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During his illustrious, 30-years-and-counting career, Dave Stewart has spent as much time behind the studio glass as in the tracking room. Yet for all of his success as an across-the-board music maker (over 75 million records sold with the Eurythmics alone), he admits that he still doesn't see himself as a producer in the traditional sense.
“Usually, I'm co-writing and producing and performing," Stewart says, "so I'm not like, you know, ‘that guy’ sitting there telling everybody what to do. I like being in the middle of all the activity. What happened with me was, I was producing the Eurythmics records, and people started listening to them and going, ‘Hey, we like those a lot.’ Before you knew it, I was being asked to produce records for other artists. But that wasn’t my plan."
In Stewart's view, it is dual-role approach as both artist and producer that has given him a much-needed insight into the recording process that some of his peers don't have. “A lot of producers can play instruments, but they aren’t performers," he says. "Being that I know what it’s like to go on stage with a band, I’m probably thinking like an artist when I produce somebody else’s record. ‘What’s this gonna be like live?’ That kind of attitude can be very useful when you’re trying to create excitement with a track."
Stewart cites one of his biggest hits, Don't Come Around Here No More by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers (which he co-write, performed on and produced), as a prime example: "There's the part where it explodes into this double-time thing, and the whole band kicks in and it goes into a frenzy. It was good for the song, but I was probably also thinking, ‘Hey, this will really work live, too.’”
On the following pages, Stewart talks about his work with Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers as well as a host of other notable artists and albums that he has helped shape – even some of his own. "In some ways, what I do is like being a dentist," he jokes. "I have to get something out of an artist."