Smitty: I’m always so happy to welcome my next guest to anything that has to do with music and I’m so happy that she’s joining me at JazzMonthly.com today. She is one of my dearest and closest friends in the business and she’s just got that sonic vibe workin’. You’ve got to hear her incredible new record. It’s called Revolving Door. It’s the follow-up to her last great project called This Girl’s Got to Play. Please welcome the amazing and wonderful Ms. Joyce Cooling. Joyce, how ya doin’?
Joyce Cooling (JC): Smitty, I’m doing great. How can I be anything else after all that? Good golly! (Laughing) That was quite an intro. Thank you. Right back at ya, by the way.
Smitty: (Laughs.) Oh, thank you. You’re so welcome and well deserved, my friend. This great record…you know, I’m trying to think. I think the last time we actually got to talk face to face, I saw you back in January at the Cerritos Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles. How ‘bout that?
JC: That’s it.
Smitty: And what a great show with you and The Rippingtons.
JC: Wasn’t that fun?
Smitty: Yeah. And it’s just great to see that you’re about to release your new project.…I know we were talking about this record back then.
JC: (Laughs.) The record that wouldn’t finish itself.
Smitty: Oh no, this is right on time.
JC: You know what? It is. We were talking a little bit off mic and this record, it was just gonna come out when it was good and ready, and as much as we pushed and shoved and prodded it, it wasn’t gonna happen. So like I said, we put our hands up in the air and it came out when it was ready and so here it is.
Smitty: Yes indeed. Now, I know you had mentioned that this record is by far the most personal recording you’ve ever made.
Smitty: And I could feel that in the music. When I put this record on….and then I have to tell you that I listen to music in different modes. I listen to it around the house and then I listen to it in the car. When I take night drives.
Smitty: And there’s something about taking a night drive when you just kinda feel like it’s just you, the music, and the road.
JC: It is, it is, and there’s that continuum of the wheels against the pavement, there’s sort of that continuum and you’re moving through locations but yet it’s dark and you’re in your little environment of your car and it is you and the music.
JC: I know what you mean. It’s a cool place to listen, I think.
Smitty: Yes indeed, and I really got deep into this record, and I’m trying to pick a favorite track, but there’s too many! (Both laughing.)
JC: Yeah, well, that’s a good problem. I’m glad you’re having that problem.
Smitty: But just to highlight a couple of them, though, the title track, it’s just got that sonic groove and I’ve gotta ask you, you must’ve used some fat strings with that guitar because it just had me beboppin’.
JC: I’m glad. You know what it is, Smitty, about that sound, really, of that guitar on the track “Revolving Door,” is I was talking to somebody else about this….there’s nothing on it. It’s just straight in. Oh, there’s a little reverb, just that kind of thing, but I didn’t go through anything, it’s just a real, straight in sound. I mean, nothing adulterated about it. And I play with my fingers, I don’t use a pick. So I know on that tune which is the title track…. and maybe this is too early to get into in the interview, “Revolving Door” is about a sort of a deep issue for me. Is this something we should talk about now or maybe later in the interview or…?
JC: (Laughs.) Let her go, huh?
Smitty: You could do whatever you want, my friend. (Both laughing.)
JC: This is Smitty, this is Smitty’s show, I can do whatever I want.
Smitty: That’s right. You have carte blanche.
JC: All right, all right, then I’ll go there. But just briefly. I won’t belabor the point. We were talking about the sound of that guitar and so it’s gonna seem like “Well, why is she bringing this up?” But it all comes back to it. The meaning behind “Revolving Door” is that “Revolving Door” is really a situation that we can find ourselves in where you’re stuck on something. It can be a relationship with a person or something at work or a situation where you’re trapped in this, like, habitual pattern or a situation that just won’t fix itself. There’s no beginning, no end, and you keep going ‘round and ‘round and no solution to this problem or whatever, so I call that “you’re in the revolving door, you’re in that spinning thing.”
Smitty: I truly know what you mean.
JC: Yeah, we all do, at some point. It happens and you can’t figure out how to get out.
JC: And the reason I bring up “Revolving Door” in particular on this CD is I was using it as a metaphor for what’s going on with mental illness, and that’s all kinds of mental illness, everything from depression to psychotic states, and I grew up personally with a brother with schizophrenia, so the whole mental illness thing is, like, in the Dark Ages, Smitty, compared to a lot of the, you know, advances in medicine with physical afflictions and things. Mental illness is like….there’s still shame attached to it and fear and all kinds of misconceptions are still really woven into what people think of when they say mental illness. It’s a hush-hush embarrassment, it’s a shameful thing, and so all of that keeps it in the Dark Ages.
JC: And in the instance of my brother, he struggles with schizophrenia so he goes into the hospital and they don’t know what to do with him. They just don’t know. There’s lack of research, lack of everything. So he’s back out and still nothing’s been changed, so he’s back in and back out. So literally the mental hospital becomes a revolving door and then the whole bit with the drugs not working. The whole treatment is lacking and so that’s a revolving door. And then the situation the family finds itself in is a revolving door because we’re not qualified to deal with this. So that’s basically the whole revolving door thing, so back to the title track “Revolving Door,” how do you put all of that into words and everything you’re feeling about your brother and other people suffering with mental illness and the whole thing that’s wrong with the health care system and all that, how do you put that in words?
Smitty: I totally know what you mean.
JC: So the song had to be an instrumental and when we started writing “Revolving Door,” it didn’t have that title. It just came out and there was some angst in it. It’s kind of a slow shuffle and it’s bluesy and there’s angst in it but yet there’s hope, the bridge lifts to like a brighter key and there’s hope and all, so when we got finished writing it, I said “Jay (Wagner) I think this is ‘Revolving Door.’ I think this is what we’ll call it.” And when I was playing the solo, it’s not a solo with a lotta finesse. It’s like, kinda yanking on the strings and, like I mentioned, I play with my fingers so I’m kind of literally like grabbing the strings sometimes and just pulling it, and so it took on like a different tone for me. So it’s kind of a little bit raw with no effects and not a real dolled up sound. So maybe that’s a little longer explanation.
Smitty: No, I think it’s great and I love it. I think it’s great when you can explain that and really put that into words because the music is incredible. I mean, I was just captured by that song like you wouldn’t believe.
JC: Oh, I’m glad. Thank you.
Smitty: And it’s always great to hear the story behind a song. And then what I love is the selection in which you placed them on the record because you follow that up with this great tune “At the Modern.” Music is a journey in most cases.
JC: It is, isn’t it?
Smitty: And when you’re on a journey, you like to enjoy a variety of things while you’re on that journey.
Smitty: And I think you really have captured that and taken us on this great diverse musical journey because you’re using a variety of guitars, I could tell.
JC: Yeah, a whole bunch of ‘em.