A Day In The Life

Mollie
Initially this epic song, written by Lennon-McCartney around 1967 was banned, and later released as a B side. It is known for many things, but I think the most famous being the chaotic crescendo at the end that washes over with a flood of sound. What an amazing recording.  Nobody would expect to hear a song with so many instruments, performed by two people. I didn't know how we were going to pull this off, but Pete did.  He had a clear vision from the beginning and after I heard him play it, I knew he was right and it would be loads of fun! Originally, the two verses were written independently and then put together later, so I wanted to stay true to the different characters if each.  Pete's brilliant arrangement was really everything we needed, and I wanted to use the vocal more like an instrument for the big crescendo and psychedelic sections. I played around with the melodies to use, and it all came together.  Pete and I opened our performance at Carnegie Hall with this and were rewarded with a standing ovation.

Pete
This was, in many ways, the trickiest song to work out. We knew we wanted to give it a try when we played Carnegie Hall back in 2010 because we were opening for a Beatles tribute group called 1964. A lofty goal for sure -- to try A Day In The Life with nothing but a guitar and a voice. It took Mollie a couple of days to decide on the key that would be best to sing it in. While she would suggest a key, I found myself trying different capo positions on the guitar and different tunings. When she finally settled on “C” for the verses I let out a little sigh of relief. Standard tuning is my favorite. Then came the section where, on the Beatles recording, the orchestra went wild. On their recording, Paul had each instrument go from their lowest note to their highest note AT THEIR OWN PACE. Complete madness! How was I going to do that? Well, it didn't take long for me to realize that I wasn't going to do it at all. I was going to have to come up with something on my own. I decided that I would have all these wild chords moving at an accelerated rate moving up the neck all over the same low “A” note to give it a sense of push and pull, tension and release. Setting the click track to accelerate at the pace I needed was a challenge. Thanks to Brandan Harkin for his help in figuring that out. Then Mollie came up with the siren (yes, that is her voice) and then finally the siren-melody to the song Because over the final section. Over the top!

Melissa

Mollie
Pete introduced me to this amazing song. It's one that I learned for this record and one that was needed in our mix of tunes. The song's rock and roll chords, gutsy strumming and a soulful story drive the melody in a no fuss, direct fashion. The hopeful chorus and the sadness in this song really stuck with me.  A vagabond, a lonely train, crossroads, all images of a lonely life, that I believe Gregg Allman wrote from personal experience.

Pete
This is one that I thought of shortly before Mollie came to Nashville to work on our Christmas CD. She wasn't familiar with the song but she immediately took to it. As always when working with a singer, the key is paramount. Once she decided on Bb the rest fell together quickly.

Warmth Of The Sun

Mollie
It's probably because I live in California where the weather almost never changes – but I envisioned this Beach Boys song feeling like a warm hazy day. I had the pleasure of singing a few times with some of The Beach Boys - Mike Love, Bruce Johnston, and Brian Wilson.  We never sang this song, but I became fascinated with the person Brian Wilson. California shaped so much of his songs and sound.  There seems to be a sadness that lies underneath the sunny ocean breeze here.  This song is a perfect example of that.  It has such interesting intervals, melody shifts and adventurous chord changes that move between major and minor – a style that was not much used in the 1960's. Knowing I wasn't going to sing all those beautiful harmonies that make the Beach Boys sound distinct, it was important that we capture the same feeling in our rendition.  Besides the opening oo's, I wanted to approach this song as if I was whispering it into someone's ear. Pete added the sunny feeling with the groove that juxtaposed perfectly. Brian Wilson and Mike Love happened to write this song the night before President Kennedy was assassinated. So it carries an added weight and a moment in history beyond just a beautiful song.

Pete
This Beach Boys song is so fun to play! We listened to many, many versions on YouTube and they all had the same 12/8 feel. When we got to the studio, we tried in the same way we'd heard virtually everyone do it. But I am really not fond of doing things the same way as everyone else. It takes my own identity right out of the picture. So I just started playing the groove and that was it. I love the juxtaposition of the slow, soft melody against all the action of the groove. And Mollie sang this one so beautifully. I love the way she sings this one so softly, almost whispering.

Human Nature

Mollie
It's a tricky thing recording a song that is as famous as this one is. I have a few friends who worked and made music with Michael Jackson and I would never want to offend or get too “out of my lane.” I didn't actually think this song choice would make the record, but Pete changed my mind with his approach to the guitar part and stylistically it went more in a folk direction.  We did it our way but still hopefully keeping the integrity of the song. I tried to capture MJ's fragile approach to the melody and lyrics and tried to keep it authentic. I love the gentle and lonely chorus.

