Interview: Molly Tuttle’s ‘… But I’d Rather Be With You’ Is a Quarantine Experiment
Unexpectedly faced with an unknown stretch of time at home as the novel coronavirus began sweeping the United States, Molly Tuttle decided to experiment.
She'd been talking to Los Angeles-based producer Tony Berg about a new album of originals, but after putting that plan on hold, they began tossing around the idea of a covers record.
"We were both like, 'This sounds really fun; this would be a really fun project to work on and just have something to re-inspire ourselves,'" Tuttle tells The Boot.
With an entire country between her and Berg, "social distancing" as the buzzy phrase of the moment and lockdowns in effect, however, the ace guitarist needed to learn some new skills -- specifically, Pro Tools, and how to record studio-quality tracks from home. Tuttle was familiar with GarageBand, but that's a simpler program, she admits.
"There was a learning curve for sure ... I didn't do anything crazy ... but it was a lot to do on my own ... I kind of just had to guess at a lot of those things," Tuttle says. "In a way, it was kind of freeing to do it all on my own and just get to do it however I thought was working and trust my own ears."
Mistakes were made, and re-recording was necessary, but in the end, Tuttle and Berg emerged with ... But I'd Rather Be With You, a 10-track album of songs originally by Rancid ("Olympia, WA"), the Rolling Stones ("She's a Rainbow," Tuttle's first time recording her electric guitar playing), Harry Styles ("Sunflower Vol. 6") and more. The National's "Fake Empire" came first.
"Just learning to set up all that gear -- there was a lot of [experimenting], and that was frustrating at times," Tuttle confesses, "but it was definitely a good learning experience."
Even with the learning curve in the "studio," the hardest part of creating the record was picking the cover songs. Tracks by Lana Del Rey and Neko Case failed to make the cut.
"I like covers that really make you hear the song in a new way, so that's what I tried to do with these ... I tried to do songs that I could really bring a new dimension to, or bring new meaning to," Tuttle explains. "I think those are my favorite covers, when it almost sounds like an original song."
"Mirrored Heart" fits that description. Originally by FKA Twigs, the experimental, orchestral song was the last one that Tuttle selected for ... But I'd Rather Be With You, and required some imagination to make work in her style.
"It had been one I wanted to try, but I was almost, like, nervous to try it because it's so different from what I do," the artist confesses. "It was a challenge to make it my own, but I finally just decided to go for it."
Tuttle listened to the original over and over again, looking for chord progressions and specific notes she could weave into her version to capture "the vibe of the song ... instead of learning exact parts." She played it a few more times and sang along to get the lyrics down, and then worked up her own take, trying not to mimic FKA Twigs but to pay homage to her.
"I tried to just let myself be really free and make it my own, and just do an impression of her version," Tuttle adds, "almost like you're painting a picture and doing an abstract version of it."
The album was exciting for both Tuttle and Berg to assemble -- but she's not ready to make it the norm.
"[We were both] so excited that it worked, but we were also like, never again," Tuttle says. "It felt so unnatural ... It was really cool and a good learning experience, but it wasn't the most fun way to do it."
... But I'd Rather Be With You arrived on Friday (Aug. 28).
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