Secrets Of The Mix Engineers: Kevin Savigar
 
Published February 2016
By Paul Tingen

 

Musically, Rod Stewart’s latest album harks back to ’70s folk-rock, but its writing and production were totally 21st Century.
In a career spanning more than half a century, 28 studio albums and well over 100 million record sales, Rod Stewart had worked almost everywhere, from cheap, grotty recording studios to opulent big-budget facilities. Yet his 29th album was the first to be recorded in true 21st Century cottage-industry fashion: at his own home, on an ultra-low budget, with just one man engineering, mixing and co-producing. Despite its humble origins, the resulting album, Another Country, reached number two in the UK, and unlike so many of today’s albums, which disappear without trace after a week on the charts, Stewart’s effort was still flying high in many hit parades several weeks after its release.
Unusually, Stewart had a hand in writing all but two of the album’s 12 songs, continuing a direction that began with the album’s 2013 predecessor Time — his first UK chart-topper since 1976’s A Night On The Town. The last album by Stewart on which he had co-written the majority of songs was Out Of Order, released as far back as 1988, and his songwriting career appeared to have ended with the handful of originals on Vagabond Heart (1991). In his 2012 book Rod: The Autobiography, the singer put his songwriting drought down to a withering comment made by an A&R executive sometime in the early ’90s, which triggered a massive loss of confidence.


Playing House


The album’s engineer, mixer and co-producer, and also Stewart’s co-writer on most songs, is Kevin Savigar. Like Stewart, Savigar is a former Londoner who moved to California in search of more sunshine and career opportunities. He studied classical piano at Trinity College Of Music in London, and has worked off and on with Stewart since joining the singer’s live band in 1978. The first songs he co-wrote with Stewart appeared on the singer’s Foolish Behaviour (1980). Over the years the two went on to co-write a number of classic Stewart songs, amongst them ‘Forever Young’, ‘Every Beat Of My Heart’, ‘Passion’, Can’t Stop Me Now’, ‘Tonight I’m Yours’ and ‘Lady Luck’, and Savigar and Stewart co-produced the singer’s 18th solo album, When We Were The New Boys (1998). Over the years, Savigar has also played, written and/or produced for the likes of Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Pat Benatar, Peter Frampton, and many others.
Savigar and Stewart went their separate ways in the early 21st Century, when the singer focused on albums of Great American Songbook, Motown and Christmas songs. A chance meeting at the 2011 ASCAP Awards brought the duo together again. Perhaps ironically, the singer was there to receive a Founders Award for Songwriting...
“Although we had not seen each other for a while we quickly began talking about writing some new songs together,” explains Savigar. “Rod was in the middle of recording a blues record with his touring band in a small studio in the San Fernando Valley called City Sound. So I came into the project halfway, and we co-wrote six more songs and finished the album together, with us co-producing. During this time we also recorded one track for his [2012] Christmas album, Merry Christmas, Baby, ‘Auld Lang Syne’, all done in the box and recorded at his house, and he saw how well that came out. It opened his eyes to how painless it is to record like that


“Over his career, Rod has spent a lot of money and a lot of time in recording studios and it stopped being a pleasurable experience for him quite a few years ago, as it involved sitting in a place without daylight, watching the clock and spending hours away from his family. So we decided that recording at his house was the way forward for us. It’s easy to make it fit in with his hectic schedule, and it’s far more relaxed. It enables him to have the kids around, and between sessions he can take care of his business, and we can watch the football.
“We always set up to record at his library in his house in LA. There’s a big TV screen close to where we are working, and all the Premier League and other European football matches are shown in the US. So the first thing we did in the morning was check the soccer schedule to find out what games were playing. He’s a big Celtic fan, and we’d often be either watching them, or Barcelona, or any other major match played that day. I’m a soccer fan myself, so it was great fun!”


Old Dog, New Tricks


At this point the title of Rod Stewart’s 1984 hit song ‘Some Guys Have All The Luck’ comes to mind, but Savigar explained that while, admittedly, no blood or tears were shed during the making of Another Country, it did involve some sweat, and a lot of hard work, mostly editing and mixing. The latter was conducted by him at his Satinwood Studio, while Stewart was busy doing other things, like the tough job of taking in the adoration of hundreds of thousands of fans as he was touring the planet. As Savigar explains, the writing and recording processes for Another County were as modern as it gets, leading Stewart to state in a recent interview that it “revolutionised” the way he thinks about songwriting and recording.


