Daniel Lanois on making and re-creating ‘Wrecking Ball’ with Emmylou Harris

Daniel Lanois

Daniel Lanois, photo: Roman Gokhman.

I’ve interviewed producer-musician Daniel Lanois three times, now, and have been able to meet up with him a couple of times. In fact, you should check out one my previous stories. He’s very thoughtful in conversation, and a great guy to get to know a bit. My newest story about him, and his tour with Emmylou Harris, can be found at Paste. Here are some bits that didn’t make it in to the story.

Check out the tour when it rolls through town. In the Bay Area, that is April 5 at the Warfield.

You produced a defining album for Emmylou Harris by impacting each song with your fingerprints but allowing her to remain true to her roots and her own style. Are you at all surprised the album has held up as well as it did?

Daniel Lanois: I’m very happy that it’s stood the test of time. As I hear it now, including the outtakes, it’s just got so much love and passion poured into it. I think that’s probably what keeps it rising to the surface.

Daniel Lanois, Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball

Daniel Lanois performs at the Warfield in San Francisco on April 5, 2014.

Do you have a favorite song on the album?

Daniel Lanois: I was very much looking forward to covering a Jimi Hendrix song with Emmy because I always felt that Jimi Hendrix had some country in his guitar playing. On things like “Little Wing,” and obviously what I’m calling “Waterfall” (“May This Be Love”). I put two and two together when I started working with Emmy. I said, “Let’s give it a surprise.” It may have been one of the good ideas that I had. There’s so many good songs on there. “Orphan Girl” is a real little beauty and lends itself well to harmony.

Did you have a “Wrecking Ball” song was most challenging or most rewarding for you to record and produce?

Daniel Lanois: The most slippery one was “Deeper Well.” There’s quite a laughable version that shows up on this reissue that the tempo is so fast that I can’t believe Emmy got the words out of her mouth. Anyone who’s a fan of “Wrecking Ball” will get a kick out of that one.

What will your role be on this tour? Opener? Sideman?

Daniel Lanois: I’m Emmy’s partner on this tour; her music director… just like on the record, the guy who waves his arms and tries to pull it all together. I’m (also) planning on doing a little bit of an opening segment on steel guitar and maybe some piano, and that will segue into the main “Wrecking Ball” set. That will give everybody a chance to get themselves some drinks and be seated.

Will you get to do some of your own songs, maybe even Black Dub?

Daniel Lanois: Probably not Black Dub. I think I’m going to lean more instrumental and do a piano version of “The Maker,” and I’ve got a couple of new little piano pieces I’m excited about. And I’m new to the piano, so it’s going to be the unveiling of my piano playing.

Daniel Lanois, Wrecking Ball

Daniel Lanois performs at the Warfield in San Francisco on April 5, 2014.

You love to work with others; any artists you’d like to have as collaborators?

Daniel Lanois: I’ve gone into a completely different mode right now. I’ve gone more neighborhood. I don’t feel like I need to be working with the most visible artists right now. There’s a kid for example; his name is Kyle Crane. He plays drums at a little bar at the corner. I’ve had him over for two sessions to play some beats, and he is so excited to be here. I’m getting just as much of a thrill working with an unknown right now. Wherever I am, I keep my ears and eyes open. I can hear and see beauty.

Your relationship to Laura Cole seems to be similar to the one you have with Trixey Whitley (with whom he partnered for Black Dub). Friends with her father, etc. That’s a pretty good recruitment strategy. Any of your other friends have children who can really sing and you’d love to work with?

Daniel Lanois: I think that’s kind of a coincidence. (laughs) But that’s just what happens. Friends have children, and you like their kids, and then they grow up and they’re talented.

I was going to ask if any of Bono’s children have musical talent.

Daniel Lanois: Oh, I believe so. One of his girls is very talented, charismatic, and I think she’s a rising actress. I’m sure she’ll be great at it. You’d have to ask Bono how the girls are doing.

Have you listened to U2’s new album that may be out this spring, this summer, this fall or maybe even in 2016; and what you think of it?

Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball

Daniel Lanois and Emmylou Harris perform at the Warfield in San Francisco on April 5, 2014.

Daniel Lanois: I heard some tracks with Bono, I guess about 10 months ago, and it was very vibrant and exciting. I’m sure they’ve taken it to another level by now and probably at another stage for the release.

A Toronto festival is doing a show in your honor, I heard. Tell me more about the Luminato Festival, happening on June 10, where some of your friends and other musicians will perform.

Daniel Lanois: This came as a surprise. They’re going to gather to sing of my songs. There’s going to be a little orchestra. I’m excited because I’m going to ask them to do some instrumentals as well.

It must be a big honor to have your music performed by your friends and contemporaries.

Daniel Lanois: It’s kind of touching and a little embarrassing. I think, “Geez, are my songs that good?” But I can stand behind a few of them.

Follow Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter.

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