- July, 2013
- Llorando Records to release "The Piano's Been Drinking: The Songs of Tom Waits, Volume One", a six-disc tribute from Zachary Scot Johnson.
Produced by Zachary Scot Johnson
(Llorando Records--October 1st, 2013)
On October 1st, 2013, Llorando Records will release Zachary Scot Johnson's new album "The Piano's Been Drinking: The Songs of Tom Waits, Volume One". A six-disc, 125 song collection, "The Piano's Been Drinking..." is Johnson's third studio album for Llorando, his independent label, and fourth album overall. He produced the album himself and has recorded, engineered, mixed and mastered it as well. Unlike previous records, which featured friends, "The Piano Has Been Drinking..." is a solo affair, with Johnson the only artist to appear. He recorded all of the vocals and performs on piano, 6 and 12 string acoustic and electric guitars, baritone guitar, dobro, banjo, mandolin, violin, lap steel, harmonicas, octave mandolin, viola, bass, drums, percussion, banjolin, dulcimer, ukulele and more.
"The Piano's Been Drinking..." follows Johnson's two previous Llorando Records releases, 2004's "Moment of Clarity" and 2008's "To Whom It May Concern", as well as 2010's live release with Mark Paffrath and Jeff Ward, "Live at the Guild", which was jointly released. While his previous two studio albums were completely ("To Whom...") or mostly ("Moment...") original songs, this release focuses on the work of the legendary singer/ songwriter Tom Waits. Waits wrote or co-wrote (frequently with his wife and songwriting partner, Kathleen Brennan) all of the songs on the tribute. The songs included cover Waits entire discography, from his 1972 debut "Closing Time" through his most recent work, 2011's "Bad as Me". Songs from every album are included and cover a wide range of styles and genres, from folk to jazz, rock to spoken word, blues to pop, country to a cappella, gospel to instrumental.
The bulk of the cd was recorded in Johnson's home studio and in the three cities he calls home: Tempe, AZ, Racine, WI and Saint Paul, MN. Johnson recorded approximately a song per day from September 1st, 2011 through the end of December. He ended up with 132 Waits songs and decided to release most of the songs as a package rather than release several smaller volumes. He does anticipate a "Volume Two" a few years down the line.
Johnson recorded a Waits/ Brennan song, "Take It With Me" for 2004's release. There is a new version of the song included on the new release. Johnson started thinking about recording a Waits tribute around that time, as he worked other Waits classics like "Ruby's Arms", "Martha", "Ol' 55" and "I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You" into his concert setlists. Johnson has maintained an active touring schedule since 2001, averaging 75-100 dates per year. He has also shared the stage with such luminaries as his hero Shawn Colvin, Keb' Mo', Jane Siberry, The Be Good Tanyas, Steve Forbert, The Verve Pipe, Richard Shindell, The Greencards, Cheryl Wheeler, Lucy Kaplansky, Susan Werner, Juliette Lewis, Julia Nunes, Catie Curtis, Peter Mulvey, Willy Porter, Maria Muldaur, Rita Wilson, Chris Trapper, Kevin Costner and Modern West, Steve Poltz and others.
"I was pretty deep into recording a new album of original material in 2011 when I started thinking more seriously about finally doing the tribute to Tom Waits that I'd been promising or threatening, depending upon how you look at it, to do for years," Johnson explains. "I got extremely caught up in this tribute record once I started it and instead of working on the two cds simultaneously, I ended up putting the originals away for a little while to focus on Tom's songs. I didn't really have a concept for it or anything in mind when I started. I've always listened to him, but I started listening to him pretty constantly and found more and more of his songs that I wanted to do. For nearly four months straight, I recorded a song of his per day. It wasn't exact. There were days I didn't record a new one and days when I recorded 2 or 3. But most of the time it was a song per day. I didn't really think I'd release all of it, and I wasn't really sure where the project was going at one point, but I was incredibly inspired and wanted to let it ride. There are still songs of his that I'd like to do, and I will do Volume Two at some point, though I am going to go back to putting out original stuff in the meantime. When the end of the year came and I had somewhere around 130 songs, I decided it was time to stop recording new ones. Then there was the process of going back and seeing what I had. I saved a few for Volume Two--mostly if I had too many songs from the same album of his. I covered at least a couple songs from every album, of course, but some of his more iconic works, like "Closing Time", "Mule Variations" and "Rain Dogs" had too many songs included--I didn't want to record any of his albums completely. So I cut a few from those because it was tough enough finding a sequence that would allow me to cram 125 songs onto 6 cds. These are pretty long cds. Each disc has between 19 and 22 songs and run over 75 minutes long. All told, it's about 8 hours worth of music."
