March 2012 (e-mail)
New York based singer Leslie DiNicola released her debut EP It Resembles Fiction in 2010 that brought together blues, rock & a touch of folksy country. It was helped in its creation by musician/studio owner Ellis Traver whose worked with Sean Lennon. In 2011 she released the follow-up Draw Back Your Bow featuring a collection of cover songs drawn from rock, blues & folk & featuring Julian Coryell, the son of famous jazz guitarist Larry Coryell. Leslie has sang the "National Anthem" for the Atlanta Braves twice plus she's sang for numerous New York sports teams including for the NY Rangers at Madison Square Garden. She's also toured French Polynesia, Tonga & Fiji, along with performing in regional clubs.
Leslie & I met when she submitted her first album It Resembles Fiction for consideration on my blog. I took special notice because she made note in her letter that she'd given some time to my work as she wanted me to give time to her work. Not a lot of artists do this but just randomly send submissions. I soon found myself being invited to a local concert where I not just got a chance to hear her with her band but also meet her boyfriend John-Paul Baker who drums with the heavy metal group Crush Of Empires. I later asked her to be on my Roman Midnight Music podcast for a delightful hour interview. We soon became friends, seeing each other occasionally until one couples dinner in early 2012 when she surprised me with her new CD Draw Back Your Bow, which I've since featured on my Roman Midnight Music podcast for a review. It's always a delight spending time with Leslie & John-Paul, but sadly it doesn't happen enough as we're all so busy. Having already spoken to her on the air I decided for some variety with an e-mail interview.
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AJ: A year ago we were talking about your music & you were unsure how to follow your first album It Resembles Fiction, so why an EP & why a covers albums?
LESLIE: I remember this conversation! I asked you what your opinion was on independent artists releasing EPs versus full length albums. It was a tough decision that I went back & forth on for a long time. But, for me, it came down to my desire to release 2 different albums within the same year - one being a covers album & the other being an original follow up to It Resembles Fiction. In the end, I felt the best decision was to record both albums as 5 track EPs rather than a full length version of one or the other.
AJ: Am I right in guessing this wasn't your initial plan for a follow-up release?
LESLIE: Yes & no. I’ve never really considered Draw Back Your Bow to be a "follow-up release". An album of covers was just something I had been wanting to do for a while. I was really busy writing music for my second album & it seemed like a really fun way to keep momentum going while I was working on the new songs. But, once I got to L.A. & we started production, what was intended to be a fun little snack between releases quickly ended up becoming a 5 course meal.
AJ: Draw Back Your Bow is your vocals against the instrumentation of Julian Coryell, the son of jazz guitarist Larry Coryell, plus a couple horn players in Jim Wheeler & Mitch Manker ... how did you meet up with Coryell & come to record with him?
LESLIE: I was introduced to Julian Coryell by way of our mutual friendships with the band OCTOBER PROJECT. I was very fortunate to be invited to open for one of their exclusive "Live at the Loft" shows this past summer. They couldn’t say enough wonderful things about Julian (who was their guitarist in the mid-90’s) & Julie Flanders was the one that suggested I record my covers album with him. She connected us via email &, a couple months later, I found myself sitting in his studio out in L.A.
AJ: How long did it take to record the album?
LESLIE: Nobody believes me when I say this, but, Draw Back Your Bow was recorded in 10 days. It was just one of those projects that rolled itself out for us. We spent 2 days on pre-production & 8 days tracking. It took our engineer, Erich Gobel, a little over a week to mix it & then it was off to Joe Gastwirt for mastering. I had the final master of Draw Back Your Bow in my hands in less than 4 weeks after I left L.A.
AJ: Why the move from a full band of 7 people on It Resembles Fiction to just Coryell, was this intentional or just developed out accidentally/organically?
LESLIE: Well, to be completely honest, Julian Coryell is 7 people. More than 7, actually. He’s just one of those rare & annoying human beings that can play any instrument as if he came out of the womb with it in his hands. But, no, this was not an intentional decision from the start. From day one, we always agreed that we would start every element of each song with Julian playing. & once/if we felt unsatisfied in any way with what he was bringing to the table, we would call in any number of musicians that would fit the bill. This just simply never happened. It was a completely organic process from start to finish. Except, of course, at the end when we enlisted the brilliant horn playing of Jim Wheeler & Mitch Manker on "I Put A Spell On You."
AJ: There's quite a range of music here from contemporary rock to old bluesy songs, how did you choose the songs & was this all you or did Coryell have any input?
LESLIE: I arrived in L.A. with a list of 30 songs that were all over the map. Many of them were songs I loved covering, many were songs I wanted to cover, & others were songs that people have requested that I cover. Getting to that list of 30 was a process in & of itself. But, from there, Julian & I sat down & played each song together carefully picking & choosing which ones to keep & which ones to put aside. We considered everything from how the songs sounded to how often or recently they’ve been covered before to how well they fit together with the other choices. It was a very thoughtful & delicate process that we went through together.
AJ: How did you approach reinterpretting the music? Or, I should say taking apart a U2 song, for example, is certainly a challenge so was there a specific sound or direction you & Coryell were going after?
LESLIE: We didn’t have a specific sound that we were trying to achieve from the start. Having never worked together before, there was a lot of 'getting to know each other’ artistically that had to be explored before we could jump into a box & put a label on it. But, once we had our song selections & started playing around with them, the overall aesthetics of the record naturally began to present themselves to us. Julian & I were quick to recognize in each other a mutual desire to allow the music to tell us what it wanted to be. The physical deconstructing of "With Or Without You" (& all of the other tracks) was a challenge that was conquered by Julian. The only tool I have at my disposal to convey my vision for the songs is my voice. So, it was all on his shoulders to create vocally centered arrangements for the music.
AJ: How much did you reflect on how Draw Back Your Bow would sound in comparison with It Resembles Fiction, considering this feels incredibly simple in its instrumentation & arrangements compared to It Resembles Fiction.
LESLIE: I think the musical arrangements on Draw Back Your Bow are much more complex than on It Resembles Fiction. But, they are less busy. Thus, making it sound deceptively simple in comparison. & that is one of my favorite elements about this album. I love It Resembles Fiction, but for this project, I really wanted to explore the music on deep & diverse vocal levels. That’s what is so great about singing other artist’s music. You can put yourself aside & discover wonderful & challenging elements vocally & emotionally. There was a lot of freedom in making this album.
AJ: Anything else you'd like to share about the recording I may have side-stepped?
LESLIE: A lot of joy went into making Draw Back Your Bow. There is a deep love & respect for all of the songs we covered. Each one played a fundamental role in my life while I was discovering myself as a singer, as a songwriter & as a performer. It was a very special experience to get to discover myself all over again by covering them. My only hope is that people enjoy listening to it half as much as I enjoyed making it. Oh yeah ... & thanks for not asking about the Octopus.
AJ: What's next for singer Leslie DiNicola?
LESLIE: Well, last week I returned from another trip out to L.A. I spent 3 weeks with Julian working on a real follow up to It Resembles Fiction. We recorded a 5 track EP of my original music (yet to be titled) that is, at the moment, in the magical hands of Erich Gobel being mixed to perfection. In many ways, the process was very similar to what we went through making Draw Back Your Bow. &, in most ways, it was completely different. I’m extremely proud of what we created this past month. I’m not sure when I will be releasing it into the wild, but I’m very excited to share it with you (& the world) & will be sure to keep you up to date.