“I think the entire writing and recording process is far more streamlined for him now,” comments Savigar. “The way we did things opened doors in being able to write at a pace that’s comfortable for him, and to say what he wants to say in his lyrics. After he’d written his autobiography he found that there were many aspects of his life that he could incorporate in his songs. The book came together at the same time as he reconnected with me. The comment by the A&R manager in the ’90s had been a devastating blow for him, which was totally uncalled for, as I think that Rod is a fantastic songwriter, and luckily he got back to it in a big way. It’s quite remarkable for someone at this stage in their career to be this prolific, co-writing 10 originals on Time and 14 on Another Country. That’s a lot of new songs within three years!
“Rod thought the muse had left him, but when we got together for Time, we very quickly hit on a couple of things that worked really well, and then we ended up writing many more songs. The way we work is that I create a track in Logic, which can be a very bare-bones backing track, with or without melodies, or beats. Some tracks are very arranged, some can be just a piano. I’ll send him this track as an MP3 via email, and he’ll listen to it, melody and lyric ideas will come to him, and he’ll write any lyrics and feedback down and will sing any musical ideas into his iPhone. He then sends his idea to me, and I incorporate his feedback and melodies and will adjust things. We can go back and forth a number of times like that. At some stage we get together in the same room, and I’ll record him singing scat vocals so he can finish his lyrics, and we’ll finish off the structure of the track. We will then get together again later to record overdubs, get the girls in to do the background vocals, and replace the scat vocals with final vocals. And then he’ll go off on tour again for two or three months, and we’re back to writing more stuff via email and sometimes Skype, and when he returns we meet up again and continue the same process. It’s a great way to work!”


Keep It Simple


Savigar and Stewart began writing songs for Another Country in October 2013, with recordings at his house starting in January 2014 and the final mix taking place during March 2015. “There was a lot of down time, because in that time frame he did a European tour, a US tour, a South American tour and an Australian tour,” recalls Savigar. “At times I would go out to meet Rod while he was on tour, for writing and vocal recording sessions. For some of the vocal sessions we set up at his home near London, Wood House. We recorded the rest — drums, bass, guitars, brass, backing vocals, choir and most of his lead vocals — at his house in LA, Celtic House. Players came and went to overdub their parts as we needed them.
“The sessions at Celtic House took place in concentrated bursts of a couple of weeks at a time. We’d work Monday to Friday from 10 to 5, and then he’d go out of town again and I had enough ammunition to keep me busy at my studio, editing and in other ways working on the material. These sessions were hectic for me, because I had so many hats on, being co-writer, engineer and producer! It was a completely homespun recording. But Rod keeps a good vibe in the studio, and you keep working and when it sounds good you carry on. The whole record was very straightforward to do, because there was nothing complicated to wrestle with. If the songs are well written and well arranged and you have the right musicians and the right singer, what can possibly go wrong?”

 

On The Shoulders Of Giants


As an engineer, Savigar considers himself self-taught through “trial and error” but adds that, “having worked with Rod for so many years, I have been involved in the making of many albums for which he hired fantastic engineers and producers. I’d look over their shoulders to see what they were doing. The engineers included Andy Johns, who worked with Led Zeppelin and the Stones, and Chris Lord-Alge, who mixed a couple of Rod’s albums. There were also great producers, like Trevor Horn, Bob Ezrin, Bernard Edwards and Tom Dowd. To see the masters at work was great schooling.”

 


“When we were at his house in LA I had a Neumann U67 for Rod, which I rent from LAFX. It’s an old vintage mic, which is in great shape, and which has been used on Rod’s voice for years. I also rented acoustic panels from LAFX, to control the room, which was a little live. They help to deaden the sound and also to give Rod a physical space to sing in. We kept the panels a little apart in front of him, because he likes to see me, which allows me to cue him in and give him feedback and things like that. I sat facing him, with a low table on which I have my laptop and the UAD Apollo Twin mic pre. Rod sings with Sony MDR-7506 headphones on. He likes them as they are crystal-clear and punchy.

 

 

“When we were in London I could not get a 67, so I used a U47 instead, which worked out great as well. His vocal mic goes straight into the Apollo Twin, and I used the UAD 610B tube preamp and EQ plug-in on him, which sounds nice, and some UAD 1176 with a very low threshold and not much compression at all, and UAD Helios 96 EQ to brighten his vocal sound up a bit. That was my entire input chain. Rod has a very loud voice, but also sings some passages very softly, so there’s quite a dynamic range in his vocal, and I needed the 1176 to keep that under control.
“It’s quite amazing really, because he had this nasty operation on his throat [in 2000, for thyroid cancer], with the scalpel coming within millimetres of his vocal cords. It was touch and go whether he could ever sing again. He had to completely retrain his muscles to get his voice back. But it’s now in great shape and he takes good care of it. He warms up extensively with a half-hour vocal exercise routine before he goes up to the microphone.”


Straight Forward


The instrumental parts were captured with equal efficiency. “Most of the drums on the album were programmed, often based on live loops from Drums On Demand and with a lot of triggering from [XLN Audio’s] Addictive Drums. I did record some live drums at Rod’s library, played by Iggy Grimshaw, who set up a small kit that I recorded with just two mics, an AKG D112 on the bass drum and a U47 as overhead, both of which went through the Apollo Twin. So the drums were in mono, and I then later at my studio triggered other sounds from that. The idea was to capture the live feel, and then adjust the sound later, and that worked great. Rod’s live band bassist, Conrad Korsch, came over for a week when they were performing in Vegas, and I just plugged him DI into my Apollo Twin, and had some UAD 1176 on him. For most songs he just played two takes. It was really quick.


