Friday, February 1, 2013

Shooting the S%!# with Ross Neilsen!


Blues/Rock musician Ross Neilsen is in the process of releasing his sixth studio album. Ross is a staple in the East Coast music scene and is a favorite of many Maritimers. He is known as Canada’s hardest working blues rock act and rightfully so with hundreds of performances a year and a steady stream of new music becoming available.  I am always looking forward to hearing what Ross has in the works and he was nice enough to sit down and give us an update as well as revisit his past releases.


Maritime Vinyl (MV)- Let’s talk a little about your previous CD releases. Did you produce your first album Where I’m From?



Ross Neilsen (RN) - No I didn’t produce it but I released it. It was produced by James Gauthier who also did Early Grave. Where I’m From was co-produced by James but all the band stuff was produced by Joel Leblanc from Hot Toddy who was a huge influence on me. Joel was my first tangible guitar hero, the first guy I could actually talk to. So it was cool having him involved. It was a lot of fun for sure.


MV - So tell me a little bit about Thorny Bleeder (label that Early Grave and Redemption was released under). It is my understanding that they used to be a label but they are now kind of just consulting  independent artists?



RN - There is a band out there called Art of Dying who Brian (owner of Thorny Bleeder) used to manage. They are all good buds from Vancouver. They toured Europe, did a lot of touring. So when they came back he (Brian) eventually helped get them signed by Warner Records. Before they got signed they were using Thorny Bleeder. They started the record company, the three of them, two of the members of the band and Brian who was managing. So Brian was the managing partner of the record company basically. They started signing and distributing acts, coaching and managing. Brian and I have known each other since the early 90’s, we worked together at a record store in Kelowna. He contacted me out of the blue one night and asked if I wanted distribution. I said ‘sure’. Fast forward through many conversations and we ended up signing a deal together. He signed on Early Grave, rereleased that one and then released Redemption.




MV - So you had originally released Early Grave yourself?




RN - Yeah originally it was released in 2007 and then rereleased in the fall of 2009 just before Redemption came out in the spring of 2010.




MV - Is Thorny Bleeder not a label anymore?




RN - I don’t think so. They haven’t signed anything for a long time and I know Brian is more of a consultant, public speaker and kind of a coach/mentor right now. He’s got the “bleeder blog”. He also does the “DIY daily” which is a daily newsletter for music tips. He also does a couple of podcasts a week which are full of tips and good info for musicians that are starting out and finding their way. Not just musicians but people.




MV - So after Redemption you recorded The Shack Up Sessions.




RN - Yes that one is self-released and the new one is likely going to be self-released unless somebody starts crawling out of the woodwork to release it which in this day of age is unlikely.




MV - Redemption and The Shack up Sessions were recorded in Mississippi. What brought you to recording down south?




RN - The Zebra Ranch is a studio that belonged to a guy named Jim Dickinson who is a legendary Memphis producer. He produced Big Star and The Replacements. He is the piano player on Wild Horses by the Stones, he played with Bob Dylan, he produced Albert King, Aretha Franklin, and tons and tons of classic shit. He was kind of a guru in that era. Anyway, he was going to produce the album for us. His sons are in a band called the North Mississippi All Stars based out of Memphis. I’m a big fan of theirs so that led me to Jim’s production. I emailed him and he said that he would do the album. Then he ended up passing away before we could get down there and do the record. So his son Cody, who is a Grammy nominated producer in his own right, offered to do the sessions for us. So Cody picked up the ball and we kind of went down and did the album as planned. And that’s in Independence Mississippi, maybe an hour from Memphis.




MV - Did he produce The Shack Up Sessions too?




RN - No, I did that one myself. The engineer that did Redemption is a fellow named Kevin Houston. He is like a super engineer man. He is so good and so fast. So last year in February I went to the international blues challenge as a solo artist and afterwards I went down to Clarksdale and rented a cabin for a couple of nights.  Kevin came down with his stuff. I rolled in on super bowl Sunday, Kevin came in Monday morning, we set up, tracked Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning and by Tuesday afternoon at supper time it was mixed and done.



MV - So what is the new album called? Is that public knowledge yet?




RN - Yeah, the new album is called Resurrection.




MV - Are any of your previous producers involved in Resurrection?




RN - Not for production. The new album is produced by Anders Osborne and Warren Riker. Warren’s resume is stupid, he has won multiple Grammy’s and sold over 40 million albums with his name on it. He produced the Fugees’ first album, Lauryn Hill’s big album, he has worked with Michael Jackson and a wicked band called Down. He has done all kinds of different shit. So that was a new team for us for this one. We went with them because I’m a big Anders fan, wanted to work with him. I sent him and email and he said ‘sure!’




