Jazz singer and pianist Diana Krall releases a record of pop standards from the 60s and 70s. A surprise? Not really, she said. By Kathleen Aubert.
Giving the name of an (obscure) Bob Dylan song to an album covering pop standards from the 60s and 70s was a dare. Diana Krall did it. With Wallflowerthe Canadian singer and pianist seems to once again put her status as a jazz musician on the line, as she already had, to a lesser extent, with Glad Rag Dolla record dedicated to covers from the 20s and 30s. Co-produced by his compatriot David Foster, Wallflower will have experienced a visibly complicated destiny (or genesis). But it nonetheless exudes a tenacious charm largely due to Krall’s vocal interpretation.
How did you choose the songs that make up this album?
I only chose very well-known titles, like “California Dreamin’” by the Mamas & Papas, “I’m Not In Love” by 10 cc or “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” by Elton John. Titles that I love and that simply speak to me. These are all songs that I listened to on the radio when I was little or a teenager. I could invent a more sophisticated answer – that’s often what we do when we respond to journalists – but I don’t want to lie (laughs).
With Glad Rag Doll, you had already proven that you were not just a jazzwoman. What will your detractors think when they discover Wallflowers?
I like to annoy them. With Glad Rag Doll, all the music press that had never paid me any attention suddenly praised me. It was strange. Maybe they won’t like this one, but I don’t care. I don’t choose my projects based on what others will think of them, but to please myself.
In fact, at the beginning of 2013, you gave a series of concerts with Neil Young. A rather surprising association, no?
It’s one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had. In October 2013, I participated in the Bridge School Benefit concert, the charity concert that Neil organizes every year. That’s when he asked me if I would be interested in doing a tour with him to defend the rights of the Athabasca and Chipewa Indians in Canada (editor’s note: the “Honor the Treaties” tour was organized to help the Indians to finance their defense against the oil groups which have undertaken very large-scale exploitation in the west of the country). Of course I accepted. When he called me to confirm, I asked him who else would be invited and he said, “only you.” I was in my kitchen making food for my children, I couldn’t believe it!
What memories do you have of this adventure?
I am proud to be able to tell my children that I went on tour with Neil to defend Indian rights. It was for a good cause, just like the Bridge School Benefit Concert, where I had the chance to rub shoulders with David Crosby, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills and My Morning Jacket. In a way, it changed my life: it made me realize that I didn’t have to stay in my character as a jazz singer, that I could do whatever I wanted as long as it was sincere. No crystal ball can predict what the public will like or not, so you might as well have fun!
Is that why you invited several rather unexpected guests to Wallflower?
Yes. There are members of the Roots, Graham Nash and Stephen Stills who put their vocals on “Operator (That’s Not the Way I Feel)”. And Bryan Adams – another Canadian! – sings on “Feels Like Home”… and he also signed the cover photo.
If Wallflower is so different from Glad Rag Doll, it’s also because it was produced by David Foster. After T-Bone Burnett, that’s quite a big gap!
I’ve known David for twenty years, and we’re both from Vancouver Island. When I explained to him that I didn’t want to make a new jazz record, that I wanted to stay faithful to the original melodies of the chosen titles, he understood immediately. We made the opposite of a minimalist record, except perhaps the cover of “Wallflower”, for which we stuck to a string quartet with guitars and my voice.
You had already covered this Dylan song on stage with your husband, Elvis Costello…
No, it’s my husband who has already taken it over with me! He was my guest, not the other way around! I’m obsessed with Bob Dylan. I started to become passionate about him when I was in my thirties. I love it.
The album contains a previously unreleased track given to you by Paul McCartney, “If I Take You Home Tonight”. A nice present…
I worked with Paul on his jazz covers album Kisses On The Bottom. It was fun. Besides being an exceptional artist, Paul is one of the most incredible men I have ever met. It’s so easy, it’s great. He wrote two songs for Kisses On The Bottom : “If I Take You Home Tonight” and “My Valentine”. “My Valentine” was chosen as a single, and the other was ultimately not chosen for the album. And since I really liked it, I very politely asked his permission to use it for Wallflower. He simply replied: “of course”. That’s all. And it’s one of my favorite songs.
After this more pop break, do you plan to return to jazz?
I don’t know. I have a project that I would really like to do, but which has not yet come to fruition: an album of covers of The Band with guitarist Marc Ribot, with whom I already worked on Glad Rag Doll. I’m a fan of Rick Danko’s voice… yet another Canadian!