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Why did you decide to publish Rarities, B-Sides and Slow, Sad Waltzes?
At first we set up a website, our own site.
Then, since our fans were going to visit it, we decided to give them a bonus, by making it available a record featuring unreleased songs we recorded in the past years. We had a lot of tapes, several recorded songs we never used, other songs we used in a different version.
So we went to the studio and we started working on this rarities collection. And, little by little, while we were working and the record was taking the form, we started realising that it was becoming more like a real album rather than a mere collection of loose songs.
I think that the excellence of this record is that it sounds like a finished record, like if it was recorded in one single session.
That is exactly what we realised too.
Once the research was over, and the final mixing completed, when we listened to the end product, we realised that we were in front of a real record.
Then we came out with the idea to make it available worldwide by means of some distribution contract, not only on the net.
Were these songs recorded in different times?
Yes, the oldest ones were recorded ten or more years ago. If You Gotta Go, Go Now, Bob Dylan's song, is one of the oldest ones.
Some others are more recent.
Moreover, that is our sound, and there's a common feeling permeating each of our songs, whether it is a countrish one or a psychedelic improvisation.
Well I don't need to tell you what is the Cowboy Junkies sound.
I find very interesting the choice of the cover songs.
Playing songs written by others is one of our utmost passions.
You know, we started as a cover band, before finding our own sound.
There are some very beautiful songs that many people do not know, and that is why covers are an integral part of our repertory.
If You Gotta Go, Go Now is played with the Sixties spirit.
Yeah, it almost has a garage sound.
I find really good the cappella version of Bruce Springsteen's My Father's House.
That was recorded during a soundcheck.
I don't love soundchecks. Both when we are going to play for a gig, and when we are recording in studio, I have to sing all alone for the setups.
It is something which it tires me a lot.
I was quite surprised when Michael made me listen to the mixing of Springsteen's My Father's House.
I'm singing alone, while the others are having fun, and then, at the end, they add their voices to my one.
I must confess that the song has its own dignity, even though it was completely improvised.
I really love Bruce Springsteen.
The Water is Wide is another beautiful choice.
It is a traditional we recorded for the soundtrack of a movie with Meryl Streep. River Wild, that is the movie's title. We provided this version to Hollywood, and they said that they wanted a more upbeat version. We therefore recorded it again.
But according to us, this version is much better.
To Lay Me Down is the same version featured in Deadicated, the tribute to Grateful Dead.
Yes, that is the same one.
That song is particularly meaningful to me. After The Caution Horses I got seriously ill with pneumonia.
I had to stay in the hospital for quite a lot, and I thought my lungs were damaged.
Luckily enough I got out unscathed.
And that was the first song I recorded after that bad experience.
I was worried I lost my voice, that I could not sing anymore.
Five Room Love Story is fantastic. When did you record it?
After we left RCA, before we signed for Geffen.
We recorded some songs we never used. That is one of them.
I think it was early 95.
At that time we were already thinking about becoming independent.
We rented a house at a lake, and we started recording a record to be published by ourselves.
This is a song I really love, it is very spiritual. And when I play it live, people come at the end of the show and ask me where to find it.
I really like that "Slow, Sad Waltzes" in the album's title...
(She laughs)Yeah. We liked it a lot too.
Some of our songs are really slow and sad waltzes, very slow, and very sad.
We therefore just remarked our peculiarity.
It is a very personal way to define our own music.
I find A Few Simple Words very beautiful too.
We wrote that one after our tour with John Prine.
John influenced it a lot with his style, the song has a country feeling.
Is your new album therefore going to be released in the year 2000?
Yes, we are working on that.|
To remain on the safe side, I'd say that it will be ready within the end of next year, in autumn.
You now have to promote this rarities collection, since it is in all respects a new album.
That's true. On the other hand, this record is getting us unexpected satisfaction: we did not expect anything, while we are getting very positive opinions by a lot of people.
This is the typical record you don't expect anything from, and you get a lot. That is what everybody's saying.
Are you still studying for your voice?
Yes, when I have time, I keep on getting lessons.
I want to keep my voice in good shape, I don't want to be voiceless when I'll be fifty years old.
I want to modulate and take care of it as better as possible.
Whose voices you found they moved you more?
Emmylou Harris remains my favourite one. I really love her.
She is always splendid, both live and in studio.
I like Bruce Springsteen a lot too. During his Tom Joad tour I attended to several dates and I have always been impressed.
And from the past?
None in particular, all the great voices.
First of all Billie Holiday, Bessie Smith, and many others, the most famous ones, such as Aretha Franklin.
Is Michael's intention to record other soundtracks after Niagara Niagara?
Yes, for sure. He really likes that.
Time is the only problem. He had several requests, but they were taking too much time, and he had to decline.
Anyway, after the new album, he will certainly start composing something new.
Please list those records from the past which influenced you more.
Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde
Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska
Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited
Neil Young - Harvest
Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde
Bob Dylan - Nashville Skyline
B.Springsteen - The Ghost of Tom Joad
Van Zandt - Flying Shoes
Published on "L'Ultimo Buscadero" No.207 November 1999