Dave Stewart spends a week in Nashville and delivers a gem.
From his legendary work with Eurythmics to his recent collaboration with Stevie Nicks on her latest album, In Your Dreams, Dave Stewart has had a reputation for capturing magic in the studio. He does it again on his new album, The Blackbird Diaries, due Aug. 23 on Weapons of Mass Entertainment/Surfdog Records/Razor & Tie.
Recorded in Nashville at John and Martina McBride’s Blackbird Studio, Stewart’s 12-song set features guest appearances by Nicks, Martina McBride, Colbie Callait and the Secret Sisters. The Grammy Award-winning veteran British artist/writer/producer decided to record his new project in Nashville after visiting the McBrides.
“I ended up just falling in love with the whole idea of Nashville and the whole idea of recording there,” says Stewart, 58. “Two weeks after I met John and Martina, I flew back and started recording the album, but I forgot that I didn’t have any songs, so I had to write them all on the spot.”
The album was recorded in less than a week. “It was five days and nights, but the nights were mostly drinking vodka,” he says. “There wasn’t a lot of recording going on.”
Stewart credits John McBride, who mixed the album, with helping him assemble a stellar band of studio musicians, including guitarist Tom Bukovac, drummer Chad Cromwell, bassist Michael Rhodes, steel guitarist Dan Dugmore and Mike Rojas on piano.
“I felt at home and people just accepted me as somebody who was one of them,” says Stewart, who during his 30-year career has worked with Mick Jagger, Bono, B.B. King, Tom Petty and many others. “I know people who have gone to Nashville to make albums and come with some idea of making a country album, but I didn’t go with any idea of that in my head. I just came because I was drawn towards it, and while I was writing songs on the spot, I just let it happen. It’s got this weird mixture, like an Englishman landing in a country, blues and rock atmosphere, but it has kind of a quirky side to it too.”
“Cheaper Than Free,” his duet with Nicks, is included on both their albums and was inspired by a comment from actress Reese Witherspoon.
“Reese Witherspoon was in the studio watching me and Stevie record, and when I said I was coming to Nashville for the first time she said, ‘Oh, you can stay in my condo,’ “Stewart recalls. “Stevie said, ‘Yeah, that would be cheap,’ and Reese said, ‘What’s cheaper than free?’ I turned around and said, ‘Hey, that’s a great song,’ and Stevie and I wrote it.”
Stewart says closing track “Country Wine,” featuring the Secret Sisters, was inspired by his Nashville experience. As he was finishing the album, he realized he hadn’t written a country song. “I couldn’t believe I’d been in Nashville with all these great country players and didn’t write one country song, so 15 minutes later I came out with ‘Country Wine,’ “he says. “This is how Nashville made me feel. We all sang it and played it live together and that was the end of the album. It’s like a sweet little end to the story.”
Fans who visit his website, DaveStewart.com, can view the trailer for an upcoming film based on “The Blackbird Diaries.” The clip features Joss Stone and Diane Birch. “We’ve been using this video to supplement our online press and marketing initiatives, as it’s a fantastic introduction to the album,” Razor & Tie product manager Matthew Amoroso says. “It gives an interesting look into Dave’s world of songwriting–not to mention it’s fun to watch Dave, Joss and Diane Birch cut their acting teeth.”
In addition to “Diaries” and co-writing and producing Nicks’ album, Stewart co-wrote and co-produced Stone’s latest record. He has also written a musical adaptation of the 1990 Patrick Swayze/Demi Moore/Whoopi Goldberg film “Ghost” with writer/producer Glen Ballard.
“That’s been a very big success in Manchester [England] and now it’s moving to the West End of London to open in June,” Stewart says. “I’m flying over for the premiere. I think next fall probably is the time it will open on Broadway.”
In the meantime, Stewart is busy promoting Diaries with media appearances stateside. The album, Amoroso says, “will find a home with a wide demographic of listeners. Whether it’s older fans of Dave’s previous work with the Eurythmics to younger fans just discovering classic artists like Tom Petty, Dire Straits, Warren Zevon and Bob Dylan, anyone with an ear for well-written rock’n’roll will love this album.”
Deborah Evans Price / Billboard / June 11, 2011