Author's Note: This interview was conducted the evening of January 16, 2003 a few hours before they were to take the stage. That show at the Railhead would be unbelievable but, that's another story. See the review for all the details. We would like to thank Roy & Norton for being so generous with their time.
DB: Why after 10 years did you decide to do another CD together?
NB: Well we've been doing shows together all along and it really was about time. We had both written a lot of material over the years, then we got together and wrote a bunch together so the CD was just overdue.
DB: I think that it was long overdue?
RR: Like Norton says we've been playing all along, we really been playing ongoing alot since Travlin' Tracks. What was that '92?
RR: This one was different because we both co-wrote a lot of the stuff. The previous records we both brought our own material and recorded that. We really do alot of co-writing so that's quite different for this record.
NB: The other thing is that in the last 10 years we both stayed busy. Roy was producing some records for John Lee [Hooker] and doing that kind of stuff. Then also traveling around Europe and the U.S. with his band. I stayed so doggone busy touring with Steve Miller, and with my band plus all the different things I did that it just made it real difficult to find the time.
RR: The time is always right when something happens, you can't force it.
NB: We made a decision to do this and Blind Pig jumped at it right away. I think the recording came out great because we stretched the boundries a little more this time. We went a little more into roots and folk type stuff. We kept it based in the blues so there's plenty of things for the blues people. I think it's a really good record with some gorgeous ballads and good lyrics and even a Latin tune. You know what I like best about it is? The first record, R&B, is a beautiful record that sounds like it was done in the studio. The second record Travelin' Tracks was alot of live tracks and some studio. Roots Of Our Nature, though it was all done in the studio, still has a live feel to it. It was our goal to make it feel live.
RR: Yes, the live feel was by design.
NB: We made it feel as good as we could. We didn't want to sacrifice the feel by perfecting everything.
RR: I think it's a better record because of that.
DB: I like the spontaneity of it. You normally don't get that unless it's live.
RR: It all depends on the material though. It's certainly a valid approach to make records that way, it depends on what you're going for. On this record we wanted to have that feel. That's indicative of what the duets about live. We wanted that energy to come across.
NB: There's some tracks on this record that have a rhythm section behind it. Even there we didn't let the rhythm section take over the duet vibe. We wanted to be able to take these songs onstage together and still have them translate as a duet.
DB: How did you find the time to do this record? I know that your schedules are swamped.
RR: I was swamped, it was done fairly quickly I'll tell you that. We had to hustle to get it done.
NB: We had to push to get it done. There were alot of sleepless nights for me. I did alot of the engineering on this, so for me there was a lot of time getting it ready because we had such a heavy deadline. There were a lot of long nights.
RR: We had a self imposed deadline to get it out in 2002. I'm happy to say we did it. We almost didn't make it. Luckily we had the support of Blind Pig. We had to get in and get it recorded and mixed. In the midst of touring it's always a struggle. The record in particular we had a very finite time period to do this.
NB: We didn't want it to come out too close to the holidays.
RR: It's like a death nail.
NB: For instance when my last album King Of The Highway came out at the end of September it really only got one month of play before the onslaught of holiday releases started to hit at the end of October. Then boom the world gets taken over by Christmas and my album didn't sell until the middle of January. That's why we decided that August would be the absolute latest to release the CD. We were originally hoping to have it out in June or July. It's gotten alot of airplay and still getting more. It's gotten some great reviews and we're happy to have another one out. We definitely don't want it to take so long next time. We're having alot of fun and doing more dates this year than we had in the past. Part of it has been that Steve Miller hasn't been touring since 2001. That's given me some more time and Roy's made some time so we dedicated more time to the duet which is really fun for me.
DB: I think that it will be better on stage. Do you like the creative process better in the studio or on stage?.
RR: I just like the creative process peroid. I like the songwriting process. I like the process of writing when you're working together on something. It's always very exicting. It's different of course than the live show. The live show should always be better if you will because it's immediate energy. However the creative process is always a rush in a different kind of way. You are putting your creatice juices together in a way that is hopefully better than you thought possible because you are combining your talents with someone like Norton. For me I totally like the creative process.
NB: You've seen both my band and you've seen Roy's band. When I've been with my band I get into it and tear it up and my band gets into it with me. I'm the one really tearing it up, when you see Roy's band, Roy's the one driving the train and tearing it up. What's neat about when we get together we are both able to tear it up indivdually but we also spark off one another. He'll do something and I'll catch it so it's never the same one night to the next. I'll do something and he catches it, so there's a trade off thing that happens were we drive ourselves to higher levels. It happens more in the soloing part, but it also happens with the grooves we get going behind each other. It makes it so that it's fresh everyday and Roy and I don't get tired of it, well I don't get tired of it.
RR: I get tired of it. (Norton and Roy both laugh)
NB: We have a ball doing this and we inspire each other. On our indivdual instruments we command alot of power.
RR: It's like tossing a ball in each other's court. Here take the ball and do something with it then give it back to me and I'll do something with it. That music dialog is what it's all about.
NB: Some of that magic happenend when we were working on tunes. I'd say what about trying this and he'd say na na that's not a good idea and I'd go come on let's try it. Roy would say let's do it this way and I'd say no that's not good and he'd just try it and then you'd find out what he's talking about. What was neat about making the record was that we were able to get some of that energy into the creation of some of those tunes. There's a magic between Roy and I that translates onto the record and especially on stage. You're gonna get the essence of our records when you see us live, you'll also see something that's magnetic, magic and incendiary that happens on stage that's difficult to translate on record.
DB: You both front your own successful bands, so why do this in the first place?
RR: It's a different facet of playing music that we both enjoy with amplified acoustics. It a different approach to what we are both a part of, what we both do. Like Norton says we have a special friendship that just takes it to another level. We both feel that way even though we both love playing with our bands, it's a different thing, a different flip of the coin.
NB: Years ago I was searching and Roy had already done the acoustic duo. I was putting some acoustic stuff together and tried different guitar players and done several shows that way. I always felt that there was something missing. When I started doing it with Roy that wasn't missing anymore. The two of us combined into one big sound together that the other said they were missing. I have my band the Knockouts, an acoustic group and Roy and I. The acoustic group is lighter with a lot of vocal harmonies not meant for a band. It's not meant for the stuff Roy and I do, so I needed a place to put this music out. So now I got that going and with Steve Miller that's four different outets.
DB: Thank you both so very much.
RR: Always a pleasure.
NB: Thanks it's our first time in Vegas together and I can't wait.
Photography by Carol Michaud copyright © 2003 Brown Ink
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