Paul McCartney recalls his discovery of reggae

Jazz singer and pianist Diana Krall releases a record of pop standards from the 60s and 70s. Any surprise? Not really, she said. By Kathleen Aubert.

Giving the name of an (obscure) song by Bob Dylan to an album featuring pop standards from the 60s and 70s, you had to dare. Diana Krall did. With wall flowerthe Canadian singer and pianist seems to be putting her status as a jazz musician back on the line, as she already had, to a lesser extent, with Glad Rag Dolla disc devoted to covers from the 20s and 30s. Co-produced by his compatriot David Foster, wall flower will have known a visibly complicated destiny (or genesis). But it nevertheless exudes a tenacious charm largely due to Krall’s vocal interpretation.

How did you choose the songs that make up this album?

I only chose well-known titles, like “California Dreamin’” by Mamas & Papas, “I’m Not In Love” by 10 cc or “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” by Elton John. Titles that I like and that speak to me, quite simply. These are all songs that I listened to on the radio when I was little or a teenager. I could invent a more sophisticated answer – often, that’s what we do when we answer journalists – but I don’t want to lie (laughs).

With Glad Rag Doll, you had already proven that you were not only a jazzwoman. What will your detractors think when they discover Wallflowers?

I like pissing them off. With Glad Rag Doll, all the musical press who had never given me any attention suddenly praised me. It was strange. They might not like this one, but I don’t care. I don’t choose my projects based on what others will think of them, but to please myself.

Precisely, at the beginning of 2013, you gave a series of concerts with Neil Young. A rather surprising combination, no?

It’s one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. In October 2013, I participated in the Bridge School Benefit concert, the charity concert that Neil organizes every year. It was there that he asked me if I would be interested in doing a tour with him to defend the rights of the Athabasca and Chipewa Indians in Canada (note: the “Honor the Treaties” tour was organized to help the Indians to finance their defense against the oil groups which have engaged in very large-scale exploitation in the west of the country). Of course I accepted. When he called me to confirm, I asked him who else would be invited and he replied, “only you”. I was in my kitchen cooking my children, I couldn’t believe it!

What memories do you keep of this adventure?

I am proud to be able to tell my children that I went on tour with Neil to defend Indian rights. It was for a good cause, just like the Bridge School Benefit Concert, where I had the chance to rub shoulders with David Crosby, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills and My Morning Jacket. In a way, it changed my life: it made me realize that I didn’t have to stay in my character as a jazz singer, that I could do whatever I wanted as long as it was sincere. No crystal ball can tell you what the audience will like or dislike, so you might as well have fun!

Is that why you invited several rather unexpected guests to Wallflower?

Yes. There are members of the Roots, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills put their voices on “Operator (That’s Not the Way I Feel)”. And Bryan Adams – another Canadian! – sings on “Feels Like Home”… and he also signed the cover photo.

Whether wall flower is so different from Glad Rag Doll, it’s also because it was produced by David Foster. After T-Bone Burnett, it’s a hell of a big gap!

I’ve known David for twenty years, and we’re both from Vancouver Island. When I explained to him that I didn’t want to make a new jazz record, that I wanted to stay faithful to the original melodies of the chosen titles, he immediately understood. We did the opposite of a minimalist record, except maybe the cover of “Wallflower”, for which we stuck to a string quartet with guitars and my voice.

You had already covered this title of Dylan on stage with your husband, Elvis Costello…

No, my husband has already taken it back with me! He was my guest, not the other way around! I’m obsessed with Bob Dylan. I started to fall in love with him when I was in my thirties. I love it.

The album contains an unreleased track given to you by Paul McCartney, “If I Take You Home Tonight”. A nice present…

I worked with Paul on his jazz covers album Kisses On The Bottom. It was fun. Besides being an exceptional artist, Paul is one of the most incredible men I have ever met. It’s so easy, it’s awesome. He wrote two songs for Kisses On The Bottom : “If I Take You Home Tonight” and “My Valentine”. “My Valentine” was chosen as the single, and the other was ultimately not chosen for the album. And since I liked it very much, I very politely asked her permission to use it for Wallflower. He simply replied, “Of course”. That’s all. And it’s one of my favorite songs.

After this more pop parenthesis, do you intend to return to jazz?

I do not know. I have a project that I’d really like to do, but which hasn’t materialized yet: an album of The Band covers with guitarist Marc Ribot, with whom I’ve already worked on Glad Rag Doll. I’m a fan of Rick Danko’s voice…yet another Canadian!

Paul McCartney recalls his discovery of reggae