How Taylor Hawkins Ended Up Playing on Richard Marx’s New Song

The latest advance single from Richard Marx‘s new album Songwriter arrives today with a very special guest: “Shame On You” poignantly features one of the last recorded performances from late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins.

Due on Sept. 30, Songwriter brings together 20 tracks, spotlighting four different genres of Marx’s songwriting. “Shame On You” is the first sample of five rock tracks penned for the new album. In addition to working with collaborators like Darius Rucker, Keith Urban and Chris Daughtry on the new collection, Marx also wrote a number of songs with his sons Lucas and Jesse.

As he tells UCR, it’s been a “source of pride” watching Lucas, Jesse and his third son Brandon develop their musical talents. Marx has also enjoyed the opportunity to collaborate with them simply as one artist to another, noting that they aren’t afraid to call him out.

“They both have moments where they’ve gone, ‘That’s really good, but isn’t that from …,’ and they’d say some song from 1994 or something. ‘Isn’t that the same melody?'” Marx says. “I’d go, ‘Goddammit, so what if it is? I wrote both of them.’ They go, ‘Yeah, but c’mon, you already did that. You wrote that melody already in that other song.’ I like that they keep me honest in that way.”

The new rock songs represent some of the grittiest and intense material that Marx has recorded to date. He praises the influence of Jesse, who co-wrote “Shame On You” as well as “We Are Not Alone” from the new album. “A lot of what he’s doing and what he loves is the rock that I love too,” Marx explains, sharing additional accolades about the new songs that his son has been recording separately under the banner of Mark This Hour.

As Marx got deep into the conversation about Songwriter, he discussed how Hawkins ended up present on such an unforgettable day – then paused to reveal a detail about the drummer’s performance on “Shame On You” that he hadn’t previously felt comfortable talking about.

Listen to Richard Marx’s Collaboration With Taylor Hawkins

Having Taylor play on “Shame On You” is really special. How did it come together?
We just became friendly organically. You know, I met Dave [Grohl] a few years ago and he and I, we’ve hung out a little bit here and there. I really like Dave a lot. He invited me down to their studio a few years ago, a year or two before COVID. Actually, I owned the last Studer A27 [reel-to-reel tape recorder] that they ever made. I met Dave at a party, maybe eight years ago. We hung out that whole night and hit it off. He called me the next day and said, “I heard a rumor that you own the last Studer A27.” And I went, “It’s true.” He said, “How much do you want for it?” I said, “$400,000.” [Laughs.]

He goes, “Dude, fuck you! What do you really want?” I said, “Dude, we’ll work it out! It’s got no hours on it. I bought it and I didn’t really use it that much.” I was getting divorced and I had my studio in Chicago. He sent a truck and picked it up and put it in Studio 606. Weeks later, he called me and he said, “I don’t know if you’re in town, but why don’t you come by and listen to your machine in our studio. Come see the studio.” I went down there and I met Taylor that day. He was this way with everybody, but the minute you met Taylor, you felt like Taylor loved you. He was just one of those guys that made everybody feel really good about themselves.

It goes back to the energy he had.
Yeah, he was just so sweet – and I was a huge fan, a major fan. I mean, I love the Foo Fighters and I love Dave, but I was a huge, huge Taylor fan. He made some comment, “We’ve got to work together on something sometime.” I was like, “Yeah? Okay, great.” Then, we would just run into each other here and there. I moved into a gated community last year where he lives, so we started talking more. Jesse and I had written that song and he’s really good at drum programming, so he programmed a really great performance, but I said: “This needs a real player. You know what? Fuck it, I’m going to ask Taylor. The worst he can say is no.”

I said to him, “I’m going to ask you to play, but you have to promise me that if you don’t love the song or if you’re not into it, don’t do it as a favor to me. Like, we’re good – but only if you really dig the song.” He said, “Dude, I fuckin’ love the song! It’s so great!” He goes, “We’ll just do it over at my house!” But he said, “You’ve got to bring Jesse. Jesse’s got to be here too.” Jesse and I went and spent the afternoon over there and you know, he did it in three takes or something like that.

It was like six weeks later [Marx’s voice breaks], something like that – it was a month or six weeks [and he was gone]. So on one hand, it’s obviously an incredible memory for me and Jesse to have shared. The way Taylor was with Jesse that day, you know, he talked to Jesse – like, he wanted to know everything about every band that Jesse loved. They just totally nerded out on rock stuff that they had in common. I’m still heartbroken. He was the sweetest, most badass motherfucker. [Sighs.]

The lasting memory, I would imagine, is he’s playing those drums with that smile.
Yeah, yeah he was.

You could really see his love for music and life and just playing. He also seemed like he was really great at keeping in touch with people.
I didn’t know him that well. I mean, we only met a few years ago, but I’ve looked at our text thread. We texted each other a lot. One of the last texts he sent me was a video of an old Scorpions live performance. He’s like, “Dude, you’ve got to see this! So fucking rad!”

Are you a Scorpions fan?
I am and I forget which track it was, but I’d never seen this live performance and it was fuckin’ great. But the fact that Taylor said, “I need to send this to Richard!” [was awesome]. The other thing I’ll mention, which I’ll hold forever in my heart: I think it was a Wednesday that we did this at his house. In the early evening, when I was leaving, [Taylor’s wife] Alison and the kids were in the kitchen. They were getting ready to have dinner and I was going to meet [Marx’s wife] Daisy [Fuentes] for dinner.

On Thursday, the following day, we [met up with] a couple, Katie Couric and her husband. Katie and I have known each other for a long time, but interestingly, she married a guy that I went to school with. She ended up marrying a guy named John Molner, who I went to school with for most of my entire school years back in Chicago. In fact, when she was dating him, I did her show. She said, “I don’t know if you know, but I’m dating John Molner.” I went, “What?” She goes, “Yeah, so tell me, should I dump this fucker?” [Laughs.] “No, he’s a good guy!” So they got married and they’ve been together for a while. They’ve become [good friends] and we hang out with them when we can.

They came in to L.A. to spend some time and we took them out to dinner the next night. We went to this place in Malibu called Lucky’s. It’s kind of a scene, but it’s a really fun place. We walk in and as they’re walking us to our table, I hear, “Richard!” It’s Taylor and Alison. We go over and we hug and I introduce them to Katie and John. Katie recognized Taylor and he, of course, recognized her. We were talking for a second and Katie said, “Well, I didn’t know you guys were friends!” Taylor said, without missing a beat. “Even better. We’re friends who make music together.” I said, “Yeah, we just worked together yesterday.” I took a picture of Katie and Taylor and have it in my phone from that night. Yeah, it was …

So rough.
Yeah, but the positive is – and this is what I think about the most – I’ve had these incredible experiences in my career. Whether it’s Billy Joel or Terry Bozzio, who I was a huge fan of and he came and played on my record, these people who have come to work with me on my stuff. I’ve been able to manifest those people into that moment, time and time again. Taylor was one of those people. I was a huge fan of his. I remember that I turned to Jesse and I said, “We’re in fuckin’ Taylor Hawkins’ house and he’s playing on a song we wrote together. How fuckin’ cool is life?”

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