A Conversation with Michael Rhodes (continued)
MR: And then I got to know Roseanne Cash and Rodney Crowell, and I went on the road with both of them. And then I did a record with Rodney called Street Language, which was in '85? I don't think it came out until '86. Then about that time I was starting to work with Barry Beckett. And then things started to heat up. Working with Rodney, and working with Barry Beckett, and then Crystal Gayle, and Dan Seals. And then some stuff started to hit on the radio, and that's when it really started to take off. Hank Jr.'s Born to Boogie, that was a big breakthrough.
PM: Oh, I didn't know you were on that. That was fun.
MR: Yeah, that was a fun record. Hank can be fun.
PM: But he's murder live. Awful loud.
MR: Yeah, I got trapped in front of his damn guitar amp.
MR: I did a gig with him at the Astrodome and I got trapped in front of his amp.
PM: That hurts. Six 4-12 cabinets. Six Boogie Power amps, Strategy 400's.
MR: Oh, it was unbelievable. Just unbelievable. I had never heard anything that loud.
But fortunately it was a forgiving venue. I mean, you know, you got about a three-second slap at the Astrodome, so it doesn't matter. And then we did Diamonds and Dirt with Rodney, which did really well. Five number one singles.
PM: Five number one singles?!
MR: Yeah. To this day, some of the best recording I've done is with Rodney, that record and over the years. And at the same time, I was working with Roseanne's band, and on the road with her. And then I took a gig with Steve Winwood, and toured with him in '88. And that was really cool. It took the better part of a year.
PM: Where was that in his career?
MR: That was right after Roll With It. He'd cut Roll With It up in Toronto. And he'd married a Tennessee girl, so they moved to Nashville, and he put a band together here. Everyone wasn't from here, but this was home base for him so he used some Nashville musicians. That was a great experience.
PM: Oh, man.
MR: I mean, you know, that's one of those "pinch me, I'm dreaming" kind of things.
You'd hear that voice, those songs and everything, too much.
PM: Big time.
MR: When that ended, and then I came back in '89, I pretty much did the cool gigs that were happening in town. Before that I played with J.J. Cale some. I'm trying to piece all this together. I really should probably sit down and do a time line someday.
PM: Yeah. Never have done that?
MR: I've never done it, man.
PM: Never counted up the records or anything?
MR: I've never counted up the records. I've never put it all in sequence. I've always been more interested in tomorrow than yesterday, you know. But as I'm sitting here talking to you, it's like, wow, man, okay, this is something that probably needs to be chronologically accounted for.
So, I worked with J.J. Cale. Then I did another tour with Winwood. And we cut a record in between there. He cut a record here called Refugees of the Heart. A pretty good record, but it didn't do very much. But that's Winwood, man. His career seems to spike, and then recede.
PM: Yeah, High Life and Roll With It were pretty big. Arc of a Diver was less so.
MR: But before that he had sunk out of sight after Traffic, or after Blind Faith.
PM: Raised horses for years, right?
MR: After Blind Faith, he just went underground, and he came back with Arc of a Diver. Then he went back down again, and he came back with High Life. He's due for another one.
MR: And so...it's a life, man. It's a life. It's a day-to-day, and it all adds up, especially in retrospect. I continued to work with Rodney. I mean, I did a lot of crummy projects, and I played on a lot of number one records.
PM: Would you say you've played on a couple hundred records, or...?
MR: Oh, yeah, more than that. I don't know, it would probably be closer to five or six hundred.
MR: I think, if I counted them, it probably would be. That may be an exaggeration, I don't know. The All Music Guide would be a good source for that. Have you ever looked at the All Music Guide? It's freaky, man. We'll look you up. Because you'll be there.
Oh yeah, and I'd been playing with Larry Carlton some. I did a record with him. It was a lot of fun. Playing with Larry Carlton is a trip, man. I felt like I was trying to catch a train all night. I felt like I was behind the guy all night long. That's not my strong suit, to play that kind of music. I mean, I can do it, but it doesn't come easily because I don't do it all the time. It was great. Larry is such a monster. He has such a deep sense of music.
And then, let's see, back in '96 or so, I did a record with Shawn Colvin, a little record called A Few Small Repairs. And I was really glad to get that call. John Leventhal called me, because I knew him from working with Rodney. And it just took off. It was Record of the Year and Song of the Year, "Sunny Came Home."
PM: Oh, that's right. Didn't I see you play with her on TV at some major award show?
MR: Yeah, it was the Grammys, the night she won. That was the night that Aretha sat in for Pavarotti.
MR: Pavarotti did a no-show and Aretha sat in for him. She did the piece that he was going to do.
PM: She sang his tune?
MR: Oh, yeah, man. She's a great opera singer. I mean, the purists would flinch, but she really, really rocked. Anyway, it was a special night. It was a magic night. And what made it more special is that we won. They won the big Kahuna.
PM: And so how was it? Is it really a surprise?
MR: Oh, it's really a surprise. Oh, yeah. They do a really good job.
PM: That's good. That's the way it should be. What was that session like, the Few Small Repairs record? Was that a good vibe?
MR: It was a great vibe. It was very spontaneous. Let me see if I can say this right: there was more care taken in the setup of the tune and working out the arrangements. We probably didn't do more than three or four takes on any of the songs.
PM: That's the way.
MR: But it was the setup. And a lot of the songs weren't finished. We did them on the floor. So it was a lengthy process. Some of the songs, some of the bridges were completed when we were on the floor. The lyrics were incomplete. So it was sketchy. We didn't really know what it was going to sound like. It was a very small section, it was just the drummer Shawn Pelton, myself, John Leventhal and Shawn Colvin.
PM: No keyboards.
MR: No, it was a very, very small band.
PM: She's a good guitar player.
MR: Oh, she's a great guitar player. And it was very immediate, you know.
PM: Cut that in New York, right?
MR: Yeah. At Sear Sound. So then that record took off. A tour started, but I needed more to stay at home.
PM: There was just too much work at home?
MR: There was too much work. But I played some of the dates.
PM: Played the good shows. [laughs]
MR: Well, you know, it's always true that the best gigs are when they're launching the record, because the record company is paying for everything. That's where the flavor is. continue