Ultimate Guitar- 04.08.2007
Jon Bon Jovi: 'We Wanted New Album To Make A Statement'
Jon Bon Jovi speaks with a quiet voice and in measured tones. His success is beyond measure. His first self-titled record, with the band that bears his last name, pn;y made it to #43 on the US charts; a year later, in 1985, the New Jersey band’s second album titled 7800 Degrees Fahrenheit barely climbed to spot #37.
With the release of their third album, however, Slippery When Wet, the group attained a success that made them one of the biggest bands in the world. From that point on, they secured a place in the pantheon of rock bands and were able to write their own ticket. The record contained the classics “Livin’ On A Prayer” and “You Give Love A Bad Name” and would eventually go on to sell a staggering 26 million copies.
From that moment on, the quartet - vocalist/writer Bon Jovi; guitarist/writer Richie Sambora; keyboardist David Bryan; and drummer Tico Torres - never looked back. They followed up that monster album with a string of huge-selling records: New Jersey, Keep the Faith, These Days, Crush, Bounce, and Have A Nice Day.
They have now returned with Lost Highway, their tenth collection, and certainly the most severe departure they’ve ever made from that sort of stadium/anthem rock that has made them famous. Making their way to Nashville, Tennesse, the group wanted to find a different way to express itself, and they felt that voice resided in the country music capitol of the world. Calling on veteran producers Dann Huff and John Shanks, the band meticulously and creatively married their unique brand of melodic rock with an edgy style of country. The album seamlessly fuses these two disparate styles.
But it remains to be seen whether the band’s audience will accept them in this new Nashville skin. Jon, calling from his home in New Jersey, talked about expectations, what he wanted from the album, what the band wanted, and what he hoped Bon Jovi’s audience would ultimately feel.
Ultimate-Guitar: You must have realized that making a record in Nashville, making a country album, could be a dangerous move career-wise. Did you think about that? Did you know when you went to Nashville specifically what type of album you wanted to make? Was there a point in time when you were there when you said, “Ah, this is the direction, this is working?” When did it begin feeling like a real album?
Bon Jovi: Well, I have to go back a bit and start with “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.” That’s the duet I did with Jennifer Nettles and that’s really where this album started. It was just going to be another track but it took off; it was the very first time a rock group had a number one single on the country charts. We won a Grammy for that and some other awards, a People’s Choice award, I think. And it was also the first time Bon Jovi ever did a duet with anyone.
My tenure as an artist has allowed me to do different things and I wanted to try something new. I’ve been coming to Nashville with Richie for over 20 years and I always liked the lyrical content of Nashville writers. So it was all about freedom - trying something new. I talked to LA Reid from DefJam Records and told him I had an idea to do an entire album like that in Nashville. I certainly realized what the downside potential of this album was but I still wanted to do it. Because of my stature as an artist with some success, I’ve been able to gain this freedom and I wanted to exploit that.
We had just come off the road and Richie was going through his thing with his father and his wife and all of a sudden there was a lot of stuff to write about. And Nashvile just seemed the perfect place to go for this album. But no, when we first came to Nashville, we didn’t know what type of album it would be. We’d always been a certain type of artist - the type of band that wrote for radio and did videos - and we didn’t want to be seen that way. And the success of “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” from the Have A Nice Day album really allowed us to explore some new avenues.
And that song was really where we first met Dann Huff who produced half of Lost Highway. He produced and collaborated on “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” and cut Jennifer’s vocal; he helped countrify the song. He’s an amazing musician and I knew we’d work with him again.
Did you actually meet with different writers? Did you want to look for new ways to write songs? New song structures and things like that?
No, it was nothing like that. We met with some writers, some guys who had a lot of hits, but there was just no chemistry in the studio. Then there were guys who didn’t have a lot of success but it felt right. We did collaborate with some Nashville people: we worked with Billy Falcon (also co-wrote on several previous Bon Jovi albums including “Last Man Standing” and “Complicated” from Have A Nice Day and “Undivided” and the title track from Bounce) on “Everybody’s Broken” and “I Love This Town;” we co-wrote “Strangers” with Brett James, “Any Other Day” with Gordie Sampson, and “Seat Next To You” with Hillary Lindsey. Hillary also sang some backup on that atrack. But Nashville is Music City and that’s what most inspired us. We recorded half of the album in Nashville (Starstruck and Blackbird Studios) and half of the album at Henson Studios (formerly A&M Studios in Los Angeles); we also worked at NRG Recording in Hollywood. Everybody in Nashville is a writer and the hospitality did affect us. We stayed at the Hermitage Hotel and every room has a legal pad so you can write down song lyrics. The only time anyone ever said anything about Richie and me strumming guitars in our hotel room at one o’clock in the morning was to tell us they liked or didn’t like a song.
