Answers Feb/Mar, Part I
5/10/2009 (updated 5/10/2009)

1. How collaborative is the process of recording a new album with a band? Do you have a definitive vision of what you want, or is there some back and forth with the other musicians? If there is, did any song go in a completely different direction from what you initially thought?

I like to go in with a clear idea of what the song's shape should be, but I'm happy if things take a different direction - I try not to be locked in to a sound in my head. That way, there is room far happy accidents. I don't like to dictate to musicians either, so that they can feel free to contribute ideas to the process.

2. Has there been a song that was particularly difficult for the band at the time to get right?

There is usually one red-headed stepchild per album. On the last CD. 'Dad's Gonna Kill Me' was the hardest. We did it loud, near-acoustic, back to loud - it wouldnÕt sit in the pocket.

3. Do you tailor your album composition to the band that's assembled? Say leave off the song with the scorching fiddle solo until you have a band member with that strength, or perhaps switch it to a mandolin? Thanks! Paul Novak.

You can decide to work with who's right there in the studio, or plan to bring extra people in for 'colour'. On Sweet Warrior, we felt fiddle was needed on a couple of things, and Sara Watkins was really brilliant - so quick and fluent. Just about everything she played sounded appropriate.

Richard, 'All night Long', by Rainbow, would be a good inclusion in yer 100,000 years o' music, how about it big boy??? (Looking Dodgy for SPL title by the way) Cheers, Kevin. Doonan

I don't know that one.

I just finished listening to a documentary on Frank Zappa. As a non-musician myself, I'd be interested in hearing your opinion on his guitar skills as well as on his songwriting/musical composition. On the latter, in my opinion, he cut a wide swath in terms of quality & musical range. In your opinion, were his more offbeat compositions really brilliant or a case of clever for the sake of being clever. Also, for this non-musician, he would seem to have been an ace guitarist - would you agree? Brian Hayes, Ottawa ON

He was one of the great satirists and parodists of his time. Pretty nifty guitarist, too. Seemed to be channeling Bartok.

Can you pleazzzzz pazzzz on a requezzzt to him? Before he kicks the bucket, can he pleaze pazz on some of his muzic and lyric writing creatively tricks to the younger generation in an RT Music School somewhere?! ...Thame (near Oxford) is a good town to look at as a start! :o)

Finally, what'z the deal with Beesweb as the name of his website??? Is RT a closet beekeeper? Thanks, Allan Shriver

Thame, eh? Excellent idea - I'll get right on it.

Well, Beeswing is the publishing company, and it's on the web, and certain species of bee spin webs to catch small insects which they train as salesmen to go around to health food shops to sell their honey, and Beeswing is a small village in Dumfriesshire.

Re: when ya coming back, red rider? We miss you in Northern Virginia/DC, US. Please come see us soon.


Any chance of an acoustic tour with Elvis Costello and maybe Robyn Hitchcock? I think you three would present a fantastic triple bill. (At least seeing my three favorites would do wonders for me). Thanks, Brian

I'll just get on the phone to El and Rob and we'll set it up, no problem. Should we come and play in your living room?

Is there any chance of an all request show appearing on the north east coast of the US any time soon? Thanks, Celia

We will be in New York at the City Winery, Oct 21 & 22, doing all-request nights.

I was at the Bristol gig 30th January - come the encore there were calls for something by John Martyn (as apparently there were the night before in Birmingham on the day of his death), and RT said they were working something up but that it wasn't ready yet, maybe at the Brighton gig next night...? Does anyone know whether the tribute finally happened, and if so, what it was? Cheers, Duncan-Glastonbury, UK

I was just wondering if you played that John Martyn song as a tribute in Brighton and which one did you plump for? I figure "May You Never" as John's singing style on a lot of his other songs was so idiosyncratic. Chris Butler

What's your thoughts on John Martyn's passing? Best regards, Linus Johnson

I was devastated by John's death - particularly as he seemed to have turned the corner towards recovery. I'm sorry, but I was too broken up to have gotten through one of John's songs.

When are ya heading SF bound? I'm a Wicklow man living in SF. Jaysus I've been into your sound for years, we need to have a cuppa T some time! The kettles on your always welcome...But anyhow when are you playing somewhere near the bay area? I missed you in past concerts..but that's alright. So anything planned? Shane G Curran

I'll be at the Rio, Santa Cruz, June 27th, and the Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville CA on the 28th - Bay Area in the broad sense.