“There was a lot of violin on the album, played by J’Anna Jacoby, who also is in Rod’s live band. She came in and jammed and just played wonderful parts and lots of solos. I recorded her with an AKG C414 and a little UAD compression and EQ and that was it. All mics I used on the album went through the Apollo Twin! I recorded the three horn players together and separately, and I think I used 414s on the horns and a 47 on the saxophone. We also had a choir come in, which I recorded with two 67s. I spread them out in men and women so I had a little control in the mix with panning.


“Most of the guitars on the album were played by Emerson Swinford, although some guitars remain from a session in Nashville, played by Mike Severs seven years ago, when I demoed a track that ended up being a song called ‘Can We Stay Home Tonight’. I played it to Rod one day, and he liked it, so he wrote lyrics and a melody to it, and we kept some of the recordings from the original session. We had to transpose everything up a couple of steps with [Celemony’s] Melodyne, because it was slightly too low for Rod. We recorded many of Emerson’s guitars at Rod’s place, using a Shure SM57 on a small amp with a blanket over it. We did all the electric guitars on ‘Please’ like that. Rod has great guitar ideas, so it’s great having him in the room for that. Marcus Nand played a flamenco guitar solo in ‘Walking In The Sunshine’ that we recorded with Rod’s 67 vocal mic, while Emerson’s acoustic guitars were recorded with AKG P170s.


“Emerson lives only a couple of miles from my studio, so he would also regularly come over to my place to overdub more guitars. He is really good at arranging guitars. We worked on getting the right sounds and the right parts, and I used the same mics on him as I used at Rod’s place. I have a very small collection of mics! So I had the SM57 on electrics, and the P170 on his acoustic, though sometimes it was the 414. He also played banjo and ukulele, which also were recorded with the 414. I recorded my acoustic piano parts with a pair of P170s, though for the majority of piano sounds on the record I used samples from Production Voices’ Production Grand. I love that plug-in!


“I played and recorded all the keyboards and strings on the album at my studio, and they are almost all in the box. I also use Synthogy’s Ivory Piano, and Native Instruments’ Electric Pianos, Vintage Organs and Upright Piano, and Logic’s Wurly. For strings I have 8Dio’s Agitato Strings, Cinematic Strings, Spitfire’s Albion Strings, Sable Strings and Solo Strings, and Embertone’s Blakus Cello. My other sound sources include Massive Synth, Battery, Kontakt, Output’s Rev, X Loops, and Signal, Vir2’s Electri6ity, Acou6tics, Acoustic Legends, and Mojo Horn Section, Bolder Sounds’s Harmoniums Of The Opera and Celtic Pipes, Realitone’s Realibanjo, Refx’s Nexus 2, and Spectrasonics’ Trilian Bass. These are my go-to guys.”


In Print


Savigar applied a fair amount of trickery during the mixing stage for Another Country, though he stresses that, like everyone who works in the box, he mixes as he goes along. “Basically, we get to a stage where Rod and I are happy with the rough mix. We have all the overdubs in place, as well as the EQ and the balance, and the track is doing what it wants to do. By this stage I will print all my MIDI stuff to audio, because sometimes there’s some delay with MIDI, and audio locks a little tighter. Then, once I have Rod’s final lead vocal in, I will flatten everything, and will start over. I’ll go through each track and make sure that I have every element the way I want it. I’ll work on the balance again, and switch on the automation once that’s right. I apply quite a bit of volume automation to sections and individual parts in places where I want to emphasise or de-emphasise them, because I like the song to breathe as it goes from beginning to end.


Slim Shaded

 


“Rod and I kept the mixing process to ourselves until we were pretty far down the road. I’d send him my mixes as MP3s and he would send me his feedback, and I’d make adjustments, and after hear that he’d send me more notes. He has good speakers and great ears and is a fantastic producer. When we were happy with the mixes, we sent them to his manager and we’d send the label a couple of songs at a time to show them what we were doing, and get feedback from them and make sure everyone was on the same page.”
At 51 tracks, the session of ‘Love Is’ is fairly compact by modern standards. From top to bottom it consists of drums and percussion (tracks 1-15, in purple and green), one bass track (dark blue), four keyboard tracks (green-yellow), seven tracks of folk instruments like accordion, whistle and fiddle (dark green), eight tracks of electric guitars (brown), five tracks of acoustic guitar (beige), two tracks of banjo (green-beige), three tracks of backing vocals, a lead vocal track (black), and a lead vocal harmony track (light blue) also from Stewart, two effect tracks, an overall level track and a master track.
“At the top of the basic verse kick sample, and below that, in green, are two kick doubles from Addictive Drums, which have a bit more spike. ‘Big Kik’ is a more ambient, four-to-the-floor kick sample in the chorus. ‘Wardrums’ come from Nexus, which has great loops. The ‘fill4T’ track has loops from Drums On Demand, from the Upbeat and Aggressive library, just throwing in some tom fills in between sections.
“There are very few plug-ins on the drums because the samples sounded pretty much the way I wanted them. There’s just some Logic EQ, in fact I have it on almost all tracks in the session, to take any rumble out. The tambourine was played by Julia Thornton and goes through Jack Joseph Puig’s Cymb & Perc plug-in, which adds some sheen and punch. It makes the tambourine pop out in the track without sounding metallic. Overall I left the drums and percussion natural-sounding, without hyping anything too much.”


