Jimmy Rankin recently released his latest album, Back Road Paradise,and we got to chat with him all about the process of creating it, why he’s so particular about the songs he puts on a record and what it was like working with Alison Krauss and Jim Cuddy!
If you’re in the GTA be sure to check out Jimmy’s show at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto tomorrow(Saturday, June 7, 2014). For a full list of upcoming tour dates click here.
TC: Back Road Paradise is your 6th solo EP, how would you say it compares to your previous albums?
JR: I think it’s a really fine record, I’ve gone a bit more country and in a lot of ways it’s different in that way. My last record, I was sort of dabbling with country music, I’ve always sort of dabbled a bit in country music throughout my career, going back to the early days with my siblings and even before that I played country music. This record is a progression from my last record, I feature more traditional country instruments and for this record I just decided to go on head first and make a country record. It’s different and I think it’s a really terrific record, I’m very pleased with it.
TC: What was the process of creating the album like?
JR: I was very conscious of writing country songs when I made this record. So the process of writing was just thinking about making songs for this kind of record and then there was the song selection – picking out songs that were appropriate and that fit into the theme of a country record. There are different ways to make records, I’ve been working with Bill Bell (Tom Cochrane, Jason Mraz) for three records now and working with him is a lot of fun, I send him all the material between projects and he makes a list of songs and I make a list of songs and we compare notes and decide how we’re going to produce the record and the process evolves as you work on the record. Sometimes you have a general template of how you’d like to record songs and produce them and arrange them and then as you get further along in the process you decide – well maybe a banjo would be nice here – or whatever the instrument is, the song kind of dictates at a certain point how it wants to be arranged and produced.
TC: What was it like working with Alison Krauss and Jim Cuddy on this album?
JR: Both artists I’ve known for a long time, in particular Jim from Blue Rodeo who I’ve crossed paths with many times over the years in Canada. I’ve done shows with them and I’m a big fan of Blue Rodeo, years ago on my first solo record I had Greg Keelor sing some vocals on a tune called “Followed Her Around”. Throughout the making of a record I like to collaborate with people and I’m always thinking about what kind of guest artist it would be nice to have on a record whether it’s an instrumentalist or a vocalist. On my last record Keith Urban played a guitar solo on a song called “Here In My Heart” and Serena Ryder did a duet with me on a tune called “Walk That Way” and so for this record I was thinking about people who fit certain songs and Jim came to mind on a song that’s sort of an Everly Brothers sounding song. I was thinking that I’d like a very singular harmony voice on it and I think it was right up Jim’s alley and fortunately for me he had the time and liked the song and sang on it and did a beautiful job. Same with Alison, you know years ago I did a show with Alison Krauss and the Rankins, back in the 90s we did a double bill, and then I did a songwriting showcase with her last year in Nashville and we stayed in touch so I sent her a song and I asked her if she’d sing on it, I thought her voice would be beautiful on it and she loved the song and took the time to sing on it and it sounds great.
TC: What’s one song on this album that you’re especially proud of and why?
JR: I like all the songs, I really am very particular about what songs I’ll put on a record – the key, arrangements and tempos – so I didn’t put any duds on the record. I try not to have any filler on my record whatsoever because I would hate to listen back to it in a year and go “oh why did I put that song on there”. I like all the material and I’ve been performing it live and it’s been a lot of fun, the ones that I’m really jazzed about are the ones that Jim and Alison guested on, I think they’re fun and I love how they came out. You never know how it’s going to turn out, maybe someone’s voice won’t sound good with your voice but I’m really pleased with how they both turned out. I also really like the final track, it’s a really fun one to do live and I think that it’s going to become a standard of mine in shows, “Whiskey When The Sun Goes Down”.
TC: What’s been the most memorable moment of 2014 for you so far?
JR: It’s hard to pinpoint, it’s been a good year and a lot of things have happened but I’d have to say releasing a record. It’s sort of the cycle for me, just getting back out on the road with new material and it’s exciting to have a new project out there, starting fresh and going out and making new fans.