Is that how some of the material came together? You and Richie in the hotel room, maybe sipping beers, and trading guitar licks?
Yeah, it was just that easy; a lot of it did happen that way.
You did have a previous relationship, as you mentioned, with Huff and Shanks. Did they help crystallize the direction of Lost Highway?
We met with Dann Huff and John Shanks and they really helped. I’d already met Dann on “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” as I said and John we knew as well. We’ve worked with them before (Have A Nice Day) and each guy did six songs. They each co-produced the album and it was great. Dann is amazing, an amazing guitar player and an amazing producer. I know when it came time to do guitars with Richie, he brought out his entire collection and Richie had all his guitars there and it was just crazy. I don’t know what kind of guitars they used but those guys are crazy, they’re fanatics.
So for instance, the first single, “(You Want To) Make A Memory” was a Dann Huff song. Dann works like we used to work in a rock band - you go in and track the song. That being said, this song came about a little bit differently. I had all the music, the title, and then I got together with Richie and Desmond and they helped me finish the lyrics. But when we recorded it, I was just sitting in the booth with Dann, strumming an acoustic and that was it. I loved that. I knew from the very first moments that this would be a great Bon Jovi song and as I was singing it, I really knew. And then you come in the next day and put on other guitars and rhythms and vocals and stuff.
John Shanks, I think, has adult ADD (attention deficit disorder); he puts up a click track and will work to a scratch guitar, scratch drums, scratch bass, and get a keeper vocal. Then he’ll bring the band back in and everyone will track around the vocal. The six songs John produced, he also co-wrote; those songs are the title song, “Summertime,” “Whole Lot Of Leavin,’” “Everybody’s Broken,” “The Last Night” and “One Step Closer.” We did those tracks at Henson Recording Studios in Los Angeles and at Starstruck Studios in Nashville and they were engineered by Jeff Rothschild.
The remaining tracks, “Memory,” “We Got It Going On,” “Any Other Day,” “’Till We Ain’t Strangers Anymore,” “Seat Next To You,” and “I Love This Town” Huff produced. Justin Niebank and Mark Hagen recorded and engineered these songs at Blackbird Studios in Nashville and NRG Recording in California.
The way John Shanks records must feel like you’re working backwards from what you normally do. That is, recording vocals first and then having the back come back and lay down all the music.
Yeah; Tico (Torres, drums) and Hugh (McDonald, bass) and David (Bryan, keyboards) would then come in and record all the songs after I had the vocals. They did all the music in a couple of days.
“(You Want To) Make A Memory is the first single?
Yeah; I had the chords and most of the words and I finished it in just a couple hours with Desmond Child’s (longtime co-writer and the album’s executive producer) and Richie’s input on some of the lyric lines. Obviously I wasn’t thinking about radio or anything; I didn’t have to think about all the apparatus that goes up around a Bon Jovi album. That’s why there was so much freedom.
We didn’t know the direction, we didn’t know what kind of album we wanted to make. We wanted to release it on the Mercury country label so there wouldn’t be the big advance and all the fanfare. We didn’t know if this was going to be a Nashville album or some kind of country album or a rock record. But we wanted to make it stand on its own and we wanted to say something special and we wanted it to make a statement.
I don’t know how the world will take this. We had the success once with “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” but who knows if we can have that again? But, for me, that’s the great part of it, exposing the chink in the armor. We don’t know what’s going to happen.
But I’m really happy with the lyrics of the single. I think it’s some of the best lyrics I’ve ever written. I mean, here are some of them: “Hello again, it's you and me/ Kinda always like it used to be/ Sippin' wine, killing time/ Trying to solve life's mysteries.” And then it goes, “How's your life, it's been a while/ God it's good to see you smile/ I see you reaching for your keys/ Looking for a reason not to leave.”
Then it goes to the pre-chorus and then the chorus line: “If you don't know if you should stay/ If you don't say what's on your mind/ Baby just breathe/ There's nowhere else tonight we should be/ You wanna make a memory?”
