PATTY LARKIN has always prided herself in her creative approach to music. With WATCH THE SKY, Larkin has created a one of a kind release that she wrote, produced, engineered and edited. Larkin wrote and recorded much of the material as it came to her, assembling tracks and sounds as she went. The result is a raw, intimate gorgeous sound that is all her own. Here Larkin has experimented with a kaleidoscope of sounds, from her "slapsteel" guitar (lap steel detuned, played with drumstick and hand) to the "baribow," an organic take on a string section, played on electric baritone guitar with a child's violin bow. Things take off with a hip hop tinged piece, sung in the voice of a ghost walking the house with a wailing electric blues guitar part, to intimate acoustic guitar with orchestral underpinnings and vocals in the style of Nick Drake. The concept of combining acoustic instruments with modern technology has always intrigued Larkin, and she accomplishes this feat gracefully on SKY.
Larkin's treasured past co producers, Bette Warner and Ben Wittman, joined her at regular intervals to collaborate and give feedback, but much of the process was a solitary venture for her. "I've always been a writer who enjoyed the solitude of the creative process. Learning the technology to be able to record myself and edit it down was something I've been working towards for quite some time. Some of the songs were written in a stream of words as the tracks rolled by, most all of them were recorded immediately after having written them. I feel that I'm stretching myself as an artist on this one. Reinventing how I create. It was a thrilling, at times harrowing experience."
Patty Larkin grew up in a music and arts oriented family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Descended from a long line of Irish-American singers and taletellers, her mother is a painter, her sisters both musicians. She learned at a young age to appreciate the beauty and magic of the arts. She began classical piano studies at age 7, and became swept up in the sounds of pop and folk in the 60s, teaching herself the guitar and experimenting with songwriting. An English major, Larkin wrote songs throughout her high school and college career, starting out in coffeehouses in Oregon and San Francisco. Upon graduation, she moved to Boston and devoted herself to music, playing on the streets of Cambridge and studying jazz guitar at Berklee College of Music and with Boston Area jazz guitarists. "I wanted to learn as much as I could about the instrument, how to read for it, how to play anything. I realized the enormity of the task, and somehow gave myself permission to climb the mountain. I'm still learning."
Patty is a rare combination of talents. Over her 10 CD history, she has honed a reputation as a "musician's musician", working with some of the brightest talents in American music. Long a favorite with critics, Patty is that unique level of artistic sophistication - one that her audiences have come to appreciate and her new fans will love. Patty Larkin has achieved a personal best with "Watch the Sky." The ever evolving artist has continued to search for a new voice, a fresh palate. Watch the Sky. Watch Patty Larkin.
Patty on the recording process:
The recording process was mostly solitary. The good thing was that I could hit Delete whenever I felt like it. The down side was that there was no one around to bounce ideas off of until after the fact. Some of the songs were written the way I've always written: guitar in hand, notebook and pen ("Cover Me", "Dear Heart"). Others were written to tracks I had put down and looped or arranged, the melodies and lyrics written and sung as the music floated by. "Beautiful" and "All Souls Day" come to mind. This was new ground for me, exciting, terrifying territory to uncover as a writer. When I write and record I want to get to the place that Brenda Ueland talks about in "If You Want To Write." She says the creative state is similar to that of a child sitting on the floor playing with beads: fully engrossed, no time, fully present. That is the place I went to, until the left side of my brain kicked in and said, "Hit Record, now!" Loops were built off of lap steel percussion, drum machine patterns, baritone guitar licks. Sometimes the song called for a rhythmic underpinning, and other times there was no click, only the ebb and flow of the lyric to direct me ("Hollywood"). I ran vocals, toy organ, a small Casio keyboard and a 1950s lap steel through an old Leslie cabinet which lent an eerie, classic vibrato to all it touched. I have an old 60s baritone guitar made by Telsco, a Japanese company that was imitating Fender at the time. It's a spaceship like thing. I created my own version of a cello or viola part by bowing the harmonics with my daughter's violin bow. For me, hearing the scrape of the bow suggests the idea of a string part. It's as if the mind fills in what it expects to hear. All in all, the recording process was a coming together of old and new: funky collectable instruments, beautiful handmade acoustic guitars, and computer software that has changed the recording process for so many songwriters. It's a new world out there. Glad to be walking in it, watching the sky.