MV - So is this why you ended up in Louisiana for this album?




RN - Yeah. He lives in New Orleans but when I contacted him there was a studio about two hours from him called the Dockside Studio which is an amazing place. Their recording roster is stupid; B.B. King, Dr. John, Derek Trucks, Fogerty, Arcade Fire, it’s stupid there is so many people who have been in there. There is another guy, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown who is a Verve recording artist, through various labels as well. He recorded at Dockside religiously. A really cool place stuck in a 10 acre kind of compound. Very isolated. You move in, you live there and you make records. It’s a really great spot.




MV - So you were there for about a week. Isn’t that quick for recording an album?




RN - We tracked and mixed in eight days. I guess it depends on who you ask about how quick. We did Redemption in five.




MV - When you and your band are recording, are you recording live or track by track?




RN - This album we did both. For Redemption we recorded all live off the floor, everything.




MV - That’s’ great. I am a big David Briggs (Neil Young producer) fan…..




RN - Oh yeah, Briggs is a constant mental inspiration. Actually with Redemption, that was kind of the mindset we went with. We wanted a live off the floor album that sounded like our live shows. This album we tracked everything as a trio, vocals and trio parts live off the floor, but then went back and I added guitars and backup vocals, a solo here, that kind of stuff. The core of the album and I think all of the vocals except two tracks are live off the floor.




MV - So The Shack Up Session was just you and a guitar. How did that compare to recording with the Sufferin' Bastards?




RN - Actually Shack Up is (recorded) very similar to redemption in the sense that for Shack Up I set up my live set up. My stomp box, guitar and vocal. We mic’d the guitar, we mic’d the room, plugged the guitar into an amp and I just played and recorded live off the floor, no overdubs on that at all. Redemption is recorded the same way but as a trio album. Actually Cody did do a couple of overdubs on keys actually on that but that’s it.




MV - On twitter you posted a picture from your trip down south playing Duane Allman’s guitar he used in Layla! How did you pull that off? I’m thinking that guitar is something they usually don’t just let people play.




RN - Yeah, we took a detour on the way to Louisiana down through the eastern seaboard and went into Atlanta. I’m an Allmans Brother fanatic and there is a museum there. So we went and we were going through the museum. They opened the museum for us an hour early because we were kind of timed and rushing and stuff. So we ended up going through the museum and the woman who let us in, I asked her as a joke:


“So do you ever let anybody play that guitar?”


She’s like “No, well we do take it out sometimes’.




She was like “On the road… to people like Vince Gill and Warren Haynes”.




So then I went outside at the end of the tour to grab a bunch of CD’s to give to people and stuff since they were really nice to us. There are a lot of volunteers that work there and I just wanted to give them something. I was talking to the archivist and one of the board members outside when they were having a smoke. So I gave them a CD and it was the board members birthday. He was really excited for the CD. So I ran back to the van to grab a couple more Shack Ups. When I got back to them they had seen that Cody Dickinson had produced Redemption and it listed the all-stars involved in Allman Brothers stuff. They knew Cody’s name and their eyes were lit up. So we were shooting the shit more and the archivist said to the board member that “You’ve got to let him play that guitar.”

That guitar is worth $500,000 supposedly. So the archivist was like:


“Do you want to….”


“Yes! Whatever you are about to say I definitely want to!”


So we went back inside and they pulled it out.

This is when they first gave it to me. I was trying to be cool and not gush and cry and stuff.


So right after that, then the archivist was like “If you have 10 or 15 minutes hang on”. So they went and got this DVD of footage that they had just found. The only other people who had seen it was the Allman Brothers band, they had a private screening. They put it on the DVD player for us and let us watch like 15 minutes of live footage of when Duane was alive playing that guitar. I was in awe. It is actually the guitar, now I can’t stop dreaming about it, he recorded the first two Allman albums with that guitar, but he also recorded the Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs sessions with that guitar. So now every time I hear Layla on the radio I’m like “I played that guitar!” It blows my mind. The greatest moment of my life.




MV - So what can we expect Resurrection to sound like? Similar to Redemption?




RN – No, it’s actually different than that. It’s less bluesy and more rock. I’ve been describing it as Neil Young meets the Allman Brothers meets Green Day. If you can imagine that.




MV - Let’s end this off on a collectors note. Are you a collector?




RN - Yes I have a large CD collection. Probably a thousand. I’ve been trying to transfer them onto my computer but it is slow going. Mainly because I haven’t listened to 99% of the CD’s in so long. I buy a couple of CD’s a week still for sure.  




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