Johnson said he was careful not to do an impression of Tom Waits, but merely offer his own version of these songs. As Waits is known as much for his unique delivery and unexpected and complex instrumentation, he has developed the very definition of a cult following. Llorando Records is releasing the set at an extremely reasonable $25. That works out to 20 cents per track. Johnson will make his first Kickstarter campaign to help finance the extensive royalties in May. Options for pre-purchasing the album and special opportunities like autographed merch, house concerts and other options will be included in the campaign.
During the release tour, audiences can expect to hear many of these Waits songs (but perhaps not all 125 of them) mixed in with fan favorites from his previously released albums and new originals. The cd release shows won't be Waits-only affairs. Johnson is eager to continue recording songs for his next original record.
Johnson is frequently asked about his infamous list of influences listed on his website. While he has been playing Waits songs for years, he is known for performing his originals and covers by a variety of artists. Waits, with his beat poetry and often chaotic instrumentation, might seem like a surprising choice for Johnson at first. So why Waits?
"Where to start?" he begins. "Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan are first class writers. Better than that.They invented first class writing. In this day and age, when everything out there is derivative of something or someone else--ironic to talk about while doing a tribute disc, I know--Waits is a true original voice. There's something really wonderful about that. There is no one like him. As a writer, performer, poet, musician. Obviously he is more successful, more critically acclaimed and beloved than I could ever hope to be. But his name should be included with the other songwriting greats. When talking about incredible songwriting, there are a few artists who always get a mention--Lennon and McCartney, Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, Woody Guthrie. Tom Waits should be included in that list. Though I dabble in quite a few genres, I consider myself a singer/ songwriter and folkie first and foremost and one of the things I love about the folk genre is the comraderie and the recognition of influences. Go see a genious like Emmylou Harris and she'll turn you on to Patty Griffin or Buddy and Julie Miller, you know? I'm not in the same pantheon as any of those wonderful folks and don't pretend to be. But there are some kind folks out there who like my music, and if I can point them to Tom Waits' music, then this whole thing will have been worth it. From another point of view, I feel a kinship to him in the ability to try out a whole lot of different styles. I'm influenced by all these genres, all of which he did. His music is diverse, always interesting and never expected. His lyrics are beyond stunning and just a joy and privilege to sing. The last record I did was very guitar and mandolin focused. While those are still prominant here, it gave me a good excuse to rip into some piano, banjo and dobro, all of which are extremely heavily featured on this project. I also really relished the opportunity to come up with my own version of these incredible tunes--many of which are classics and the rest of which should be. Some of the biggest artists in the entire world had big hits with some of these songs. It was fun to turn some of it upside down and bring something of my voice and perspective to someone else's pieces." Johnson did all of the arrangements, and instrumentation, which range from solo piano and voice combinations, to full band rock and roll, to jazz combos, to full orchestras. "Some of these songs are simple. Just piano or guitar, dobro or banjo. Some I played 9 different violin parts to sound like a string section. I like full takes, so I very rarely punch a verse, sentence or word in. So if I sang the wrong line, played the wrong chord, my dog ran through the room--which happened a lot, actually--I either went back and did the whole thing from the beginning or left it in. I left some of the errors in on purpose, actually, because they turned out kind of interesting. There are pops, hisses, you can hear my breathing or my cell phone vibrating. I also record frequently with my doors and windows open, so you can hear the birds on my patio all over this thing and cars going by, sirens. It's not a pristine, overly edited piece of gloss. It's a real record that I made alone. I pushed play and played the guitar in my living room. It wasn't recorded in a fancy studio with expensive equipment and autotune and autocorrect, it was recorded on my laptop which could go at any moment. I've made polished records before. This one felt more in the spirit of these songs--raw, real."
Johnson also communicated with friends and fans throughout the process, asking for favorites. One thing he shyed away from for the most part, was the spoken word, beat poetry style that makes up much of Tom's earlier material. Johnson only includes one spoken word piece, "What's He Building" on this collection. His training as an actor tempted him to try more, but ultimately left him convinced that only Tom was cool enough to pull off the material.
Although there have been a few previous Waits tributes, this one is a unique and remarkable body of work. "There are three other artists that I know of that have recorded Tom Waits records, though I'm sure there are others out there that I'm not familiar with," Johnson says. "Holly Cole is a wonderful jazz singer who has a great, great tribute cd called "Temptation". She does a nice job. John Hammond, one of the absolute master blues singers and guitarists out there did a tribute disc that Tom Waits himself produced and guests on. John is just amazing, but the record is a little hard to come by. I'm not sure it was ever actually released here in the States. I know my copy came from London. I got it just a week or two ago, I didn't want to be too influenced by his stuff because he's so good and I'm not sure I would invite comparisons given his mastery of the blues genre. Also, Scarlett Johansson did a tribute disc to him. It was the first cd she's made, I think. I like it, and I thought she brought a unique sound. The production was very akin to a Bowie record. In fact, I could be wrong, but I think he guests on it. Kind of like a Waits/ Bowie mash up. I hope she does another one, because it's really cool."
