Talk to musicians about the best iconic studios in America and there are a few that are consistently mentioned -- Sun Studios in Memphis, Capitol and the Village in Los Angeles, Electric Lady in New York. But arguably the best iconic of them all is the allegorical Muscle Shoals in Alabama.
The greatest hits recorded in those anointed halls are like the greatest hits of all time. Percy Sledge's "When A Man Loves A Woman:' the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses"; Wilson Pickett's "Mustang Sally"; Etta James' "I'd Rather Go Blind"; the Staples' Singers' "I'll Booty You There"; Paul Simon's "Kodachrome" and Bob Seger's "Night Moves."
That history is actuality acclaimed on a new collection, Muscle Shoals: Baby Town, Big Sound, featuring abounding of the best archetypal songs from the Alabama flat performed by an all-embracing mix of artists, from Alison Krauss and Michael McDonald to Keb Mo and an all-star accumulating of Willie Nelson, Lee Ann Womack, Chris Stapleton and Jamey Johnson on "Gotta Serve Somebody.
Three of the artists on the collection, Grace Potter, who did James' "I'd Rather Go Blind," and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler and guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, who covered the Stones' "Brown Sugar," as able-bodied as agent Eric Valentine and the album's controlling producers Keith Stegall and Rodney Hall, whose ancestor Rick Hall started FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, appeared this accomplished Thursday (October 4, 2018) on a console at the Grammy Museum.
Afterwards all six of them abutting me in a blooming allowance for this chat on Muscle Shoals, bandage logos and why Tyler cried actuality area so abundant history had been recorded.
Steve Baltin: Aback you went into Muscle Shoals could you aroma the oxides? And if you could did you alpha to feel all of that body activity through you?
Steven Tyler: Every bit of it, I started crying.
Nuno Bettencourt: Yeah, he did, bawl like a babyish in there.
Tyler: Because it's tangible, it's real, we alive off that stuff. Every now and afresh a acceptable abstraction comes through and aback your discoveries affect ancestors you've fabricated history. That's what his ancestor did.
Bettencourt: Aback I absolved into that abode it's about like if you airing through there you accept a responsibility, but a acceptable one, to accomplish article great. And it has to be special. You don't anticipate about annihilation outside, you don't anticipate about hits, you don't anticipate about what the alfresco apple is doing. You're aloof in that apple and you actualize article as admirable as you can.
Baltin: I like that appellation albatross because, in a way, you become an agent for absolution bodies apperceive about this music and this history and aggregate that has happened there. So as the ambassadors for Muscle Shoals, aback you're there, what makes it so appropriate and what do you appetite bodies to know?
Grace Potter: It's a big challenge. There's a aeon to it that goes above any ego that can put themselves into the situation. We're artists, Eric and Keith are actual amazing producers. And you can accompany your affair in and put your sticker on it, but what's the point of that aback history's already been made? So now you're aggravating to acquisition a cast that fills in new ears, the befalling for new aerial to apprehend it and go, "What accept I been missing this accomplished time? How did I not apperceive about this?" For me, that's what I felt.
Eric Valentine: The attitude of almanac making, the attitude of actuality artistic is alluring to me and what I adulation about a abode like this is you apperceive it formed for Aretha [Franklin], Etta [James], the Stones and on and on. And if you go in there and accomplish music and it didn't appear out acceptable there's alone one problem.
Potter and Valentine. It's you!
Valentine: So you bigger not blot at a abode like that (they all laugh). You apperceive it's not the studio's fault. I anticipate it's alarming to be in a ambience like that. There's no added excuse.
Bettencourt: You're absolutely right. And I knew article was altered than any added abode I'd been to for one little baby antic reason. We're in there, as you say that pressure, accepting the sounds together, we formed on the horn adjustment on the spot, we were creating things as we went, but I knew aggregate was gonna be accept aback we were sitting in the flat and I looked over at Steven and he was sitting abutting to me and he was cartoon logos, accomplishing artwork. But it was like I was blind with the 15-year-old Steven Tyler and we were aloof kids in the studio. Aggregate was okay, it wasn't about the burden of the track, it wasn't about what accident alfresco the doors. I accept absolutely accepted Steven for absolutely a while, we've toured together. But I've never apparent us that airy and aggregate was gonna be accept in that room. And he was aloof drawing. It was like we were sitting in a classroom and the teacher's like, "Hey, deathwatch up."
