Back in February we told you about the upcoming album release from award-winning UK artist Rumer, “Nashville Tears” (https://www.bellesandgals.com/2020/02/03/rumer-to-release-new-album-nashville-tears/). It sees her re-interpreting the songs of Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame member Hugh Prestwood and was due for release this April via Cooking Vinyl with associated UK tour dates in May, but of course the world has changed a lot since then, the release has been pushed back to August 14th and tour dates rescheduled for March 2021. Having already been privileged to hear to this beautiful collection of songs, produced by multi-talented Canadian Fred Mollin and recorded at Nashville’s StarStruck Studios with some of the city’s top session musicians, I jumped at the opportunity to speak to Rumer and thoroughly loved our transatlantic telephone chat… despite having been woken up at 5am by her three year old son demanding a bowl of cereal and wanting to watch The Clangers she was gracious, amusing and above all very passionate about Hugh’s songwriting and everything that recording this album had involved. I hope you enjoy the read.
1. LH Hi and thanks so much for your time today! Where are you talking to me from?
R I’m in Macon, Georgia
LH You’ve been living Stateside for some time now haven’t you?
R I have but I’ll be back in July, we’re packing up to move back home actually! This is the end of my American phase….
LH So you’ve missed the UK?
R Oh God yeah! I thought I’d adapt to America but actually I didn’t, I’ve realised I’m really English !
2. LH I’ve been listening to your new album which is stunningly gorgeous, thanks for putting it out there
R Oh, thanks!
LH And as the title suggests there’s a fair few heartbreakers on the track listing. What is it about sad songs that’s so appealing to both an artist and the listener do you think?
R Absolutely there are! I don’t know, I’ve never been someone who’s got depressed….I try to avoid sad songs actually ! They’re not all sad although they have a melancholic lilt …apart from ” Oklahoma Stray” which is very, very sad, the cat dies and I know I shouldn’t say that as it’s a spoiler! Yeah I feel the album melancholy but still sweeping, beautiful and hopeful . It’s still relaxing.
LH I was listening to it in the sun in the garden yesterday and it was very relaxing . Sad songs can be hopeful or pensive sad, not always slash-your-wrists sad !
R Music for pottering….
LH But also you need to really LISTEN to it, Hugh’s lyrics are so beautiful aren’t they?
R. YES! When people listen to this album I want them to say ” Wow, these SONGS are amazing” ..I made an effort to ensure I got every melody exactly correct, and that people could hear every word, and that I wasn’t getting in the way of the stories .
3. LH You just touched on “Oklahoma Stray” which I gather is the song that kicked this project off and sent you down the Hugh Prestwood rabbit hole and researching his other writes….
R Yes, Hugh’s version is still more plaintiff than mine I think, when I listen it really makes me cry , that song is so special and so beautiful. And the weird this was that at that point I’d never had a cat, I was always a dog person, but the next day after I first hear the song ….and this is no word of a lie …..a cat appears in my house !
LH OH my God, how freaky!
R She came in through the doggie door ( she’s totally fearless!) and she’s never left! It kind of showed me I was on the right path!
4. LH And what criteria did you set yourself when you selected songs from Hugh’s extensive catalogue to record?
R What I wanted to do was have a diversity in styles, moods, concepts and stories. So that we didn’t repeat the same thing twice. Digging into his back catalogue and thinking beyond America and Nashville, I wasn’t sure how many people were familiar with him, so iI wanted this to be an introduction to him. It was really about creating a beautiful and accessible collection of music. But also I had to pick songs which were good for me, for my voice and range , and which would be challenging for me. I always look for a melody that’s interesting or unusual , that has a journey throughout the song, that has emotion and depth . What I love about Hugh Prestwood’s music is that it has so many dimensions to it, so as an interpreter it’s a spiritual and emotional process to get into the song. The whole process was a total joy, I’ve never has as much fun in my life making a record!
5. LH Do you think songwriter’s don’t always get the credit they deserve? You’ve recorded a Bacharach and David album, and Gretchen Peters has just released a tribute album to Mickey Newbury….like you have here, she wanted to introduce people to his music …
R Oh really? A woman after my own heart! I love passion projects like that, this is definitely one for me and I’m just excited to share what I found! I’m acknowledging that a lot of people do know who he is but there are more people who don’t!
LH Yes i only knew couple of songs on this album, ” The Song Remembers When” that Trisha Yearwood recorded for example…
R Oh I didn’t know ANY of them, not even that one! I was listening to different music in the ’90s ….to Radio1!
6 LH The album’s arrangements are really beautiful ..when you are going to record song, be it your own composition or one you are going to cover, do you have an idea in your head of how you want it to sound when you step into the studio?
R Yeah you do have a sketch of it, the song has an atmosphere and you want to take the listener to the place …and that place usually has a sound which you consider when you are recording it. That was true of Bacharach when we were trying to create new arrangements and for this I worked mainly with Hugh’s original demos because his guitar playing is unique, he’ll put voicings on the guitar that I wanted to keep and bring into the studio which is often the case with writers. Also all the musicians who played on it were so fantastic, they all had an appreciation of Hugh Prestwood, they all knew who he was and loved his songs and were thrilled to do it.
LH That’s one of the beauties of recording in Nashville i guess, it’s known as a songwriter’s city but it’s a musician’s city too…
R Exactly! They are in a class of their own. They put their heart into it.
7. LH And I gather Hugh sat in on some of the studio sessions? Had you met him before that?
R I hadn’t met him before. I’d written to him, it was my idea to fly him in ( from Long Island) . He was at the strings session and he was just totally floored, he wasn’t expecting it to be so high budget or to like all my versions of his songs …he was always very nervous when someone did one of his songs because he wasn’t always sure they were going to ” get it” and more often than not they don’t . He just said it was miraculous that so many of the songs were done so beautifully and he really loved it.
8 LH And I see the album is going to be released in a variety of formats including cassette! What was the idea behind that?
R I think the label think it’s a trend now and I thought ” yeah, that’s cool, we can do that! ” Cos I used to listen to tapes! And if you order from the website you can also get a wine label…
LH Yes i saw that! What’s that all about?
R That was my idea because people are always putting pictures of themselves drinking wine with my CD next to the bottle …..so apparently my music goes well with wine which is where the label idea came from.
9. LH and I gather this may not be the only album from you this year….during quarantine you’ve been looking at your back catalogue with the view to putting out a ” B Sides and Rarities Vol 2″ ?
R Yes, there’s still work to be done pulling that together but hopefully it’ll be done around September. It’s really a fan thing, again I got the idea from fans coming to concerts having made their own CDs of rare tracks and i thought ” I need to do this properly! ” . They’ve shown me what they want!
10 LH How else are you keeping busy during these strange times? Or is your son doing that for you?
R I’ve got so much to do! I had a long list yesterday, and i just looked at it and realised i only did one of them which was walking the dog
LH The most important one, though….
R Yes! But with a small child there’s always something 24/7….and also I’m packing!
R I’m so glad you like the record and i hope others will too
LH And I hope your UK dates go ahead next year….all being well I’ll see you in London.
Good luck with your move and thanks again for the fun chat!
R Oh you are welcome, thank you! Enjoy the rest of your day!
Pre-order “Nashville Tears” here https://rumr.lnk.to/NashvilleTearsPR which provides the link to her store where you can find a variety of bundles, including those wine labels and cassettes!
More information and links to Rumer’s socials at rumer.co.uk