Friday, May 14, 2010
Memphis 2009. I was in town from my then-hometown of Jersey City for the North American Folk Alliance Conference, a three day extravaganza of acoustic music, showcases and meetings and panels and workshops and late night (or early morning, depending on your perspective) hallway and stairwell jams. I was invited to Ardent Studios to play an acoustic set they would record for their “Ardent Presents” series. Having been confined to a hotel for days, it was nice to get outside, out into the bright Memphis sunshine and take a “field trip.”
I was definitely sleep-deprived, at 2am the night before having found a group of the best musicians around in a smoky stairwell, trading Townes and Woody songs. I think being half-awake/half-aware helped me when Jody Stephens pulled up to the hotel to pick me up for the session. When I was just starting out playing guitar, my college boyfriend, who was in a rock band, was obsessed with Alex Chilton and Big Star and the double CD “#1 Record/Radio City” was the soundtrack of my early 20s (and that to-be-doomed relationship).
“I’m In Love With A Girl” was the song that boy sang to me every night from stage. And there was Jody picking me up, just as down-to-earth and welcoming as you’d hope for from a rock star/studio manager. I couldn’t resist texting my ex, who sold his Gibson for a wife, 3 kids and a picket fence.
On arriving, I got a brief tour of the studio, got to meet John Fry and hear him tell of how Ardent began the studio in his family’s garage. I’d just finished a record with Mitch Easter who had started his studio in his mother’s garage. (Makes me start to think about the space in my own parents’ garage…, my father doesn’t need those racks of tools and the old bikes could go…). The entire staff of Ardent were so nice and welcoming and really enthusiastic about inviting a few folkies into their studios to perform. I felt like I’d been invited to a cool party, been slipped in the back door with the ghosts of greatness hovering above.
I walked into this great big studio. A few microphones. A table with candles burning. A stool. Nothing fancy, just vibe. There was a camera and a clock reminding me of the time. I think there were a handful of people just sitting on the carpet of floor of the studio in front of me. Like playing a show in someone’s living room—just me, the microphone, and the cross-legged audience leaning into my songs.
I actually forgot I was being filmed or recorded. It was just pure intimacy. I have to say, standing in that studio and singing for Jody and Rachel and the few others, I was thinking of all that music recorded in that same place, Isaac Hayes, Booker T, Big Star, Cat Power, their voices still hopefully carved somewhere into those wooden walls. It was really a special day for me and makes me want to get back to Ardent soon, to record in that studio, in that funky town filled with history and music and soul and good ribs and a river of mud and music seeping out of its cracked sidewalks.
The Ardent Sessions Presents: Amy Speace | The Vinyl District Podcast [76Mgs] (Mp3)
Enter to win Amy Speace's 'The Killer in Me' by simply leaving a comment, your name, and a contact email address in the comments to this post. We'll choose one winner each Friday for that week's giveaway which ALSO includes the entire Ardent Music catalog. (That's just 2 artists at this point, but who's counting?)
To hear more great Ardent Sessions please visit Ardent Presents.
Posted by Jon at 9:28 AM