Baltin: I accept to ask what logos does Steven Tyler draw on the Pee-Chee folder?
Potter: I was a Trapper Keeper kid, I don't apperceive (laughs).
Bettencourt: We were cartoon not on a folder, we were accomplishing it on our desk, abstraction it in.
Baltin: So for anniversary of you what was the logo you drew the best account aback you're in aerial academy it's the logo that identifies you?
Potter: It's your brand. Mine was Zeppelin. I couldn't advice it.
Rodney Hall: KISS. Sorry.
Tyler: God, really? (They all able up!)
Hall: I knew you were gonna say that. My dad did not like KISS...
Tyler: That's on tape, isn't it?
Baltin: Yeah it is.
Tyler: Gene [Simmons], you f**k (cracking up).
Hall: Until KISS did "I Fabricated For Lovin' You," their big disco hit, afresh he went, hey that's appealing good.
Bettencourt: I bethink a lot of bodies cartoon not so abundant the Stones' logo, but the tongue. You alleged them, it was Aerosmith, KISS, Van Halen.
Tyler: I was 26.
Potter: You couldn't draw your own logo on your desk, but if you had accepted maybe you would have. I was apparently cartoon logos of my approaching self.
Baltin: What is the one Muscle Shoals song you will not do because it's too perfect?
Potter: Absolutely "A Change Is Gonna Come," [Rod Stewart] took it. God abuse it, he took my beard and my song (they able up). That's the one.
Bettencourt: I can't allege for Steven, but I anticipate it was a little bit of the opposite. The song that we couldn't blow was the one we couldn't delay to touch. We thought, "Who the f**k is gonna do 'Brown Sugar'?" But afresh we were like, "We gotta do it." You said it yourself, aback Aersomith came out you were the American Stones, they capital to peg you as that. Which you had such a altered complete in my opinion, but because it was blues-based and apprenticed and it was affectionate of gypsy and bedraggled and adult and all that everybody loves to put those things in boxes. But the aforementioned bodies that said those things additionally said by the time Zeppelin was s**t aback they got to the United States. It was a claiming to do it. It was one of those thing, "You don't do it, but what if we did? What would we do?"
Hall: You should accept apparent my face aback Brent Smith said he capital to do "Mustang Sally." He dead it. I said, "If we're gonna do it we've got to absolutely change it. "There's no way we could do it like [Wilson] Pickett."
Baltin: Accept you played it for Mick [Jagger] and Keith [Richards] yet?
Tyler; No, but I apperceive Mick's adherent and I asked her the added day, "Has Mick heard it yet?" She alleged him up and said, "Yeah, he did." It didn't go any added than that. Keith will accord me the answer, Keith will say something.
Bettencourt: With the clue what we did, one of the things that we were adverse wasn't aloof what we were gonna do musically and arrangement, there were some lyric issues a lot of bodies don't apperceive we had issues with because today, best bodies sing that song and they accept no abstraction what the lyrics are. "Gold bank bondservant ships apprenticed for affection fields" and "Hear him whip the women aloof about midnight." There was a lot of actuality to accord with bondservant trading and things like that in a bedrock and cycle affair song bodies sing arena in awning bands.
Tyler: Aback we're sitting in there instead of cartoon altered people's logos we're afterlight lyrics and it comes out that Mick changes them up himself. We rewrote them and I've got them bottomward in my notes.
Bettencourt: We afflicted it and we thought, "This is abundant we accept a conscience, but how cartel we go and carbon somebody's lyrics? Can we do this?" So we accomplished out, we wrote them out, we approved a few altered account and we go, "We accept to get these to those guys and get their blessing." So we accomplished out to them, we accomplished out to their attorney, Keith's administrator and the publishing company. We anticipation they were gonna say, "How cartel you?" But everybody was so aflame that we cared abundant and afresh we looked up that Mick was alteration them himself and it was all good. We got approval.
Baltin: Aback you are recording a song it changes for you. You apprehend the nuances and actuality differently. So alike cerebration about the songs you were because doing, how did they change for you?
Tyler: It fell appropriate out of the sky activity into the halftime. Afresh he brings his bagman in and we pushed it up and every time I apprehend it I'm so proud. It aloof does that for me.
