THE MAGPIE SALUTE – Second Serving Of High Water
October 30, 2019, 12 days ago
If Magpie Salute had their way, their debut album, High Water, would have been a sprawling double disc offering. But when the label higher ups got cold feet concerning the idea, there was quite a bit of material left on the shelf. On October 18, we now get to hear what should have been included - as well as additional newly recorded material - in the form of High Water II. Comprised of ex-Black Crowes members Rich Robinson (guitar), Marc Ford (guitar), and Sven Pipien (bass), plus vocalist John Hogg, drummer Joe Magistro, and keyboardist Matt Slocum, Magpie Salute continues to specialize in the roots rock vintage direction of their former band. Rich spoke to BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato shortly before the arrival of High Water II.
BraveWords: From what I understand, this album was recorded at the same time as the debut, right?
Rich Robinson: “Most of it was. Some of it was not. We had recorded about 26 songs when we made the first album, and then, being on tour for over a year really made us write songs. I always write songs. But being on tour for that long, I had a couple of more songs, and I wanted to record them, so after one of the legs in Europe - a six-week run in Europe - we just decided to go into Rockfield, which is a studio in Wales, and record these five songs. It went really well. And the cool thing about it is that it’s amazing how one or two songs can really shift the whole feeling of an album. Because that’s what it’s more about, for me - like, ‘Where is this going to go? Where is this going to take us?’ And one of the things that I really felt...I wouldn’t say it was difficult, but originally, we were going to release both the albums as a double album. The label didn’t want to do that, so we separated them - into High Water I and II. So, when you lay everything out on the table and you try to see, ‘How is this first record going to go? What is this going to sound like? What other songs are we going to choose and pick?’ When that happens, it’s really a bummer to look at the thing as a 20 or 24-song piece, and then have to shift to, ‘OK, this is the first half, and this is the second half.’ How that second record is going to come out is really interesting, and how those songs are going to develop. So, before the end of recording of the first record, I’d had an idea of what was going to go on the first album. And then, the second record came, and it was great, it was really cool. We had plenty of songs. But then adding these other three songs took it in a whole other direction. And it also gave John some time to really hone in on some vocals. It gave me some time to finish some of the songs and lyrics I had written, and really taking the time to mix it. We had a different mixer on High Water II - actually, my engineer mixed it. And he had a lot of time to really sit in there and go through it. I think that really added to the overall experience, but also added to that second record, because I’m really happy with the way it turned out.”
BraveWords: And like the debut, you produced it yourself, and previously, your solo albums. Going forward, would you just want to produce yourself, or others, too?
Rich Robinson: “I’ve worked with other bands. I’ve done that a lot over how many years. I just produced this band from England called Maker. There was a band from Norway I’d worked with. There is another solo artist that I produced his record and co-wrote it. There’s a band from Canada that I’m going to be working with soon. So, I’ve always been interested in doing that. I find it is really interesting and fulfilling in a different way. It’s different than me having to think about writing a whole record and ‘What’s this going to do?’ I just found it really interesting to get in there, take someone’s songs, and work them and bring them to another place. So, I’m not necessarily just interested in producing my own stuff.”
BraveWords: Let’s discuss the two tracks that have been issued as lyric videos – “Lost Boy” and “In Here.”
Rich Robinson: “‘Lost Boy’ was Marc Ford’s song, and he had it for a long time. He had brought it to the band, and he had wanted a female voice on it. We had talked about Alison Krauss, and everyone loves Alison - she’s brilliant. And also, a brilliant fiddle player. She came in and sang background vocals, and played fiddle - which was beautiful. It’s a really deep, beautiful song that Marc wrote. I added the chorus at the end - just kind of tweaked it a little bit - but Marc had the overall basis of the song. But it’s one of those things that is very genuine, very authentic, and it’s beautiful. ‘In Here’ is just sort of a song about what we’re dealing with in the world right now. Like, as it moves forward, faster, and exponential growth, and the way that we’re dealing...we’re losing side of what humanity is, what artwork is, what music should be. What any kind of artistic endeavor should be. Which - to me - is more about the human experience, explaining it, looking into it, asking about it, questioning it, and questioning your place in the world. How you see things, how these universal themes come your way. It kind of points to we have this music, you’re living in this sort of sea of noise, ultimately. You’re bombarded everywhere you go - you’re bombarded by the radio, cars, horns, movies, TV, internet, people. Everything is just kind of coming at you. And everyone seems to be selling your something. So, how do you clear all that, sit, and have an experience? This is what this is. This is the songs. This isn’t about these sort of grifters hanging out and lying in wait, to just come take these things. It should be this authentic human quality. It should be something that facilitates people looking at something at a different angle, and maybe see something different. Like, ‘Oh wow, I never really thought of it that way’ or ‘That’s kind of cool’ or ‘This makes me feel a certain way.’ The really interesting element about music - and any kind of art form, from written words to music to movies - is that we form an intimate relationship with it, based on our set of life experiences. So, ultimately, whatever that is, is going to be...like, you have a favorite song that you used to listen to when you were 16, and now you’re 40, and you look back on that song and that thing lived with you. It came with you. And what does that mean? It doesn’t really matter what the artist meant when he wrote it, because you have this very specific relationship with that song or that movie or that book. And that is what is what’s brilliant. To me, I find it fascinating.”
BraveWords: How is it playing again in a band with Marc Ford?
Rich Robinson: “Marc’s great. Marc and I have always had this sort of musical relationship where it works. He’s got great ears, he and I listen to what each other are doing, and then we kind of move around based on that. It all comes down to listening. When you’re on stage, instead of just showing off and playing notes, you’ve got to serve the song. The song is the most important thing, the song is the gift. So, how can you best serve the song? And also, sort of tap into the movement and what would work with the chorus of the song. And Marc has always been able to do that - to work in conjunction with me. And the cool thing was to be able to flip the roles on a song like ‘Lost Boy,’ because I’m playing slide and lead throughout that song, and that’s always cool too - that Marc and I can do that, on a dime. And it’s really interesting.”
BraveWords: Touring plans?
Rich Robinson: “The touring plans is we are going to wait and see until 2020. We did a really long tour last year, and it kind of got to us a little bit. It was time to take a break and see what this record does and see if it excites people. If that’s the case, maybe go out in 2020 - we don’t know.”
BraveWords: Next year marks the 30 year anniversary of the release of Shake Your Money Maker. Any plans to celebrate it?
Rich Robinson: “I don’t know. Maybe Universal will...I don’t know.”