Pete
I tried to capture the groove from Michael Jackson's recording and it just wasn't working. So, almost jokingly, I said, “Let's try it as a folk song.” The result turned out to be a mixture of folk and pop while maintaining the essence of the song. Mollie kept the Michael Jacksonisms to a minimum and thus, made it her own.

Capim

Mollie
In Portuguese “capim” literally means grass.  I learned this song for a jazz group I was in at the music conservatory I attended. Capim's fast and precise melody fascinated me. Plus, the beauty of the Portuguese language made this song so fun to sing.  I love the easy approach that the songwriter, Viana Djavan Caetano, takes to creating melodies.  It's a wonderful marriage of sound and lyrics.  Pete and I have been performing this song for quite some time and it was his idea to record it. With me singing through a ribbon microphone, and Pete on a nylon guitar, there is a particular character to our recorded sound on this song that I love.

Pete
Mollie turned me on to this song several years ago and we originally did it with a band. I have a deep love for Brazilian music so when we decided to try this for our CD I was very happy. My guitar wasn't sounding too good the day we recorded this, so I used one of Vince Gill's nylon stringed guitars and I tuned the whole guitar down one half-step so I wouldn't lose all the low notes. The resulting recording sounded too dark so I borrowed Vince's high-strung guitar to simulate a cavaquinho. This is one of my personal favorites to perform with Mollie.

People Help The People

Mollie
A British group called Cherry Ghost released this song in 2007.  I came across their recording soon after and began singing a number of their songs.  But I was drawn to the lyrics in this particular song.  They have an anthem-like quality and a power to unite.  I recorded it with Pete in 2010 and am excited to finally get to share our version and this gem of a song.

Pete
Another suggestion by Mollie that I love. Her performance on this gives me chills.
I came up with a tuning that I felt would work and it came together quickly.

This Bitter Earth

Mollie
“This Better Earth” was released in 1960 and made famous by the amazing Dinah Washington, whose voice I can't get enough of.  I have been waiting for an opportunity to sing this for some time.  It's such an artful song and the lyrics read like a poem. With adapted chords from the composer Max Richter, this becomes a haunting and brooding ballad.  Pete played a nylon string guitar and from the first note, it captivated me, with a sound that is stark, haunting and beautiful.  With a series of repeated chords, the arrangement creates a maze of melancholy, a heavy feeling that stays with you long after the song is done. When recording, I had to just feel it out - where to come in, how long to hold each note…and hope that Pete and I ended up at the end together.  The result was a feeling of freedom within the song that I love.

Pete
This is one that Mollie continued to ask me about for years. Dinah Washington's recording is beautiful but Mollie really liked a version recorded by Max Richter where he did an orchestral accompaniment to Dinah's vocal. He cut up the vocal and placed it, seemingly randomly, within his arrangement. When she came to town to work on material for this CD, Mollie asked me again. I said give me some time. So I went and worked out the chords from Max Richter's version and came up with a pattern that I thought would work. Mollie's stellar performance always gives me chills but on this song in particular I can feel every bit of emotion that she has to give.

River

Mollie
“River” was never released as a single, but is regarded as one of Joni Mitchell's most famous songs. As a kid I used to hear her voice coming from my mom's stereo. Mitchell's phrasing and strange melodies fascinated me, the way they turned and lilted in unexpected directions. Although they are often filled with melismas her melodies never get in the way of the lyric and the heart of the song -- I suppose a tribute to her ability. This was actually recorded for our Christmas album, and then Erin suggested saving it for our next record.  The sentiment in this song fits perfectly in the mix.

Pete
Originally we were going to put this on our Christmas CD (Parnassus – Christmas Time) but we decided that the heaviness of this song lent itself more to this CD. I love Joni Mitchell's songs and her performances. And I think we did this one justice.

Telephone Line

Mollie
I started listening to Electric Light Orchestra in college. I liked their arrangements, harmonies, and playful chord structures. ELO's productions and songs are so elaborate with many vocals and entire orchestras that it seemed like an interesting challenge to create a version with only two people. Pete took that introduction, which seems almost impossible to make sense of and learned it on guitar! We didn't have a Moog for the American telephone sound, but Pete always seems to confidently create sounds out of his guitar that are otherworldly. This song has a lightness to it and also sonically provides a bit of experimentation, which is something Pete and I really like to do.

Pete
I love it when Mollie suggests a song that will make me work hard to come up with something original and recognizable at the same time. I loved working out the intro on this one. I tried to emulate the original recording from ELO. The notes from the ring tone sound were a little tricky to figure out because it is (I think) a tone row. That is where you play all 12 notes of a scale without a repeating phrase so that it is very hard to latch on to mentally. And then I thought, “Ok, I've got the notes I'm going to play now I need to make this just a little different.” So I did the old Johnny Cash trick and threaded the first three strings of my guitar with a dollar bill. Not just any dollar bill. I used a Muledeer buck. Given to me by friend and comedian, Gary Muledeer. It was appropriate because Gary is a huge fan of Johnny Cash and does the best imitation of him I've ever heard. Mollie did what Mollie does best, she took the song and owned it.

