Monday, April 09, 2007

The Clay Aiken iTunes Podcasts, Part One: Re-inventing "Here You Come Again"

Photograph by Miranda Penn Turin

iTunes can be a treasure trove, but I wonder if it’s supposed to be a scavenger hunt?

A week or so ago, a music lover found the prize when, on a casual search of iTunes content, she came across podcasts of interviews with four singers who are former American Idol contestants, including at least five interviews done by Clay Aiken. (Five are available, but each of Clay’s interviews is labeled as one of six.)

The other podcasts feature Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino and Chris Daughtry.

Clay’s podcasts, each described as an “Exclusive Interview with Clay Aiken,” are free and can be downloaded HERE.

[Or click on “Podcasts” at the iTunes STORE, then use the Quick Link for Power Search in the right hand column. Search for “Your Idols,” then click on the icon with the CD covers. It is not necessary to subscribe to the podcast series in order to download these interviews.]

Credits for the podcasts are as follows: “Interviewed, recorded, and produced by Jared Covington for Sony BMG/RCA.”

Three of the five available podcasts deal with the concept, creation, arrangement and production of songs from Clay's latest album, A Thousand Different Ways. (Buy the iTunes exclusive version, featuring "Lover All Alone," songwriter Clay Aiken's magnificent collaboration with his friend, Grammy-winning producer and composer David Foster.)

With a Release Date of 12/11/06, it’s interesting to speculate about when these interviews were recorded --- or why they were not publicized. In any event, with no filter and in his own words, they offer valuable insight into Clay Aiken, artist and activist. Clay talks about the album making process, the steps it took to reinvent a popular song, his input into the concept and creation of an innovative new arrangement, what he feels about the four original songs on the CD and, in the last two parts, his background as a teacher, his dedication to the inclusion of children with special needs into all aspects of everyday life, and his trip to Indonesia as an ambassador for UNICEF.

First, the music.

There is a perception and, sometimes, a criticism, that Clay doesn’t talk much about music. It’s true that no one has published a long and detailed discussion about Clay's process of producing an album since he spoke to Billboard’s Fred Bronson about each of the songs on his debut, Measure of a Man, but Clay has been quoted a number of times about his influences, his work as an interpreter of songs (or a “song stylist,” as he has called himself) and about what music means to his life.

Clay is a bit of a fast talker (the Raleigh, NC native puts a lie to the stereotype of the slow Southern drawl), so here is a transcript of Part One:

(Excerpt: Clay Aiken,“Here You Come Again” from A Thousand Different Ways)

Well, a lot of people attach these songs to, uh, memories of a prom or first kiss and since I didn’t get kissed for the first time ’til I was like 26, I think, I um (laughs)... I’m just joking.

Some of the songs on the album are favorites of mine just because we changed them up so much. I remember when I was a kid growing up, my mom was a huge Dolly Parton fan. And so one of the songs that obviously I heard a lot of was "Here You Come Again" and it had that whole (sings a bit) the whole bouncy thing to it.

I remember being on “American Idol” and we did a week --- a theme week the [year] that I was on. It was country week and we had to pick country songs. I actually picked “Here You Come Again” ‘cause I just remembered it so much. The musical director at the time, the person who was working with me, Debra Byrd and Michael Orland, both said 'You know, I think you’ll sing that song wonderfully but, it’s just… You’ve already got Simon thinking you belong on Broadway and if you sing that song you need to go out and wear a top hat and carry a cane, because its just so (sings peppy, upbeat version) --- “Here ya come again”--- and so we actually went away from that song.

I always kind of regretted that I didn’t sing it --- not because I expected that Simon wouldn’t have said something bad to me, because that’s what he liked to do most --- but I regretted that I didn’t sing it just because I’ve always liked it. So when we were putting this album together of cover songs, I was talking to [Executive Producer for “A Thousand Different Ways”] Jaymes Foster, and she said, "Why don’t we do… What’s one of the songs that you wanted to do on ‘Idol’ that you never got to do?" and I said… “Here You Come Again” first came to my mind, but I said I don’t want to do that because of the whole bouncy tempo and that’s not going to fit with the album and it’s gonna be hard to modernize it.

She said, “What if you did it as a ballad?" and I said, “Well, I don’t think it’s possible, because no matter what happens it’s gonna have that (sings slower version, emphasizing the beat at the end of the phrase) --- 'Here ya come again' --- it’s not going to be able to be turned into a ballad."

So she actually asked her brother David Foster, who had played the piano, actually, on the Dolly Parton version, if he thought it was possible, and he said "Well, maybe, but it’s kind of got that clip." So she sent it off to a producer, Adam Anders , just for curiosity’s sake, to see if he could do anything to it. And he sent it back to us and I remember we were sitting in her car and we almost ran off the road, because his track for that song was just absolutely amazing. He changed it so much and just made it so different that it’s easily become my favorite song because it’s so chill and laid back.

And it’s just kind of funny to me to think that, ya know, here I am 28 years old and I’ve had the opportunity to sing a song that I remember growing up with that was one of my mother’s favorites, and a song that apparently must have been one of mine, because it stuck with me for so many years.

And I not only got a chance to record it, but now I’m friends with the person who played piano on the original album and I got to do it in a way that kind of makes the song different and makes there be a Clay Aiken version, so I attach those memories to that song.

(Ends with another excerpt of “Here You Come Again”)

Tomorrow: Part Two: Clay Discusses the Concept for "Broken Wings"

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much, Berkeley! How come the published version cut out so much?? So happy to find this! And to know about iTunes, which I have (as well as the spectacularly beautiful Lover All Alone)... but how can I d/l the iTunes podcast if I don't have an iPod to play it on?? Well, at least now I know, so thanks again!

Kathy in L.A.