There have been a number of Genesis and Phil Collins tributes over the
years, but Paul D’Adamo’s forthcoming album,
Tell Me Something
(which had the working title of
Loving Me Back to Life),
is far from a garden-variety tribute record. Paul’s project is actually a
mixture of original compositions and re-done, lesser known classics by Phil
Collins and Genesis. What makes this particular project completely unique,
however, is who performs on the album with D'Adamo. For his new album, he
has essentially assembled the core of Phil Collins’ touring band: Brad Cole, Leland Sklar, Daryl Stuermer, Chester Thompson, Arnold
McCuller, Amy Keys, Luis Conte, and even renowned jazz saxophonist Gerald
Albright (who also worked with the Phil Collins Big Band). Yes, the
virtually entire band is here – playing on one studio album! Of course, many
members of Phil’s touring band are active session players, and there have been
projects where a couple of them have played on projects together, but
Tell Me Something
represents the first time almost all of Phil
Collins entire ensemble of talent has come together for a project… without
Genesis fans will enjoy hearing things like Daryl Stuermer’s take on 1976’s
“Entangled” alongside a fairly faithful version of the song with a hint more
of a jazz feel while original tracks like “Constant Change” offer tunes with
a similar hybrid jazz-pop feel. The complete album will be released around the
spring of 2010, with download singles available from iTunes expected shortly. Back in
March 2009, in between recording sessions for this release, I had an
opportunity to talk to Paul along with the album’s Producer Brad Cole in
Malvern, Pennsylvania about the making of this album and how this group of
musicians came together for
Tell Me Something, along with
thoughts from Brad about his long and impressive career in music.
This interview is presented in two distinct parts. Part one features
predominantly Paul D'Adamo talking about his forthcoming project with some
added comments by Producer Brad Cole. Part two features predominantly Brad
Cole talking about his own career in music, including his origins as a
musician, working with Gino Vannilli, getting into Phil Collins band,
working on tour and in the studio with Phil Collins, and much more!
Over all, between the cover tunes and the original material, what are your
favorite tracks that you have recorded for this album to date?
Overall, my favorites at this particular point, my favorites are “Tell Me
Something” which is a co-write, which Brad took to the next level and gave
it almost a Steely Dan kind of feel, which was something I absolutely
loved. Of the Genesis tunes, I think “Entangled” and “Please Don’t Ask”
came out great! Of the Phil Collins tunes, I’d say “Don’t Anybody Stay
I used to listen to them all the time, and now it’s at the point where I
haven’t listened to a Genesis or Phil Collins album in months. Mainly,
because I wanted to distance myself from it a bit…
I didn’t want to do
everything the way it had already been done. If I’m going to do everything
note for note on this album, why buy this album? You might as well just
listen to the original versions. I wanted to develop my own artistry on this
project, and I think Brad has done an exceptional job with the arrangement
aspect of it. I couldn’t have been happier with his work. I mean, I’m living
my dream here!
You mentioned in our first conversation that you’d like to potentially take
the album on tour. Has there been any further discussion about that and do
you know whether Daryl, Luis, Brad, Chester and the rest of the artists on
this record will be joining you should a tour come about?
There’s been talk about doing as Phil would say “a selection of shows”
rather than a full blown tour. As to who will commit or not commit to doing
live performances, that’s not been discussed.
I think the most important
thing is just to complete the project to the best of its ability and the
best of my ability. From there, hopefully it generates some interest and
we’ll see where we go from there. I don’t think anyone is opposed to working
live as long as the opportunity and the dollars all work out. We haven’t put
pen to paper yet.
It’s generally too soon to talk about the prospect of a tour. It’s an
exciting idea, but you need to stay in the moment. It’s my mantra to stay in
the present and not get too far ahead of one’s self. When you are working on
music, you need to put 100 percent of yourself into whatever you are doing
at that moment and try to stay focused.
of Genesis: Brad,
can you share with us how your first got involved with Paul D’Adamo’s album
and how that lead to getting people like Chester Thompson and Daryl Stuermer
I got involved with Paul’s album when he contacted me… Probably after
checking out the website. He said he was interested in doing a project.
