CA: Eurythmics’ Stewart recording at Memphis’ Royal Studios
Sharp-eyed social media watchers will have noticed that musician and producer Dave Stewart – one half of British pop duo Eurhythmics, and close collaborator with Tom Petty and Mick Jagger, among others – has been at South Memphis’ Royal Studios over the last few days.
Stewart has been working on a new album from Australian songstress Vanessa Amorosi. The Melbourne native is a multiplatinum super star in her home country. Since the release of her 2009 album “Hazardous,” Amorosi has relocated to Los Angles, and now finds herself in the Bluff City working on a new soul-flavored LP with Stewart, at the historic home of Hi Records, Al Green and Ann Peebles.
Though he’s been through the region on several occasions — including doing work on the late Robert Palmer’s “Deep Blues” documentary — this is Stewart’s first time working at Royal. “But obviously I knew of its history,” he says. “I always think there are centers throughout the world that are magnetic poles, lighting rods for music: Havana, Memphis, Nashville, Berlin. At certain periods of time they just explode, like a volcano. Then they go back down and then explode again. Memphis seems to be in one of those really active periods.”
Amorosi’s album features original material penned by her and Stewart. For his part, Royal boss and engineer Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell was blown away by Amorosi’s vocals. “Vanessa is an absolutely amazing singer,” he says. “She’s got a voice between Patti LaBelle and Aretha Franklin.” Adds Stewart: “Vanessa is one of the few singers that can tackle really extreme vocals. For example, we’re about to do a track with a massive gospel choir. To stand there and sing in front of a Memphis gospel choir, you need a lot of chutzpah and a lot of skill.”
The usual cadre of players at Royal – including veterans of the Hi Rhythm section and Stax Records – have been recruited for the session. “As a record producer the last thing I ever do in a roomful of genius players is tell them what and how to play,” says Stewart. “The trick is to write great songs and take them to the players, let them jam on it for a while until they’ve got it, and then we’re ready to record. We’re doing it in one take with Vanessa singing right along. It’s a tried and true formula. As I say, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?”