“I set out to make a record that was going to make people happy, and that’s hopefully what it will accomplish!”
Deni Bonet, a brilliant artist from the world of notable side-musicians, having been a strong fixture in the house band for the great NPR show Mountain Stage, and worked with incredible people like Robyn Hitchcock and R.E.M. among various others, has herself transformed into a singer-songwriter-violinist that gives a sort of folk-pop blend that invokes “Natalie McMaster meets Belinda Carlisle”. Deni has since delivered a series of her own records, her latest being a CD titled It’s All Good, and she’s putting on a CD-release party on Friday, February 15th at 7:30 PM at 92nd Street Y Tribeca in NYC. Click up here for info/tickets or on the bottom.
I have to say that I loved this chat, even though I feel like it was more of a chat/hangout than an interview. Albeit through the magic of Skype, Deni showed me around her place and I was treated to both musical and meowing throw pillows, hilarious anecdotes, great jokes and a grand tour of the music studio within her apartment. It was the kind of experience that I wish I could share through transcription. I suggest that if you get into Deni’s music, you’ll get some sort of sense of that! She really is a funny, sweet, eclectic gal, and a superb fiddler/songwriter on top of this!
Plus she seems to have a thing for the color blue…
CM: You did a cover of The Beatles? Was that difficult? The thing with The Beatles is that covering them is like covering literature…
Deni: It’s like covering God!
CM: It’s like covering God! Or like remaking Gone With The Wind or Citizen Kane. The thing with the Beatles, though, is that sometimes people want to cover ambitious songs like “Tomorrow Never Knows” or “A Day In The Life”, but covering “Please Please Me” seems to be easier to do because it’s a more simplistic pop format.
Deni: That came about because I’ve done a lot of songwriting over the years with a guy named Roger Greenawalt, and he was one of the founders of the Beatles Complete on Ukelele along with Dave Barrett. Roger invited me over to cover a song, and Roger–he’s a genius, but he’s a total eccentric. The original intent was more plaintive, but if it’s done by a woman who’s seducing a younger man, it takes on a completely darker story. We actually rewrote the lyrics, and they were pretty silly, because first of all, you don’t rewrite The Beatles, but “Last might I read your ad on Craigslist”! It was really goofy! And we did it in the whole minor-key thing! He put that on his website for a few weeks. When I decided to do this record, I was working with Richard, and I said “I’m really attached to putting ‘Please Please Me’ on there”, but of course, I didn’t have to redo the lyrics so that there are original lyrics, because you can’t get approval to change the lyrics, so we went back, and I redid the lyrics w/Roger, and so that’s how he got that particular credit on the record.
CM: Can you please talk about the appearance of both Fred Schneider and Peter Buck on the new album? Each of them is on a song.
Deni: Well, Fred Schneider has actually done a bit of work with Richard Barone. Since Richard had been producing the record from day one, we were thinking “ok, let’s get on our lists of ‘who-do-I know? who-do-you-know? who-do-we-know?'”, and we approached Fred right from the very start. I’ve always had this idea that we’d get him on “Girl Party” and ironically he lives around the corner from the studio, and it was going to happen a couple of times–It finally happened that our schedule was going to match his schedule, and then Steve Addabbo didn’t have the studio that day because something else was already booked, so we ended up recording him in another studio in the same little complex there.
We got him in, and he sort of had a different take on the song–he was looking at it saying “Why can’t I come to the party? I’m the guy! I’m here, why aren’t I invited?”. He wrote a bunch of answers to my lines–“All dressed up on a Saturday night”, and he was talking over that with “It’s not Saturday!”, and it wasn’t exactly what I had envisioned, so I leaned over to Richard, and said “Do you think we can get him to say something like ‘Who’s happy happy?’?”. So we let him do his thing, and afterwards Richard repeated to him what I said, and that’s when we got it! And then it was my idea to have him say the part “She’s throwing a party for the girls!”. It just makes me giggle every time!
My dream for “Girl Party” is to get a company like Absolut Vodka or a booze company to pick it up! I would be more than willing to go into a studio and change it to “I’m gonna drink Barcardi with the girls”, why not?
CM: It’s so interesting to hear you say this, because there’s several artists that used to say that they’d never use their music for advertising, but…
Deni: But they’re hungry now, they want it!
CM: Every 5 mintues, if it’s not The Kinks or The Who, it’s an indie band.
Deni: We all gotta eat!
Deni: And Peter Buck–I met R.E.M. in the early 90s! They came on Mountain Stage, and that particular show was R.E.M., Robyn Hitchcock, Clive Gregson and Christine Collister, who played with Richard Thompson (his back-up people)–It was a giant show! This was also the 1st time I played w/Robyn Hitchcock, who I played with for years after that. R.E.M. had done 3 shows to promote their then-current album Out of Time, one was Saturday Night Live, I think the other one was Letterman, I can’t remember, and the 3rd was Mountain Stage. They were big fans and supporters of Mountain Stage! They allegedly paid to have Mountain Stage on in Athens, Georgia! Anyway, they came on the show, and I played both “Losing My Religion” and “Radio Song” with them. One of those recordings is on the Best of Mountain Stage Vol. 2.
Playing on my record came about because at one point R.E.M. opened for The Bongos, so Peter, who knew Richard forever, was in town playing with Tired Pomy. Scott McCaughey called and said “We’re playing at Irving Plaza tonight, you wanna come and play?” and I said “Shit, yeah!”, and I went and did that. Then Pete and I were talking and I told him that I was in the middle of working on this album with Richard, and he’s like “oh, cool! If you want me to play on anything, just send me the track!”, so we sent 2 tracks, the track that he played on (“Safety Date”) and “Get On With It” which Scott McCaughey played on. They just did it at Scott’s studio, the same way as I’m doing, sending people tracks!