THE SCREAMiNG JETS
|ROCKWiRED iNTERViEWS MARGO REYMUNDO
WRAPPED AROUND HER FiNGERSultry jazz pop siren MARGO REYMUNDO’s latest release – the self-produced ‘MY HEART’S DESIRE’ (ORGANICATUNES.COM) - is a celebration of love and life set to the most intoxicating Brazilian grooves. It opens with the playful and confident title track and the easy Bossa Nova of ‘TELL ME’. ‘BETWEEN US’ goes for that NORAH JONES moment with it’s bluesy piano, brush-stick drumming and MARGO’s irresistible contralto but the biggest surprise is REYMUNDO’s rendition of THE POLICE’s ‘WRAPPED AROUND YOUR FINGER’. Here, the New Wave classic is transformed into a moody slow burner with a few Middle-Eastern flourishes.
MARGO REYMUNDO TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT HER CD MY HEART'S DESiRE
MAKiNG THE TOUGH DECiSiONS
AND BEiNG REWARDED BY THE EXPERiENCE
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
ROCKWIRED spoke with MARGO REYMUNDO over the phone. Here is how it went.
’MY HEART’S DESIRE’ is a wonderful CD! It was one of the first CD’s that I listened to since I’ve relocated to New Mexico and it got me acquainted me with my surroundings.
Oh how nice! Thank you!
Now that the CD is out there for people to hear, how do you feel about it. What’s going through your mind?
I couldn’t be happier actually. It was the process between the mastering and the printing that I was biting my nails. I was like ‘This is it! I’m committing!’ I came up with the design of the packaging on enviro-board and it took a lot longer because its all vegetable dyes and it took a lot longer to dry, but it’s all environmentally friendly. When it was delivered to me, I was really thrilled. I was so thrilled that I gave one to the FED EX guy. I gave him the first one. I’m completely excited and I am really, really grateful for the response that it has been receiving, but we’ve still got to get the word out in front of more ears and eyeballs.
How did music begin for you?
My mother tells the story better than I do. When I was four years old I was immersed in music. It was always playing in my house and I was the youngest of five. I come from an immigrant family. I’m actually a naturalized U.S. citizen. We were all born in Mexico. I moved to the States when I was two, yet we still spent a month out of every year in Mexico. My parents would take us back, We were always around different types of music. My mother listened to classical music and my father liked all of the romantic ballads. He was also quite a dancer, so he listened to quite a bit of Salsa music. When we moved to the States, I was around what I call my ‘American’ family – my ‘American’ parents and my ‘American’ brother – My mom raised him. He had his own parents but his mother was in a wheelchair. My parents pretty much raised him. I was always over there at his mother’s house at a very young age and she listened to crooners. She listened to NAT ‘KING’ COLE, TONY BENNETT and some of the softer BEATLES songs. Ever since I was a child, my mother said that I would sing while I was sitting in the grocery cart. One day when I was four, it just happened. My mother made some costumes for my brother’s school play. She was backstage trying to get everyone into costume. The principal of the school was getting upset because this little girl that was supposed to sing got stage fright and she was like ‘I can’t sing! I can’t sing! Please don’t make me go out there!’ My mother says that her eyes got as big as plates when she saw me pulling on the man’s suit and saying ‘I sing!’ The principal looked at me and said ‘You sing?’ and I said ‘Uh-huh! And I know all the words!’ All of the events leading up to that moment, I do not remember all that well, but I do remember them putting the microphone in my hand and singing in front of three-hundred-fifty people. My first memory as a child is singing into a mic and working it. I remember looking at my shadow on the big curtain behind me. It was kind of funny and kind of scary at the same time. I remember singing into the microphone and breathing heavy and it would make that ‘whhhoooommmph’ sound and then I’d pull the mic away. I remember very consciously pulling the mic away and thinking ‘if I hold the mic here, that doesn’t happen!’ It is a really powerful memory and I’ve been singing into a mic ever since.
Was there ever one particular artist that spoke to you in the beginning or was it a whole bunch of things.
In the beginning, it was a whole bunch of things. Being the youngest of five, you are never in control of what is being played over the speakers, ever. I listened to the music of PAT, my American mother and than whatever my sisters were listening to which was a lot of late 1970’s singer-songwriters like CAROLE KING, CARLY SIMON, and JAMES TAYLOR. That definitely impacted me. Rock n Roll, I had to discover on my own. When I was a teenager, LED ZEPPELIN had come and gone in terms of their hits, but I discovered them like it was a brand new song on the radio. I also loved a lot of female rock singers like PAT BENATAR and ANN WILSON but even they were passé at that time. I was just discovering them as if they were new. I would have to say my true influence when I was really cognizant of the influence would be when I became a jazz singer and I would just cram and listen to just about every kind of jazz I could get my hands on. I really loved SARAH VAUGHAN and CARMEN MCCRAY and ELLA FITZGERALD – all in that order and then NANCY WILSON, DINAH WASHINGTON, BILLY HOLIDAY and everyone else after that. That isn’t to say that one is better than the other. That was the order in which it hit me. I really like CARMEN MCCRAY’s phrasing and she sang really low and I love SARAH VAUGHAN who wasn’t afraid to sound ugly. She would growl and make her voice sound like an instrument and ELLA did the same thing. They were capable of these beautiful sounds and then try to sound like a trombone or a drum and I love that. I loved the lack of inhibition that they had. That just rocked my world. Their talents were completely astonishing to me. Especially now in a world where people tend to over-sing.
And use their hands as they are doing so.
Well I am guilty of using my right hand.
Oh no! You shouldn’t have said anything.
Well, do you know what I do?