First it was supposed to have been a lot of Genesis and Phil Collins covers...
and finally worked it down so that it would be – not exactly 50/50, but so
that there was more original material on it than there had originally
started out being.
He had expressed interest in trying to get as many of
Phil (Collins)’s people involved as possible. Chester Thompson lives in
Nashville, so he’s right there [where the album is being largely recorded] and
available, and everyone is totally willing to work on things. There is no
“star status” or any of that kind of stuff with these people. So, it was
only the matter of a phone call to get Daryl [Stuermer], Chester [Thompson],
Leland [Sklar] and Luis [Conte] involved, and they all seemed to have a
real good time doing it.
It’s hard to do, because as Executive
Producer he’s got money questions and personnel questions and he’s looking
at the long-term project. As Producer, I’m just looking at whatever we are
doing right then and there. So, sometimes I need to reel him in and keep him
in the moment.
Most artists when they
get into the studio, they see the possibilities being limitless. So, their
imaginations run wild, which is great, but you’ve got to keep your
imagination channeled into whatever you are doing at that moment or you
won’t get the best performance.
If he’s out there singing and thinking about
15 other things, the vocal won’t be as good as it can be. Part of my job as
the Producer is to keep the artist focused. I want them on the same wave
length. In my role, I need to make the artist feel comfortable and safe,
which is a real tricky art form, because there are some guys whose
specialty, is just that. They are personality producers… they make the
artist feel loved and secure…
Obviously, Daryl’s done his own Genesis tribute with
Another Side of
Genesis, but did any of the guys have any reservations about re-working
some of the classic Phil Collins and Genesis tunes?
No, because we kind of made a determination to revisit songs that weren’t
commonly revisited. We initially talked about a lot of songs. My feeling is
that if you are going to do a cover… Just like when I recently did one with
Phil [for the Motown project Phil Collins recently announced]. Phil picked
one a lot of people didn’t know so that it enhances the individual
creativity of the remake. If you do one that everybody knows and you do it
weird (laughs), sometimes that can work against you.
If you do a song
everyone doesn’t know extremely well – I‘m not talking about the fans so
much but at least as far as a general audience is concerned... They have less
of a firm memory of the original and will probably be more open to another
The fans are very fickle. It’s very hard to determine how they will respond.
Some of them will take great offense that things were done to these songs
and some will think it’s really cool. I wanted to do the songs that
gave the most opportunity to give Paul some room.
So, we really wanted to do the songs that are not typically covered – like
“Entangled.” I didn’t really know “Entangled,” but that was a great idea!
That was Paul’s suggestion. I’m not all that familiar with the early Genesis
stuff. So, “Entangled” was the perfect song to do and, frankly, I think it’s
the best of the covers on this project as far as Paul’s vocals are
concerned. We didn’t do anything too dramatic to the arrangement, we just
put drums into it. Apparently there aren’t any drums on the original…
There wasn’t any bass either…
…And then there is me (laughs)... Who abuses the hell out of him (laughs)!
It’s a very, very accurate statement (laughs)!
It’s tough love, really.
I would rather turn around and have an artistically recognized product and a
commercial disaster, than a huge commercial success and people thinking that
there was absolutely no artistry to what I am doing. I never looked at this
from a dollars and sense perspective of what I will make or not make. I
looked at it as an opportunity to work with a collective of musicians that I
have admired from my younger days and have immense respect for their work –
and Brad made that happen. So, my focus is to give my best performance on
the vocals or whatever instrument I may be playing on the album.
So, for both of you, when you are in a situation like as we discussed before
with Paul’s forthcoming album or like Brad just talked about with
Unforgettable (discussed in Part II of the Interview), does working with
someone who you respect as a musician that add to your personal insecurity
as a player/vocalist or does it ultimately help you bring your “A-game” for
fear of looking bad to someone you admire?
