Gimme Your Answers: An Interview w/ Dean Wareham

Dean Wareham
Photo by Matthew Buzzell

Tomorrow night, musician and songwriter Dean Wareham is playing Toronto’s The Horseshoe Tavern with support from Elsa (tickets). Known for his work in Galaxie 500, Luna, and Dean & Britta, Wareham finally releases his debut solo album twenty five years into his career. Ahead of the show, A Music Blog, Yea? spoke with Dean to discuss inspirations, his North American tour, recording with Jim James, and history books.

AMBY: Hello Dean, welcome to AMBY and congrats on the release of your first self-titled solo album! As far as songwriting goes on the record, what were your biggest influences or inspirations?

Dean Wareham: Glen Campbell, Donovan, the Bee Gees, Tuli Kupferberg. Also Kansas, Boston, Toto, Journey, Foreigner and Styx. And writers Geoff Dyer, Alexander Cockburn.

AMBY: You worked with Jim James (of My Morning Jacket) on the album and recorded it at James’ house in Louisville. If you were to take us behind the scenes and into the studio or recording process, how did the collaboration work with you and Jim on the album?

Dean Wareham: Jim was very generous, he invited the band (my wife Britta on bass, Anthony LaMarca on drums, and myself) moved into his house in the suburbs of Louisville to make the record, and he let us sleep there too. We set up the drums in the living room, vocal microphone in Jim’s den, and guitar amps in the garage. I’ve never made a record that way before; it was very relaxing. We would play the song through and on many of these songs Jim suggested radical changes in how we approached them. He also played on every song — strange keyboards and electric guitars, so at that point he became the fourth band member.

AMBY: Which songs off the record are your personal favourites?

Dean Wareham: My favorite song is might be the cover — “Heartless People” — written by my friend Michael Holland. I also love the non-album track that is an iTunes exclusive — the Jim James remix of “Happy & Free” with an amazing banjo track by Jim, it’s beautiful.

AMBY: If you had to pick one track off the LP that you think best summarizes what you were hoping to achieve, which track would you choose and why?

Dean Wareham: I don’t think I ever know what I am hoping to achieve. . . until it happens. When you are in the studio a song takes on a mind of its own, if you let it. “I Can Only Give My All” started as a slow pretty song but ended up as something r-o-c-k.

AMBY: We know that outside of your solo work, you co-founded and played in other bands (Galaxie 500, Luna, and Dean and Britta). Is there anything new or different project-wise you’d like to share that we may not be aware of, or are you mainly focusing purely on solo work now?

Dean Wareham: Britta is working on her solo album. I am contributing guitar. I am also planning an album of cowboy songs with my friend Cheval Sombre. At this point it is just a list of songs we send back and forth.

AMBY: You’re currently on your North American tour and then have some dates in the UK. What is one of your most memorable touring experiences?

Dean Wareham: We’ve only been out three days, saw Television at Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, and they did not disappoint. Also saw a performance of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians. Today we stopped at a tiny place called Zarzour’s in Chattanooga and had peanut butter pie and homemade peach ice cream.

AMBY: What are some of your favourite things to do outside of music?

Dean Wareham: My favorite legal things to do are read history books and play golf. No that’s not true, golf is miserable.

AMBY: What was the first record you bought, and do you feel that album had an influence on your music?

Dean Wareham: I attempted to buy the best of Neil Diamond when I was eleven years old, but when I got the record home I realized it was Neil Diamond’s songs as performed by an unknown vocal group. They used to do that in the ‘70s: sell cheap albums with deceptive titles. Probably not an influence.

AMBY: Who would your dream collaboration be with?

Dean Wareham: I am living the dream already, just made records with Jason Quever (Papercuts) and Jim James (My Morning Jacket), am happy I worked with both of those guys, and with other friends like Sonic Boom.

AMBY: Lastly, what’s something about Dean Wareham that nobody knows yet?

Dean Wareham: I said too much already — in my book Black Postcards.


Thank you Dean Wareham, for giving us your answers!

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Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout

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