social-media-icons

Menu
  • Gepubliceerd in Buitenlands nieuws

Patrick Leonard on what to expect from his new album of reimagined Madonna collaborations

A musical multi-hyphenate with a diverse resume that includes co-writing credits with everyone from Leonard Cohen to Jewel, Patrick Leonard’s greatest commercial success came writing songs (and frequently co-producing them) alongside a pop star who kind of, sort of made a splash in the ‘80s: Madonna.

First teaming up with the nascent icon for 1985's The Virgin Tour, their ongoing creative partnership eventually yielded 20-some songs, including three Billboard Hot 100 No. 1s ("Live to Tell," "Who's That Girl" and "Like a Prayer") and beloved classics like "La Isla Bonita," "Oh Father" and "Frozen."

And while Leonard, like Madge herself, isn't one to fixate on the past, he recently found himself returning to those songs thanks to an unlikely source: Instagram.

Joining the social media service at the behest of his kids, he was surprised at the enduring interest in his work with Madonna. That led to him playing a show at Joe's Pub in New York City in late 2017, and following the enthusiastic fan response to that concert, he began toying with the idea of recording reimagined versions of those classic hits.

Today, Leonard launched a Kickstarter for Bring the Circus Home, an album of new versions of many of the songs he co-wrote with Madonna; the tracklist isn't fully set, and fans are encouraged to weigh in on what they're hoping to hear. But it's not just Leonard returning to these songs: Many of the original studio personnel (Guy Pratt, Bruce Gaitsch and Michael Verdick) are teaming up with him to create new takes on these beloved classics. Kickstarter contributions range from $10 (which gets you a digital download) to $100 (nets you a vinyl edition) to $10,000 (at that level, you snag an in-person studio session with Leonard himself).

Ahead of the Kickstarter announcement, Leonard hopped on the phone with Billboard to discuss everything from his first meeting with Madonna to his hopes for this new project to why "Live to Tell" is like their own Beethoven's Fifth.

So with Bring the Circus Home, you're reteaming with a number of the original musicians on these songs. And what would you call them – reworked versions?

They're reimaginings, new versions; full electronic productions. I'm working with Guy Pratt, who played bass on the Like a Prayer album; Bruce Gaitsch who played on Ray of Light and True Blue; Bill Bottrell, who engineered and mixed Like a Prayer; and Michael Verdick, who mixed True Blue.

Have you seen those guys over the years?

There was the occasional thing. Bill and I worked with Leonard Cohen, before he passed, together, and Guy Pratt, I was always in touch with him. But it's the first time we've done this since we did it 30 years ago.

And what was the impetus for it?

It was a bit of a surprise, really. My friend John Lee put together a show at Joe's Pub in New York, directed at Madonna fans discovered via Instagram. I joined Instagram via a dare from my kids and discovered a whole world of Madonna fans. It opened my eyes to the loyalty people have to the music and those songs and subsequently, myself. From that, I thought of many ways of doing it. Right now we're engaged in the process and finding it's lovely to work with the material. It's really good material, and it's nice to have material the fans are familiar with for us to play with -- but to play with it in a way that feels new. It doesn't feel nostalgic at all to me. It's exciting to find a way to realize them in a way that's satisfying.

I'm surprised you didn’t realize the hunger for this material until you joined Instagram. These are such big hits, you really weren't aware?

No, not really. (Laughs) What I occurred to me, and I hadn't framed it this way, but the fans that were in their young teenage years when these records came out, those records were as important to them as records that came out in my teenage years. I don't why that hadn't occurred to me, but it hadn't.

I'm so pleased there's so many fans, I can't tell you. It's lovely to know when I finish this record, there's people who are excited to hear it. It's a luxurious position to be in. I don't have to write hits—I have 16 of them. It's an embarrassment of riches.

And it's material that's part of your life.

I realized at Joe's Pub, I'm not covering this music. It was apparent to me sitting at the piano playing "Live to Tell" that it's an authentic version of "Live to Tell." That hadn't occurred to me (before then).