The Ghost OF CLA


“The bass has Chris Lord-Alge’s bass plug-in on it [ie. Waves CLA Bass]. CLA’s plug-ins feature heavily in this mix. They’re very easy to use and with just a few moves things sound good and musical. The organ is a Native Instruments Vintage Organ, which has a compressor and a limiter, just squashing it a little bit. I amped and re-recorded the Logic Wurly to give it some grit. The next two keyboard tracks double the backing vocals in the instrumental section after the choruses.
“There are again very few plug-ins on the folk instruments, other than a hall reverb from the Space Designer on the low whistle, while the three fiddle tracks each have CLA Unplugged, which is great. I’m using the ‘String - Canyon’ preset, which adds a lovely reverb that makes the fiddle sit nicely in the track. There’s one main fiddle that goes throughout the track, a fiddle solo and a fiddle lead immediately after the solo. They’re part of the build-up in the arrangement of the song, with all instruments finally playing during the fiddle lead section. I’m a great believer in getting the song to work musically, and if you get the arrangement right, it makes the mix a lot easier.

 

 

 I did very little to Rod's lead vocals during the mix, I just had the CLA Vocals plug- in on him. with a bit of 'spank' compression and some reverb, and a Waves De-Esser, and that was it. I used the same plug-ins on his harmony vocal, where he sings a third above his lead vocal. I think it’s the first time he has ever done a harmony vocal with himself. It’s a great sound. The backing vocals also have the CLA Vocals plug-in, on the ‘Start Me Up’ preset, plus the Tape Delay on the ‘ohs’, and they’re all sent to an effect track with the Logic Stereo Delay and Space Designer. The latter had a ‘Vocal Delay’ preset, which adds some air and room to the backing vocals. “I bus everything to a Level bus, so I can juggle with the levels. In case everything gets too hot, I can draw things back before I send them to the stereo output. I then have the Waves L316 Multimaximizer on that, doing just a bit of limiting, although I pulled back a little to give the mastering engineer, Bernie Grundman, a few decibels to work with. Then it was just the Logic Multimeter, to show me what levels and frequencies were there, and that was it.

 

 

In the Satinwood Box
 
Kevin Savigar is a complete convert to the in-the-box cause, and his Satinwood Studios is the epitome of uncluttered simplicity. “I’ve had my own studio for many years, and have used all kinds of different formats, including 16-track reel-to-reel tape recorders and Alesis ADAT. But as soon as computer recording came about, I launched into that. For me, the convenience of the workspace has always been what makes the difference. I like analogue, and I still have a Tascam two-track that I sometimes send my audio to, and I then import it again in Logic. That’s fun and fattens things up a bit. In the early days it was a trade-off between convenience and sonic quality, but I think the playing field is more level now in terms of the sonics.
“I worked on Digital Performer for a long time, but switched over to Logic five or six years ago, and that changed everything for me, because Logic is such a great program. I have version X and I love it. I had to get used to it, and I wish I could change the background colour, but I love the seamlessness between MIDI and audio and video, and I’m extremely fast with it. The recall also is a big thing for me, especially when you are doing songwriting demos and are regularly changing lyrics and arrangements. Working on tape always was a real pain in this respect. Also, the plug-ins that are available now are so great, I don’t need outboard any more. And there’s the convenience of being able to travel with a laptop, which is wonderful.
“In addition to my laptop, the gear in my studio consists of the Apollo Twin, an M-Audio 61es controller, and a little two-octave Akai MPK Mini, which is great for sticking in your computer bag. My monitors are the Tannoy 601As, which sound clean and true to me, and the Haffler TRM6s, which I really like. I go to and fro between these two sets of monitors, and listen to my laptop speakers if I want to make sure that the vocal level is right.
“I also check in my car, and a bunch of different stereo systems. I know what the bottom end is like by turning it up really loud and standing at the top of the staircase outside. There are all sorts of tricks that you figure out along the way!”