Because I don’t do a lot of recording, when I first started doing the
vocals for this album, it was very phrase by phrase how I did it. The more
sessions we put behind us, the easier it was for me to do the vocals,
because I’m more used to now – even in my home studio – running things
through Protools and putting headphones on and just doing it. I’m not a big
fan of autotune, where you just hit a button and fix a mistake. Neither is
Brad. One of the proudest moments I have is working on “Entangled.” I spent
12 or 14 hours in one day getting those vocals done and that’s all me.
…It’s really a guitar folk song more than anything else. We put a groove into
it, but we followed the structure of that song fairly faithfully. We did
turn Tony [Banks]’s solo at the end of the song into a sax solo, but we kept
the solo note for note. I mean, His solos are all written out anyway. His
solos are arrangement solos as opposed to improvisational solos. That song
was not widely known other than to die-hard Genesis fans, so I thought that
was a good song.
“Doesn’t Anybody Stay Together Anymore” is one of Phil’s
[solo material songs], and it’s not that widely known outside of the fans.
So that one, and “Long, Long Way To Go” which is another Phil song we did,
which is also not widely known, have a lot of opportunity in them to be
changed. Both of those songs on Paul’s
Tell Me Something have a
radically different groove than the original. So, that was the key… To find
songs that would lend themselves to treatment other than the way that
Genesis and Phil did them.
Paul, as Brad mentioned earlier, since this album was initially envisioned
as a straight tribute album and evolved into more of a mixture of original
compositions and covers, did you intentionally make this change to avoid the
possible stigma of been seen as a “tribute album” as opposed to a
traditional project that just happens to have a some covers on it?
I think so. At the time when I contacted Brad, I was so in awe of what Brad
had done in his career – not just with Phil, but with other musicians as
well. After we got in contact, I sent him an e-mail with about 19 songs –
probably about 4 of which were mine originals. He said, “I’m all about doing
this project, but I don’t think the way to go is to just make it a tribute
project. I’d rather see you develop your own stuff with a groove.” Of the
songs I sent him, none of them were mainstream Genesis or Phil tunes.
I would never try to cover “One More Night”, “Against All Odds”, “Mama” or
“That’s All”… I always wanted to do the more obscure songs… Songs that had
more personal meaning to me over the years. What first developed was “Please
Don’t Ask”, because it reminded me of my first divorce and losing my
daughter in the marriage.
When I saw Phil do a documentary called [Classic
Albums: The Making of Face Value], on the DVD, Phil was at the piano
playing “Please Don’t Ask.” What spawned this whole idea was when I saw this
and he said, “This is a great song, but it could be done differently now.”
That clicked for me. I’ve always loved the standard, kind of [Frank]
Sinatra-esque, style of jazz saloon singing. I thought that would be an
excellent saloon song, so to speak… and I don’t mean to demean the song by
calling it that, but I felt we could really do it justice by giving it a new
arrangement in a new style.
I talked to Brad about it when we hooked up. I said, “This is my idea of
where I want to go with this, and this is what I like…” He came back less
than a week later and said, “Is this what you mean?” Literally, from day
one, everything we have talked about and everything he has sent me has been
spot on. There isn’t anything that’s he’s sent me that I haven’t liked.
D'ADAMO ON BRAD COLE'S INITIAL THOUGHTS ABOUT HIS
“I’m all about doing this project, but
I don’t think the way to go is to just make it a tribute project. I’d rather
see you develop your own stuff with a groove.”
I know I have to bring my “A game” but
whether or not I do, as a vocalist… there are a lot of elements that effect
it ranging from your health, the amount of rest you had, and the stress of
being the Executive Producer. Like we talked about, Brad will say, “Don’t
worry about two songs from now, focus on this song.”
Not even that, focus on this line! See, the thing is, making a record is
like making a movie… It’s really little pieces and bits that will be pulled
together to make one finished performance. In the case of Paul, having
grown up listening to people like Sinatra where everything was done in one
take live in the studio, he had to get used to doing these songs in pieces.
It’s like being an actor where you do a five second shot in a movie and it
has to have the same emotional thread as all of the other five second shots
in the movie. So, when the film editor stitches it all together and makes a
single seamless performance, it looks like it was all done in real time when
the film is played back.