Which songs are you working on – the hits mainly, or any deep cuts?

It bounces around. Madonna and I wrote 23 songs in total and 16 were hits; I'll choose from the 16, but songs that weren't necessarily hits but were really fun and cool to do, I'll play with them and see if they have a place. And I'm not necessarily doing full songs. Because I can do what I want – for a change – and I'm having fun experimenting. I'm seeing it as something that can be presented as a live show – from that standpoint, whatever music serves the moment I'll use.

You have complete control over this project. When you were working on these songs with Madonna, what was the studio situation? How much say did you ultimately have?

We collaborated well and I certainly have always held to the mutual respect we show each other. Like any collaboration, there are moments where somebody wants one thing and somebody wants another. But also, having been a studio pro as they say, it's ultimately the artist's record. That's where the final decision always rests and I would never push that envelope. But I don’t really remember too many things we disagreed on. We worked fast: I would start something in the studio, then we would work on it together, then by the end of the day or two at most, the song was done.

In past interviews you've said your tastes skew toward prog-rock – do you see any of that in these songs?

Revisiting these songs, as much as they were in the dance-pop market, I don't think I wrote any dance-pop songs. Look at "Live to Tell," "Oh Father," "Like a Prayer" -- these are not dance-pop songs, even though people dance to them. This record is a lot of years later, and I think in all fairness to progressive rock and its devotees, there hasn't been any new progressive rock that I've listened to or come across in 35 years. It's a root for me, but so was James Brown, Stevie Wonder, and Cole Porter, and Gershwin -- they were all part of my background. The prog-rock thing, yeah, I'd rather see Pink Floyd than Red Hot Chili Peppers. If I'm gearing it toward a show, I'm gearing it toward a thread and concept that tells an emotional story. I find that more interesting than a collection of ten songs unrelated.

And what of taking to the stage – will it be all instrumental, or might you have guest vocalists?

Maybe occasionally, but there will be vocals – not a lot – but there will be vocals, and I'll leave it at that. Some human, some not.

Is Madonna aware of this project?

I don't know, I think she might be. I haven't been secretive about it but I don't know. I intend on reaching out to her and inviting her to participate if she'd like to, even if just to observe. Whatever role she takes is fine with me. I'm fascinated with how fun it is to play with these songs. That's where I am right now.

"Skin" is one of my favorites of your co-writes that's not a hit. Might that make the album?

We recently unearthed all the demos for Ray of Light, and I was listening to them, and "Skin" -- the melody, chord changes, that weird little guitar part -- was all there. And I'm fairly certain that one will be part of this.

When you worked with her on Ray of Light, there had been a bit of a gap in between collaborations. And certainly the songs on that one are more contemplative. Did you notice anything different with her around that time?

I wouldn't say I noticed anything one way or the other. We worked on, I don't know, four or five records and took all those years in between, and then we did that, and then there was a project called Hello Suckers [unfinished] from a decade ago we worked on together. When you do that much collaborating, you just fall right back into it. Wherever you are, you are. The one thing I noticed when we were doing Ray of Light was her singing. She was in a slightly different place singing-wise because of Evita, and I think that influenced some of this stuff for her. There had been a lot of focus on singing for her, and it changed things -- but not better or worst, just different.

Were you surprised to hear from her after the gap?

Finding the demos, I found a folder with all of our faxes (from then). The premise was, "this worked really well before, let's try it again." It was just that, it was kind of innocent. If it goes well, we'll do it, and if it doesn't, fine.

"Frozen" is certainly in the "Live to Tell" vein. Do you ever think "let's try to recapture something about that hit?"

When you're writing something, in my career, the word hit never comes into it. You just can't say that word. It's a bad word to say. I remember she asked me if I could write something that was somewhere between The English Patient and Nine Inch Nails, and that's what "Frozen" was.