 

 


The Old Country

 
Another Country leans more heavily than most of Rod Stewart’s albums on acoustic instruments, and some of the material has strong Scottish folk influences. One response to this, in the Guardian newspaper, made Savigar laugh out loud. “Rod was criticised for jumping on the bandwagon of Mumford & Sons, which was funny, because Rod has been doing mandolins and fiddles and banjos probably even from the days before the writer was born! But yes, the album does sound very Scottish in places, with Rod’s pentatonic melody for ‘Another Country’ sounding almost like a traditional Scottish tune. We didn’t start out to write a record like that, but sometimes the songs just go in that direction and you just go with it. Rod has strong Celtic roots [his father was Scottish], and I enjoy that kind of music as well, so it was natural for us to go in that direction.
“Rod’s voice sounds fantastic against a backdrop of acoustic instruments, with all the harmonics flying around. We really wanted to bridge a contemporary music style with his Celtic roots, so have banjos, fiddles, penny whistles, bagpipes and things like that alongside electric guitars. We wanted a production that had echoes of the early ’70s, and that would also be able to stand up on radio today. What sounds like bagpipes in the album’s title song is in fact mainly Emerson Swinford on electric guitar, doubled with a bagpipe sample from Bolder Sounds’ Celtic Pipes. Our inspiration for this was Big Country, who invented this sound in the 1980s. Emerson really messed with his guitar sound to trigger the feeling that you’re actually listening to bagpipes.”

For the Another Country sessions, Savigar’s recording approach was positively Spartan. “We just rented some baffles and set up a mic and a laptop and the Apollo Twin and cut the vocals. It was great! I needed something portable, because Rod moved around a lot because of his touring schedule, so I’d be hopping on a plane at times with just my laptop, the Apollo and a couple of mics. It was also great to have everything in the box, because it meant that I could always pick up where we or I had left off.

 

 

RSFC Interview with Kevin Savigar – Part 2

Dave Reddy – RSFC:  It’s been a long time since we last spoke and you have been very busy with Time & Another Country may I start by congratulating you for your work on these 2 great albums

 

Thanks Dave. It’s been a fun couple of projects and very satisfying to be writing songs with Rod again after all this time. We are having a good time making these records and thanks to all the fans for the reception we’ve had so far.

 

 Helen Clowes – RSFC: Can you tell me about the first time you met Rod Stewart and how you became involved in working with him?

 

The first time I met Rod was in the Cock ‘n’ Bull pub on Sunset Blvd. I had auditioned for the band in London after a friend of mine had told Pete Buckland about me. That all went well and I was brought over to Los Angeles to get Rod’s seal of approval – he was there putting the final touches on the ‘Blondes Have More Fun’ record. His first words were, asking Cregan, “Is this him then???”. We had a couple of beers and that was that. We rehearsed the next day and I got the nod. The day after that I was in the band filming the video for ‘Sexy’! It all happened very quickly.

 

Dave Reddy – RSFC: With the success of the Christmas album do you see Rod doing volume 2 but doing the more rock/pop classics like “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday”

 

I had the Christmas album on my playlist over the holidays and I had forgotten how good it is. I don’t know if there would ever be a 2nd one down the road – there’s definitely a lot more great songs that could be recorded though.

 

Al Robins – RSFC: Who's idea was it to call the radio station KNOB......

 

We were working away on that song and we thought we’d stick it in there for a laugh.

 

Al Robins – RSFC: Was the guitar twang on 'till the wheels' deliberate when Rod sings.... Wheels drop off....

 

No just one of those random moments.

 

Dave Reddy – RSFC: Who’s idea was it to put In A Broken Dream on the album?

 

I think Capitol thought it would be nice to have the remastered original included as a tie-in with the success of the A$AP Rocky song featuring the sample.

 

Dave Reddy – RSFC: How long did Another Country take to put together from writing, recording, mastering to being released compared to the last Rod album?

 

Well, we started writing songs in September 2013, soon after ‘Time’ was released. Rod was touring a lot so a lot of it was done via email. We began recording January 4th 2014 and spent most of the year recording and writing during gaps in the tour schedule. I had most of the record mixed by Christmas 2014 with the exception of ‘Walking In The Sunshine’ which we didn’t finish until March 2015. Mastering was done with Bernie Grundman in April and the original plan was to release the album in May. The record company decided to go with an October release date. It was about the same time frame with ‘Time’ – between a year and 18 months from the first idea to completion.

 

Dave Reddy – RSFC:  Last summer I interviewed Marc Jordan for the RSFC and he said he had written 2 songs for the new album were they ever recorded or would they potentially get recorded for Rod’s next project?

 

We felt those songs didn’t end up fitting in with the rest of the album. Sometimes it’s a bit of a challenge to find the right balance between all the tracks.

 

Antonio Espana – RSFC: Why don’t you rely more on David Palmer for studio recording? 

 

Dave is one of the sweetest guys you will ever meet - a true gent and a great drummer. I had a heart to heart chat withhim about his and he couldn't have been more gracious, It's a matter of production choices really - using the available technology to get a sound and feel that we like

 

 

Antonio Espana – RSFC:  Have you ever put on the table the idea of doing a few shows with Rod on a double keyboard line up? 

