The Muscle Shoals Sessions [l-r]: Justin Holder (drums and percussion), Samuel Pasternack (lead guitars and vocals), Angela Ford (bass guitar and vocals), Todd Pasternack (guitar and vocals), Glenn Rosenstein (producer and mastering engineer), Brad Kuhn (piano, wurlitzer, and B3)
Todd Pasternack and Angela Ford are both passionate musicians, playing in various groups (together and separately) over their careers, including Ominous Seapods, Bump, Marlow and the Lo Faber Band. It comes as no surprise, then, that their son Sam, now in his early teens, developed a zeal for music. Over the last few years, the three have been performing together as the Ford Family Band. Before COVID-19 plunged the nation into an indefinite quarantine, the three musicians traveled to the legendary FAME studios in Muscle Shoals, Ala. They shacked up with producer and friend Glenn Rosenstein and recorded two tracks, titled “You and Me” and “Letter.” The songs have since been released as ‘Cuts from Fame’ (listen here). Below, the three discuss their musical influences, how it feels to play together as a family, their experience at the hallowed studio and more.
How did you guys have the idea to put together the Ford Family Band?
Todd: So Angela and I, we had played in a bunch of bands together and separately we’ve both had careers in music, and after we got off the road full time and we started a family–there was just sort of no escape for Sam to get the music bug, I think, and when he picked up the guitar– how old were you?
Sam: I was ten.
Todd: Ten. Yeah, I think I gave him his first guitar at ten. He was good. [Laughs]
Yeah, you can tell on the record!
Todd: Yeah, he really picked it up so quickly, and we were like, “Wow, we’ve gotta go do something here,” and we just started jamming together.
Sam: I actually remember the first time we all played live. It was at the Fall Fest event at school, and I remember it was like two days before you two were supposed to play and I was like, “Can I join?” and you guys were like, “Sure!” That was back when I just started to get into guitar solos. I had just learned the pentatonic scale and all that, and I got through it.
So Sam, obviously playing music can be very freeing and very expressive, and sometimes those things don’t always go with doing things with your parents. Nonetheless, you guys have been able to do such great work together with the Family Band. I’m curious: when you’re in the studio with your parents, how much are you looking to them for direction, and how much are they giving it. How much is it your own ideas and your own voice coming out?
Sam: Well, on the track “You and Me,” my Dad wrote that one a long time ago–he even performed it before we recorded it. So I kind of just improvised what I wanted to do on the song. I knew what I wanted to do, and when we added that second guitar solo at the end, I just went for it.
What kind of gear are you guys using on the recordings? I see in the album photo, I think you got what looks to be a Fender Jazzmaster-looking guitar there, but I’m curious for what kind of stuff you all use?
Todd: Yeah, so that’s actually the ‘64 Jaguar. That’s like our baby, we love that guitar very much.
Angela: I played a Fender Jazz bass and the engineer put me through a really cool Ampeg 70s tube amp and got me a really nice bass tone that I really loved. [To Todd] What did you play?
Todd: I just used one of the teles that was there through this old Fender Champ. Oh my gosh, and then on the song “Letter,” I got to use Rick Hall’s [the late founder of FAME studios] guitar, his acoustic guitar. He had this Gibson Jumbo and it was played by like, Wilson Pickett and Otis Redding and like these legends. [Laughs] So there was definitely some magic for sure, both in the room and in the instruments that were there.
I was just about to mention FAME studios. Todd and Angela, have you guys recorded there before?
Angela: No that was our first time recording there. It was magical. Muscle Shoals is just an incredible place, and the studio that they have there–their studio A and B–Glenn has helped open up studio B, that’s his place.
Todd: Yeah, so he and Rodney Hall, who’s Rick’s son, invested in pretty much just renovating Studio B so that the actual studio room is pretty much identical. It’s like the room where Duane Allman played–it’s amazing. The sound of the room is great. But they renovated the control room–they bought an old board that was used by Stevie Ray Vaughn and some really great gear. And the way we got that opportunity was: Glenn and I have known each other, it’s crazy to say, for over twenty years now. And he worked- we worked together on an Ominous Seapods album and that’s how we met and became really great friends. So when Glenn invested in the studio and had FAME, he said “Todd, you’ve gotta figure out a way to get down here, it’s magic. Let’s just make some music together and have some fun.” So I was like, “Great! I’ve been playing with my family, we’ve got some songs, we’ll be there!”
Speaking of names like Allman and Vaughn, who are some of each of your biggest musical influences?
Sam: Oh, wow. Well, a lot of musicians have influenced me, over time as well. Right now I’d probably say the Allman Brothers of course, Stevie Ray Vaughn… a while ago it was definitely Tom Petty and Mike Campbell from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. I definitely like that style of music and Mike Campbell’s style of playing.
Angela: That’s a tough one. I was an opera singer before I switched over to rock, and I had a jazz project too. Vocally, I love Ella Fitzgerald and Joni Mitchell. On the bass, recently I’ve been delving into The Beatles–the complete scores–and I’ve been listening to a lot of Paul McCartney. But y’know, I love Zeppelin, I love the Dead. There’s a lot of bassists I listen to that I like.
Funnily enough, considering Paul McCartney’s standing as perhaps the most famous musician around, I think he’s somehow an underrated bassist.
Angela: Yeah, absolutely. He writes some great basslines, very melodic.
Todd, what about you?
Todd: When I first started, it was Eddie Van Halen, which–rest in peace, that was heartbreaking. Jimmy Page, David Gilmour, and then the Allman Brothers, too. So it’s interesting how some of those influences I think carried over to Sam, for sure.