Meredith Shaw traveled to Texas to record her upcoming album, “Place Called Happy,” set to release early 2011. She had the privilege of working with Gordie Johnson, the frontman for Austin-based rockers Grady and the leader of the award-winning Canadian band Big Sugar in Willie Nelson’s Pedernales Studio whose clients have included Neil Young, Lucinda Williams, Frank Sinatra and INXS. As she prepares for her pre-release party at the Gladstone in Toronto on December 7th with Tim Chaisson, Meredith shares some of her experiences recording south of the border.
1. How did you end up recording your upcoming album at Willie Nelson’s Pedernales Studio? We decided to do it Texas because that’s where my producer is based. I was really lucky to work with producer Gordie Johnson for this record. He moved to Texas almost 10 years ago now and has been working out of Mr Willie Nelson’s studio ever since. When we decided to work together – doing the recording in Texas just made sense.
2. How long did this album take to record and how many trips did you have to take to Texas? We did it in 2 trips – January & August. We were thinking about doing an EP at first but then there was enough positive feedback/interest and good songs to go back and make a full record.
3. How different was the process of recording this album in Texas in comparison to the process you experienced in Toronto for your previous album? It was different because i was away from home and all the distractions that come with home. I was able to go to TX and really focus. I went into my musical happy place and we got ALOT done. It was also lovely being in Willie Nelson’s studio – i didn’t meet him unfortunately but to be surrounded by that kind of history was very inspiring.
4. Did your songs change or evolve as a result of the new environment? Absolutely! I think you can hear some dusty warm texas breeze in this record. and i love that.
5. Any suggestions to songwriters who are thinking of taking their projects south of the border for production? I am not an expert in this area at all – i only went to TX because Gordie was there. If i am lucky enough to make another record who knows where we’ll do it. I think the most important thing is to have good solid songs, and work with people you trust. The location of the studio isn’t a huge factor if you’ve got those first things going on.
6. The name of the new album is not the name of any of the songs. Please tell us more about the story and concept behind, “Place Called Happy.” You’re right – that complete title isn’t but i do have a song on the record called ‘happy’ and within that song there is a lyric “you love me back into that Place Called Happy”. I wrote that song and named the album that because it’s very representative of where i am in my life. I’ve worked really hard and will continue to work really hard but i’m getting to a place where things are grooving along. i have a sense of peace and purpose. This record is not all about silly happiness – there is a bit of that but there is also heartbreak, sadness and confusion. That’s life. The good and the bad. The happy and the sad. It’s all about exploring that balance and coming out the other side – that’s what i’m mainly talking about in this record.
7. Congratulations on getting a song placement in Degrassi. How did the song, “Girls Who Believe,” get chosen? Thanks! I was pretty happy about that – synchs are so important these days and Degrassi is such a popular show. It was very exciting. The songs got from the hands of my publicist to the hands of the music supervisors at Instinct Entertainment. I was recording the last 5 songs off the record in TX when i got a call from TO saying they wanted the song. It was a happy day!