January 17, 2013

Joan Armatrading and "Willow": How the Quiet Singer Shapes Her Song from the Silences

Quiet's dangerous. We live in a world of bluster. But then again, some people don't have any fear, and play it half as fast and half as loud as the others. You can't look away, when it's quiet like that. -- Sippican Cottage

As fate often had it in those days, I was in the booth watching and listening long ago when Glyn Johns was producing "Willow" with Joan Armatrading. His largest problem with getting the take was getting Joan to overcome her shyness -- even in the studio. To "come out from behind the piano, dear," and address the microphone.

This vid might be from that session -- long ago, brain fades -- but it shows how a singer can shape a song with quiet. It's an amazing clip. Through the microexpressions on her face you can track her mapping, thinking, feeling, reaching within, and then shaping the song around the silences.

In those sessions and others it was John's habit to let the song begin, listen to the first few bars, and then shut the whole thing down by punching up his mike and saying, "Sorry. Not sold." Then the band would begin again, and again, and....

As I recall it, once this take started he just let everything roll.

Posted by Vanderleun at January 17, 2013 11:59 AM
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