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Widespread Panic applies live approach to the studio
For a band that's honed its reputation on stage, you'd think that Widespread Panic would have taken a live approach to recording throughout its career.
So it's surprising to hear that "Street Dogs," which came out in September and was the sextet's first new album in five years, marked the first time it's ever applied its concert aesthetic in the recording studio.
"We've done it this way to some degree before," singer-guitarist John Bell says from his home in North Carolina. "But this time we were making as much of an effort as possible to retain all the parts as they were recording live in the studio. That takes a little tinkering and some reality checks. We were letting some things bleed through, and I think that gives it more of a relaxed vibe.
"We'd play a song two or three times, the tweak the arrangements a little to where everybody is comfortable with it but it still has a freshness and newness to it. It was a good way to work. It felt very natural."
Bell, 53, adds that the process even let the band create some new songs right on the studio floor, including tracks such as ""Steven`s Cat" and "Angel's Don`t Sing the Blues."
"On 'Steven`s Cat,' Jimmy (Herring) was playing this little baby guitar, just sitting on the couch in front of the TV, reminiscent of Cat Stevens," Bell recalls. "I jokingly started coming up with this idea in the spirit of how I remember Cat Stevens songs to be, and then if you dive into the lyrics you can see there are many nods to Cat Stevens songs. It's pretty obvious.
"It was a lot of fun. When you're together for 30 years as a band, you should be able to just not take yourselves very seriously. So it was satisfying with that particular song. Everybody thought it was just all in good fun."
The jaunty boogie "Street Dogs For Breakfast," meanwhile, started with an idea from keyboardist John "JoJo" Hermann that's grounded in his particular sense of humor and whimsy, according to Bell
"The street dog vendor is a kind of theme that ties a New York experience together with a New Orleans experience, because those are two consistent landmarks of each of those two places," Bell explains. "And JoJo was classically trained up in New York, where he grew up, and he transplanted himself down to New Orleans, so the combination there makes sense.
"Obviously it's very much a partying type of atmosphere. Me interpreting it -- and JoJo might say I'm full of it -- I feel it's looking back at some of our days where we were hard-charging a little more than we are now."
Tuesday, May 3. Doors open at 7 p.m.
The Fillmore Detroit, 2115 Woodward Ave.
Tickets are $30-$59.50.
Call 313-961-5451 or visit thefillmoredetroit.com.
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