And then the last verse: “I dug up this old photograph/ Look at all that hair we had/ It's bittersweet to hear you laugh/ Your phone is ringing I don't wanna ask.”
I mean, that’s one of the best lyrics I’ve ever written. I always saw it as two people who were together but probably aren’t together now. And I’m just observing. It is my favorite song on the record but that’s really hard to say. I’m so involved in everything, every note, every word, that it’s hard to be objective. It may take me a long time to be really able to sit back and look at this album and see it for what it really is.
The video for the song is very sublime - you’re in a club and you seem to be sort of there and not there.
Yeah, as I said I’m not really there in the video. It’s about these two other people who are no longer together. We worked with Kevin Kerslake for the first time (Kerslake was one of the directors who created the entire MTV look; his work includes videos with Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana, Faith No More, Cypress Hill, and dozens of other bands). He really got what we wanted to say, what we were looking for, what we wanted to do with the video. As I said before, the lyric was so strong that we wanted to bring something more with the video. We also worked with Daniel Pearl, the DP who did the “Days of Glory” and “Bed of Roses” videos with us. He already was on our side, he knew who we were and definitely what we were looking for. The video was sort of based on the movie Ghost to give you a little bit more of a reference point.
We shot the video at a bar in Nashville called Layla’s. When I first was coming to Nashville, there was a bar called The Third Coast. That was over 20 years ago. It was an amazing place, really famous; a ton of songwriters used to hang out here as their main watering hole and gathering place. People like Hank Willimas and legends like that. But that bar is gone and so we’re here, right next door, at Layla’s, shooting the video.
Does “Memory” resonate with you the same way your other big songs have?
Absolutely. I think it’s on a level with “Livin’ On A Prayer” and “It’s My Life.”
To interrupt for a moment, you cite those two songs as true landmarks for Bon Jovi?
Definitely. “Livin’ On A Prayer” sort of changed the way rock radio worked. If A&R guys had listened to me, we would have never even done that song. That shows you what I know. I just didn’t think it was a very good song. Luckily, they didn’t listen to me. I think “Memory” could do the same thing. You know, if people accept it and understand what it is we tried to do, it could be huge. That blending of country and rock. But it may not happen. I mean, country folks may look at Bon Jovi and say, “Hey, man, you did it once with Jennifer but it isn’t going to happen again.” There may be a backlash. We could really be doing something terrible here - but I don’t think so. I think the song is one of the strongest I’ve ever written and we’ll just have to see how it turns out being accepted.
You talk about the chink in the armor - you’ve had such amazing success and so few failures, does anything really get to you at this point? I mean, if Lost Highway doesn’t do as well as Have A Nice Day or the first single doesn’t go to number one, will that affect you?
I’ve had a lot of failures, more than you can imagine. Yeah, I don’t know what will happen. I’m pretty secure in myself but I am still affected by failure. We’ll just have to wait and see. After this record was entirely done, I told you I went back and re-mixed it and even wrote some more songs. I’m never satisfied.
But I have been lucky, I will admit that. I tend to write songs for myself, about myself, and I’ve been lucky enough that other people want to hear those songs and can relate to those songs and understand them. For me, as a composer, every day is like writing a new page in a book, in a diary. Whether you’re living in Japan or the US, you can understand what I write about.
That was a pretty personal question you just asked me - and you haven’t even told me if you like the album? I think I deserve that.
You’re right, you do deserve to know that. I normally will tell an artist at the beginning of an interview how I feel about the record, but I didn’t do that this time. I’m not sure why. I guess it goes along with the idea that you’ve had such monumental success, that my opinion wouldn’t really matter to you. I suppose in a lot of ways, to be truly honest with you, I’m incredibly jealous of your success. I’m a songwriter and it’s hard for me to even imagine the type of career you’ve had. I know this maybe isn’t the type of exchange that normally goes on between an interviewer and an artist, but since you were so honest with me, I’m trying to be honest with you.
And getting back to your original question about my feelings of Lost Highway? I think it’s really good, really excellent. I was a little skeptical at first when I’d heard that Bon Jovi had gone to Nashville to make an album. It seemed a little too manufactured for me. But when I heard it a couple of months back, I realized how hard you did work on this and how much effort you did put into it in terms of trying to stretch the band out in a new direction. I have nothing but praise for the album.
Thank you. I appreciate you saying that. I have had an amazing career, you’re right, but it’s still hard for me. Believe me.
