BR: And, the question I’ve wanted to ask since I first heard the song – who is Olivia Rose?
RP: Oh, boy – that’s a tough one.
BR: And we don’t have to talk about it …
RP: I think that’s another one best left open to interpretation.
“Olivia Rose” is meant to be a celebration of someone who touched the hearts and changed the lives of so many people – a sweet, sweet girl. It had to be written, and it needed to be said: “Do you know Olivia Rose? Do you know the way the story goes? Good things come to those who know.” And it’s true.
At last count, there are 90 people with ladybug tattoos in honor of Olivia Rose – including my mother and my 80-year-old mother-in-law, who recently passed away.
It’s a happy, bubbly tune because of who she was but at the same time, there’s a sadness because the singer wants her to come back.
*BR: Enough said. We’ll let folks take that in and explore it further on their own. The next tune is “Gonna Roll”. Man, talk about your mental images: you managed to combine a classic rocking-down-the-highway-all-night-truck-driver thing with the Wizard of Oz. (laughter) I mean this in the nicest of ways, but you can’t get much weirder than that.
RP: Yeah, well, there’s a lot of weird things about that song. (laughter) “Gonna roll” – you going to roll what? Roll some joints? Going to go out? Rock and roll? I figured let’s put all those rolls into one – “The house is gonna rock, the house is gonna roll” – and the Wizard of Oz thing just kind of worked its way in. The really weird thing was when we finished the song, I looked at the time meter to see how long the take was and it came out exactly 4:20, so … (laughter)
BR: Mission accomplished.
RP: Exactly. (laughter)
BR: Chris does a nice job of chugging that thing along.
RP: Yeah, he’s got so many different styles that are all his own.
BR: Ah – let me run this by you. Here’s what I scribbled down the first time I listened to “One More For Me”: “Robert Hunter writes one for the Byrds.”
RP: Oh, cool – I’ll take it. (laughs) When the New Riders were up at Turkey Trot Acres woodshedding for _Where I Come From _ – and before the Hunter tunes started pouring in like a faucet – “One More For Me” was on the table. It was going to be a New Riders song, but all of a sudden, here comes a bunch of Hunter lyrics and – whoa – we put on the brakes and went in that direction, of course.
The day I wrote “One More For Me”, I was lacking on ideas about what to write about, but I liked the tonality of the melody and just went with it. I basically wrote about having nothing to write about and writing to a songwriter: “Hey – how about writing me a song, man?” But who it’s written to, I’m not answering. (laughs)
BR: That’s a nice example of what Katie brings to the band as a vocalist.
RP: Oh, man – she’s amazing as both a singer and a drummer. That particular song could’ve easily been arranged as a real traditional bluegrass harmony, but it would’ve meant bringing in more singers and structuring things a little differently. Instead, we worked with what we had; it sounds like the way that we’d do it in a live setting.
BR: That’s another one of the tunes that Jimmy Fleming sits in on, this time playing fiddle.
RP: That’s right; great job.
BR: And Andy plays some really nice acoustic guitar on that cut.
RP: I remember him coming in the studio and saying, “You know, I really don’t play a lot of acoustic.” I told him, “Just play your guitar, Andy.” (laughs) “Let it roll.” And there we all were at the console with our jaws dropped … he nailed it.
BR: And then he really shines on electric on the next cut, “Santa Ana Wind”. My early notes on that one read “Happy, bouncy ‘Deal’ vibe.”
RP: Yeah – you know, I never thought of it that way, but yeah. That’s an older song, actually: I wrote that maybe 15 or 20 years ago and we did it a couple times back when I was in Ripple. The thing about that song was it was chordy – there are a lot of chords in it and they come by you really quickly. It was a lot of work to play it live back then; people would forget it from week to week, you know? So I kind of put it in a box for a while and brought it back out with this band.
BR: You’ve got to tell the story behind the next song, “Mallory”.
RP: Ah – the “Mallory” story. (laughs)
Well, the New Riders were playing a festival in Milford, PA. We’d started our set and were firing on all cylinders, you know? I remember we were on our third song – somewhere in the middle of the jam on “Garden of Eden” – when all hell breaks loose on the stage. There are cops everywhere, people rushing the stage – it’s a riot. I go to grab my amp stack that’s getting knocked over; people are trying to protect the mics; it was a mess.
On the album cover, there’s a photo that someone took of the stage full of people. If you look in the lower left corner, you’ll see a little face with dark glass in the middle of all the craziness – that’s Nelson. (laughs)
What happened was this little 5-year-old girl was reported lost and they wanted us to stop playing so that this crowd of 5,000 people could go look for her, right? We say, “Sure – what can we do to help?” And then there’s another faction that’s telling us, “No – keep playing; keep playing. We’ll look for her – just keep playing.”
So we count the song off and start back into the jam on “Garden of Eden” again. That’s when riot #2 breaks out. “They can’t play music! No! No!” People were on the stage, grabbing mics and shouting: “Stop! Stop!”
BR: Oh, man – what did you do?
RP: Well, that happened three times. Finally, the stage was just loaded with cops and it was, “Okay. That’s it. You’re done.” And they shut down the festival. We spent the next couple hours – the crowd, the band, everybody – searching. “Mallory! Mallory!”
The thing was, when I saw the mother of this little girl, I just knew she wasn’t telling the truth. She had a look in her eyes that made me think, “I’m not believing this lady at all.” Being a father and having little kids, I just could tell and it just made me sick to my stomach. I thought, “For some demented reason, you’ve shut down this beautiful concert with this lie about your own child,” you know?
And it all came out a few hours later: they got her to admit that she made up the whole story. Little Mallory was safe and sound at home, sleeping in her bed.
BR: And why …?
RP: Who knows? We never found out. I think I may have written the song that night.
BR: The last verse mentions “The Grey Ghost is riding out of Milford today …”
RP: (laughs) The old Grey Ghost! That’s the New Riders’ touring van that we use whenever we’re not doing a bus tour. You’ll see it – this funky old grey van that we all pile into.
BR: Sweet. Jeff’s keyboards on that one sound like he’s channeling Merle Saunders.
RP: Aw, he’ll be happy to hear that – he loves Merle’s stuff.
BR: It really is something that he and Katie are husband and wife – that’s a talented team. Her drumming on “Mallory” is so tasteful; there are a bunch of times she could have really worked in clusters of rolls and cymbal crashes, but she’s fastened on that groove.
RP: And that’s what I love about her playing and playing with her. Me, I’m a crazy bass player – I might show you where the 1 is; I’ll prove to you that I know it’s there – and then I’ll say goodbye. (laughs) I like to dance around it and pop back in when need be, you know. If you have a drummer that follows you off to Never-Never Land, it can get messy and ugly – the structure gets totally lost. Katie tends to stay right in the pocket; she’s perfect for a bass player like me.
One of the things about the band as a whole is the ability to get together when we can, run through a new song once or twice – and everybody just gets it. We haven’t had the luxury of holing up for months and working out a bunch of tunes.