Matt Marinelli produced Valerie June’s sophomore studio album, and played guitar and bass on the recording. While playing in her touring band, his live workhorse is a 1968 Ampeg AMB-1 Scroll bass. Photo by Chris Kies
Studio Libero: Matthew Marinelli
It’s easy to understand why Valerie June calls her producer Matthew Marinelli a “godsend.”
It’s one thing for a producer to interject, guide, and direct an artist, but it’s another thing entirely when that same person instrumentally accompanies an artist on the record and the live performances.
Though he now favors bass, Marinelli’s been playing guitar since age 12, and played either bass or guitar on virtually every track of Valerie June’s The Order of Time. He’s also her current touring bassist, and most of the guitars and amps used on the album are from his arsenal of vintage gear. This collaboration evolved naturally when Marinelli was doing front-of-house mixing for June. They started playing music together and dueting around town for fun, which proved to be a catalyst for June’s album.
“We ended up playing a couple of shows at a friend’s bar in Brooklyn called Bar LunÀtico,”
says Marinelli. “We had to rush to put that set together, and we decided to do a bunch of her new tunes. So we had to figure out how to play some of these songs. As a duo, you hear things in your head and it came together in our minds. Not all the tunes on the record were done that way, but we had a good idea.”
Two of the album’s standout guitar solos, on “Long Lonely Road” and “Two Hearts,” were written by Marinelli while accompanying June live before going into the studio. “For me, if there was going to be a guitar solo on the record, it was about having a different melodic section, more like a melodic development of the tune—a very simple, minimal solo approach,” he says. “I always love country guitar solos where it
basically states the melody with little embellishment.”
The Order of Time was tracked in just under a week at Guilford Sound in southern Vermont with Andy MacLeod on guitar, Dan Iead on pedal steel, Pete Remm on keys, and Dan Reiser on drums. “By the end of it, I don’t think anyone wanted to leave,” Marinelli says. “We wanted it to just be our new life where we just make music all day long.”
Having a tight band and already knowing the foundations of June’s songs so well gave the pair confidence to experiment with arrangements and sounds in the studio. For example, “Man Done Wrong” features two banjos, played by June, and two bass parts, played by Marinelli. Half of the parts are amped and half are acoustic, with all four parts stacked into a suantering, distinguished blues-folk lead.
“That line is great,” says Marinelli. “I think Val’s approach to banjo is different than a lot of people who come out of a more traditional bluegrass or country background. She’s not afraid to play through an amplifier or try different things with it. So, on that tune in particular, there wasn’t this overwhelming desire to make it a pristine, accurate acoustic recording of a banjo. We were trying to create something where everything melded together and became some other instrument in the process.”