103: Larry Klein
Larry Klein started out as a musician’s musician before becoming a producer’s producer. At a young age he was playing bass with his heroes in the jazz world, including a long and creative stint with trumpeter Freddie Hubbard in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The way he explains it, Klein started to become more drawn to the world of songs, singers and popular music, and put off by the jazz insiders’ insistence on what was and what wasn’t “the real s*#t”. As a session player he worked on some of the most classic LA record dates of the 80s and 90s (for the likes of Peter Gabriel, Tracy Chapman, Don Henley, Bob Dylan, Cher and Joni Mitchell) and seemed positioned for a life as a hired gun sideman.
But while married to his first wife, Joni Mitchell, Larry began producing records. Over the last 30 years he has become one of the most sophisticated, musical and thoughtful producers around, producing records for Mitchell, Madeleine Peyroux, Melody Gardot, Herbie Hancock, Luciana Souza (who he is married to now) and many, many more. Klein has won Grammys for his work on Mitchell's Turbulent Indigo and Both Sides Now; and Hancock's River: The Joni Letters.
I've been a huge admirer of his for a long time. I love how he manages to make timeless records that also feel contemporary. It’s a kind of magic trick that anyone who has ever tried to make confident, approachable music in the studio will recognize as much easier said than done.
I recently spent a morning with Larry at his home studio in Los Angeles. Considering how great his records sound, it should have come as no big surprise to me that underneath it all he’s still just a huge music fan. Here he talks about the art and craft of record production, what is and isn’t the real s*%t, why he often works with female artists, and the importance of good coffee. This one was a long time coming for me and I’m delighted to share it.
In this week’s Spotify playlist hear some of the songs we discuss in our conversation. Listen here.