Photo by C. Taylor Crothers
Reid Genauer has opted for something slightly different on his latest recording with Assembly of Dust. Rather than focus on material interpreted by the band in the studio, he opted to draw in additional musicians to join the group on every track. Mike Gordon, Keller Williams, Richie Havens, John Scofield, Al Schnier, Bela Fleck and Grace Potter are among the participants on _ Some Assembly Required_. Reid and AOD are on the road now in support of the disc, joined by the Emmitt-Nershi Band, who are promoting a new record on their own. In the following interview Genauer discusses the genesis of the new disc, describes the moment when Mike Gordon moved him to tears and offers a tidbit of interest to old-school Strangefolk fans.
Some Assembly Required features you and your band with a guest musician or musicians on every track. At what point in the process did you decide that this was going to be your approach?
I had it from the outset. At one point I was thinking about a solo record where I had a different band back me on every track which is flipping the idea on its head. But as I talked to a couple people about it, it struck me as logistically impossible. However, I was still sort of stuck on this idea and so a record was born.
Once you had some idea of which musicians you wanted to participate, how did you approach them? Richie Havens, for example?
It started with just brainstorming who would be appropriate. I had my go to list that I thought would be killer. Richie, I always knew who he was and had him parked somewhere in my brain but truthfully I wasn’t up on what was going on with Richie Havens. Then, as you know, he participated in the Jammys and started dipping his toe in the jamband world. He came back onto my radar through that.
The concept of the album was bringing in a collection of virtuoso musicians and singer-songwriters in the name of adding breadth and texture to the record. So if that’s the job description then Richie Havens certainly fits in. With Richie I spoke to his manager first and then he wanted to hear the song. He was very concerned with the lyrics and wanted to make sure the lyrics sat with him. So the final part of the courtship was literally me typing out the lyrics on a blackberry, sending it over and explaining what they were about. Twenty minutes later, he was in.
In terms of the recording process, did you typically send tracks to the guests or were they recorded live in studio?
Some were live and some weren’t. This particular one was live and it was one of the more robust sessions. I met John Scofield in the morning in a studio north of here, up in Katonah. Then we broke for lunch and Richie came up. It was s special day for me spending that much time with both of them, elder statesmen and both highly respected for what they do. It was also really neat to see the two of them interact because John stuck around to meet Richie, which was cool. And standing in the control room seeing Richie Havens singing my song was spine-tingling. I mean he’s a spine-tingling performer anyhow because he’s so soulful and so present. But the fact that it was material I had spawned was spine-tingling.
Did you approach each artist with a specific song that you offered them?
If it wasn’t a song, it was two. I started off by sending two: “Here are a couple songs you might want to consider.” But then it dawned on me that I had a pretty good grip on what would fly and what wouldn’t, so it would be easier to say yes or no if I sent one song. Rather than first you have to decide whether or not you want to do this and then you have to decide about the song. I think a lot of the fuel for success was they could hear the song and decide if they felt that they could be part of it comfortably and in a meaningful way.
What about “Borrowed Feet,” what led you to select it for John Scofield?
He was pretty easy because so much of the music was Americana rootsy folk stuff and that was one song that had some grit. It had a beat that felt like it could be on A Go Go or something. It had a deep groove, so that one was obvious. There was only one or maybe two songs that I think would have made sense to have him play on.
Some of the other choices were more challenging. Bela Fleck was pretty obvious because the guitar part Adam [Terrell] was playing before having Bela on the recording sounded like a banjo part. But Grace Potter, for instance, she could have done anything.
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