Most records today are
done in pieces. If you are not used to that process, and Paul’s done more
live singing than recorded singing, it takes a while to get used to the
fragmented nature of how to record an album. It can really put you off for a
while, because you don’t know where you are. Once you start to reason
through the process and get comfortable with the process the performances
get more relaxed and he did. After a few times, he got much more relaxed out
there. He was very disappointed in the beginning when he found out that he
couldn’t do it all at once.
So, that’s kind of shocking to realize when you spent your whole career
singing live for the most part and you think that’s the way it is, but it’s
not. I mean, all of those great vocals that we love on records have been
pieced together - syllable by syllable in many cases. It just doesn’t happen
all at once by magic. The reality is, records are made by people who stitch
pieces together and then go out on tour and attempt to imitate themselves.
They create a performance that was never made in real time, and then they
tour and imitate that.
Brad has been very good at helping me, and not just from a vocal perspective
in terms of singing properly. Brad is great at taking either something I’ve
written or something that Phil or Genesis may have done and giving it a new
identity – line by line or phrase by phrase. I remember he did a scratch
vocal of one of my tunes called “Miss You” which is a nice poppy ballad, I
think. I listened to his vocal interpretation of it and liked it so much, I
thought, “Why should I even record this now?” He added so much emotion to a
song he had no real connection with – I mean, I wrote it (laughs)! So, I’ve
learned a lot from Brad under his direction. We will try a song or a line in
different ways and see what happens. He’s really good about being patient to
the point where he knows I’m capable of doing it, so he’s just going to work
the angle a little bit and see what comes out.
That song is now kind of like… if you’re familiar with Herbie Hancock’s Joni
River: The Joni Letters, that won Grammy Awards for
Album of the Year and Best Contemporary Jazz Album in 2008.That’s kind of
what Paul had in mind, and it was definitely what I had in mind with “Please
Don’t Ask.” It’s definitely that kind of song.
It’s a saloon song on this
album, but it’s more Hancock-ish than it is Sinatra-ish, but it’s basically
just a trio with a little sax color here and there and some cello. It’s real
simple and it’s really nice. It’s jazzy, but not too [jazzy]. Pop, but not
too [pop]… and it’s got enough of Phil’s original flavor to keep it in the
same ballpark as Genesis. It’s beautiful.
I think one of the nicest compliments I had gotten was when I’d done a
scratch vocal of “Please Don’t Ask.” Chester had come in to do the drums and
he was listening to the take with Brad. Chester looked up and said, “Is that
your vocal?” and I said, ”Yes.” He replied back, “That’s a really nice
vocal! I like it!” I’m like, “Man, that was Chester Thompson who said that!”
Actually, I get more compliments from Chester, Daryl, Leeland and Luis than
I do from Brad (laughs)! Brad reserves it for when it’s really earned!
Well, even Phil says I’m not a push-over. That’s how he describes me, and I
think that’s really flattering. He asks my opinion from time to time, and
says, “I know you’re not a push-over….”
The thing about singing at all – but
especially in the studio is that the microphone is like a microscope. It
reveals everything. It’s probably more revelatory than a camera, because
your voice is full of so much more inflection than your body can ever be. A
microphone will identify every flaw and magnify it a hundred times. It will
also take any emotional inflection and magnify that a hundred times.
So, it’s the difference between stage acting and movie acting where the
audience is 75 yards away but the camera is right in front of you. The
gestures have to get smaller or economical. You have to get more bang for
your buck. It’s not a question of just wailing at the top of your power all
the way through. You have to learn to tailor what you do for the microphone.
It’s a real art form... It’s not easy.
I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback on that particular track. Brad and I
have discussed this on our own, but I’m on the official Genesis forum (www.Genesis-Music.com),
and like he said there are Genesis fans who absolutely love my
interpretation of what we are doing with the songs and then there are those
who say “How could you do that to ‘Please Don’t Ask’ it was fine the way it
was!” My response was that it was fine the way it was back in 1980 on
Duke, but it’s something that I feel we could respectively rebirth now.
