Randy Scruggs – Pick your friends
RS: To me producing is a lot like casting, it’s like directing a movie or something. The people I call for sessions are there because I want to hear them perform, and I want them all to feel as much a part of the record as the primary artist.
JD: Being a producer is like being a movie director, isn’t it? You learn to play the band, like you would play your instrument. You learn to hire this cast that you can depend on, and you take a chance. Once in a while you get the wild card in; you should have a wild card for every record you do.
RS: And there’ve been a lot of wild cards. (laughs)
JD: I’ve been that wild card! (laughs) You have, too.
RS: How is that different for you when you produce your own record?
JD: You are the wild card. It’s much harder to produce your own record. You’re so close to it, you know. You probably had a hand in writing some of the stuff on the record, and you’ve got a preconceived notion of what it sounds like, even though you’ve just played it by yourself. So you cast the song, and you try to get as close to that, try to ring the bell, the one you heard when you wrote the song.
RS: Yeah. This record I’ve been working on, it’s so much more internal. And it should be, I mean. At that point you’re trying to pull out everything that emotionally rings that bell for you. It’s challenging. It’s also very therapeutic in a way…the collaborative aspects of that are coming from a part of yourself.
JD: I know. How do you feel about somebody saying, “Well, how is it that this is your record but you have these people who are probably maybe more famous than you singing?”
RS: Well, in this case, several prominent artists did guest and I think it’s a plus for the decision-making powers of some of the other record labels in town. But what I really mean to say is that I think there’s some tremendously talented artists that do succeed and are rewarded for their abilities. And as many years as I’ve been involved, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a lot of great artists. This record I wanted to really, really be about my entire life. Not just the historical aspect of starting out — using that — but then also places to continue to grow toward and keep moving. And the fact that you’re on it, and Vince [Gill] and Joan [Osborne] and, again, I’m happy that they’re there, but I think that they’re there because they’re great, great musicians and artists.
JD: And you write songs, you write lyrics, you produce records, and you’re the director of this thing. Just because it’s your record doesn’t mean you have to take every solo.
JD: And for me, one of the best things that I think I do is back vocalists. It’s one of the things I have the most fun at, and probably what I’m way more popular for doing than ripping off solos for some song that I wrote that’s on my record (laughs).
RS: You know, I think you’ve creatively made a lot of success for a lot of people.
JD: Well, I hope I’ve helped. But it’s one aspect that I wouldn’t want to leave out of my own record. And because I’m not a singer, I go for the great singer to come in and do something…like I had this idea for that Johnny Cash song, “Don’t Take Your Guns To Town.”
JD: And I thought, man, wouldn’t Steve Earle be great to sing that song? And he’s had his brushes with the law, he’s our current day Willie Nelson kinda character. So I cast him in that role.
JD: And then I supported him on all sides.
RS: Right. And that’s your dream.
JD: That was my dream for that song. Yeah, so…
RS: You mentioned Johnny Cash. He and I wrote a song together [“Passin’ Thru”] — just about a year ago — which was a thrill. I’ve always had such appreciation for him…
JD: Oh, yeah.