Coming Clean with Craig Elkins
1.0 – How long did it take you to write, record, and finally mix the new disc,“I Love You”?
Most of the songs on “I Love You” were written over a 3 year period 2008 – 2010 where I was struggling in every conceivable way. I’ve always struggled, but the walls were really starting to collapse inward financially & relationship wise. Los Angeles is an expensive ride and we literally didn’t have enough money to get a tire fixed.
Most of the record was recorded at the Pass (RIP) in Studio City, CA (a studio once owned by Tom Jones!) in 2 days. 99% of the vocals are live. All of the rhythm tracks are live. My friend Rynne came in and did some background vocals for us (she’s now in the band), Marko, our bass player and producer/mixer of most of the tracks on the record, had his 11 year old son play tuba on “Most of the People”. Mixing was a slower process because it took us a while to figure out that Marko was going to mix the whole thing (or most of it – Zeph Sowers, who works with TV on the Radio mixed “Gravel”, and Todd Solomon recorded and mixed “This House”). Then it was a matter of fitting it in around the daily minutia of middle aged white-guydum.
2.0 – Did you have a vision for how the album should sound before going in or did it evolve?
It evolved – pretty quickly. My friend Jason Karaban, who I wrote “Tumbleweeds” and “Tell em My Story” with (he’s got his own version of “Tumbleweeds” coming out on his record this summer as well) is friends with a handful of super great, generous musicians – Pete Thomas (Elvis Costello), Dave Immergluck & Charlie Gillingham (Counting Crows) and Niel Larsen (Leonard Cohen). We had no idea how it was going to sound, I don’t think, until Niel played the piano solo on Gravel – then everything sort of started to take on the same flavor. Later on, I brought in Dr. Steve Patt – family practitioner to the stars and ridiculously talented musician – to play pedal steel and we ended up with a kind of mid 70′s Merl Haggard record.
3.0 – Did you approach the record on a strictly tune-by-tune basis or were there themes you wanted to get across?
I wrote these songs during a tumulteous time in my life and so everything fits nicely together theme wise. I didn’t set out to write an album of 9 melancholy songs about middle aged angst but I wasn’t writing about anything else either so, yes & no.
4.0 – Which tracks are fans and friends gravitating to so far?
The ones where I get the girl or where my lady does me wrong and I exact revenge by buying a nice car.
5.0 – It’s been over a decade since the Huffamoose Billboard Hit, “Wait” (#34, 1998), and yet the new stuff maintains the dry wit that was a hallmark of the band, where does it come from for you?
hmm – well, I’ve spent most of my life in music pretending to know what I’m doing. I never had the intellectual staying power to really dig into song crafting, the language of songwriting, etc. I barely listen to music- so maybe that’s how I can muster up just a smidgen of originality – I sort of found my way to my own voice in this ass-backwards way. I know my dad and I like to laugh at the same things. So do my daughter and I. The other members of Huffamoose seemed to share this sensibility too. I know that I’m extremely attractive and attractive people tend to be really creative and fun to be around.
6.0 – Has living now in California impacted your music or outlook on life in any way?
Well, I’m not sure if it’s California, but I certainly have had my toughest years here. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have written these songs in Philadelphia, but who knows. LA can be this amazingly gorgeous prison. You look outside at the wonderful sunshine and the air smells divine but you can’t go out and enjoy it – you’re too busy trying to make your rent – at least that’s been my experience – no mortgages in my present or near future. That’s another odd thing about LA…I feel like I’m the only one who struggles. Everyone else just drives to and from meetings at Starbucks in their BMWs.
7.0 – What got you hooked on rock & roll as a kid?
The way the towel looked on my head when I was pretending to be a rock star in the bathroom mirror. That and the Bread song “Guitar Man.”
8.0 – What was the first song you ever learned to sing and play at the same time?
“Where Have All the Flowers Gone”
9.0 – What three 70’s albums should be in every music lovers collection?
Presence – Led Zeppelin
2. Tapestry – Don McClean
3. Something Anything – Todd Rungdren
10.0 – Is it really true that you “Can’t Stop Being A Dick”?
It is 100% true. It is an absolute truth. I literally wake up every moring with the best of intentions and by the time I shuffle out into the kitchen and ignore my wife or yell at one of my 5 cats, I’m back.