Joe Henry talks his open-door policy and 'Reverie'
Songwriter and producer reveals how he's landed with Hugh Laurie, Solomon Burke and more
Follow HitFix: Follow @hitfix
Joe Henry’s latest solo set had an open-door policy. Literally. The songwriter and producer kept windows and doors open during the recording process, letting what he called “the racket” lead his backing musicians like T Bone Burnett drummer Jay Bellerose and labelmate Tom Waits’ main axe man Marc Ribot.
“It was a deliberate decision to allow those sounds to be heard as music. Songs don’t happen in a vacuum,” Henry told me in an interview this week. “When you’re writing a song, there’s life coming all around you. [Musicians] try to disappear into some hermetically sealed chamber. I resist that. I believe all kinds of racket to be musical. We called it the weather in the room.”
Of course, allowing “the field” into the room may not be a new, novel idea, but it certainly gives a raw sheen and texture to “Reverie,” released via Anti- last week. These groaning blues and abstractly folk capsules are the composite of Henry’s 12th solo release. His writing has meandered admirably around varying genres over the last two decades, almost as much as his production credits have.
Recently, he left his mark on Hugh Laurie’s New Orleans blues album and Irish songwriter (and Immaculate Noise favorite) Lisa Hannigan’s sophomore set “Passenger.” He’s produced for artists like the late, great, Solomon Burke, Americana mark-makers like The Jayhawks and Son Volt, Elvis Costello, Aimee Mann and “my hero since I was 19,” Loudon Wainwright III; he’s worked, too, with his sister-in-law Madonna and composed for major television shows.
His daughter thinks he’s pretty cool too.
“She said, three or four years ago, ‘I want a job like yours when I grow up. You just sit downstairs with your friends and laugh all the time,’” he boasts. “That’s the reason why you invite people into the process… Prince can make music at home by himself all he wants. It’s more exciting when you invite people in… taking your best mates and disappearing into the basement with coffee and wine.”
Again, it’s the open-door communication, may be part of Henry’s appeal as a go-to for soul-filled recordings. With Hannigan, for instance, it was he that approached her after hearing her sing at a Kate McGarrigle tribute concert. As he says "Some of the most meaningful work has come in because I went and asked for a job."
“I cant afford to just sit at home and hope for a fluke, for someone to call me… I have to be proactive on my own behalf,” Henry continuted. Even in a 21st Century environment where so many bands opt to record and produce themselves, at home, rather than seek out producers in general, Henry says his production work hasn’t suffered.
“People don’t [work] with my because they can’t record themselves. It’s because they want a concierge, a ship captain or a maître d’. It’s all in what you want. Over the last 10 – even five – years, I have a lot more awareness about my work. I’ve also taught myself from the very beginning to adapt quickly and affordably, even as the record business was in a free fall. I think I’ve sharpened my blade over a long period of time precisely to work under these circumstances.”
Joe Henry has slated only a pair of performance dates for the remainder of 2011, but is scheduling more dates for early 2012. He will also next produce songwriter Natalie Duncan and "something very exciting" for around January next year.
2013 | Drama | RSummary: Leonardo DiCaprio and Jonah Hill have boundless energy in the story of a real-life commodities crook who earned millions through scummy small-time stock trades.Director: Martin Scorsese
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie
2013 | Comedy | NRSummary: Insanely funny comedy show created by Amy Schumer, who stars in brilliantly funny sketches about sex, city living, dating, and friendship.Director: Daniel Powell, Amy Schumer (creators)
Cast: Amy Schumer, Kevin Kane, Mike Houston
1995 | Mystery | NRSummary: Denzel Washington plays an out of work WWII vet who takes the wrong job and is soon neck-deep in a mess of politics, murder, and jazz in '40s Los Angeles.Director: Carl Franklin
Cast: Denzel Washington, Tom Sizemore, Jennifer Beals
2007 | Comedy | PGSummary: Newlyweds Nick (Ice Cube) and Suzanne (Long) decide to move to the suburbs to provide a better life for their two kids. But their idea of a dream home is disturbed by a contractor (McGinley) with a bizarre approach to business.Director: Steve Carr
Cast: John C. McGinley, Ice Cube, Nia Long, Aleisha Allen
1996 | Crime | RSummary: Jerry, a small-town Minnesota car salesman is bursting at the seams with debt... but he's got a plan. He's going to hire two thugs to kidnap his wife in a scheme to collect a hefty ransom from his wealthy father-in-law. It's going to be a snap and nobody's going to get hurt... until people start ...Director: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare
2008 | Science Fiction | PGSummary: Animated series continues the story of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker as they battle the Emperor Palpatine, Count Dooku and General Grievous, but also takes time to explore other smaller characters in the Star Wars universe.Director: George Lucas (creator)
Cast: Tom Kane, Dee Bradley Baker, Matt Lanter
1993 | Sports | PGSummary: Emotionally powerful sports classic featuring Sean Astin as a skinny high school kid with big football dreams and the determination to make his way towards his dream team at Notre Dame.Director: David Anspaugh
Cast: Sean Astin, Jon Favreau, Ned Beatty
2013 | Thriller | RSummary: Based on the true story of Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) a Miami bodybuilder who wants to live the American dream. He would like to have the money that other people have. So he enlists the help of fellow bodybuilder Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and ex-convict, Christian bodybuilder Paul Doyle (D...Director: Michael Bay
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub
1997 | Crime | RSummary: Quentin Tarantino adaptats an Elmore Leonard novel into this story of a few increasingly desperate people scraping to get by. It has deep soul, a wicked sense of humor, and Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro, Pam Grier, and Robert Forster.Director: Quentin Tarantino
Cast: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster
Looking for something to watch?
Let Streaming Genie help you.
Let Streaming Genie help you.