I do believe you. Getting back to the album, acoustic guitars are a big part of the sound here.
Yeah, lots of acoustics. I actually had the entire album done and mixed but I didn’t like it, I thought something was missing. This is sort of referring to what you said about the acoustics. It didn’t have the range and the dynamics; I knew there was more music on it and I wasn’t hearing it. I wanted to hear every whisper, every acoustic guitar.
Are those real strings and cellos on “Memory?”
Yeah, that was cool; I think there are some French horns on there as well.
The title track and opening cut of the album sets up the sort of odyssey feel of the various songs. The band, the characters in the songs, are looking for something. You call it the Lost Highway but some other writers have named it Highway 61 or the long and winding road - any sort of a metaphorical journey that takes a listener from one place to another.
Yeah. One of the lyrics in the song is “I finally found my way/Say goodbye to yesterday.” That really is setting the stage for the rest of the record. We’re not obviously saying so long to everything we’ve done but we are trying to say we’re headed for someplace new and we hope you want to come along.
In actuality, Lost Highway is the name of the Nashville record company that is run by Luke Lewis; he heads up the Mercury Nashville office. That name and what it brought up in your mind, that dark road stretching out in front of you, intrigued me. I wanted to go down that road and see where it led. I think it was a perfect image for where I am in my life and where Richie was and maybe for where you are? That idea, of being out there somewhere new, out in the open, on that blacktop, really excited me. No one knows where it’s going or if it even exists - I don’t know and I don’t think anyone else does either.
I know when Richie talks about the song he sees it as hitting the gas and not the brakes and that’s how I see it, too. Maybe that’s how I’ve looked at my entire career.
I think these are some of the greatest lyrics I’ve ever written. I could have only written these words in Nashville: “In my rearview mirror/My life is getting clearer/The sunset sighs and slowly disappears/These trinkets once were treasure/Life changes like the weather/You grow up, grow old or hit the road ’round here/So I drive, watching white lines passing by/With my plastic dashboard Jesus, waiting there to greet us.”
And then: “Hey, hey, I finally found my way/Say goodbye to yesterday/Hit the gas there ain’t no brakes on the lost highway/Yeah I’m busting loose, I’m letting go/Out on this open road/It’s independence day on this lost highway.”
Can I keep going?
“I don’t know where I’m going/But I know where I’ve been/Now I’m afraid of going back again/So I drive, years and miles are flying by/And waiting there to greet us/ Is my plastic dashboard Jesus.”
“Oh patron saint of lonely souls/To tell this boy which way to go/Guide the car, you got the keys/Farewell to mediocrity/Kicking off the cruise-control/And turning up the radio/Got just enough religion/And a half tank of gas/come on, let’s go.”
Richie plays a great solo on this one. It’s a dark song but it has a positive feel.
“Whole Lot Of Leaving” is sort of a modified blues song? Richie is playing some great guitar on there?
A blues song, huh? Why? Because it has the three blues chords in it (Jon is joking). I like that song; Richie does play well.
Without getting too dark here, do you think what Richie went through with losing his father sort of pushed him to dig deeper as a musician? That he put all his flesh and blood into the tracks?
I think so, yeah. It’s been a tough couple of years for Richie, losing his father and then divorcing his wife. And David, our keyboard player, just lost his father, too, in the last couple of months. So it’s been hard. But I know being in Nashville and having me next door to him in a hotel room was better than him sitting in Los Angeles by himself. We put everything we had into this album and now we have to pull ourselves back and look at it.
“We Got It Going On” is one of the collaborations here with Big & Rich. How did that happen?
I was in a bar, had a beer in my hand, and I ran into them. We started talking and within five minutes we had the title and the lyrics and the music. That’s all it was. Now I’m hoping that twenty years from now Big & Rich will still be friends.
That track has sort of a Faces feel to it, sort of the “I’m Losin’ You” era stuff. Would you agree with that?
The Faces, huh? I think it’s more of a Beastie Boys straight up party song. I wrote it in a very short time and it is what it is. But I don’t think it’s the Faces. Now, “’Till We Ain’t Stangers Anymore,” that has a definite Faces feel to it, that sort of Rod Stewart Atlantic Crossing feel.
Ala Every Picture Tells A Story?
