AE: For me it’s kind of impressive. I usually can’t breathe and talk and ride my bike at the same time. But you’re a singer so maybe your lungs are used to all the work.
M: Yeah. I’m a singer and I’m a runner and I’m a biker so I guess my lungs are alright. Although, I have to say I went to see Merrill Garbus [of TuNe-YaRds fame] who co-produced the album with me —
AE: Yeah, I love her!
M: I saw her kick-off concert the other night here in San Francisco and if you don’t already know this, Merrill has got incredible lung capacity and breath control. Like unbelievable. I’ve sung with her and hung out with her so I know she has this incredible instrument — but singing like that for a whole hour like singing her material it was awesome. I feel so inspired by her really.
AE: That’s awesome. I mean you know you bring up Merrill and I have to say that this album is one of my favorites of the year.
AE: What was your favorite part of collaborating with, obviously Thao, and Merrill?
M: Merrill has an incredible keen sense of adding just the right touch; very subtle things. I would say it’s a very tricky thing to be a producer of a song who’s not the writer of the song. Like Thao and I wrote all of the songs except the first track which we all wrote together. Merrill knows how to treat a song without over-treating it. It’s all about basic stuff and the subtle touches. It’s really a dance.
I worked on co-producing pretty much all the recordings that I have put out, but doing that work for other people’s songs and approaching them from that vantage — which is the vantage of the songwriter — to me it seems like a very difficult, very subtle thing to do. Thao is awesome to work with and it’s funny because I’ve had a lot of Pisces in my life lately.
M: Yeah and I’m learning a lot from Pisces. My mom is a Pisces so it’s not like a totally new language, but making music with Pisces is. They are connected to some other place — which is exactly the place that I, as a Virgo, have a hard time getting to. [Laughs] I can be so exact and I know exactly how something goes and I have a very exact idea but I’m not like a jammer and Thao is a total jammer. She’ll totally just play base banjo just winging it. I’m not as good as that. I’m not a jammer.
And we worked with an awesome engineer who I just love, Eli Crews, he’s great he’s on tour right now with Merrill. It was a great team. Recording that album was one of my all time favorite recording experiences. Don’t tell all the other people I’ve recorded with. [Laughs] There was something about it, something cohesive. I’ve also never just recorded an album all at once. I’ve always had starts and stops and did it in bits and pieces.
AE: While working with other touring artists it seems like you would have to keep things on schedule.
M: Yeah, that’s very true actually. Thao is amazing just running around flying places so it was hard to try and coordinate our schedules.
AE: So how did you get your schedules to coordinate to begin with?
M: Merrill and I had moved to the Bay area at the same time. I think within a month of each other and the three of us have a common friend, Lauren Ross, who we all work with for our publishing. Lauren knew that we were both moving to the Bay area so she wrote an email to the three of us saying, “You guys should do projects together.” And Thao and Merrill had already known each other and worked together to a small degree. But I hadn’t met either of them until I got this email introduction and a sort of proposal that we all work together and I’m always up for collaboration. It sort of helps me stay engaged it’s like, “Alright, who can I work with next?”
M: I love people. I just love people and I love music so collaboration is a natural go-to for me. So that’s how it happened just a random email Yenta thing.
AE: [Laughs] As a Jew I can appreciate that.
M: Yeah, it was like we got set up.