 

No I haven’t but I would be up for it.

 

Brian Howell – RSFC: Do you miss playing live with Rod. Any thoughts of wanting to do it again - even just once or twice - when you see Chuck up on stage? 

 

My years on the road with Rod and the boys were some of the best times of my life. I look back on some of those shows with very fond memories - the first Rock In Rio, Wembley ’86, Manchester ’78, Bangkok ’82. The best part was the doing the shows – it’s the other 22 hours of the day that can get you in trouble. I’d definitely do it if the situation arose!

 

Antonio Espana – RSFC: Do you miss the old days at recording studios or you feel more comfortable doing the records at home? 

 

We used to spend so many hours locked up in studios – hanging out with a lot of musicians was always a fun way to spend the day and night. I do prefer the way of doing things nowadays though – again, technology has allowed us to work on our own terms more. Being able to fit in having a life alongside making records is a much more pleasurable way to go.

 

Antonio Espana – RSFC: In your personal opinion, do you see a live release (audio or video) in the near future? (2004 was the last time an “official” live DVD was released)

 

I have no idea what the future holds! As far as a live release I don’t know of any plans for that.

 

Antonio Espana – RSFC: Currently which music scene do you see more promising from artistic perspective, talking about innovation: pop, country or rock? 

 

Lots of questions from Antonio!! Hi Antonio! As far as innovation goes I would say the pop genre is very interesting these days – quite a few very cool songs on the radio at the moment. The country scene has changed a bit lately also – they are paying a lot of attention to their younger demographic. I like how they are incorporating some pop production into their records – while keeping the stories country (not necessarily beer, trucks, dirt roads and fireflies!) they’ve freshened up the sound quite a bit. Sam Hunt, Luke Bryant, Keith Urban – all doing interesting things. I wrote a song with Kelsea Ballerini for her debut album and she broke out in a big way in 2015.

 

Antonio Espana – RSFC: Who would you like to produce? 

 

To be honest I don’t have a wish list – if I did it might include someone like Josh Groban, something slightly different for me. It would be fun to make a truly great throwback Elton album.

 

Antonio Espana – RSFC: have you ever thought of moving to Nashville or New York to get into their music scene? 

 

I have spent a lot of time in Nashville over the past 20 years – even had a rental house there with clothes and equipment! I haven’t been since the summer of 2014 but I am planning a few trips there this year to work with various artists and writers. Not so much for New York.

 

Antonio Espana – RSFC: Should Rod record another album do you think it would be similar to Time and Another Country or you would like to drive the record on another direction? 

 

Good question – who knows? We start out by writing some songs that we feel are strong and honest and from there it’s a meandering path to the finish.

 

Antonio Espana – RSFC: Will you ever release some photos of that party where you all were dressed like priests?

 

Probably not! That was my stag night and it was quite crazy!

 

Antonio Espana – RSFC: Please tell us a fun tour story which you think we never heard about before?

 

We were in Sydney and my wife Sue was travelling with me. We were all invited by a friend of the promoter’s for an afternoon sail on a beautiful yacht around Sydney harbour. Sue was feeling really jet lagged as we’d only arrived the day before so she passed and took a nap at the hotel. The rest of us, Rod included, went out on the boat and the promoter had invited a group of his female companions to help crew the yacht, pulling up the sails etc.. I’m not sure if this is a local custom, but as it was a very hot afternoon the ladies decided it would be refreshing for them if they removed their bikini tops – well us reserved British lads were taken aback by this very liberal approach to things to say the least! Next thing we know, a boat pulls up about 20 feet away with TV news cameras and other photographers on board. We’re all waving and having a generally jolly time of it with a few cold Fosters and we head back to the dock. Upon arriving back at the hotel Sue asked, ‘how was the cruise’ to which I replied ‘really good fun – you were missed though’. She said ‘I can tell – I just saw you all on the news’….

  

Antonio Espana – RSFC: Who's voice is during the Marcus Nand solo on Walking in the sunshine and the final of Last train home?

 

That is Rod during the solo – and Emerson ‘Razors’ Swinford doing his best impression of a 300lb African American train conductor…he actually did that for a laugh at the end of one his guitar tracks and we kept it in – seemed funny at the time!

 

Brian Howell – RSFC: What are the things you miss most about the UK?

 

That would be my family. My 2 boys Stuart and Duncan and their wives and our 5 grandchildren – Elllie, Rhys, George, Vinny & Sam.

Also the pubs and the sense of humour. It used to be the football but we get every game here in LA on Fox Sports, ESPN and NBC.

 

Dave Reddy – RSFC: What’s next for you, will you be working on other projects or will you take a rest?

 

I recently finished an album with a UK band, The 100 Year War. I cowrote and produced it and that took up most of the rest of last year after we finished ‘Another Country’. You can take a listen to it here if you like - https://www.soundcloud.com/the-100-year-war

Planning a couple of other projects that will be starting fairly soon but I can’t talk about them yet. One is a really interesting film project.

