We caught up with ECR Music Group owner and recording artist Blake Morgan to talk about the new restored and remastered version of his sophomore album Burning Daylight.
As someone who’s been following your work for a while, I always felt there was a huge leap between Burning Daylight and the more nuanced Diamonds in the Dark. This reissue seems to equalize those records, illuminating some gradations lost in the original mix of Burning Daylight. It’s a tighter and more focused record now that sits comfortably among your best work. But you didn’t George Lucas it. There’s no re-recording or alternative takes, right?
[Laughs] No, no––unlike Han Solo in Lucas’ newer version, I’m proud to say that I still shoot first and there are no awkward scenes with a new and computer generated Jabba the Hutt. To be clear: no retakes, no re-recording, no autotune, no “sweetening,” no auto-tempo. None of that. In truth, I started with the original multi-tracks of the record and remixed each song from scratch. I think the result is a really striking one. I agree it does feel much tighter and more focused, much more natural, and it adheres more to its analog nature (it was originally cut to tape). Because of that, I feel the songwriting is now able to jump forward and into view better than ever.
I have to say, this is how I always wanted the record to sound when I was first making it. So in truth, this isn’t a departure from the original plan for Burning Daylight––quite the contrary––it’s a better implementation of the original one.
The original Burning Daylight was released thirteen years ago. Do you still connect to those songs?
I really do, and I’m so glad of that. Those songs really matter to me and I think they’re reborn with this new mix. I feel a great mix should almost go unnoticed, the way a great film should be transparent. We don’t want to leave a movie saying, “Wow, that was so well made!” We want to leave a movie emotionally affected because of how it was made, whether our ribs hurt from laughing or our eyes are red from crying. We want to leave saying, “Hey, can we go somewhere and just talk about this for a while?” I think the depth and emotion in the songs on Burning Daylight has been unveiled. I really love believing in them again. For me, it’s like the windshield in front of the songs has been wiped clean with this mix, and they’ve been newly revealed.
The new mix really showcases the musicianship behind the songs. From your vocals, guitar, and keys, to that kick-ass rhythm section of Jonathan Ellinghaus (drums) and John Turner (bass). It sounds like a whole new record. Have they heard the new mix?
Thanks so much, I feel that way too. They certainly have heard it––they poured their hearts and souls into this record from the beginning, and they’ve both been invaluable in accomplishing this new mix. Jon and JT are two extraordinary musicians I’ve had the fortune of working with for a long time. They’ve never sounded better than they do on these tracks.
Jon always plays drums like a songwriter (because he is one), and he’s completely selfless in the process. All he cares about is getting the songs across and contributing what he can to achieve that. And he does so, unlike any drummer I’ve ever worked with.
JT has taught me more about the bass guitar––and probably music in general––than anyone I know, and his ears for a mix are invaluable to me. Seriously, I have not finished a mix on a record in the past 15 years without seeking his counsel. He’s one of the only people in the world who can convince me I’m wrong in five words or less, and I’m so grateful for it. Not to be overlooked, JT is also singing his tail off on this record––he’s doing almost all of the backing vocals. Rebuilding this record from the ground up wouldn’t be possible without the foundation that those two musicians provided. The upper architecture of the arrangements on the record really shine now, but it’s all because it’s laid on top of Jon and JT’s work. Same with my vocals. Who wouldn’t want to sing their lungs out on top of a foundation like that!
Can we expect to see any of your other albums get the remaster treatment?
Yes––in fact each of my four albums will be re-issued in the coming months. The impetus was the combination of my record label, ECR Music Group, securing a new worldwide distribution deal with SONY/Orchard, and me personally signing a new music publishing deal with Modern Works Music Publishing. Those two developments made me think, “Well if I was ever going to go back and look under the hood of my recorded catalog, now would be the time.” That’s really what fueled this whole remaster-and-reissue idea.
“This is how I always wanted the record to sound.”
So, following Burning Daylight, my debut album, Anger’s Candy, will be re-released worldwide on October 26th, Silencer on November 16th, and Diamonds In The Dark on December 7th. (Silencer is also getting the full remixed-and-remastered treatment like Burning Daylight, and I’m thrilled about it too.) Revisiting Anger’s Candy and working on that remaster was a unique trip (it was originally mastered by the great Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound), and I feel like it’s been given a really beautiful new lift. The artistic arc between it, Burning Daylight, and the albums that followed has never felt so satisfying to me. This has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to be able to honor the work that the earlier versions of me did, while also using all the artistic tools I now possess in doing so. It’s been moving, and joyful. These past few months rank among the best I’ve ever spent in music.
