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© Neal Preston/Corbis
Peter Asher was your producer and manager at the time. How did the two of you look for material? Did you have a particular process?
“Peter didn’t do it; I looked for material myself. Nobody chose songs for me except for me, not until I started working with Emmylou Harris, and then she would always bring a great song. And then when I worked with Ann Savoy, she would always bring great songs. But those two individuals were the exceptions of my career.”
What’s interesting is, the songwriters in the ‘70s wrote deeply personal songs that connected with a mass audience.
“I think it might be like the film business. Films that are written by the director have a more singular vision, instead of a corporate thing where the suits all get involved, and they grind what they can out of several writers. I don’t think that’s real healthy, although collaboration can be quite good.”
You mentioned Waddy Wachtel. You worked with the second coming of the "Wrecking Crew," if you will – guys like Waddy, Danny Kortchmar, Russ Kunkel –
“The Section, yeah, they were great. Danny Kortchmar, what a brilliant, brilliant guitar player. Every time I played with him, I got better. He played on Mad Love, and he did such wonderful work. My singing wasn’t quite there yet, but it was getting there. On that record, it was starting to move into another room.”
I’m glad you brought up the Mad Love album. I love that record, but I remember you getting a lot of flack for it at the time. It was your flirtation with new wave, which rubbed some people the wrong way.
“Again, it wasn’t any decision to be trendy; those were simply the songs that were being brought to me. I haven’t heard that record since I made it, but I do remember at the time that Danny’s work was stellar. I was also so happy with him on the road because we could play off of each other really well.”
There were three Elvis Costello songs on Mad Love. Obviously, you were responding to him as a songwriter.
“Well, sure – he’s a good songwriter. I looked for good writers. If I found a song with beautiful craft and it had something that I could do to it with my voice, I was gonna grab it. I didn’t care who wrote it.”