I used to live in San Francisco. In Sausalito to be precise and right next door to the hotel that Fleetwood Mac stayed in when they recorded their legendary album ‘Rumours’ in 1976. Around the corner from that hotel, the Alta Mira, was a recording studio called ‘The Record Plant’ where The Mac recorded that incredible album. It’s the same studio Stevie Wonder recorded his iconic masterpiece ‘Songs in the key of life’.. There are so many incredible records that were recorded there that to say it’s a magical place is an understatement. It’s practically haunted by genius. One of my favourite memories in my career is getting to record in that studio with Rick Nowels. It was in 2000 and he had flown up to San Francisco when I was working on my first solo album ‘Spin’ and we spent time in that wonderfully eccentric wooden (and windowless) retreat. I felt the power and the sanctuary of all those who had come before me in that place and it was with great sadness that I learned the studio eventually closed due to bankruptcy. This fact is important to the rest of the story so bear it in mind.
I’m from Australia (as most people know) I live in London now (have done for 9 years now) but I’m spending some time travelling this year and a lot of it in the USA. I’m not doing much. In fact, I have no plans other than not making any plans and allowing for accidents to happen.
Back to my story: In 1998 I had ended up in Sausalito by accident. I had left Australia in 1997 and moved to New York (it was a disaster). Whist I was feeling miserable in Manhattan (it was me, not you NYC) I got tricked in to visiting San Francisco by the record company to work with producer Walter Afanasieff to do a song for a film called ‘The Other Sister’.
The film bombed, the song ‘The Animal Song’ resulted I began a lifelong friendship with Walter A and I ended up falling in love with the place and staying for 5 years. I bought a wonderful home overlooking the San Francisco Bay and life was generally amazing (albeit without love).
I had no plans to leave Sausalito EVER when I got on plane to London to promote my album ‘The Tension and the Spark’ in 2004. I found BIG love, I got married, settled down and even got a British passport. Wow! As you can see over the years I’ve been open to happy accidents.
One of those accidents happened recently when meeting Tyler and Amanda Wilkinson, a Canadian brother and sister act known as The Small Town Pistols. The story goes like this: I was on twitter a month ago when a music video director tweeted me a link to his reel to check out. I looked at the work he’d done and instantly fell in in love with the sound I heard in the video for this one song ‘Living on the Outside’ by this band The Small Town Pistols. So, as you do, I wrote to them on twitter to tell them I was ‘obsessed’ with their song.
Tyler immediately wrote me back, said he and his sister were fans and suggested we could write together one day.
It was very sweet and very organic and when they said they were headed to Nashville this month and asked if I was up for an adventure I said hell yes. I’d never been to Nashville before (that I can remember!? - and certainly not as a songwriter) and again, ‘year of no plans’ etc.. I went for it!
To make it a proper writing trip I decided to be an adult and called up my publisher and they arranged a few other co-writes with other writers around my time with the Pistols in Nashville. I flew from LA and settled in to my hotel the night before our first session was due to start. Bear in mind at this point I had no idea where were even working the next day. Turns out - Tyler had no idea either. Like a true rock n roll star (he really is!) a few hours before bedtime the night before our first session (i.e. MIDNIGHT!) he texted me an address. It was a last minute favour from a friend of his to use the incredible studio ‘Addiction’ - under the helm of their producer and as it turns out - magical wizard David Kalmusky.
BEAR WITH ME - THIS STORY HAS A POINT.
So I turned up at a taco place around the corner from the studio at 11.30 am that next day (Tyler’s suggestion - bear in mind he’s young, thin and can eat carbs) and instantly clicked with he and his sister Amanda and their adorable songwriting friend Alyssa Bonagura. I mean, like FAMILY clicked. Which was great (and a relief). So sans taco (I’m 41 people I don’t eat tacos at short notice) we headed over to the studio and that’s when the magic started.
I instantly felt like I was in church - not a religious thing - but a sacred feeling. Like I was treading in the footsteps of greatness. We walked around the space, we walked into Studio A and there she stood. The desk in this photograph.
I knew nothing about it but I felt compelled to ask if I could take a picture of it.
That’s when David (the resident producer & engineer there and all round beautiful human being) said ‘Do you know the story of this desk?’.
I said, ‘Um, no I just love it. It reminds me of one of my favourite studios in the world.’
He said ‘Well it was originally in this studio in Sausalito called ‘The Record Plant’. Have you heard of it?’ HAD I HEARED OF IT??
My jaw hit the floor.
Turns out it the desk was bought in a sort of fire sale, very quickly and almost by accident when the place shut down.
It gets even weirder. David’s father, Ken was a very respected and accomplished musician who played on a ton of records and tours and was himself recorded in that very same Sausalito recording studio on some of the albums of those legendary artists. David had no idea at the time of purchasing the desk the connection to his belated father. But here it was now in front of both of us.
So there I was, standing in this room in Nashville - by complete accident. With friends I met by complete accident. With one degree of separation via this recording desk to Fleetwood Mac, Janis Joplin, Stevie Wonder and yes as it turns out - they to me.
Had I never seen the Small Town Pistols video, I might never have seen that desk again. What a lovely accident.
Amazing. A year of happy accidents eh?