Alanis Morrisette’s Jagged Little Pill! How many of you can remember what that album meant to a generation? You can relive that again this fall on Broadway! Or you can discover it for the first time. “Un-Block The Music” has already interviewed Neal Avron, the soundtrack producer about this.
In 1995, Jagged Little Pill topped the charts in thirteen countries; with sales of over 33 million copies worldwide. It is one of the best-selling albums of all time. It was nominated for nine Grammys and it won five including album of the year. Alanis was the youngest artist in history to win the honor, until Taylor Swift came along in 2008.
Once again, I realize what a small world it can be. If you read this blog, you know what a fan “Un-Block The Music” is of Waitress and its musical director Nadia DiGiallonardo. Neal produced that soundtrack as well. He also worked with Sara Bareilles on the prequel to that album: What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress.
“Un-Block The Music’s” first thought when speaking to Neal, was amazement in terms of his versatility as a musician, mixer and producer. Neal started playing trumpet in middle school which took him through college on a music scholarship at University of Miami. “While I was in college, I worked for a live sound company in Miami where I learned about installing live sound systems but also learned about live mixing,” he explained.
By the time he got to college, Neal already knew, that he wanted to be a producer. “I worked in studios and established my path up to engineer and was allowed to do small projects as well as overdubs, tracking, mixing and co-production. It was a steady path from one step to the next,” he said. “My generation grew up in the studio and got to assist and get tips from top producers…learned how people do things, how they are in session or miced (putting a microphone on something) for example. You learned what you liked and what you didn’t like. First you emulate then you start create and implement your own techniques” Neal explained.
While Neal worked on many albums as an assistant, the project that put him on the map was Wallflowers’ Bringing Down The Horse. Since then, Neal has worked with a diverse bunch of artists including 21 Pilots, 30 Seconds To Mars and, of course, Sara Bareilles. “I find working with different kinds of artists is fulfilling; challenging yes…but that’s what makes it fulfilling. Working on the same type of record over and over would keep me stagnant and not let me stretch as an artist.”
Neal says one important difference connected to producing a pop/rock record and a Broadway record, is the speed of recording. “It’s like you are married when you are working on a record three months. You worked at least 6 days a week at least 8-12 hours a day. On the other hand, we recorded Waitress in two days. It was a different experience, but one I really enjoyed,” he said.
Before Waitress, Neal produced and mixed Sara Bareilles, 2010’s Kaleidscope Heart. She then went off to write the music for Waitress, and when they were on the road trying out the show, she called him and said, “I wrote music and lyrics for a Broadway musical, but I had the idea of putting out an album of me singing the songs and releasing it before the it comes out.” Neal says, “She wanted to give those songs her voice.” That project became What’s Inside: Songs From Waitress. Several months later, she called him back and asked if he wanted to produce the cast album with her. “It was an incredible experience. I loved the idea of doing something I never did before.”
Not long afterward, Neal was in New York having dinner with the musicians from Waitress. “I said something like, ‘I have to listen to a bunch of Broadway cast albums to get the vibe and feel” and they jumped out of their seats and said ‘NO’ don’t do that. We want you to do exactly what you want to do and what your feel!” Well, he did just that, following his own instincts, and those instincts, in “Un-Block The Music’s” opinion, created a masterpiece!
The Waitress band was recorded at the Powerstation Studio in New York. The vocals were recorded at MSR, which has since closed down. However, Neal loved the experience. Of having everyone sing together at once. “Incredible,” he says.
Right now, most of Neal’s work is mixing which “is a pretty solitary endeavor, and one of the biggest things I have missed about production. “When mixing, we send files back and forth and make changes by email. A lot of artists that I work with, can’t afford to be in a studio worrying about mixes, they need to be out on the road. Some artists do like to come tot the studios and get down to the nitty gritty, but most are fine working long distance. Waitress offered Neal an added career path, “and I am grateful for it,” he says.
“Un-Block The Music” can’t wait for Jagged Little Pill to hit Broadway in November. Join me in getting tickets at https://jaggedlittlepill.com/ . Elizabeth Stanley, Kathryn Gallagher, Celia Rose, Derek Klena, Sean Allan Krill and Lauren Patten will reprise the roles that created last summer when the show played at the American Repertory Theater. Also returning to the show is Laurel Harris. Remember her? I profiled she and her husband Rob Marnell a while back. Laurel was Elphaba in Wicked! https://unblockthemusic.blog/2019/02/21/beautifuls-laurel-harris-rob-marnell-show-love-in-their-heart-on-off-stage/
One other connection to this show I have comes in the form of Glen Ballard who co-wrote Jagged with Alanis and produced it He was one of my first interviews when I got my freelance job at “In Tune Monthly” a decade ago. Anyway, Follow this blog for continued updates and interviews! And, if you want to read more about the music of Waitress, check out these two stories.