Yeah, “Maggie May.’ I just wanted to tell a story. “Stranger” has the acoustic guitars and mandolin. We originally cut that song and I was thinking about using a male vocal. It was cut in a lower key for a male singer but we couldn’t find anyone. We re-cut the entire song, changed the key and everything, and tried different females on it. Nothing worked. Then we tried LeAnn and realized she was there all the time, right in front of our face. We’ve known her for a long time and Dann Huff knew her and produced her. We wanted a woman, not a girl, on the song. And we knew she could bring that. There was no ego involved; she came in and did her job and did an amazing job.
Does “Stranger” harken back to Zeppelin days?
Zeppelin? No, I never was influenced by them.
And what about “One Step Closer?”
That’s the ballad and had more acoustic and mandolin and a pedal steel. That’s just about getting one step closer to something, hopefully something good.
“I Love This Town” is sort of the straight up country song?
Yeah, but can’t you hear a stadium full of people singing it? It’s sort of Bon Jovi meets Tom Petty.
Then there are a couple of bonus tracks: “Lonely” is a song that appears on the UK and Japan releases and “Put The Boy Back In Cowboy” is a Japan-only release. Can you talk a bit about those songs?
Well, “Lonely” was a song I thought somebody else should record; it would be a great song for another artist. And “Put The Boy Back In Cowboy” was just kind of a fun song, you know, put the boy back in cow-boy.
So, when you listen to the record, there really are songs everywhere from pretty extreme country like “I Love This Town” to more straight rock stuff and everything in between. Yeah, we did go to Nashville to make a record but it’s not necessarily a Nashville record. We didn’t know what direction to go in. We had the freedom, the artistic freedom, to do anything we wanted to do. But that can be dangerous. Sometimes when you have too much freedom - and I think you mentioned something like this when we began talking - you end up becoming self-indulgent. You’re doing something different just for the sake of doing something different. We wanted to make certain we didn’t do that. We didn’t want to be condescending to our fans or create something that was a watered-down version of country and rock and Bon Jovi music and all of that. Yes, we went to Nashville to record an album, although we really only recorded part of it there and recorded the other half in Los Angeles. But we did specifically go to Nashville to see what we would end up with. In truth, I believe, it’s still very much a Bon Jovi record with all the things that people know they’ll hear on our records - great songs and great vocals and great guitar playing. So, we made a Bon Jovi album that was influenced by all things Nashville.
Were you influenced by all things Nashville the same way you were touched by all things New Jersey?
Yeah, sort of. There are a lot of stories in New Jersey and we wrote about them; there are a lot of storytellers in Nashville, the songwriters, and we wanted to connect with them to create something. Yeah, there’s a connection between New Jersey and Nashville.
You mentioned earlier that you remixed the album because it didn’t sound right. Did the Nashville studio have a different sound than Henson (formerly the A&M Studios in Hollywood, California where the band recorded Have A Nice Day)? You said that you wanted the tracks to sound fuller, bigger, more realized. Along those lines, did you try using different microphones for your vocals? Going for more of a Nashville country sound than a straight up rock sound?
In terms of studios, the studio in Nashville sounded just like the Henson studios. We were at a place called the Cannery Ballroom. It was a pro studio and had all of the same type of gear and it was really no different. What was different, and I think I touched on this earlier, was the hospitality of the people and the overall environment. You only go to Nashville for one reason - to write songs. Everyone there is a songwriter and you’re embraced for that. Everybody who works at the restaurants and hotels, everywhere, are all songwriters. It truly is Music City. And that affects you, it makes you feel comfortable. It opens you up and makes you want to stretch yourself.
So, yeah, I did remix the album, and I did try some new mics. Actually John and Dann had me try some new mics. I don’t know about any of this stuff, I really don’t. This is Richie’s thing. But I know I did try a Sony - and don’t ask me the model number - for some of the vocals. I did want to try and get a different texture in my voice, get a track that did have more of a Nashville sound to it.
What about guitars and the instruments you play?
I strum an acoustic and that’s it. I don’t know what kind it is, I really don’t. I do leave all of that up to Richie; that’s what he does best.
But you do play guitar on the records?
Yeah, and live. I can play some chords live but that’s it. I know what my limitations are. When Richie was in there with Dann, they had a lot of fun. Guitars all over the place and experimenting and trying different things. And we did bring in some outsiders to play on tracks: Greg Leisz played some pedal steel and so did Dan Dugmore; Dan also played mandolin and steel guitar. We brought in violin and viola players, cello players, Steve Nathan on piano and B3, percussionist Eric Darken, and some others.
