Steve Tyrell: Standard Bearer
ST: I've written all kinds of music. Most of it has a kind of a blues aspect to it. Even if I do a real pop song, I bring someone like James Ingram to the project and it would bring a real soulful twist to it like on "Somewhere Out There."
AAJ: Who are a few of your favorite artists that you have worked with as a producer and as a songwriter?
ST: I've enjoyed working with everyone. Linda and I made two big hits together. She is a great singer. Bonnie Raitt is a legend. James Ingram, Aaron Neville, Rickie Lee Jones, all are great singers. My favorite artist of all time to work with has to be Ray Charles. He is my all time favorite artist. But I also liked working with LL Cool J. We wrote a song together for a Debbie Allen movie.
AAJ: You include a lot of musicians in your band and your recordings, like Plas Johnson and Clark Terry, who played with the original singers on some of the traditional standards that you sing. Did you intentionally plan that or did it just come together?
ST: When I started making my standards albums that was a concept that I had. I really wanted to feature the great soloists on the songs that they originally played on. So I made a conscious effort to do that. When I did, "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," I wanted to have Clark Terry on that because he had played with Duke Ellington. To take a song that was recorded in the 1940's and to have the original trumpet player play on the song again, I thought that was a cool thing. I think a lot of people that like my albums and listen to them don't realize that historical fact.
AAJ: Unless they see you in concert and hear a story or really read the liner notes.
ST: It really hasn't been written about that much. That was the reason I made these albums in the first place.
AAJ: When you listen to your albums you realize that these musicians all have featured solos to showcase their great talent.
ST: It is a conscious effort. I am a producer, so the music is important.
AAJ: What do you think your years of producing brings to your singing career?
ST: Well, it makes me make a total record that is mine. It's like having my whole painting there but within the painting is a tremendous collaboration with some great people. Bob Mann and I have been partners for years he is a tremendous arranger, producer, and guitarist. We have been working together for over thirty years. I work with Bob on almost everything I do so it is a collaboration.
AAJ: Is there anyone you think of when you are singing some songs?
ST: Everything I ever recorded I recorded with my late wife. She was the co-producer of these albums and responsible for almost all of these recordings in a sense in terms of her take on what songs to do.
AAJ: She had a huge part of you singing and recording songs again then?
ST: She was the reason I did it actually. It was her idea to record again, not mine. I probably would have never even thought about it. I basically got out of it when I started producing other singer's records and it never occurred to me to be an artist again.
AAJ: How did your singing career start up again?
ST: It was when I started singing on demos for our company. We would write a song and because we had our own studio I would just put a vocal on the song. They ended up being used a lot, way before "Father of the Bride."
AAJ: People would hear the demos and then just use your version?
ST: Yes, they would listen to it and say, "Why don't we just use this?" That really surprised me and made me start to believe more in my voice which I had totally forgotten about. I ended up singing in maybe fifteen TV shows and movies before I ever sang "The Way You Look Tonight." Producers would hear my version and like it so they just used it. I wasn't even thinking about it at the time. That is what got me back out into being an artist again. It really just happened. All of a sudden I was singing in a new movie or TV show.
AAJ: With your hits, and others like Rod Stewart and Diana Krall, why do you think this music is so popular now?
ST: I think this music is America's greatest contribution to the arts. I don't think it will ever go out of style. What makes these songs standards are that singers can do their own things and breathe life into the songs. They can do their own versions, where with pop music you can't really do that. No one really wants to hear me sing an Elton John or a Paul Simon song, you want to hear them sing those songs. The songs that are standards were written to be interpreted by different people. They allow you to put your personality into them and then they sound like an original song again. Other music doesn't do that. I love Diana Krall's version of "Let's Fall in Love," or Sinatra's. It's the same song but different versions. The song allows people a way to interpret things that makes it their own.
AAJ: Anyone that you would like to work with that you haven't gotten the chance to yet?
ST: Lots of people. I would love to work with Diana Krall. I think she is incredible.