Your continuing residency on Stage 3 of Rockwood Music Hall is one of the best tickets in town. There’s always a lot of love in the room. You recently featured some super talented special guests like Tracy Bonham, Jesse Harris, and Chris Barron, to name a few – opening my eyes to those folks in a whole new way. I know you do a lot of touring in and out of the states, but I get the feeling the Rockwood residency is particularly special for you. Am I right?
Without exaggeration, it’s changed my musical life. All of the nearly 100,000 miles of touring I’ve done over the past three years is because of the Rockwood residency. It caught on early in its first year––much to my surprise I might add––and once it did, it gave birth to touring opportunities I’ve never had before. Close to 150 concerts on both sides of the Atlantic now, and more to come. I certainly never expected to sell out three years of shows at Rockwood, or to even have three years of shows at all. Now, we’re starting the fourth year, and I will keep doing it, happily, for however long people keep showing up.
“These past few months rank among the best I’ve ever spent in music.”
To be able to have a musical home in New York City has been a dream of mine since I was a boy (I used to go see Les Paul at Fat Tuesday’s where he’d play for 50 people every Monday night). Now, I have a home of my own (and what a home!) with incredible guests––many of whom have become dear friends––and an audience who brings an energy to that special room like none I’ve ever known.
The residency has given me a chance to stretch and grow as an artist, and to try things I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. The whole “storytelling” part of the show, for example, is something I never used to do, and now it’s an indispensable feature of both my Rockwood show, and my show on the road. Performing brand new songs at almost every show is also new for me, and perhaps the best and most valuable part of the whole experience. I have a busy musical life, what with running my label, producing and recording other artists, etc., and finding time to write can be a challenge. As the saying goes, “the shoemaker’s shoes always get fixed last.” But this residency has put me on the schedule with myself in a way that’s changed everything for me. It’s a show I have to do, and do well, every 8 weeks rain or shine. I love that. As Duke Ellington once said, “I don’t need time. What I need is a deadline.”
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2018 in Music
Music is alive and well. Here are some favorites from records I listened to this year.
Be the Cowboy – Mitski
Mitski has beautiful momentum since Puberty 2. Her latest, Be the Cowboy, ups the ante. (more)
The Tree of Forgiveness – John Prine
Septuagenarian John Prine has honed his craft for well over 50 years and never once had to twerk.
Kids See Ghosts – Kanye West & Kid Cudi
Cudi’s record is the best of Kanye’s multiple releases in 2018, tweets aside.
boygenius – boygenius
Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus join forces as boygenius for an EP that’ll play you like a violin.
Suspiria (Music for the Luca Guadagnino Film) – Thom Yorke
Haven’t seen the movie yet, but this record paints a vivid picture on its own.
Things Have Changed – Bettye LaVette
The freshest take on Dylan since Dylan.
Look Now – Elvis Costello
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I’ll Be Your Girl – The Decemberists
A well-oiled music-making machine – it was fun to hear them play with synths this year.
Twentytwo in Blue – Sunflower Bean
Shoulda hit the big time with this decidedly Fleetwood Mac–flavored record.
Rock 2 – The Dean Ween Group
You can expect more of these beer–smelling solo records until Ween make new music.
This is America – Childish Gambino
One of the best songs of the year, and definitely the best video.
Superoganism – Superoganism
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Sparkle Hard – Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks
The voice of Pavement makes another solid record with The Jicks.
Ordinary Corrupt Human Love – Deafheaven
Alls I know is… this song helped me out this year.
Burning Daylight – Blake Morgan
Restored and remastered version of Blake’s sophomore album shines like a diamond. (more)
Pinkus Abortion Technician – Melvins
A good reminder from the drunk uncle of grunge.
Wide Awake! – Parquet Courts
Some solid tracks, but I wanted to like this collab with Danger Mouse more.
Thank You For Today – Death Cab for Cutie
Latest record has some fans burning their membership cards, and others fainting into their lattes. (more)
Aquarelle – Jesse Harris
Caught Jesse twice in NYC this year and dug his shit.
Egypt Station – Paul McCartney
Inconsistent record from the most consistent artist of his generation. (more)
Kumi – Blak Emoji
Blew the ceiling of Arlene’s Grocery this year.
Down The Road Wherever – Mark Knopfler
Mark’s solo records continue to hit the sweet spot.
Lil Peep & XXXTENTACION – Falling Down
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