 

Dave Reddy – RSFC: Once again we would like to thank you for taking the time to speak with us we really appreciate your time.

 

You are most welcome.

 

Kevin Savigar was interviewed for RSFC by Dave Reddy, Al Robins, Antonio Espana, Helen Clowes & Brian Howell - January 2016 

The RSFC talks to Kevin Savigar Part 1

 

 

 

RSFC: Kevin you joined the Rod Stewart Group for the Blondes Have More Fun tour how did you land the job with Rod?

 

I was the only piano player at the auditions who bought a round of drinks in
the pub afterwards! Seriously though, I was doing quite a bit of studio session
work around London in the late 70’s and I was working with a friend of the
wonderful Pete Buckland, who was the road manager for the Faces and then Rod. He called me and said that John Jarvis had left the band and they were looking for a keyboard player, preferably someone British. I went along to Easy Hire
rehearsal studios in North London, played Maggie May and a couple of other
things with Jim, Gary, Phil Chen and a drummer (Rod and Carmine Appice were in
LA), jammed with them for a bit then Pete called the next day to see if I could
go out to LA and audition for Rod. It took me about 3 seconds to say I was
available and off I went. The rest is history.

 

RSFC: You were in Rod’s band from 1978-1986 where you toured & recorded quite extensively what was Rod like to work with? I’m sure you have some good stories to tell!

 

Well, I was in the band from ’78 –’86 on the road, but after that Rod involved me in cowriting quite a few songs and playing on his records up until ’98, when I coproduced ‘When We Were The New Boys’ with him. We recently got back together to write a couple of songs for his next project. It’s been fantastic to get back in the studio with him. As for what it’s like working with him, he’s definitely the team captain. He manages to bring out the best in your performance and is a great producer. He knows how to mold the band into something special, then with his voice on top ofit, it all comes to life! With the live shows, he’s not only the legendary frontman everybody loves, he knows how to put the perfect show together to take the audience on a ride. Off-stage there was always fantastic shenanagins going on in whatever city we would find ourselves in. Personally I blame Jim Cregan for everything!

 

RSFC: You have played in some amazing arenas & stadiums whilst touring with Rod where would you say was your most memorable gig & venue?

 

There were so many …..

The first Rock In Rio on Copacabana Beach in ’85 to over 200,000 mad
Brazilians was cool.

Wembley Stadium ’86 with the crowd singing ‘Every Beat Of My Heart’ – incidentally my last gig – I had to leave the tour half way through, which was tough to do, and go to hospital for a rather serious operaton.

The then-record-breaking 6 night run at the Forum in LA in ’79.

The UNICEF concert at the United Nations Jan ’79 worldwide broadcast.

Great memories!

 

RSFC: You have worked with Rod in the studio both writing & producing albums including a UK number 1 single. What would you say is your favourite Rod album?

 

My favourite Rod album has to be “Every Picture Tells A Story” – brilliant record, songs, production and singing!!!

I also have a soft spot for “Out Of Order” with “Forever Young”….

 

RSFC: You have co-written some great songs with Rod... what is your favourite?

 

“Forever Young” with “Ten Days Of Rain” as a close second. Although the new
ones are pretty fantastic!

 

RSFC: What was a typical recording session like?

 

The process has changed quite a bit over the years. It used to be quite a party in the studio – but that gradually gave way to being more focused on getting the best tracks possible in an economical way. On the “Foolish Behaviour” and “Tonight I’m Yours” sessions we had a fully catered bar with the very fine Patrick ‘Boiler’ Logue and Malcolm Cullimore (RIP) charging our glasses constantly. We would get to the studio around 1pm, work on the arrangement and jam until around 5ish until we felt comfortable with our parts etc. Then we would run next door to the pub for that final piece of inspiration – we’d come back, do quite a few takes until we had what we wanted, then go for dinner. We would go back to the studio and either do more takes or start routining the next day’s song until around 1am. Then repeat the next day for many months! It’s all changed now we’re more grown up…

 

RSFC: Is it true that the tune was laid down before Rod added lyrics?

 

We used to do it that way all the time. Rod liked to be inspired by the music then come up with the lyrics. On the new record, he had the lyrics finished before we cut the tracks. I love doing it that way as you get to hear him sing the finished song while your playing your parts. Two different processes.

 

RSFC: Recently Rhino Records have released a lot of the tracks from forgotten Rod Sessions like the Sessions box set 1971-1998 & Once In A Blue Moon a session from 1992. There’s some great tracks on Sessions box set that were never released, how many of those did you play on or co-write & do you have any memories from those sessions that you would like to share with the RSFC
 

I thought that was a strange compilation to put out to be honest. It was

basically a lot of out-takes from discarded master reels that weren’t finished
and never made the final record. I co-wrote a few of those things with Jim, and
Tony Brock had written some stuff also – it all gets muddled up with those kinds
of projects. That being said there were some great moments….”My Dad’s Trousers”
is a personal favourite.

