A few years ago I signed a publishing deal with a worldwide company called Music Sales Group. When I signed I told them that not only will I be writing songs for and with other people for other artists, but during the term of our agreement I’ll most likely be doing my own albums. They said, ‘we’re not a record label’. But after a year they put me together with a Grammy Award winning producer named Larry Klein – who’s worked with Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock, Madeleine Peyroux and Julia Fordham – to do an album, of all things. We did five songs, then Larry had to take six months off. I felt like I didn’t want to stop and I wanted to do an album myself. I told my publishers this, and that I was very happy to fund it myself, but they said, ‘show me a budget’ and next thing I knew I was in the studio producing my own album The Vehicle.
It took 16 days to do completely. I resumed work with Larry six months later and completed another album with him called Skin I’m In which is the title track of the record. Meanwhile a longtime friend of ours played The Vehicle to a label in the UK called Right Recordings who are distributed by Universal. They loved it and wanted to release The Vehicle album first.
The songs were already written, some of them were newer than others, but I’d always wanted to hear them come to life with real people, other than myself, playing everything.
Thanks! What they contributed most was their incredible soulful playing. I had pretty much done all the arrangements myself and we all referred to my demos when we were tracking all the songs. There was a real magic playing live with everyone. I wanted to do it the way it was done in the old days. You can only get that kind of magic when people are interacting with each other.
My rhythm section is incredible: James Gadson on drums who has played with so many greats including Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers – he plays the drums on Bill’s iconic song Use Me” – Diana Ross, and even worked with Paul McCartney; and the bass player, Reggie McBride is a fellow Detroiter who’s worked with Stevie Wonder, Elton John and Rod Stewart. I’d done a few other sessions with the two of them and always thought that if I was going to do a record, I would want to have them play on it. The keyboard player, Luke Miller, and guitarist, Sam Meek, are these two young, very soulful, guys who play with a very old school feel and understand it. I also had another great guitarist in Johnny Lee Schell – who’s been Bonnie Raitt’s guitarist for years – play on several of the songs as well.
Well, I had an idea of what I wanted. I had to map everything out very carefully as I had a very limited amount of time to do it in. Lots of lists were involved! But there were also some organic moments which included getting James and Reggie to do the backing vocals with me on ‘Be The Change which was great, and on ‘The Key’ we grabbed some of the young interns working in the studio to come do some handclaps, the same on Look No Further. We grabbed whoever was in the other studios working to come in and sing the choruses and do the claps and everything.
From the beginning I wanted to be at the helm. As I said, I wanted to make my demos come to life with real players, and I was at a point of really wanting to do something the way I wanted to do it. It was incredible, it took a lot of planning particularly because I had the goal of doing the record the way they used to do things in the old days, in a very limited amount of time. I wanted it to be real and raw. We even went to tape at first, then bunged everything over to pro tools.
I love Good Girl Down, Practice What I Preach, Look No Further, the most… and also Love Times A Million. Some of them I loved even more when I heard them being played by the band, especially Practice What I Preach!
Never say never. The album and single are being released on April 22nd. The idea is to get this vehicle going, excuse the pun! There is already talk of me coming back to do some shows in the summer in the UK so we’ll see how that goes…
At the Milton Keynes and London shows I will be with a full band and that means a full band, I will have drums, bass, keyboards and even a horn section and backing vocals! I can’t wait. And the Norwich and York shows I will be doing acoustically with an additional guitarist and percussionist.
Funny, you should ask. I was just flown to New York to sing at someone’s special event and they only wanted me to do Stay! It was great, and I still love the song, it’s fun to sing, it has a lot of depth to me.
Yes, I am, I am about 90% done with it. It’s been incredibly cathartic to say the least. I wish I would have keep a journal as sometimes it was hard to remember exact dates, but I’ve verified things. Having to relive some things was a little painful but cleansing as well…
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