I actually keep my right hand on my mic stand most of the time so I don’t end up doing the JOE COCKER thing. When I sing a different note, it’s almost like I’m playing it on a horn or something so I find that my fingers are tapping on the mic stand. I tend to see melodies in shapes so sometimes I’m shaping the melody with my hand and drawing it out in the air, but I figured that that might be a little to distracting so I’ve settled for tapping my fingers on the mic stand. It’s less theatrical that way.
When I brought up the subject of influences, I thought that you would’ve brought up THE POLICE and BILL WITHERS because you cover songs by both of them on this album.
BILL WITHERS falls into the category of the late-seventies songwriter and STING is by far, my biggest songwriting influence. ELLA , SARAH, and CARMEN didn’t really influence me in the way that I write or craft a song but they’ve definitely influenced me in the way that I sing it. STING is my biggest influence as far a s writing a song and crafting it.
Why the song ‘WRAPPED AROUND YOUR FINGER’?
That is a great question! I think that song has always been a mystery to me. I like it when people have three to five completely different stories of what a song means to them and found that there was a lot of mystery in that song. I guess me singing it for myself, I was trying to figure it out too.
I love the rhythm that you set it to.
Thanks! I wanted it to be very lush and almost Middle Eastern. We used a lot of Middle-Eastern instruments on the percussion tracks. It was a blast to record. It was a little scary when I mixed it because I was like ‘Oh my God! All of these instruments! Now I’ve got to put them in a salad!’ It is a deeply layered track and we’ve been able to pull it off live as well.
Explain how the songwriting process works for you, if at all.
I’ve done songwriting in many different ways because I love collaborating. When I write a song on my own, it usually starts out with lyrics and eventually I think, ‘What on Earth am I going to call this song?’ and then I think of a groove. The lyrics come from thoughts that I’ve had or things that I’ve witnessed. With the lyrics, the groove and melody, I am able to decide what the song is about. There is another way of writing, which I found to be fun though some might find it limiting but it was actually quite liberating. A friend of mine suggested that I write a song called ‘COULDN’T BE MORE WRONG’. I was like ‘Okay!’ He had no ideas for lyrics or anything. All I really had was the title and I started writing. With a song like ‘THE WAY BACK’, he said that he wanted to write a song and all he could think about was a ‘train running of the tracks’ and ‘finding your way back’. He didn’t have any kind of groove for that. That was how that song came about. I thought it was such an interesting way to write. It was very liberating because one phrase to one person will mean something entirely different to another. He was actually opening me up to quite a few possibilities, even though he was reining me in with one title. That was very exciting to me. Other times, someone will have a beautiful accompaniment with no melody or lyrics or anything and I’ll think that I’ll have something that might work with it. My favorite way of writing it to just be alone with it and then come back together with the band and we tweak it.
You produced this album by yourself. Had you ever produced anything before?
No. I’ve watched many people produce and I’ve been produced before. I did it myself and the arrangements are mine. I owe a lot of the production ideas to what I was already creating on stage with my band. I’m very spontaneous and I would find that every time we were about to go onstage, I would say ‘We’re going to do this song, but I want you to give it this kind of groove now!’ and I found that what we were creating onstage, I was actually arranging at the same time and thinking , ‘this is how I want to do this!’. As far as conducting a studio session and being behind the board and jumping behind the mic – it was very daunting at first. One of my friends was supposed to be there with me and he got busy and he couldn’t go and I had to do the first three days of tracking by myself. I was scared and after the first two hours it kind of fell into place. Those three days went by like water. It was great! The owner of the studio came up to me and said ‘So many women come in here and they want to sing and do all of these things the musicians roll their eyes but here, everybody listens to you and they trust you’. After that, I started to trust my own sense of decision- making and I really owe it to my band for already trusting in me.
What songs on this CD stand out for you at the most and why?
I would say ‘MY HEART’S DESIRE’ for sure. It’s the embodiment of everything that I desire and of what I think people desire for themselves. I think people want to be happy but I think we’ve lost our way in how to get there sometimes. I like the song ‘BETWEEN US’ because it certainly speaks of human existence and people’s fears of wondering if someone could love them enough. I really like ‘COULDN’T BE MORE WRONG’. It’s a very long song because it’s two minutes of verse and chorus but its four minutes of solos. It’s a very passionate song and it’s about being true to oneself. I’m really proud of the guys that I work with and proud that they would work with me. Lyrically, it could be construed as a relationship song but it’s actually quite political. It was a song about people losing that fire in their bellies and settling for less. Essentially, ‘COULDN’T BE MORE WRONG’ is a song about getting off your ass. It’s not that I’m preaching. It’s kind of a pep talk to myself.
In putting this album together, what surprised you the most? What didn’t you expect?
My ability to produce it (laughs). When we were tracking, it was like a channeling of some sort because I went into the studio knowing what I wanted to do. I worked with pros. They were amazing. They trusted my instincts. When we got the mixing stage it was daunting again. I was thinking ‘Oh God! Did I get all of the things that I need!’ Eventually I calmed down and devoted a full day of mixing each song individually. We were not going to lay it to tape because I did it the old fashioned way. We came up with a digital master mix and then we laid it to tape but we didn’t do that until the next day because your ears are fried by the end of the day and you hear things overnight and the next morning that you wouldn’t have heard from sitting with it for fourteen hours. I didn’t have the luxury of spending five days to mix each song. We did it for about a day and a half each. And then when I felt that there was a certain frequency missing, I would jump behind the mic and player shaker or I would play a little piano or keyboard. The whole thing fleshed out quite nicely.
What would you like someone to come away with after they’ve heard this CD?
A feeling that anything is possible and that the music is worth sharing with someone else. I picture this CD as movie. I’d like the album to be viewed as one cohesive piece of art and not just a random collection of songs.