Interview by Phill Bruce
Photo by Scott Anthony
Rebecca Turner grew up in California, and fell in love
with the Laurel Canyon sound, that cabal of singer/songwriters
that includes Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, and Linda Ronstadt.
Then she moved to New Jersey and discovered a musical community
here that helped nurture her own unique sound as a singer-songwriter.
Phill Bruce caught up with the Montclair-based performer
to discuss her new album, The New Wrong Way, available
Q: You took a different approach for The New Wrong Way,
less modern. How does this affect the sounds and production?
Rebecca Turner:Yup, I did. I was less concerned about sounding
really polished and “fancy” … I just wanted
to sound real and sincere and fun.
Q: Recording in this way, do you feel it gives more emotion
RT:Totally. Many of my vocals are first takes. It’s
not like I knew that when I was recording them, but I for
sure approached recording with the vibe of emotion rather
than perfection. And everyone who played on the record,
especially the band when we were doing basics—Rich
Feridun, Sim Cain, Scott Anthony, and Sue Raffman—did
such a good job playing amazingly and still fitting into
this vibe. Same goes for Scott who co-produced, recorded
most of it, plus mixed and mastered it…he made it
sound exactly the way I wanted it to.
Q: I love what you describe as the frequent theme for The
New Wrong Way…can you please describe it for our readers
and tell us why this theme popped up so many times?
RT:Well, the title came about because of the Bee Gees cover
we do on the record, “Sun In My Morning.” When
we recorded it, we accidentally added a bar and changed
some words. The first time we played it live after recording,
Sue, who sings the beautiful harmony on the track, asked,
“OK, are we going to do it the right way, or the new
wrong way?” Our friend Alex said we had to name the
record that, so we did.
The theme is basically: screwing up. I am finding that
as I get older, instead of making fewer mistakes (which
is what I thought was going to happen, as I got “wiser”)
I made just as many mistakes if not more. It’s the
New Wrong Way! Actually, the process of making the album
itself taught me that growing as a person is about how you
handle those mistakes.
Q: Can you please tell us more about the Saturday Afternoon
Song Swap? It sounds like an amazing thing to be involved
RT:When I moved to New Jersey to live with Scott (now my
husband) in 2003, I left behind a musical community in NYC,
and I needed to find one here. We became friends with Deena
Shoshkes and Jon Fried of the band the Cucumbers (now they
are also in the wonderful Campfire Flies), and Deena and
I had the idea to start a songwriter’s group out here.
It turned into a performance series and has kept going for
10 years, showcasing 6 songwriters each time. And we did
what we set out to do, which is build a musical community
with many great branches here in New Jersey. A tiny, tiny
list of the people we had at Swaps are Ed Seifert, Matt
Davis of the Vestrymen and the Thousand Pities, and John
& Toni Baumgartner of Speed the Plough (those last four
join Jon and Deena in the Campfire Flies); Glenn Mercer
and Dave Weckerman of the Feelies; the late, great Michael
Carlucci of Winter Hours and the Thousand Pities; Kate Jacobs,
Michael Shelley, Gene D. Plumber…and those are mostly
Jersey people! It’s of course a bit Jersey-centric
but people have come from all over to do the Swap.
Q: What is the Laurel Canyon Sound and what was it about
that sound that you fell in love with?
RT:That term has refers to the southern California singer-songwriters
of the late 60s and early 70s, many of whom lived in the
Laurel Canyon area of Los Angeles. I grew up in LA, not
too far from there, and that sound was a big influence on
me: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Jackson Browne,
the Byrds. It’s hard to explain the vibe, but for
me it’s about…lights starting to come on at
twilight, warm air, the beach, the smell of eucalyptus leaves,
driving with the radio playing, etc…these were all
things I experienced growing up in California. Yup, I romanticized
them, because I only observed them as a kid, or in a nostalgic,
imagined way as an adult. But I don’t think I will
ever purge my system of that California feeling.
Q: Why be embarrassed about how much you liked The Eagles?