 

RSFC: Did you work on any of Rod's non album tracks and others such as So Far Away, Your Song, Love Minus Zero, One Night etc.?

 

“So Far Away” was David Foster who is a genius. I played all the keyboards on
“Your Song” on the Elton/Bernie tribute album “Two Rooms” which Trevor Horn
produced. I produced, arranged and played on “Love Minus Zero” for the Princess
Diana tribute album … that was quite an emotional record as it was very soon
after her tragic death.

 

RSFC: As well as Rod you have worked with some great people such as
Bob Dylan, George Harrison, and Sinead O’Connor just to name a few. Please can
you the tell RSFC members who else you have worked for
?

 

Some other people I’ve played with are John Mellencamp, Marylin Manson, Peter
Frampton, Pat Benatar, Grace Jones, Tori Amos, Randy Newman, Lyle Lovett, Willie
Nelson, Belinda Carlisle, London Quireboys.

 

RSFC: Is it true you have done work for films were they sound tracks or have you done some acting & what films did your work feature in?

 

Definitely not acting! I’ve written songs and played on songs in some films and TV shows over the years.

Some of them are: “Toy Story”, “Toys”, “Message In A Bottle”, “Master Of Disguise”, “Baywatch”, “So You Think You Can Dance”, “The Perfect Storm”, “Made
In America”, “Staying Alive”, “8 Seconds”, “Love Affair”, “Night Shift”,
“Ishtar”!, “Chances Are”, “Inner Space” and a load of anonymous TV films.

 

RSFC: Do you still keep in touch with any of the guys you played with in Rod’s band?

 

I had dinner with Jim at Rod’s house in England recently; Gary and I are
Facebook friends and I bumped into Phil Chen at a rehearsal studio in North
Hollywood last week. I see Robin LeMesurier all the time as well as Tony Brock
occasionally.

 

RSFC: Jim Cregan & Gary Granger are playing in a band called 'Apart From Rod' would you consider playing in the band?

 

They very kindly invited me to play with them but I’m in LA and I’m pretty busy working on different projects.

 

RSFC: What do like to do when you’re not working do you have many hobbies?

 

I love playing golf. I just enjoy getting out there and I’ve been working on my game a lot this last year – I still have problems with my short game but if I can strike the ball well consistently I’m happy.

I also enjoy cooking, wine, reading, photography, art, films and TV.

 

RSFC: As we all know Rod loves football; do you like football & who is your team?

 

I love watching a great game – we get all the Premier league games as well as
most of the European games here in LA. I’m a Man Utd fan – I know that doesn’t
sound right as I’m from North London but there you go!

 

RSFC: You announced on your website that your back working with Rod on his forthcoming album can you tell the RSFC what we can expect from Rod’s new
album?

 

I’m involved in 2 songs on the new album and they sound like classic Rod songs. I think a lot of people will be pleasantly surprised by this record – he’s singing better than ever, has written more original songs than on any of his other records, and has brought the band back to the basics – raw sounding, great grooves in a small intimate studio. Very excited!

 

RSFC: As well as Rod’s new album what projects are you currently working on?

 

Lindsay Broughton – country pop girl on Sony Records Canada – we’re just finishing mixing and it will be out in Jan 2012 .

Midnight Mirage – a band I’ve been developing for the past year. EP is just finished.

Taylor Mathews – runner up on America’s Got Talent 2010…. Soulful young 19
year old singer ala Gavin De Graw/Jason Mraz

 

RSFC: Would you consider going back out on the road with Rod again?

 

Yes!

 

RSFC: I hear that you have laid a couple of tracks down for the RSFC’s very own Martie Peters can you tell us more about that & can you give any of our members who are budding musicians more information on the art of demoing?

 

Martie’s record sounds great – he and Rene did a great job getting that made with musicians across the globe. The internet has changed the way we can
collaborate and I love being able to record in my underwear! Fantastic to be able to play on a track that Mickey Curry drummed on in NY and Jim Cregan played on in London – then it comes down the pipeline in LA for me to add my parts then I shoot the thing back to Copenhagen for Martie and Rene – who’d’ve thought?!

As for the art of demoing, here’s a link to a blog I recently wrote on the
subject.

http://idocoach.com/2011/02/kevin-savigar-on-the-art-of-demoing/

 

RSFC: I have to ask you this one as the RSFC have asked others the same question & it’s… Marmite do you love it or hateit?



It’s a lot better than Vegemite but I’m not a huge fan – not bad on a piece of buttered toast but not my first choice.

 

RSFC: I would like to take this time to thank you for taking the time out to talk to me I cannot tell you how much of an honour it was do this interview with you we at the RSFC wish you the very best for the future.

 





My pleasure! Hope you all enjoy the new record! Cheers!

 

Kevin Savigar was interviewed by Dave Reddy 16th October
2011

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