Peter Cincotti: Revelations Abound
AAJ: You've got to focus otherwise you don't want to shut off too much when you're writing your own songs. One of the best lines in your lyrics leaped out at me: "...all the Tarzans acting like Janes..." I thought was out of this world. Where did that come from?
PC: That's the song "Be Careful," and that one, compared to the rest of them, took awhile to write. That was one of the ones I wrote with [lyricist] John Bettis. We had the first verse and I knew what I wanted the song to be about and then I went out with this girl I'd never met; this was very serendipitous because the whole night became the first verse and it pushed the song into overdrive and we finished the song pretty easily.
AAJ: That's enough to make anyone look very carefully at your lyrics and wonder where all this stuff comes from. Let's move on to talk about how the songs were actually recorded. Were there any of the songs in either batch that changed markedly from when you thought they were finished to when the recording was actually finished? For instance, did a ballad turn out upbeat or vice-versa?
PC: No, nothing as drastic as that. Nothing actually became a different song. I like to complete songs something like eighty percent and then leave twenty percent for what happens in the studio. And that twenty percent was really taken advantage of by David [Foster], of course, and Jochem van der Saag, of course, who's one of the producers. He did all the sound design and did all the mixing. Songs like "Angel Town," when we went into the studio and recorded it, then it really went to its full potential, because it was written on the piano alone and it really took on a complete life of its own. It wasn't a different life, but it had everything it needed. A lot of that happened in the studio, but nothing really changed drastically.
AAJ: Let's talk about the arrangements for this material. Did you have really clear-cut ideas about how you wanted to present these songs?
PC: Yes, very much and all of that was done before the studio. A bunch of the songs were kind of worn in on the road before we hit the recording of the stuff. Performing [new material] is part of my process when I write; the arrangement goes hand in hand with that.
AAJ: What kind of lineup do you take out on the road with you when you perform?
PC: Usually it's me plus five: bass, drums, guitar, keyboards and saxophone. Sometimes we slim it down a bit depending on the occasion, but that's the full band.
AAJ: How did you come to work with David Foster? Did Warner Bros. set that up or you ask to work with him given his pedigree and his resume?
PC: No, he was one of the first to hear a lot of these new songs. He came to a benefit in Los Angeles and at that time I was really looking at all of the producers because I really wanted to make sure I found the right one. As much as I respected David Foster, you can't really know if it's the right match until you go and do it, so I wasn't about to go and make a decision based on a resume, as much as I respected it.
He was great. He said "Why don't we do one song and we'll see how it goes." He was very excited to do this and I was honored he was excited. We ended up doing eleven songs in three days; it was one of those things that really clicked. Things moved very quickly; we did all the basic recoding in New York and then I did a lot of the postproduction in Los Angeles.
AAJ: I notice looking at the credits some famous names and I wondered how much your band was part of the whole project.
PC: My core band, the bassist and the drummer, were on pretty much everything. And then we had a lot of David's guys come in to play extra parts; at that time I didn't have my guitarist or a full band yet, so we had a mix with my core band in there.
AAJ: I bet that added a lot of stability as people like Michael Landua (guitarist) and Nathan East (bassist) wove in and out. What was it like working with those guys? Did David more or less navigate everyone through the sessions or did you sit at the helm with him? Or did you just call the shots and he took orders from you?
PC: No, [laughs], it was very much the both of us at the helm and that's what made it special. There were really no compromises. Each of us heard the other out. He pushed me when I needed to be pushed and he left me alone when I needed to be left alone. He was very sensitive to that and we had some great back and forth. That's what I think gave the record the great spark that it has. He kept saying "Compromise breeds mediocrity!"
AAJ: Were there any points during the recording that you guys were at loggerheads?
PC: No not to me, I couldn't imagine a better match to be honest.
AAJ: It'd seem like you'd waste a lot of time in the recoding studio if you couldn't cut right to the chase.
PC: We had a head start in a lot of ways. I knew exactly what I wanted and he's such an incredible musician, I feel like we ended up skipping a lot of steps. If I had a question about whether I ought to play an F-sharp or a G, you could shoot right back and do it. That's the kind of producer that he is, he could go right down and play the song right after you. There are many different styles [of producer] but he's one of those.