MF: ….so it was kind of a fantasy and story, really, of getting on the train coming up from the city, coming up the Hudson on the Hudson River line and getting off at the wrong stop, which in this Twilight Zone kind of scenario turned out to be a place called Scatsville.
Smitty: Yeah, man. Well, you seem to tell great stories in your music, it seems.
MF: Thank you.
Smitty: Yeah, I love that.
MF: I think that’s a kind of songwriting that very few songwriters seem to practice now these days where it’s actually kind of a story and a narrative and, for instance it’s alive and well in country music, for example, but in….
Smitty: Yes, it is.
MF: ….other genres you don’t hear it quite that often.
MF: I thought I would try one of those.
Smitty: I think that lends itself to your literary background.
MF: Well, thanks.
Smitty: Because the lyrics always seem to fit the music so tightly, you know what I mean?
MF: Well, I always start with the music, so I’m sort of at liberty to work on the lyrics and make them kind of conform to what I’ve got there in terms of a melody and, of course, I can always go in and alter the melody somewhat too. But that has always been a good way for me to work, to actually get the music into some kind of shape, just a very informal demo that I make at home and then just be able to kind of refine the lyrics on the music.
Smitty: Yeah. Is that how the music comes to you usually?
MF: The music always comes first for me. I know a lot of other songwriters can sort of do it both ways, either with music first or lyrics first, but I’ve never really been able to. But the few times I’ve collaborated and had some very good luck with collaborators. Joe Sample a couple of times and Don Grolnick and a few others, like the late John Guerin, and I’ve always started with their music and then it varies, but most of my songwriting is music and lyrics of my own so, yeah, the music is always something that seems like it has to have some kind of shape, at least, before I start the lyrics.
Smitty: Yeah. I’m sure with this record I’m sure you’re getting out on the road and gonna share some of this great music live.
MF: Yes, we sure are. We’re starting in Japan and coming back to the States and I think by the time the year’s over we will have moved through the loop pretty well.
Smitty: That’s always cool. I have to tell you that I really like “Hearing ‘Take Five’” and I know there’s some history there with “Take Five.” Talk to me a little bit about this great song.
MF: Well, as we were saying earlier, I never really studied music, unfortunately. I bought a guitar when I was in high school and the blues were really popular then, the folk music and the blues, and so I kinda taught myself how to play. I met a few other people in school that played and sorta taught each other. By the time I was a senior in high school, we played kinda blues and folky kinds of music and a little bit of rock ‘n roll, I guess, and I was in a couple different bands that sorta played all that stuff, and I think I was a senior in high school. I went over to my best friend’s house and his father, who was from New Orleans, and my friend’s father knew that I was learning the guitar and was in a couple bands and was interested in music. So he invited me into the living room where he had a Hi-Fi set, which was really seemed exotic….a sort of bare bones kind of a Hi-Fi set with all the tubes still visible and he was a real audiophile type guy. And he said “I wanna play you a couple of records and would you come in and let me play them” and he played me Ahmad Jamal Live at the Pershing, which totally blew me away. He played Mose Allison, I can’t think of the name of the record was The Seventh Son, where I heard “Your Mind Is On Vacation and Your Mouth Is Working Overtime.” And then he played “Time Out,” the Dave Brubeck Quartet record, which was actually about to become a huge hit, “Take Five”, it was destined to actually go to number one on the pop chart, which was such an amazing thing.
But in any case, those records are particularly, the Dave Brubeck record, it was like I felt that I had had like this kind of musical cataract surgery and then I could suddenly see things that I hadn’t really been able to see before, and since I never went to school and studied music per se. It was a real kind of education listening to those couple of Dave Brubeck’s records, “Time Out” and “Time Further Out,” where on the liner notes on the back of the big album cover. He gave you a little bit of information about each tune, what time it was in and how to count it and that was like fascinating for me. It was like all this new information and it was like a real kind of moment of enlightenment musically and education too, musically.