Here are the answers that Richard answered for Jonathan Still over the course of their recent visit together in Nashville.
Question from Tori:
I’ve just ordered your cd after listening to the clips on your site and can’t wait to hear the whole record. I’m no expert, just a person with ears, but I think your sound is very similar to Mark Knopfler’s playing (particularly on Riviera). Do you feel he has been a major influence on you since you’ve begun working with him? Also, I know you play several different stringed instruments – what are they, and which did you play on this record? Thank you and best of luck with the cd.
Thanks for the kind words about the Rainy Decade CD and I hope you’ve received it by now and are enjoying some of those melodies. There’s no question that I’ve picked up a trick or two from Knopfler, I think the world of his guitar playing and did so long before I hooked up with him. As far as Riviera goes, I played that with my fingers instead of a pick and that is usually how Mark plays as well, there are also a few MK moments in it as well. It wasn’t an intentional thing, it’s just that a little bit of what I’ve picked up from his style has now naturally become part of my own.
Other than guitar I play: Hawaiian guitar, pedal steel, ukulele, tiple, cavaquinho, tres, tenor banjo, bouzouki, mandolin (but not too well) and a few other things. I played all the above with the exception of banjo, pedal steel, bouzouki and mandolin on the Rainy Decade things.
Question from tomz:
What are some of the recordings that you worked on that were really enjoyable to do?
With Neil I really loved recording Moods, Serenade, I’m Glad You’re Here, Hot August Night, Beautiful Noise and Tennessee Moon. His albums were always a joy to work on as they were always very relaxed.
More recently I would have to include all of my work with Mark Knopfler which has been tremendously challenging and satisfying. About 18 months ago I played on an album by Cerys Matthews that I loved. Cerys was the front girl and lead singer with the Brit-pop group Catatonia and when the group broke up she came to Nashville and wrote and recorded a lovely folk-pop record called “Cockahoop” which is Welsh for ‘over the moon.’
Another question from tomz:
Are there any artists that you would like to work with that you haven’t yet?
I would love to work with somebody like DJ Shadow or Fourtet, one of the cool new melodic DJs. I think they could take some of my melody phrases and tone, cut, paste and loop them into something very different than what I do myself. I’m a big fan of that.
Question from ryan:
Can you convince Mark Knophler and Neil to write a song together !
A tempting thought but I somehow don’t see it happening.
Another question from ryan:
Why did you stop touring with Neil and the band?
I moved to Nashville in 1985 primarily to break in to record production. By the end of that year I’d already worked on the Steve Earle “Guitar Town” album in that capacity as well as playing guitar. That record opened a lot of doors for me and I soon began taking on production work. Part of producing a record is being contractually resposible for delivering it to the label by a certain date as the record company has scheduled it’s release and it must be ready short of a real problem. When I began running into conflicts with touring schedules and production schedules, Hadley started to sub for me. Neil was very understanding, but after a few tours that I regretably had to miss, I think it became clear to all of us that I’d shifted focus and after 17 years, it was time to call it a day.
Question from Susan H:
I have just been to your website and I loved your songs. After listening to Riviera and Autumn’s Affair, I was wondering if your music had been influenced over the years by such great guitarists as The Ventures and Santo and Johnny?
Well we all loved Walk Don’t Run and Sleepwalk, but really I’ve been influenced more by Hank Marvin who played guitar with the British group The Shadows and guitar players like Tony Mattola, Chet Atkins, Irving Ashby and great instrumental records like Theme From A Summer Place and Stranger On The Shore, things like that. I’m also very fond of arrangers who made cool 50s and 60s albums like John Barry, Bert Kaempfert, early Ray Conniff, Les Baxter and so many others.
I was also wondering if you do any touring with your own music and if so, would you be coming to Vancouver, B.C., anytime in the near future? I would love to hear you in person.
Really have no plans to tour the Rainy Decade stuff although I am doing a Tower Records in-store appearence playing some of the record live here in Nashville on July 17th. Also playing a festival in Italy in September. I think the next time I’ll be in Vancouver will be with Knopfler, hopefully next year. I love that city.