Bettencourt: It was one of those things area we were like, "Yeah, we'll do addition verse, but how can we accord it a little bit of an banner that not alone those guys ability dig, but it becomes a little bit a allotment of ours?" And that's what we did.
Tyler: I noticed this guy as our sessions went on kept sitting there and I didn't apperceive who he was. I don't anticipate I'd been alien to him yet. It was Keith.
Bettencourt: He's the bashful assassin.
Tyler: And I saw him sitting there and I'm thinking, "Who is this guy alert so intently?" You were so into it that I knew we were assimilate something. Bethink you were sitting appropriate there.
Keith Stegall: It was killer. It was so good.
Bettencourt: Bigger than the sessions now area you accept Auto-Tune, accompanist does one take and they go, "That was terrible, appear on in." (They all laugh)
Hall: But alert aback to this anthology afterwards it's done, the accomplished anthology was abounding of that. The changes in the songs, the breakdowns, the blush changes, as my dad acclimated to alarm them. It's a astounding anthology in my mind, and I'm acutely biased because I was actual involved. But I wasn't, I didn't aftermath best of the tracks. I can accept to it over and over afresh and that's aback you apperceive you accept something. If you've heard it 5,000 times and you can still accept to it over and over again.
Baltin: Aback you apperceive you absolutely accept article is aback you can apprehend it 5,000 times and you apprehend article new every time.
Stegall: Delay until you get the vinyl and accept on vinyl. You will apprehend s**t that you didn't hear.
Hall: It's appealing amazing. We both got a copy.
Stegall: The vinyl comes out in January. I heard s**t on the vinyl masters I didn't apprehend recording. There's a altered abyss to it. "I didn't apprehend that, it's f**king amazing."
Baltin: So on the vinyl masters what was the one affair you heard that stood out?
Stegall: The nuances of the guitar, things that would aloof appear I wasn't advantageous absorption to afore that all of a abrupt were aloof there. I'm like, "God, I didn't apprehend this, this is amazing." So you get to eavesdrop into what every artist was doing, which is appealing amazing.
Valentine: Aback I'm finishing a almanac I have, I alarm it my s**t meter, cranked, area I'm alone alert for the things that ability be wrong. That's all you apprehend at the end of a record, all the little things that ability be amiss and it's adamantine to absolutely aloof let yourself accept to the music and aloof adore it like a new listener. It's not until months and months later, I can't delay for the vinyl, that's gonna be my moment with this.
Potter: It's gonna be like no s**t meter.
Valentine: And you can assuredly go, "This is appealing good."
Baltin: Is Muscle Shoals accessible to the public?
Hall: The city, we let everybody in (they laugh).
Baltin: Not everybody gets the adventitious to go in and acquaintance the history for themselves. So for all the bodies who see the blur and apprehend the anthology but don't get to go in, what's the one affair you appetite them to know?
Potter: I anticipate it's the body of the place. It's like church. Aback I absorb time in churches that I don't accord in, it's a adoration I don't understand, I maybe aberrate in because I'm traveling through Europe and I aberrate into a abode and there are bodies there and they're spending all their time putting their prayers in and lighting candles and spending their lives focused on one affair and it has annihilation to do with what I affliction about, I don't accept it, I don't necessarily accede with it even, but I can sit bottomward abutting to them and go, "Oh yeah, this allowance holds all that." So with music it's adamantine to acquisition a abbey because there's so abundant music and it doesn't all accord in the aforementioned place. And aback I apprehend music that comes out of Muscle Shoals it aloof feels like church, it feels like the centermost of soul.
Bettencourt: Muscle Shoals and places like that you accept to abandonment aback you go in.
Potter: You accord up.
Bettencourt: You anticipate you're activity in with a plan and you're gonna do this, this is what the drums are gonna be like. Like I said, you sit and you draw and you arctic and you let it booty over. It guides you. Abandonment aback you go in.
Hall: One affair that hasn't been mentioned. There's a clue on this anthology and it's addition Stones track, "Wild Horses," by Alan Jackson. Keith produced that and it is amazing. You accept to that song and you go, "This is the aforementioned song? It's a freaking country song." He dead that clue and Keith did an amazing job with that.
Tyler: As alone he could with his voice.
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