Revisiting these songs, does it seem like so much time has passed, or are they still fairly familiar to you?

Yeah it's been an interesting thing looking at these songs, I wouldn't have looked at them again… but to be able to play the music for the fans is the main motivation for this. It took me some time, months, to see the music as raw material. The initial reaction to the music was verse-chorus-bridge, and I'm now seeing it as a chef's kitchen. It's a treasure trove of moments, and to select the moments and look at them individually is fun. I'm getting a kick out of this. I've never gone back to material like this. Some of them, "Live to Tell," I wrote 33 years ago. That's a long time ago, man.

Do you remember writing it, or is the memory muddy?

I remember the moment of sitting at the piano and playing the chords. I remember getting up and playing that at the piano and going, "oh that's cool," and writing it down and developing it. At the time I was developing it for a film. The rest of it… I remember recording a demo a little bit, it was a very simple process, and I remember recording with Michael Verdick, and there was something about that one that was special and different than the other ones. Thematically it's like our Beethoven's Fifth – you hear those three notes and you got it. It identifies itself the quickest. I'm looking for intense drama (on this reworking); I really want it to be dramatic. The record is going to be pretty electronic. I'm playing around with those things, playing around with "Cherish" a bit, looking for a way to do that.

So you aren't set on how many songs will be on this, or which songs will be included?

The record is called Bring the Circus Home and I've written a song called "Bring the Circus Home" that will help tell the story and appear a few different times in little versions. I'm doing this as a vinyl-length record, which means 36 minutes. That's when I realized I don't need to do full songs. You don't need an instrumental version of "Live to Tell" with four verses. We'll bend and twist our way through this stuff. It's early in the process and it may change considerably. But with "Oh Father" the musical sequence (on the new version) is different from the record and I expect the same of all of them. Some I might do a narrative version, one of the soft ballads like "Something to Remember," I'll probably stay true to that, that's one of my favorites. A song like that, you can make big, but you shouldn't mess with it too much. It's melodic and lyrical, and that should stay.

Do you see some of them appearing in medley form?

Not like a medley, more like a narrative. Also one of the ways I'm seeing this is like a live performance. So there's the songs, but what I'm hoping to achieve, is when you come to see it live, that's the experience -- it's not just a bunch of different songs. In a live situation, things can be expanded upon, but conceptually it's still the same flow. So that's what I'm working on now, the flow. And playing around with intensity -- how intense can this be? It's fun. (laughs)

  • Gepubliceerd in Buitenlands nieuws

Interview: Patrick Leonard Talks Madonna, Leonard Cohen, and Instagram Fame

One of the first adjectives people will often use when describing Patrick Leonard is “humble.” The veteran composer and producer has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry, including Madonna, Michael Jackson, Leonard Cohen, Pink Floyd, and Fleetwood Mac. And yet he’s incredibly modest about his résumé, always shifting the focus back to the music.

A year ago, Leonard’s public profile grew when—at the urging of his son, who’d read an interview in which Madonna questioned whether her longtime collaborator was on Instagram—he joined the social media app. Fans of the Queen of Pop flocked to his account, and soon Leonard was performing a sold-out show at Joe’s Pub in New York, playing instrumental versions of the songs he wrote with Madonna for fans of his that he didn’t know existed a year earlier.

“For the first time ever I’m investigating my old work and seeing if I can bring something to the fans who are obviously very loyal to it,” Leonard told me over the phone during a break from recording in his Los Angeles studio. In October, Leonard took a hiatus from his newfound Instagram fame to start work on a new album, his first in over 20 years. The album, which he says will likely be released in two volumes, is composed of newly recorded versions of those famous Madonna songs, performed with some of the original musicians, including guitarist Bruce Gaitsch and bassist Guy Pratt. A Kickstarter campaign for the album will launch in the coming weeks.

I chatted with Leonard about the album, electronic music, the late Leonard Cohen, and, of course, his work with Madonna, including Ray of Light, which was released 20 years ago this week.

