The Greencards’ latest album, Fascination is ready to be released this Tuesday and they’re setting out on a nationwide tour that includes stops at the Old Settler’s Festival, Austin’s Waterloo Records for the CD launch, Merlefest and the Telluride Bluegrass Festival.
On Wednesday, fiddler Eamon McLoughlin took some time to speak with us about the new album, working with producer Jay Joyce and the difference between festivals and theater shows.
Q: Jay Joyce produced the album, how did that come about?
A: It really came about though some of the work he had done already. He had produced a great record for bands like the Alternate Routes, he produced a great record for the Duhks and prior to all that he had done some great work with Patty Griffin that everyone had been in love with for a long time. He also played one of everyone’s favorite guitar solos on a Gillian Welch record. But we were really familiar with his work and he is sort of connected with the record label and they had a relationship with him and we were able to meet him and take it from there. He was friends with people from the label and it all came together that way.
Q: Did it change how you went about the process of recording?
A: It did, it was a very different recording process, it was like nothing we had done before. Usually when we’ve recorded records, you go in and your objective is to do maybe three or four songs a day, you record lines and get the basics and then once you’ve done everything like that you go down the list. Three or four days later you go back, sing the vocals or a little intro, a guitar intro or a mandolin intro or whatever. It’s a two-layer approach. But with Jay, he insists on doing one track per day, you go into the studio at 10:00, 11:00, start with that song and you wouldn’t leave until everything had been finished for that track. We would play live, for the most part, and then do vocals and then we would leave the studio at 7 or 8:00 at night and that would be it for that song. It’s a very, very different way to work and although it seems quite radical to do that I don’t think any of us could imagine recording the old way now, that was such a great way to work.
Q: How has your music and style evolved over the years?
A: My writing is quite different, and musically, everyone I think was being pushed by Jay, trying different things. He didn’t want anything obvious, he wanted something that was different and that came from a real outside place.
Q: How do you come up with ideas and new songs?
A: Having a deadline helps, but it really could be any number of things.
Q: Do you have any favorites off the new album?
A: I do… I like “Fascination”… “Rivertown.” I could say all of them, of course that would be the political response.
Q: You’re playing several festivals this summer do you have a preference between festivals or your own gigs?
A: Yeah, it’s lovely to play theater shows, it’s really quite a privilege but when you walk up to a festival [like] Austin City Limits or Telluride… the energy there is just incredible. The camping, the music, the hanging out… it’s such an amazing atmosphere. There’s a festival we play in Kansas that has all these campers… and some of those people don’t even come in for the music, they’ve got their own world.
Q: What can’t you live without on tour?
A: Everyone has got their own little pet things that they have to have and one of the things I couldn’t live without is probably my tea bags… I’ve been known to, on the road, go into Starbucks and order hot water and go and have my tea.
Q: What was the first concert you attended?
A: My dad had a band, in England, so those were the first shows… but the first big show I ever saw in the States was Joe Ely… And it blew my mind completely.
Q: If you were to make a mix tape of your favorite artists, who would be on it?
A: Paul McCartney, Allison Krauss, Lyle Lovett, Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin…
Q: Is there anything else people listening to the new album should know about the band?
A: We’re online, come check us out and see where we’re playing. It’s very important for bands of our sort, we can’t afford to put ads in Rolling Stone or the Times so we have thegreencards.com and Myspace and Facebook. They’ve even got us Twittering now.