For more info on Johnson, and to stay up to date on the project, please visit zacharyscotjohnson.com
The track list for the collection:
Ol' 55, In Between Love, Old Shoes, Martha, Come On Up To The House, I'm Still Here, I Hope That I Don't Fall In Love With You, Chicago, Take It With Me, Cold Water,Day After Tomorrow, Chocolate Jesus, Time, Wrong Side of the Road, Anywhere I Lay My Head, Ruby's Arms, Innocent When You Dream, Tell Me, Going Down Slow
Dirt In The Ground, I Want You, Hold On, I Don't Want To Grow Up, Falling Down, On The Nickel, Green Grass, A Little Rain, Trampled Rose, Little Trip To Heaven, Long Way Home, House Where Nobody Lives, Broken Bicycles, Make It Rain, Coney Island Baby, That Feel, Clap Hands, Flower's Grave, Jockey Full of Burboun, Please Call Me, Baby, Rains on Me
Downtown Train, Picture In A Frame, Fumblin With The Blues, The Heart of Saturday Night, Georgia Lee, Tango Til They're Sore, Fall of Troy, Pony, A Sight For Sore Eyes, Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis, Murder In The Red Barn, Take Me Home, It Looks Like I'm Up Shit Creek Again, San Diego Serenade, Diamonds and Gold, Frank's Theme, Lord, I Know I've Been Changed, Hang On St. Christopher, Alice, The Part You Throw Away, Fawn
Mr. Siegal, Cold Cold Ground, Temptation, So It Goes, Downtown, Poor Edward, Whistling Down The Wind, Blind Love, Last Leaf, Back In The Crowd, Poncho's Lament, Had Me a Girl, Shiver Me Timbers, The Piano Has Been Drinking, Hang Down Your Head, Invitation To The Blues, Yesterday Is Here, New Coat of Paint, No One Knows I'm Gone, The Last Rose of Summer, November, Bend Down The Branches
Blow Wind Blow, Who Are You, On The Other Side of the World, Underground, Is There Any Way Out of This Dream, Swordfishtrombones, Rockin Chair, You Can Never Hold Back Spring, Lie To Me, Drunk On The Moon, How's It Gonna End, Better Off Without A Wife, The Briar and the Rose, Tom Traubert's Blues, Lonely, Depot Depot, What's He Building, Jersey Girl, Gun St. Girl, Union Square, Lullaby
Whistling Past The Graveyard, Hoist That Rag, Johnsburg, Illinois, All The World Is Green, I Wish I Was In New Orleans, Lucinda, In The Neighborhood, Soldier's Things, Train Song, Fannin Street, If I Have To Go, Walk Away, Town With No Cheer, Lowdown, Take Care of All My Children, Nobody, Foreign Affair, Just The Right Bullets, Eggs and Sausage, New Year's Eve, Rainbow Sleeves
- June, 2012
- Zachary just confirmed a new show, supporting another movie star/ musician. He will be opening for Oscar-winner Kevin Costner and his band, Modern West, at the legendary Surf Ballroom and Museum (the last venue Buddy Holly ever played) next month on July 12th. Quite a 30th birthday present for Zach, who will celebrate his birthday the day before with a friend-filled performance in his hometown of Racine, WI
- Apr, 2012
- New shows announced for summer tour. Also new show announced opening for Rita Wilson at The Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, CA. Rita is married to Tom Hanks and has one of the best new cds this year
- Jan, 2012
- New shows announced opening for Antje Duvekot (in Tempe, AZ) and Chris Trapper (in Los Angeles, CA) as well as solo dates.
- Continuing production on Tom Waits tribute record. Zach currently has recorded 89 TW covers!
- Dec, 2011
- New shows announced opening for Shawn Colvin, The Ataris and Josh Caterer, Maria Muldaur as well as holiday solo dates.
- Zach is busy recording a Tom Waits tribute record. He's recorded about 60 Waits classics in as many days. He intends to keep going for a bit...
- Zach has had a great 2011, playing more shows than ever before.
- July, 2011
- This website is being rebuilt. Hopefully it is giving you all the info you are seeking!
- Zach is putting the finishing touches on his third solo studio record and looks forward to its release in late 2011.
- Zach will be on the road the entire year!
- Zach released a very limited edition live record with Mark Paffrath and Jeff Ward, entitled "Live at the Guild" in November, 2010. You can order it directly from Zach--see discography...
- That cover shot was taken by the incredible Camela Langendorf. Love her work? Visit her site on the LINKS page. While you're there, check out Mark and Jeff's sites.
- More to come soon!