Who Knows Where The Time Goes

Mollie
I took inspiration from two recordings of this song -- Sandy Denny's and Nina Simone's. I am a long-time admirer of singer Nina Simone.  Her song choices and artistic expressions are unparalleled.  Sandy Denny's version is a classic that will hold a place in my heart forever.  It is a story song, an art song with three verses containing lyrics that immediately place the listener in that particular mood, space and story. I think this song has guts and a deep rooted beauty.  Every time Pete and I perform this song I feel the gravity of it.   Pete's ability to capture the lyric with his playing just inspires me.  To me, this is our signature song. We changed it a bit – stylistically, adjusted some chords, added a tag and then performed it for the first time at Carnegie Hall in 2010.  This was the second song that ended with folks on their feet that night.

Pete
This very beautiful song by Sandy Denny gives me chills every time I hear it. Mollie suggested we do it and we worked on it, off and on for quite some time... like months.  I remember sitting in her living room in L.A. trying different approaches and thinking, “I don't know where this is going but I'm gonna' hang in there for the ride.” The result is nothing short of stunning. On a song like this, I like to record with Mollie without a click track. It gives us both a little more room to be expressive. I think this was from our third take.

Wildfire

Mollie
“Wildfire” has the feeling of winter to me and its haunting story is an ancient one.  I once read that the idea for the song came to Michael Martin Murphey through a Native American legend, he'd heard from his grandfather, about a ghost horse.  I grew up in Colorado around horses and I heard stories similar to this as a child from my great-grandmother who was raised by Native Americans in Oklahoma.  The story in “Wildfire” connected with me on a deep level.  The lyrics connect to the earth, and to a wantonness for freedom.

Pete
I remember Mollie saying something about her parents wanting her to record this song. I was feeling a little skeptical because I thought this song may be a little old fashioned. But I have learned when it comes to Mollie that I should trust her instincts because they have never let me down. This is easily, by far and without exception my favorite performance of Mollie's on this CD. I also do love the way I approached the song from the accompanists point of view. Simple yet confident.

Con Te Partiro

Mollie
Andrea Bocelli's recording is the one I fell in love with, that is, until I heard Pete arrange this for guitar.  I have, to this day, never heard anyone play this song like he does. Originally, we recorded a demo of
“Con Te Partiro” in 1998 before Pete's studio was fully realized.  So his closet was the vocal booth. I think singing through those hanging shirts made for the best vocal performance that I have ever sung of “Con Te Partiro.”  Those recordings have since been lost, so it was a must that we do another for this record. Although Pete threatened to re-create the vibe and bring his hanging shirts, we did this one in style with a large room at Wildwood Studios and two of Brendan Harkin's very expensive Neumann microphones!  Translated as, “with you I will go” “Con Te Patiro” is a love song, a goodbye song and a song that will probably live a very, very long time. Of course this melody came from the romantic Italians, a lineage of some of the greatest melodies ever written. It is one of the best-selling singles of all time written by Francesco Sartori and Lucio Quarantotto. Pete and I closed our Carnegie Hall show with this song and it was the third and final standing ovation we got that night.

Pete
A beautiful Italian light pop aria. Mollie faxed (remember those) me the sheet music to this along with a recording many years ago. I listened to the recording and checked out the music and came up with a reasonable accompaniment. I'm not a classical player (but I play one on TV!) but I do have an understanding of some of the things they do. I could listen to Mollie sing this song every day and never tire of it. I remember one time she was at our house in Nashville and we were rehearsing this song. My step-son James was trying to watch something on TV. He had the volume turned all the way up and was seated directly in front of the TV and he swears he still couldn't hear it. Until the last note of the song ended, when suddenly he was seated in front of a screaming TV and the volume was so intense he was forced into back flips across the floor.

Birds

Mollie
“Birds” is simple, sad and beautiful and gets me from the very first line. It was recorded in 1970 pat Sunset Sound, just a few blocks from where I live. I was turned onto this song from my friend Sam. He used to perform it with my parents in their band when I was a child.  I can't say I remember them singing Birds, but it must have stuck to the deep parts of my memory because whenever I hear it, there is an immediate familiarity. Pete's playing sounds like it was always existed in the song….just perfectly natural.

Pete
Such an appropriate ending to this CD. Neil Young said it best,
It's over.
It's over.
It's over.