RT:I joke about that because while I was worshipping them
and going to see them in concert over and over, I missed
out on a lot of other music. Like Neil Young, and Joni Mitchell,
and challenging music that other people were enjoying, like
Patti Smith and Tom Waits and, oh, all of punk rock! And
so, so much more. History (some people’s, anyway)
hasn’t been kind to the Eagles, deeming them corporate
rock and focusing on their bad behavior. But I will tell
you, when Glenn Frey died, and I heard “Lyin’
Eyes” on the radio, I cried hard. I learned to sing
harmony from that song. And Don Henley singing “Hasten
Down the Wind” with Linda Ronstadt…still gets
me every time.
Q: Why cover “Tenderly” on The New Wrong Way?
RT:Another song on the record, “The Cat That Can
Be Alone,” was inspired by the jazz singer Anita O’Day’s
autobiography. At one point she talks about how she remained
tough through all her travails…jail, drug addiction,
love affairs, career downs…and she says, “The
cat that can be alone is one up on the cat that can’t.”
So that became a song, and when I performed it, I would
end it on an unresolved chord and go right into “Tenderly,”
which is a song I came to know from a record of hers, Anita
Sings the Most.
Q: You speak of the fun you had recording “Tenderly.”
Please tell us about the fun you had?
RT:That was recorded at Ardent Studios in Memphis, where
all the Big Star records and many other amazing music was
made. We visited the studio on a vacation in Memphis, and
it just had the most wonderful, thick rock ‘n soul
aura. And it was affordable, so we decided to come back
and do a few songs there and that was one of them. We had
an amazing, patient engineer, Mike Wilson, and I felt very
comfortable. Something about that place literally made my
voice fly up in the booth while I was singing…it was
like being lifted by something. And Rich Feridun plays such
a gorgeous solo on it. I almost think I don’t deserve
Q: Please tell us of 3 songs that changed your life or
had an impact on your life and why they did?
RT:I’m just going to do this off the top of my head
and try not to think too much about it! I could go on listing
1. Hearing “Lemon Tree” by Peter Paul and Mary
was the first time I remember stopping, listening, and being
wowed by a piece of music. I was in nursery school. A teacher
put it on, and it immediately zapped my heart and brain,
and music kind of ruled me ever since.
2. “Tears of a Clown” by the Miracles…I
think it was the summer of ’77, and I would spend
the afternoons sitting in the backyard listening to K-RTH,
the “oldies” station in L.A. When I first started
realizing how powerful and perfect the Motown songs were,
it was like a giant door opening up. And that one especially,
with its melancholy yet exciting chord progression! I also
fell in love with the English Beat’s version in college.
3. I just read Amy Rigby’s terrific book Girl to City.
Her first solo record, Diary of a Mod Housewife, had a huge
impact on me. “Good Girls” was my anthem. I
was a temp in New York City in the 90s when that record
came out, working at various big companies, exactly like
she was at the time, going shopping in cheap clothing stores
on my lunch hour. Just like she sings, I was “searching
for a ray of sunshine in the lining of a $30 dress.”
Q: You describe yourself as a cat wrangler which made me
smile being a cat person, tell us more about cat wrangling
and the cats in your life?
A: I am a full-on cat lady. They have been as present as
music since I was 12 years old or so when a local cat adopted
us because my mom gave him smoked salmon! At the moment
we have Bella, a sweet little old calico, and Tito, a totally
nuts 2-year-old buff tabby we adopted from Puerto Rico via
an organization called Animal Lighthouse Rescue.
Q: I am very much like you, a person who likes all sorts
of music. Are there any 2 types of music that you feel go
so well together?
RT:What an interesting question! I really had to think
about that…I’m assuming you mean two that meld
really well. The obvious answer for me would be country
and rock, because that’s kind of what I do. But another
one I can think of is folk and soul. There was a year of
my life where I walked around listening to nothing but Sweet
Honey in the Rock, an all-female African American vocal
ensemble that has been going strong, with varying personnel,
since the 70s. They sing folk songs, love songs, story songs,
protest songs. It carried me through a lot, that cassette!
My favorite song of theirs is “Going to See My Baby.”
Q: Thank you so much for this interview, is there anything
you would like to add?
RT:No, thank you so much!!!