Philip Zoellner

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Philip Zoellner
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A level of pride and excitement comes to any artist when he or she has a record ready for release. When I sat down with Philip Zoellner last week to discuss his new CD, I Love Jets, a special sparkle gleamed in his eyes. After only a couple spins, the reason for the joy in his eyes is apparent. Easily his most accomplished record to date, Jets oozes with confidence, control and, more importantly, fun. Whereas Zoellner's last proper CD, Right On Time, was a more experimental, piano driven affair, this disc is a guitar dominated set, filled with swagger and attitude. And while the songs still bear Zoellner's signature, this time there's a different feel to the songs, a certain ease and comfort that separates this disc from the previous. Perhaps that comes from the experience and maturity of making records for more than a decade now, but a portion of the credit goes to producer Brad Heinrichs, formerly of the band Wakeland. In the past, Zoellner has essentially self-produced his own records, sharing credit with others who added input. This time, however, he handed the reins to someone he trusts and respects, and it appears to have taken a weight off his shoulders that allowed him to fly. "When discussing this record," Zoellner said, "Brad was very clear about two things: he wanted me to go back to guitar, and he would be tracking live with the three of us playing together." The three include Zoellner, bassist Jody Parsons and drummer Mike Friedmann. Heinrichs added quite a bit of guitar to the album as well as Zoellner's old buddy Cody Canada (of Cross Canadian Ragweed). "We were in Little Rock one night and I got to thinking about it, so I texted him and said 'How about coming in and playing on the new record" and he answered right away. 'I'm in.' It was that easy," he said. Anyone who knows Zoellner knows that he's something of a studio rat who loves the recording process and all that goes with it. And although he was already good friends with Heinrichs, he admitted he was a little hesitant when Brad initially invited him to record at his new studio. Once he arrived, however, he was blown away and ready to ready to dive in. Taking his favorite elements from other studio recordings, Heinrichs combined as many features as possible to create a state-of-the-art recording studio that combines digital with analogue technology and can record on two-inch tapes and hard drives. "Brad's studio is a great marriage of technology, both analogue and digital. There are strengths and weaknesses in both, but there's something special about analogue and recording to two-inch tape," Zoellner said, nearly giggling. "I think with this record we got the perfect nuances, vibe and textures with the ease of being able to edit digitally. Still, the vibe was very holistic -- very rock and roll. "You now that phrase 'separates the men from the boys?' I think recording to tape separates the men form the boys; there's warmth to it, but you can't go back and change things to line everything up perfectly. You've got to be on." Behind the Scenes Even with a great studio, however, it seems like it would be hard for someone who has always self-produced to truly turn the controls to someone else. Zoellner insisted it wasn't that hard, however, once he and Heinrichs sat down to work together. "Brad produced this record because we have a shared musical taste, not because he creates top 40 hits," Zoellner said. "Really, there are two reasons why we produced it. Number one: we're kindred spirits and music fans. Number two: Brad's been around longer than me and he knows music and the music business." "When we were in the studio, he'd look at his watch and say 'That song's too short, do the chorus again.' He knew what we needed to make it more commercial to fit the package, to fit the record. "It was very much a matter of him telling us how to do the arrangements," Zoellner said. "It wasn't a democracy so much. I can honestly say this is the first time I let go and let him produce," he continued. "Even when we disagreed, Brad won because he was the producer. It was like this little voice said 'Let him do his job," so I did." Zoellner and drummer Mike Friedmann agreed during our conversation that arrangement is key to song structure and when they let Brad handle the arrangements he really added to the new album. "Brad arranged and produced everything on this record and that's why I say he made every song better," Zoellner said. "You know, I've been making records since '97, when Jody and I were in college, and it's taken me until now to let go and let someone else do that. I'll never produce myself again." Letting it Fly Despite what happens in the studio, an album ultimately stands or falls once it's in listener's hands and the artist is out performing the songs. And while the record is now released, it's not hard to see it becoming a success. From the comfortable stroll of the opening cut "Carolina" to the shuffle of the title cut and the classic rock snarl of "No One's Alarmed," the songs are crying for live play. Fortunately, The Philip Zoellner Band continues to get out and present a broad swath of Zoellner's catalogue. "We spend a lot of time on the road and unfortunately, the record is almost secondary," Zoellner shared, "which sucks, because I'm a record guy. I finally get it, though. We do records so we can play live. "The last time we were in Little Rock, I was handing out records like candy and the next night, people were back and requesting songs off of it," he said, sharing his enlightenment. "We [record] so we keep ourselves sane and so we can play live. I'm a songwriter though, and the songs keep coming, so I need to get recording to get them out."
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Average Rating : 5              Total Reviews: 1

Philip Zoellner  04/02/2009            
OK Derrick
awesome cd!!! and he puts on a hell of a show.
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