They were all challenging, to be honest with you. But Randy Newman’s “Marie” was too much. I couldn’t do it in the end; I couldn’t conquer it. And in a way, that was kind of the point of the project, because I was trying to understand the male psyche, the male emotion. And when I listened to Randy Newman’s “Marie,” I didn’t like this character. I just didn’t like him.
I said to my producer, “I can’t sing a line where the guy is saying, ‘When you’re in trouble, I turn away.’” I said, “What does he mean by that?” And he said, “Well, you know, like some men, they can’t deal with illness.” And I’m thinking, “This doesn’t make sense.” So, I changed it to “When you’re in trouble, I run away.” And even then I couldn’t sing it. I must have done a hundred takes. Cried my eyes out and I still couldn’t do it. It’s kind of the track that got away. I couldn’t get inside that character.
Being that you felt all of the songs were challenging, was it because you were taking on other writers' songs and interpreting them opposed to bringing out the emotion in your original work?
The interpretation wasn’t the challenge. The challenge was more of the music. Those songs that I picked were really complex, musically. I just tried to find the right sound, the right instruments, and production, really. The production was really challenging.
I read that while you were working on this album you parted ways with your frequent collaborator, Steve Brown. What kind of effect did that have on you and your creative process as you were trying to finish up this project?
It was devastating. We were very close to completion. I had to finish the record by myself. That’s why at one point it was quite the challenge. So, I hired another producer. The producer [Jennie Muskett] was very, very good.
I was very much trying to protect the integrity of Steve’s work. And because it had been such a private process up to that point, I was trying to keep it alive and keep him alive somehow. The break-up was irreparable. It was devastating, because he was a man that I deeply, deeply, deeply loved.