Well, those folks, you can’t reason with. They have their taste and their
feelings about the original. I certainly respect your passion for the
original, but “to each his own” you know?
I agree. Brad, it would be just like when you tour with Phil Collins. If you
did three hours of hits and favorites, there will still be people that will
complain that there was some song that they love from the back catalog that
you didn’t play…
Yes! There is always that person (laughs)!
Actually, I was that person (laughs)! I thought that same thing when I saw
Genesis at Giants Stadium.
I learned this from a drummer named Steve
Gadd who had always been a hero of mine for years. I finally got a chance to
record with him around 1991. I was tracking with him in the studio and I was
listening, and I’m not really hearing anything going on. There was drumming
but it was just kind of there. We went into the booth to listen to the
playback and it was Steve Gadd 100 percent... Because he played just what
the microphone wanted to hear. No more, no less.
He’s such a gifted studio drummer that he was able to put just the right
inflections for the mic to pick up to emphasize what he wanted. In real
time, it didn’t look like he was doing that, but he was doing exactly what
was required and it was all right there perfectly done on the tape. That was
stunning! When he plays live, because I also toured with him, he plays
broader, heavier and more delineated I guess you’d say, for an audience… but
man in that studio, he just knocked me out! I was stunned, and it takes a
lot to stun me (laughs)! The point is, studio recording is very microscopic.
Paul, how do you develop the original material you write?
Have you had an opportunity to share any of the rough mixes with Phil or any
of the guys in Genesis to get their feedback?
BC: Initially, Paul put some snippets of some of what we’re doing out on
his MySpace page. He’s really doing that. I’m not involved with that sort of
thing. He can tell you more about that. I understand that the feedback has
Yeah, the feedback I’ve been getting has been extremely positive. I laughed
the other day that all of the sudden I went from having a few hundred
‘friends’ to having a couple of thousand ‘friends’ [on MySpace]. So far,
it’s over 33,000 plays and 34,000 profile views. Right now, probably 90
percent of the ‘friend’ base is from Germany, Italy and Japan and many of
them left very positive feedback about songs like “Please Don’t Ask” and
“Like It or Not.” I’ve also gotten some positive comments on my [original] stuff as
well. I haven’t had anybody send me anything derogatory…. Not on my MySpace
page. On the Genesis Forums, well, that’s a different story (laughs)!
People ask me, “Has Genesis or Phil heard this?” Honestly, I don’t know. I
hope that if they did hear it that they would like it. On the follow up
album I do to this, I will do a lot less Genesis and Phil stuff. There are a
couple of Tony Banks songs that we’ve been kicking around trying to make
some different arrangements to revamp.
I start off with a chord progression that sounds interesting. Or, sometimes,
I will turn around and write a catch phrase of a lyric and see if I can
build chords that will work around the lyric. In fact, on “Loving Me Back to
Life,” when I told Brad that was the title of the song, he said, “That’s a
really cool title.” We started doing a sketch of Brad doing one of my
It’s funny. People say “Aren’t you playing on your own original stuff on
your album?” and I say, “No!” I’m proud to say why I’m not. Brad takes my
music and interprets it so much better than I do. He gives it more of an
emotional dynamic in playing, whereas I tend to not to keep it too simple
sometimes when I should. I tend to put in 9s and flat 13s and sharp 11s and
he’s like, “Look, it’s not needed, try this…” It’s his voice more so than
It’s like Steely Dan. They write great tunes, but why I’m such a big fan
from a keyboard perspective is not so much the chords they are playing but
how they are actually voiced. The order of the notes they are playing in.
That’s where my writing has started to take me. So, based upon how I write
a song, 90 percent of the time the chords come first. Unlike Phil [Collins],
I really have to agonize over the lyrics usually. Phil claims that a lot of
his lyrics come very intuitively. Maybe I haven’t suffered enough as a
songwriter (laughs)? I’ve been the divorced guy… been there, done that, got
WOG: His solo work?