As you said before, that must have been a real catharsis for Richie. He’s going through this terrible ordeal and what better way to deal with it than play guitar.
Exactly. I really think he played great on the album. He tried some different things and you can hear him playing different sorts of styles and stuff. What happened with his father and his wife were terrible things, but in some way, maybe that did help him to come up with the level of playing that you hear on Lost Highway. I just know that Richie had a really good time in Nashville. After he worked on the sessions, he’d go out to the different bars and just jam. It was good for him.
Jumping subjects for a moment, can you talk about your participation in the Live Earth Concert? It’s all about Al Gore’s vision of global warming and trying to be more “green” in your approach to the earth. Are you a “green” person? Is this an ideal you specifically believe in?
Yes, I did buy a hybrid car and I do shut off the lights when I leave the house. But I should explain and give a bit of the background of the concert and how Bon Jovi came to be involved. I’ve been a supporter of Al Gore’s for many years. America would have been a much different place if he’d been elected back in 2000. I went on to read Gore’s book and see the film called Inconvenient Truths. So, when I heard he was putting on this concert, I was the first one onboard. The concert is going to help promote the issue of global warming. It will be a 24-hour event and will take place on July 7 and is part of a bigger campaign called Save Our Selves - The Campaign For A Climate In Crisis. Concerts will be held all over the world, on all seven continents; there will be concerts in China, Australia, London, Japan, Brazil, the US, and South Africa. It could be seen and heard by 2 billion people. Now, there are over 100 artists that will perform; the Chili Peppers, Snoop Dogg, the Foo Fighters, Lenny Kravitz, John Mayer, Korn, Duran Duran, and a lot of other people are involved. All the money will go to a foundation to help fight all these things - global warming and the deterioration of the environment and all that stuff.
Am I a green person? I don’t know, I try.
You started down this lonesome road, this Lost Highway, looking for something. You were seeking a new voice for the band, a different kind of direction; Richie was obviously seeking out something deeper, something to help him get through a terrible time in his life. Though you wanted to sort of slide this record under the radar of a traditional Bon Jovi release - huge marketing campaigns, big radio push, monster tours - and eliminate those elements, there is going to be a lot of focus here. With all of that taken into consideration, did you make the right record? Did you capture all those elusive elements of country and rock and electric guitars and acoustics and mandolins and Dobros? And if you did manage to include all of those pieces, did you assemble them in the right order?
Wow, that is some question. Let me try and answer this: Yeah, I was consciously looking for something new. I loved a lot of the contemporary country stuff that was coming out, artists like Keith Urban and Sugarland and Big & Rich. I don’t know what you’d call that? New Country? So I thought going to Nashville and releasing an album on the Mercury country label would allow us to experiment and seek out new influences and bring them into the Bon Jovi style. I specifically told everyone I want this album coming out on the country subsidiary of Mercury; I didn’t want all the promotion and other stuff that came along with traditional Bon Jovi album releases.
And yeah, what might happen is the more you try and keep something quiet, the louder it gets. There may be a lot of looking and analyzing and listening to this record exactly because we didn’t want any of that. And if that does happen, then I have to say, “Yeah,” we made exactly the album we set out to. We had no idea what it would be when we started; we had no songs written, no music, nothing. We had just come off the road and Richie and David were going through what they were going through. And then the pieces started coming together with Dann John and then “(You Want To) Make A Memory” happened our second day in Nashville and it felt right.
I think we touched on everything we set out to; there are a lot of acoustics on the album and there are ballads and songs with a live orchestra. That’s why I remixed the album - I knew how much music there was sitting on these tracks and the first mix didn’t reveal all of that.
I mean, that’s how “Stranger” happened. I knew I wanted it to be a duet and I thought it was a duet with a male singer. But I was wrong. After the album was completely done and mixed, I stayed in Nashville to re-cut that track in a different key to accommodate a female singer; I realized that’s what it needed. LeAnn Rimes came in and sang it and it was great. That was the missing piece and it’s crazy because she was right there all the time, someone that Dann had worked with and we knew. So sometimes you just never know.
Do you still feel that way? I mean, can you still be surprised by the business?
Oh, yeah, it’s never easy; it never gets any easier. I’ve worked really hard. And every time you think you know what’s going on, they change the rules.