Q and A with ...Crowell and Gill

Q and A with ...

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August 12, 2004

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Even if they had never played another lick, the Cherry Bombs would have left quite a legacy.

More than 20 years ago, a young Rodney Crowell, Vince Gill and a group of their buddies played clubs up and down the California coast, catching the attention of such pop stars as Linda Ronstadt and Glenn Frey and cutting now-classic alt-country records.

The group had spun off from Emmylou Harris' Hot Band as a vehicle for Crowell's solo work. In the studio it backed Crowell, his then-wife Rosanne Cash, Guy Clark, Bobby Bare and others.

But after about five years the members' lives and talents were evolving, and by 1984 the band began to fade.

Crowell and steel player Hank DeVito became hit songwriters, Gill a superstar solo act. Keyboardist Tony Brown, bass player Emory Gordy Jr. and guitarist Richard Bennett morphed into top record producers, and drummer Larry Londin Jr. became an ace session musician.

The Cherry Bombs was a fond memory for nearly 20 years - until the members got together one night in 2002 to perform at an American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers award banquet for Crowell.

One thing led to another, and the Cherry Bombs was reborn - well, almost. The band had to change its name to the Notorious Cherry Bombs for copyright reasons, and with Londin's death in 1992 and Gordy choosing to sit out, the guys added new members Eddie Bayers on drums, John Hobbs on keyboards and Michael Rhodes on bass.

An album of new material came out July 27, and Crowell and Gill recently spoke with the Associated Press about the project:

That must have been some night at the ASCAP dinner. What happened?

Crowell: It just so happened that when we played, it sounded good. It sounded really good. Tony Brown and I doubled up afterward and said, `What do you think? Do you think Vince would be interested?' I said, `It looked like he was having as much fun as we did.' So we called him.

Gill: The truth of it is, it felt the same. It felt like your favorite pair of shoes.

How was making this record different from the old days?

Crowell: This was the first where we really collaborated. Early on it was mostly focused around something I was doing. On this record, Vince is a leading collaborator, whereas his contribution to the records in the '80s was no less important, but it was more from a supporting role.

Gill: Even back then I think us as a band felt like we were a part of it. We all believed in him, we all believed in his songs. We felt like we were the E Street Band or the Silver Bullet Band. We were part of the records, and we felt a big part of Rodney's career.

Why did the Cherry Bombs break up?

Gill: I don't think it ever really ended. We all still wound up on records with one another.

Crowell: The collaborations never stopped. It's been all tethered to itself.

Was it any harder creating music now that everyone has had a high level of individual success?

Gill: The peace of mind everybody has is to look back and say look at what we've all done the last 25 years. Doing this is not my livelihood - this is not the only thing I'm going to be remembered for. When you're young, you're so hellbent on the results that you lose sight that the results never change a note of the music, good or bad.

AP: Did you write songs together or separately for this record?

Crowell: Both.

Gill: It was about the same for both of us. We wrote three new songs. I had two older songs - one that wasn't real old and one that was very old - and they just kind of felt like a good fit.

Crowell: I had one, "If I Ever Break Your Heart," I wrote in the late '80s.

Gill: When you're making a record, it's like putting a puzzle together. You go, `We've got some of this, we've got some of that. We need to get a little of that in there.'

Vince, how is this experience different for you after so many years as a solo artist?

Gill: I get to be much more of a front-and-center guitar player in this band. I play plenty of guitar on my dates and all that, but not so much in the studio. I think I tend to be 75 percent singer, 25 percent guitar player. Here, it's more of me going out and cutting loose as a guitar player.

Being the artist, being the one standing up there, singing the songs, talking between the songs ... it's a totally different mindset. There's a big part of me that much prefers this kind of mentality. It's a lot more peaceful.

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