By Dani Felt (July 1, 2017)
What kind of music did you listen to growing up?
My parents always had music going in our house. Lots of standards, and show tunes ….. that sort of thing. Andy Williams, Tony Bennett, Louie Prima are a few that come to mind. Very early on I remember just being pulled in by a great melody and the way it sticks with you.
Being that you’re a writer, arranger, producer, and professional musician, how did you first get started in music?
I was always interested in the “heart and soul” of music as a young kid, and what really fascinated me is how a song could make a person feel various emotions and moods. When I was eight years old I talked my mom into buying me an acoustic guitar, and I taught myself to play. When I was about twelve or thirteen, I formed a band and started playing at local dances and events. We even had a manager who just happened to have a makeshift recording studio in his house. We used to record songs that we would perform live from time to time. I believe the oldest recording of me is singing a Moody Blues song at 12. It’s pretty funny! My voice hadn’t changed yet and another boy in the the band who was a bit older had to sing the lower notes.
About that time I also started composing. By the time I was 16 or 17, I was writing quite a bit. I had a reel to reel tape machine in my bedroom and would play with layering sounds while I was recording them. Sound on sound, layer after layer. I also had access to our manager’s studio which by this time was an actual business and had developed into a pretty decent place to record. I’d be in there all night long by myself or with friends experimenting and learning about production techniques. The band I was in at this time was doing quite well in San Diego and we were playing at least 5 nights a week. We loved every minute of it. When I was 19, I got my first publishing deal followed by a record deal at 20.
Did you ever want to be a solo artist, or were you more comfortable in a group setting?
That’s a hard question to answer. I love being in a band and I really enjoy the way friendly competition works. The best idea wins out. Early on with me, I just wanted to know everything about music …. how songs were arranged, recorded and produced. That led to those long studio hours and it was invaluable to me. I got to the point where if I needed bass, drums, or some other instrument, I’d just do it myself. It doesn’t replace another person but sometimes you just have to get the idea down and no one else is in sight so you do what you have to do to get a song recorded. I’ve found that song ideas are a bit like a good meal. You have to go with it while the idea is fresh. Leftover ideas aren’t quite as good no matter how much you try to microwave them.
Was there any one person that you really wanted to work with above anyone else?
There was never one person who I set out to work with, but there were people who inspired me. Todd Rundgren was one, because he wrote, recorded, engineered, and played almost every instrument … and did some of the most amazing pop songs along the way. Stevie Wonder is another. I love Innervisions and how you can just hear “him” in every track. The drums, the synth bass, etc. They are all extensions of Stevie. So many others. The list is just too long. Brian Wilson, Harry Nilsson, Paul Simon, randy Newman, any of the Beatles (together or apart), The entire British Invasion, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Led Zeppelin, Vanilla Fudge, Kenny Burrell, Wes Montgomery … ok, I’d better stop.
How did you get involved with Heart?
In my mid 20’s I decided to focus on primarily working in the studio with other artists, and that eventually led to me having a production company in LA which besides writing and producing for various successful recording artists, we also developed our own new talent. By the early 90’s we were on roll and around 2002 I was approached by a management company to represent me as producer. This company also managed Heart. Carol Peters who worked closely with both of us suggested that we might be a good fit since Heart was considering going back into the studio to make their first album in 13 years. At this time I was also working with Blondie, writing with Yes and a couple of other artists. Nancy came over to my studio in Hollywood and we just hit it off instantly. Our points of reference we all the same. It was truly amazing. We sat and talked about obscure B sides to our favorite singles as kids and petty much everything else under the sun. By the end of that afternoon we had written three new songs, two of which ended up on Heart’s Jupiters Darling CD and the third I believe can be downloaded on iTunes. They eventually asked me to join the band. By this time I had gotten to know Ann and Nancy quite well and saw that this was not just a band, but a family. The techs, the crew, fellow band members, management, all great people. That’s something you just don’t say no to.