Tempo Tempo Tempo
Q-Every time I’ve seen you perform “Gun Shy Dog” live (or seen you perform it on a clip from a live performance on YouTube) it sounds like the tempo is faster than the studio version of it on “Girl From Arkansas….” Was it slowed down in the studio on purpose for some reason? Do you just prefer the faster tempo? Of course I love the song either way, I just always notice the difference so I thought I’d ask ..
A-Yes, the tempos of songs vary quite a bit sometimes. The reasons depend on the song. “Gun Shy Dog” felt right at the tempo we cut it in the studio because of the way the drums were played. Paul Griffith’s part has a nice sort of skittering, loping quality that seemed to highlight the lyric the way we wanted. When I play the song live there’s no drum part so the whole of the song [little as it is] depends on the fingerpicking pattern. The fingerpicking pattern doesn’t work on it’s own at the slower tempo so over the years I started picking up the pace. Also, my show doesn’t have many uptempo song so any chance I get to inject some energy into to proceedings is welcome. Slaid Cleaves says his songs are always faster live. That’s not true for me. I play Broke Down slower than molasses these days. I like to just drip the song out note by note. There’s a certain amount of tragedy in the song and I like to linger over it when I’m singing, almost as if I’m remembering the story as it unfolds or watching it unfold as the audience does. Tempo is important. When I was kid it used to bother me that some of the live Otis Redding recordings had the songs going so fast. I wanted to hear that voice just pour the lyric out. I’ve gotten used to those recordings now and I love them but they did make me aware of how much your physical response to a song changes when you move the tempo up and down. Move the tempo too far either way and the groove falls apart or the gun shy dog gets all nervous.