Chapman cut his tracks for 50 and hit the road, leaving overdubs and mixing to producer Steve Gunn and his players.
Perfect Takes: Steve Gunn on Producing 50
Guitarist, singer, and songwriter Steve Gunn produced 50, Michael Chapman’s latest release. “I first met Michael around 2008, through guitarist Jack Rose,” Gunn says. “Jack and I were both living in Philadelphia and he was touring with Michael quite a bit at the time. I was a big fan of Michael’s older records and I was excited to meet him. Sadly, Jack passed away soon after I met Michael, and our first performance together was at a memorial service for Jack in New York City. Since then we’ve done quite a few shows together in the States and Europe.”
The 50 album was recorded at Black Dirt Studio in Westtown, New York. “Michael brought some great guitars to the studio—particularly his old Gibson J-50,” Gunn says. “Michael’s playing is still really strong and he would do these perfect takes of each song, one after another.”
“I only stayed for the recording,” Chapman adds. “Steve and Nathan [Bowles] were there for a couple of extra days after I’d left doing overdubs and things.”
Chapman is celebrating his 50th anniversary as a professional musician, but he isn’t crusty or set in his ways. “He was very open to us interpreting his songs the way we wanted,” Gunn says. “He sent along some rough demos and we discussed the arrangements beforehand. We collectively worked hard to get things right before final tracking. Michael was never demanding.”
Not that Chapman found it easy to relinquish the wheel. “It was difficult for me to give away control, but it works,” he adds. “That was the point, ‘Don’t make just another Michael-Chapman-studio-down-the-road album.’”
“Michael is a humble, schooled, and fearless player,” Gunn says. “His sensitivity as a songwriter and dedication to being a touring musician is continuously inspiring.” Gunn was also inspired by Chapman’s outlook and desire to keep growing as a player. “It’s amazing to me how present Michael is with his playing. He’s constantly looking forward and pushing the limits of what he can do. A lot of players of his generation are comfortable with playing the old songs the way they have always played them, but not Michael.”