Question from Jane/VA:
One of my all time favorite, non-Neil albums is Lobo’s A COWBOY AFRAID OF HORSES. It’s one of my favorite SING ALONG albums, and believe it or not, I still put it on the turn table and merrily go about my housework, dusting and singing away at the top of my lungs (not a pleasant thing for the mailman to encounter, I fear.) Being a Neil Diamond fan, it was always interesting to me that you and several others from Neil’s band played on it, as well as a couple other Lobo albums.
Most of us worked together as a recording rhythm section before we joined up with Neil and prided ourselves, rightly or wrongly, on being a good little band. We would often get called for record dates as a unit and that’s how we ended up on the Lobo things. A fellow named Phi Gernhard produced those records as well as The Bellamy Brothers and Jim Stafford that we all played on.
Did you have any input to any of those songs, and were those recording sessions memorable for any reason? I always thought that possibly you, and maybe the other ‘guitar’ guys may have contributed to THREE PICK-UPS, even though no one other than Kent “Lobo” LaVoie is listed as ‘songwriter.’ Would you talk a little about your sessions with other singers, like Lobo, since some of us don’t know much about your actual work with anyone other than Neil. Thanks. Jane
Sorry, but I don’t even remember Three Pick-Ups.
Usually there is a great deal of input from the musicians on a record date, but it takes the form of arrangement and not songwriting. The song is finished, or should be, by the time it hits the studio. We might make some suggestions about certain licks of fills or maybe the feel and form of the song, but none of that falls into the catagory of songwriting unless you’ve actually written part of the melody or words.
If you go to my website, www.richard-bennett.com and click on discography there are pages and pages of artists that I’ve been fortunate enough to work with.
Question from ToniB:
Hi Richard…oh yeah…a dream come true seeing you out in public again and with your own CD!!! Listening to the clips of your new CD I seem to be partial to Ashes, Blue at Rest, A Face No More and Castaway. Seems I will need to wait a day or so for a restock to order it.
I was very aware of your involvement in Neil Diamond’s “Tennessee Moon” cd and seeing you play “No Limit” on the video was such a treat. I watched Neil enjoying you playing guitar on that video…obviously he really respects your talent.
I got to take this opportunity to say that you are still cute as a button…okay…okay…I digress!
I read your entire website…very impressive. I had a question…”where have you been” but your website answered that. You sure have been a very busy guy!
Naturally, like others, I’d like to know if you will do a promotional tour because I’d sure like to see the schedule to see if I can get to some city you will be in.
Good luck with your new cd…hoping to see you out and about in the future…now that we have “found” you…please don’t lose touch with us here on the message board.
No, I certainly didn’t retire when I left the group and as you said it’s all there in my website. If for some reason I do any touring of the Rainy Decade stuff I will post it on the site. I think we’ll be touring next year with Mark Knopfler as we just finished a new record scheduled for release this autumn. I’ll also post that tour on the website.
Question by HANB74:
What was it like to record “Hot August Night”?? I love that album and all of the hard work all of you obviously put in to it! Thanks, Hot August Nite Baby
Hot August Night was not like recording at all. Of course we had done sound checks for recording levels and I somehow recall a run through the night before, but after that it was the live show as usual and I really didn’t think about the fact that we were recording the performance. That record has had a long and well deserved life, so many people still mention the album to me. You never really know when you’re doing these things how they will turn out, if they’ll succeed or not. Hot August Night has certainly been a success!
Question from s:
What recomendations would you have for a young person looking to become a studio guitarist? This question is from my son, who is considering moving to LA or New York to pursue this.)
Moving to a city that is a recording center is a must. Having a good grasp of current styles of pop music and being able to be flexible and change direction is also manditory. Often a song will get going in one direction and at some point it might be determined that it’s not how it should go, so every musician must be flexible enought to turn on a dime and come up with another aproach. Of course getting along with others and turning up on time with working equipment is something that goes without saying. Very often it is a case of luck as to who becomes a studio musician and who doesn’t. We all know many, many musicians far better than we, who for whatever reason didn’t get the right breaks or weren’t in the right place at the right time. The other very important thing to understand is that it is all about the artist and the song you are working with at that moment and NOT about you’re brilliance as a musician (even though you may be). After that the hardest thing about studio work is finding a parking place.
