August/September Questions, Part III
10/5/2009 (updated 10/5/2009)

Why did you part ways with Jon Boyd in terms of having him producing your records? Was there pressure from the record company? Or did you just decide to go for a more contemporary sound? Or did you just decide to do something different? And finally: How do you feel about his productions now? I think some of it is really good and some of it sounds very dated. Thanks, Daniel Nagel

I started co-producing my own records when Joe went to work in the States, but it was probably time to try out some other ideas anyway. After that, it was a mixture of wanting to get the sounds I heard on other people’s records, or suggestions from record companies. I’ve never thought Joe’s production sounded dated – because he went for a very naturalistic sound, there is nothing to date. Some of those recordings sound fabulous – how about ‘River Man’ by Nick Drake?

Hello Richard,
I have an inane gearhead question that I've been wondering about for a while. I have been a big fan since I first saw you with Danny Thompson in the early 90's. (I think the opening act was Chris Smither in Portsmouth, NH. Great double bill.) Having heard the rarities and many different acoustic recordings on the last box set, I was wondering if your guitar tech/sound person raises the pole pieces of your Sunrise on the first three strings to make your lead parts on those strings stand have a little more volume in live performance. I have had a Sunrise since 1979 and with it set up like Kaufmann suggests in order to have a balanced response across the strings, I have difficulty getting the melody notes to articulate as clearly and prominently as you do. Or is simply your right hand technique that accomplishes this. Sorry for the boring gearhead question, Charlie Ortolani

I have adjusted the pole pieces on Sunrise pickups to suit different guitars. You have to trust your ears, I think, and do whatever makes it in balance for you.

I love the song "The Great Valerio", and wondered what meaning the song holds for you. The lyrics are evocative and powerful, though I can't quite figure what you're getting at. (Maybe it doesn't matter) Was it inspired/provoked by anything in particular? Looking forward to your show in Lebanon, NH! Tim O'Hara, Sharon, Vermont

I’m never really going to tell you what it means to me, and whatever that is, the important thing is, what it means to you. I wrote it after seeing a painting of Blondin in Glasgow Art Gallery.

I also love the instrumental breakdown, call and response part, at the end of the album version of "when I get to the border". Was this a composed bit, or was it an improvised call and response that was later overdubbed onto? Any memories of the recording of this track?

This was planned as a to and fro between the guitar and other instruments, and the rhythm track was recorded with this in mind. I wrote out parts for other players. Richard Harvey and Brian Gulland from Griffin came in and did that track and one other. John Kirkpatrick did a bunch of overdubs on the record. I think I did other instruments myself. It was recorded at Sound Techniques in Chelsea.

Was just wondering on how you work with other respectable artists and musicians. Who takes the lead? Like for example when you performed with David Byrne (or anyone of the like), who picks the songs and how? Also wondering how you record material with other "famous" artists as well. Thanks for being you, JB Barot

I think, JB, that you must be planning your duets album with Barry Manilow, and need some pointers on protocol. I think it falls all different ways, depending on ego size, mostly. If everybody’s friendly, a collaboration might be very democratic. If the relationship is senior partner/junior partner, then you’d better shut up and go with the flow. Some people think they are being democratic, when they are being autocratic and megalomaniacal. Then there’s the stand-off – everyone is waiting for someone else to take the initiative/play a solo/pick a tune, etc. Ron Wood/Bob Dylan/Keith Richards at Bob’s 50th show, I think it was….would someone PLEASE sing a verse, or take a break, or end the damn thing.