Yes, Tony's solo stuff. I think Tony’s solo work has been underappreciated in a
lot of different ways. All of these guys’ solo projects have a touch of that
Genesis sound with maybe the exception of Phil. I think Genesis fans were
more demanding from a progressive rock perspective, whereas Phil gave his
work more of a contemporary edge, so to speak, which was totally outside of
the Genesis sound. One of thing things I like about Phil’s solo work is that
he’s an important part of Genesis, but he had his own sense of individuality
when he wrote and when he produced outside of the band.
Tell me a little about the original songs on this album. Were they all
written specifically for this project?
Actually, some of these songs were sort of archived. It’s not like I
specifically had a bunch of songs written just for this album. Some of these
songs like “Loving Me Back to Life,” which is the title track and one of my
originals, is specifically written for the album. Everything else that has
been an original composition or a co-write was done years ago. In fact, I
remember doing one of the tracks for Brad and sending it to him. He asked
me, “When did you write that?!” I replied, “I wrote that in 1998.” Brad
said, “Wow! It sounds like you wrote that in 1985 (laughs)!”
WOG: As a
self-proclaimed Phil Collins fan, what was it like working in the studio
with Brad, Lee, Chester, Daryl, Luis and the rest of the musicians involved?
It was very stammering at first. As the sessions progressed though, it was
very comfortable. As Brad mentioned, there were no “star” egos or anything
like that. I think the hardest thing was working as an Executive Producer on
my own album. To have to turn to them and make suggestions of what I wanted
to hear - to musicians who I had been seeing in 40,000-50,000 seat arenas
throughout my entire concert going career… That was probably the most
intimidating at first. It got easier as it progressed.
I would sit on the couch and let Brad do his magic. The bottom line was he
would look at me and say, “Was that good or would you like to do it again?”
That’s how it evolved. So, it was easy for me to work with Chester. It was
extremely easy for me to work with Luis, Leland, Daryl… all of them were
great. I felt honored and extremely privileged all at the same time; it was
a lot of fun.
Then, she got the t-shirt (laughs)...
Yeah, or at least half of it (laughs)! I don’t think I’ve ever written a
song because I was in a good mood. That’s what I’m trying to work on now.
All of my songs have always been because somebody ripped my heart out.
Most pop songs are about trials and tribulations. In Nashville for example,
songwriting sessions are usually collaborations when two people get together
with their guitars and they sit there and they have therapy with each other.
They come up with a song title first, and the song title is always the hook,
and they build the backward through the title and their therapy. They’ll
make observations about what happened to them during their day. I mean,
Taylor Swift has made an entire career out of her high school romances and
made a lot of money from it, too. So, songwriting is personal and when your
life is in turmoil, you can expect it to get more dramatic songs out of it.
Paul Simon says that when he writes songs that he pulls out a loose leaf
notebook and writes one line per page, and there will be 50 revisions on
that same page. That’s how finely he crafts his lyrics – down to the
preposition. Then, there are people like Phil will are more improvisational
about their words. They just kind of come out… which is not as easy as it
…I wanted an album that had more live musicians, which becomes very
expensive when you are footing the bill. I tell Brad that on one of the
songs, I want to put on steel drums, so now we need to find a steel drum
player. Brad will say, “OK, we can do that, but it will cost you…” I’m not
in a rush at this particular point. I didn’t want to put something out in
six months and say, "Well I guess its fine, but I should have done this or I
wanted to do that but there wasn’t enough time or enough money."
The fact that Brad has been very patient, and we’ve built a strong bond and
hopefully this will be just the first of many things we do together, he has
steered me in a good direction and has realigned my focus in terms of the
actual process of recording this album. So, when I come up the an idea, he’s
not in the business of pillaging me. If it’s not needed, he’s very direct to
say, “It’s not needed here” or “It’s not going to help the track.” If I give
an idea and he likes it, we go with it. If I give an idea and he doesn’t
like it, we can still go with it, or I can just trust everything he says and
does. He has the utmost of my trust and respect.
CLICK HERE TO
READ PART II FEATURING BRAD COLE.
CLICK HERE TO RETURN TO THE