PAUL GILBERT On Recording Christmas Classics For His New Album - "I Had To Make It In Such A Way Where I'm Excited To Hear Them"
December 4, 2021, a month ago
Guitarist Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big/Racer X) sat down for an exclusive interview with SoundMojo's Innersleeve podcast to discuss his new Christmas album, 'TWAS, his solo career, guitar secrets, his insane guitar collection and much more. The interview begins at the 23 minute mark.
On recording 'TWAS: "I recorded it in the summertime and it was kind of a wonderful feeling beingt eonly person walking down the street in a heatwave singing to mnyself 'Let is snow, let it snow, let it snow...' It was a really different headspace. I'm old enough that I've heard those Christmas songs a lot, and thinking in recent years past 'We need some new ones. I'm tired of hearing these songs again.' I had to make it where the songs that I'm tired of, somehow I arrange it or play it in such a way where I'm excited to hear them."
Mr. Big / Racer X guitarist Paul Gilbert is gearing up to release his new Christmas album, 'TWAS, and has released a live jam performance of "We Wish You A Merry Christmas". Check it out below.
Gilbert’s 17th solo album features a dozen recordings, two of which are new, original compositions. The global release date for digital and CD is November 26. The LP will follow on December 10. Pre-order here.
Today, Gilbert and the label share the third instant gratification track, “I Saw Three Ships”. A video can be viewed below.
Gilbert states: “It was 104°F in Portland, Oregon, on August 12th, when the band and I recorded 'I Saw Three Ships'. I was trying to get extra sounds from my A/DA Flanger by attaching a foot-operated, mechanical knob-turning device. But the device kept coming loose, and I kept getting angrier and angrier at it. I finally decided to give up on the knob-turning, and convert my frustration into pure guitar playing energy. The result was a slightly worried band, subtle flanging, and a good take! Thanks to Nat King Cole and George Thorogood for the arrangement inspiration. And thanks to England for the song.”
Gilbert adds: "Many will agree that in recent times, challenging events have been pouring down upon our heads like an Exploding Waterfall of Molasses. At least it sometimes feels like that to me. But while I was jamming Christmas songs with my friends, playing an assortment of red, green, and white Ibanez electric guitars, I felt like life was THE BEST. I hope that this music can put a smile on your face as well.
"Ten of the songs are classics. I was inspired by the Christmas recordings of Nat King Cole, Loretta Lynn, Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Ella Fitzgerald, and The Ventures. And of course, inspiration came from my guitar heroes, Eddie Van Halen, Alex Lifeson, Johnny Winter, Robin Trower, Frank Marino, Pat Travers, Jimi Hendrix, and Jimmy Page, to name a few. I also wrote some of my own new Christmas songs. As I have been doing recently, I begin with lyrics and a melody. Then I let my guitar take over, as it sings better than I do."
He continues. "'Three Strings For Christmas' refers to the 3-string guitar that I used on my double-neck. I tune the strings in octaves, which allows me to play ridiculously fast arpeggios, and very little else (which is why I have a normally strung guitar for the other neck.) 'Every Christmas Has Love' was written quickly, inspired by my panic-driven mental state of album making. When I know that the recording sessions are coming, my brain shifts into survival mode, and melodies start popping out. Then I take all the chords I learned by listening to 70s AM radio, and build a song. The lyrics are nice too. I'll be printing those in the liner notes of the album. Merry Christmas to all. And to all, a good night."
Gilbert formed a band of Portland, Oregon's finest jazz and blues musicians for these sessions. The players are Dan Balmer (guitar), Clay Giberson (keyboards), Timmer Blakely (bass), and Jimi Bott (drums). He reflects, “All brought supreme musical goodness to these arrangements and performances. They certainly steered me to make wiser musical choices than I would have made on my own. And as you will hear, my metal guitar instincts still breathe fire when they get the chance.” The album was recorded in Jimi Bott's studio, who also engineered and mixed the recordings. The approach was to record two songs every day, for six days, delivering the collected body of work.
Gilbert: "All songs were recorded live, although I think Jimi snuck some cowbell overdubs in. If anything should be added to a live track, I believe cowbell is the right choice."
"Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!"
"Frosty the Snowman"
"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing"
"The Christmas Song"
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"
"I Saw Three Ships"
"Every Christmas Has Love"
"Three Strings for Christmas"
"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"
"We Wish You a Merry Christmas"
"Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" video:
(Photo - Jason Quigley)