody has their own influences. Johnny Smith and Chet are just two of many for me. A couple of the tunes might be a vague nod of the head to them, but it's really my take on all of it.

Q. Another song on Valley Of The Sun is a song called “Saguaro” . On that song you played drums , percussion , rhytm guitar and the melody , did you do something the same for the new album , playing on several instruments I mean ?
A : For the most part we recorded with live musicians all playing together. There are a few things that I would go back and overdub an additional guitar or a percussion part but generally I prefer to have other musicians input rather than myself. It makes it more of a group thing that way rather than a one-man-band.

Q. If I listen to your previous records I can hear some of the songs fitting in motion picture soundtracks, do you share that opinion ? And is it also the case for this album ?
A : A Yes, it's thematic music, moody sometimes and always melodic. This stuff is no different in that regard.

Q. I was also wondering if you have some leftover songs from this latest or older albums and if so, do you think it’s interesting to make them available as digital download?
A : I do have a pile of things that didn't make the last four albums. For the most part they ended up on the cutting room floor for good reason. So, no, I really am not interested in having those out for the same reason I mentioned earlier... if I don't like them, why would I subject anyone else to hearing them.

Q. Can you give us some insight in the guitars and amps you used ?
A : A couple of Gretsch guitars, a couple of Fender Stratocasters. Various amps, an old Fender Pro and a Polytone, both with 15" speakers. A Vox Cambridge, a British made Jennings and a ZT Club. George Bradfute who engineers my records at his studio has a magnificent array of amplifiers so I just use his amps.

Q. You played for many famous musicians and you have many friends amongst them , did you ever consider to ask one of them to play on this record ?
A : I'm not sure I would do that. They're all better than I am.

Q. Are your sons Nick or Jeremy on this album and what is their contribution ?
A : Nick played rhythm guitar on some of the tunes. He's a great guitar player and part of that is being a good rhythm guitarist, which he is. He doesn't seem to mind filling that roll for me now and again.

Q. Which other musicians are on the album ?
A : One of my favourite guitar heroes, though not a household name, is Andy Reiss and he's on a number of the cuts. Andy's a great jazz man as well as country, pop... you name it. He, like Nick, lowers his standards to come play on my things. Mike Noble , another good friend and great guitar player I admire very much, also played on one tune. A whole bunch of bass players; Roger Spencer , on string bass, George Bradfute, Dave LaBruyere , Glenn Worf , Mark Winchester . Ted Tretiak held down the drum chair again and Jim Hoke played tenor sax on one of the tunes. There's not much in the way of piano or keyboards on this record but what there is was masterfully done by Dave Hoffner .

Q . You have a basement with a really huge record collection but your own albums are not available on vinyl. It’s probably commercial not interesting but did you ever consider to make a few vinyl’s available from your own albums ?
A . Yes, I dream of it now and again and I think the music itself would sound so good coming off vinyl. The problem is the expense vs. the demand. For my own personal preference I'd go with the vinyl any day of the week.

Q. You wrote a tune last autumn while you where on tour with Mark and Dylan, a song that came to you on the Penarth Pier in Wales . You actually called it Penarth while you worked on the tune, but have now changed the title ? Can you share any info about that song ?
A : Sure. A lot of the songs begin with some kind of working title while I'm writing them. Usually by the time they're finished a title suggests itself that's appropriate to the music. That particular song is now called Softly Come September.

Q. Another song was written on tour back in 2010 in Monte Carlo , that’s probably another song on the album ?
A : That's one that ended up on the cutting room floor. I may come back to it someday and possibly re-work it, but in the end I simply lost interest in the tune.

Q. Are the tunes written whilst on tour with Mark Knopfler and Bob Dylan , influenced by them ?
A : No, not really, though over these many years Mark has had a big influence on the way I think about music, writing and recording as well as the role of the guitar. But the actual tunes themselves, for better or worse, are Bennett-style concoctions.

Q. When you are working on a song whilst on tour (or at home) do you record some snippets or do you write everything down ?
A : I never record any of it until I'm in the studio making the record. I walk around with it in my head for a while when initially putting something together. At some point I'll sit down with music paper and sketch it out so I don't forget the tune or any of the details.

Q. Did you ever consider to record a lap steel album ?
A : Yes. I've though about that for several years and for whatever reason put it off. The same thing with making a country influenced album and had put that off as well. A funny thing happened with the Newly Blue album in that it ended up being that steel guitar album and that country album combined in one. Although there are other things on the record as well, like a Cuban bolero, a little jazz thing and a couple of very stripped down moody pieces.

Q. Your Hawaiian guitar playing is a bit like Dick Mcintire style ? Is he a favourite from you ?
A : He is definitely a fave, along with Sol Hoopii and Jerry Byrd.

Q. You played also on Bud Tutmarc’s album Unforgettables 2 , great experience I suppose ?
A : A real honour, a high point even though not many people will ever hear that record or would associate me with playing on something like it.

Q. I know the first instrument you played were drums , your brother , Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz is a drummer for Weird Al Yankovic , Were drums something special at home or did you want to play drums at first (before the guitar) ?
A : My dad bought me a beginners set of Ludwig drums when I was around 6 or 7. I took lessons for about 4 years but it somehow never quite clicked with me. When I got a guitar for my 11th birthday, that definitely struck a chord (forgive the pun).

Richard's first drum : Ludwig transition in Blue/Silver Duco Fall ,
picture credit Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz

Q. For the latest years , you are almost every year on the road with Mark Knopfler , can you imagine that Mark invites you and that your answer is : no , not this time , I’ve had it with touring and will do some studio work here in Nashville, or will you go on tour as long as you have the possibility and as long as you can manage it . I suppose touring can be pretty exhausting ?
A : I love doing those tours with Mark just as I loved doing that with Neil. As long as I feel I'm still playing well I'll be on that stage.

Q. From April 2013 you are back on tour with Mark Knopfler in Europe , can people buy your new album at these gigs ?
A : For several reasons, no.
a.) I feel it's a conflict of interest for me to sell my stuff at Mark's show.
b.) Concert tickets are expensive, there's parking expense, maybe a baby sitter, maybe a dinner out... all part of the 'concert'. After all that, if people are going to buy anything, it will be an item of Mark's, a program or something like that, not one of my CD's.
c.) I don't really want to drag boxes of CD’s along with me on tour.
d.) Each venue takes a percentage of the merchandise.
So, it all adds up to keeping it simple. Mark is very kind about making mention of my new album with a picture of the cover and a link to my website in the tour program. Many people see that and are interested enough to check out the record and order a copy. It works out very well for me that way.

Q. And people can buy it at CD Baby as usual?
A : Yes, as well as downloading it from all the usual sites if they prefer that format.

Q. Do you have any particulair projects after the Mark Knopfler tour , back to session work ?
A : At the moment I don't have anything booked that far in advance but I'm sure things will begin to come in once I'm back in Nashville again.

Richard , I would like to thank you very much for this interview and I wish you all the best with your new album “For The Newly Blue” and the upcoming tour with Mark Knopfler. It is a pleasure and an honour to talk to you , Henk

Published March 2013

Approved by Richard Bennett

You can order “Tall Tale Tunes” (2022) at Bandcamp here
You can order “Ballads In Otherness” (2018) at Bandcamp here
You can order “Contrary Cocktail” (2015) at Bandcamp here
You can order “For The Newly Blue” (2013) at Bandcamp here
You can order “Valley Of The Sun” (2010) at Bandcamp here
You can order “Code Red Cloud Nine” (2008) at Bandcamp here
You can order “Theme From A Rainy Decade” (2004) at Bandcamp here

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