Question from MacKat:
I have several so here goes.
1) I have always loved the mandolin and am wondering when you first started to play it?
I don’t really play mandolin very often or very well. Maybe that’s why I don’t play it very often, but I began torturing that particular instrument in the early 70s.
2) Could you tell us what is one of your most memorable moments that has happened to you?
Meeting my wife in Melbourne, Australia in Febrary of 1976.
3)What is your most memorable moment with Neil Diamond?
That’s a tough one. Every tour was an event. Probably the first time I played Albrert Hall with him. Woburn Abbey was also a very big night and without question, the entire 1976 Australian tour.
4) If you had to do it all again what would you change and looking back what sage advice would you impart to others about life in general?
I don’t know how much I would change. The mistakes and detours we all take is what makes us who we’ve become and honestly I have few regrets.
I’m the last person in the world to offer anybody sage advice. For starters I don’t feel old enough to play that role and after that…well, it’s all just a load of cliches. As for myself I try to live very simply and I appreciate every day I wake up, put my feet on the floor and get that first cup of Italian coffee going. I remember seeing a drawing many years ago of a piece of pie and a steaming cup of coffee. Written above the drawing was “the true meaning of life”. Maybe it is, certainly in the sense of appreciating the small and simple things. This of course is beginning to play the cliche card, so enough.
Question from Ralph B:
(Note: This question if excerpted from an email Ralph sent me. I forwarded it on to Jonathan to include in his questions to Richard.)
“Music Makin’ Mama from Memphis” a Jim Silvers CD, is one of my favorite CDs in my collection. That’s a Bear family CD from 1991 but it’s actually two LPs – CMH 6228 from 1979 and About 1009 from 1981 – both produced by Richard Bennett. Some tracks were record in the Arch Angel studios. First LP has Doug Rhone, Tom Hensley and Dennis St.John besides Silver and Bennett. Second LP has Alan Lindgren on piano.
The Bear Family booklet is great, having almost as much information about Richard Bennett as Jim Silvers. I’ve always hoped to meet Richard to thank him for his contribution to Becky Hobbs, Steve Earle and Marty Stuart, to name just three, and to ask him why no more Jim Silvers albums. Then Silvers surfaced on that Forever In Blue Grass CD with Richard. I e-mailed Silvers some questions but the only reply I got was that he was forwarding my e-mail to Richard. Richards main contribution was a bass guitar (ala Duane Eddy) but he couldn’t do that for Neil since Reinie Press played bass. I look forward to Richard’s album though the Mark Knofler sound doesn’t excite me as much as when Richard played Rockabilly.
I first met Jim Silvers in June of 1969. I remember it clearly as I’d just moved to Los Angeles after graduating high school and started teaching guitar in a music store in Hollywood. Silvers wandered through the door wanting to take some Dobro lessons and was my first student. He was about 15 years older than I, but we shared a great passion for old hillbilly music and began hanging out together. He had been a singer in various country and bluegrass bands over the years. Jim landed a deal at a label called CMH in 1978 and asked if I would help produce the record and really it was the first album I produced that actually was released. A couple of years later we did another record for a label called Rollin’ Rock, a decidedly rockablilly company and ethic. That too was released though the combined sales of both were very low. My friend Richard Weize of Bear Family liked both albums enough to re-released them along with a few unreleased demos that we did.
Jim has been working in Los Angeles as an A&R man for his original label CMH and is planning to move to Nashville this summer or autumn. He wants to do some more recording and I’d be happy to help him out if he wants me involved.
Thanks for the kind words about Becky Hobbs, that’s also a somewhat obscure record and one of my faves. I’m very proud to have worked with Marty Stuart and Steve Earle as well. As far as the rockabilly thing, I actually remember hearing it as a kid in the 50s. I had a real romance with it again in the 70s and early 80s, still love it and glad you enjoy that phase of my playing. I trot it out now and then when it’s appropriate, but it’s only one of many things I do.