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Annie Gallup

A Conversation with Annie Gallup (continued)

PM: "Enough" is a favorite song of mine that was around for a while before it got recorded. The version of it on this record has come so far from the song that I first heard.

AG: I've played it a lot since the time I wrote it. I think it was the last song I wrote before the Stay With Me Flagons project. I needed something to start off the writing. So, yeah, I wrote it in 2001 and I've played it a lot in concerts. I usually start the set with it, just because it settles me down. And then when I collaborated with Michael Visceglia on the arrangement, I think that's when this definitive version came together. And when I play it with Sean, now, live, he plays Michael's solo. And Don Porterfield, I just played it with him, and he's playing Michael's solo.

PM: Ah, that's beautiful.

AG: Yeah, being in the studio with Michael where he played this beautiful melodic line on his bass, he just bound the little story that fits into that space in the song. It became the definitive version.

PM: While we've touched on it, let's expand and kind of define the idea of the bass triptych that is one of the fundamental aspects of this record. How did that happen?

"the bass triptych"

AG: In each of the records, I seem to have been stripping back the high end more and more. I've been choosing not violin, but viola, and then using a drum kit, but not using any cymbals or high-hats. It seems like the whole tonal range is getting darker and darker. And I know I could list ten or twenty bass players that I would love to work with, but very few other instrumentalists that I think of off the top of my head.


PM: That's curious.

AG: Yeah. And thinking about the bass in a broader way than just the way it gets used as rhythm section was really interesting to me. I think working Sean, in particular, inspired that, just listening to what he's capable of.

PM: Soloing and crazy sounds and harmonics, and all kinds of--

AG: Oh, yeah. That was what Michael was doing. He did a lot of process things. Yeah, we got there eventually.

PM: Well, let's go into this Sean Kelly character a little bit more, because he's a big part of the current story. Where did you come upon this guy and his music?

AG: I heard him first at one of the regional Folk Alliances. It was in Austin. I went to hear him play with John William Davis, and got there late. There was only one place to sit in the room. It was on the floor at the feet of this upright bass player.


PM: Oh, that's interesting.

AG: And as they started playing, I was just completely enveloped by this bass sound, and it just tagged something. It was like, "That's the sound I've been looking for. That's it." And then when Sean started playing this really interesting bridge part with the bow, I was convinced. And I followed him out of the showcase and asked him to sit in with me on my showcase, which was really just a few minutes later.

PM: Now, he being familiar with singer songwriters and all, did he know, either when you sat at his feet, or after you stalked him into the hall, who you were or what it is you do?

AG: No, he didn't. He comes from outside the singer/songwriter scene.

PM: And so when you said, "Would you back me up on my showcase that's just a few minutes away," he just warmed right up to the idea?

AG: There was no hesitation, and then once we started playing together, there was no hesitation. The door was open, and we walked in, now we're in that room. He has played in a lot of different situations--rock, country--he's played in a lot of bands. He's lived in different countries--Germany and Italy and Japan--playing in different bands as a sideman. And he's played in orchestras. [He's currently with the Boulder Philharmonic.] So he's done a lot of playing in a lot of different contexts.

PM: And he lives where?

AG: Just north of Denver.

PM: He's done a great thing for your music.

Sean Kelly & Annie Gallup, photo by Trudeau

So he's one side of the triangle. Another is your old friend, and New York session monster, Michael Visceglia. He's still bass playing for Suzanne Vega?

AG: Yes, and others. He's been on the road with Dar Williams this year.

PM: So how was working with him this time around? You guys have done quite a few recordings together.

AG: We have, yeah. This would be the third we've done together. Michael is wonderful. I feel like we have a real understanding.

PM: Is he a big fan of your work, or is it all in a day's work to him, or something in the middle?

AG: He seems to really be into the project. He moved mountains to make time for it. And he came up with the studio in New York that we worked at, which was great.

PM: Where was that?

AG: It's on 26th Street, Little Life Studio--a little apartment studio, great.

PM: Ah. And was he using one bass, or did he go between basses and rigs?

AG: He had three different basses that he used. He had his Fender--

PM: Fender Jazz or a Fender Precision?

AG: I don't know. I should know more about it. His Fender, and his fretless. I don't remember who made that one. And then he used a Vox that Rob pulled out of the closet. Michael said, "Rob, we need that red bass."

PM: [laughs]

AG: And Rob pulled it out of the closet. [Rob Friedman was engineer on the record.] The Vox had a real growly, deep sound.

PM: I love when studio guys--this often happens in our studio--will say, even though they brought axes with them, "No, I want that one on the wall over there that I've never played." [laughs] I love when they do that.

AG: Yeah.

PM: And then once they've said it, it doesn't matter what shape the strings are in or anything. It's like, "No, I picked it, now I'm going to play that." [laughs]

AG: Yep, that's the right color.

PM: So that's two down. I've been happy to see Don Porterfield around the Folk Alliance. [He's also a force behind the heralded Evening Star Music Series in Sautee Nacoochee, GA.] Let's touch on the spirit and the sound of Porterfield.

AG: Yeah, he's great. He's really good. He sang some harmonies with me, also, which is a real gift that he has. He is one of those vocal chameleons. He can go wherever you go and sound just right in the pocket. He's very adept at harmony.

PM: I think that's almost always accompanied by an ability to blend psychically as well. People that blend well vocally usually embody that other quality, too.

AG: Yeah, yeah. Don has those feelers that are really well tuned. And I think that's what he's doing as a bass player, too, is just really feeling where you're going, and being there.

PM: I think great blenders do not have dominant egos, either.

AG: Right.   continue

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