Was it a surprise to learn that you’re, at the very least, a beloved figure among Madonna fans?

It was a bit of a surprise. I certainly expected that people knew my name associated with her, but I didn’t realize that I was held in such high esteem by so many. A very pleasant surprise.

Looking back at Ray of Light, 20 years later, how do you think it holds up?

I think it holds up really well. I looked at the songs [from the album] I was gonna do at Joe’s [Pub] and felt the innovation of it and just how good [co-producer] William Orbit was at that time. It’s still apparent. Very innovative, and sonically very interesting.

One of my favorite songs you co-wrote for Ray of Light is the B-side “Has to Be,” which was included on the original tracklist for the album, but it was swapped out for another song last minute. It’s such a beautiful, heartbreaking, almost ambient ballad about self-love.

You know, I haven’t listened to the original demo of that one yet. I wish I could remember how it went. You mind if I YouTube it?

[Laughs] Not at all.

Oh, yeah, I remember now. I think I hear a Juno [Roland synthesizer]!

Tori Amos has covered several Madonna songs in concert, and her recent rendition of “Frozen” is really haunting and beautiful. Have you heard it?

I haven’t. I think Tori’s wonderful, but I don’t go looking for those things. It has to literally be put in front of me. This isn’t a comment on Tori, because again I haven’t heard it, but oftentimes when people do covers, they don’t know the center of it. Maybe they have their own sense of the center, but my sense of where the plumb line is—a single line and everything’s built around it—that knowledge and sense of where that line actually exists is different for [the songwriters] than anyone else. And so, usually when I hear other people’s versions, I’m flattered that they think it’s a good enough piece of music that they want to represent themselves with it. I’m honored at that level.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Madonna songs she’s chosen to cover—“Live to Tell,” “Like a Prayer,” and “Frozen”—are ones you co-wrote.

Yeah. This is an assumption, but Tori probably chose those songs because she’s a pianist and they were written on piano.

Oh, good point.

They’re all pianistic.

Another seminal Madonna album you worked on, Like a Prayer, turns 30 next year. One of my favorite songs on the album is “Spanish Eyes.” It’s so different tonally from the two previous Latin-influenced songs you wrote with Madonna, “La Isla Bonita” and “Who’s That Girl.” It’s darker and more mysterious.

The way we worked on Like a Prayer, and other records as well but particularly Like a Prayer—we wrote a song a day. I wrote this thing, at the piano again, and at the top of it, it says “tango.” She came in the morning [and] listened to it, [wrote] the lyric, put a guide vocal down, and went home. [laughs] What I always believed was good about our collaborations is that the spirit of the composition was always very closely reflected in the sentiment of the lyric, and the spirit of it as well. So if there was a darkness about [the music], that gave her an opportunity for the lyric to go there. And even something like “Till Death Do Us Part”—which had an uncomfortableness about it and yet it felt all bubbly and perky, but it wasn’t. And I always thought that was a great lyrical position, to have it be this really dark…not really dark, but you know—

It’s pretty dark!

Yeah, a tremendous amount of conflict. But you feel like you can skip rope to it.

Like a Prayer is easily her most organic album in terms of the live instrumentation, but “Till Death Do Us Part” is an exception. It’s a very synth-based track. What’s your relationship to electronic music? I know you’ve posted videos on Instagram where you’re experimenting with patching different modular synths and things like that.

I started playing piano really, really young. But I took jazz lessons, and I took classical lessons. And I started playing in rock bands when I was about 10 years old. So I have a really strange potpourri of a background. But I also, from the very beginning of my career as a keyboardist, had synthesizers. They’ve always been very present for me. I’m making this record now of Madonna songs and a lot of the gear I’m using is the same gear I used on [Madonna’s 1986 album] True Blue, and interfacing with new modular stuff. And what I like to do is—I like to then bring in players to play on top of it. Playing along with “machines” presents another challenge.

Madonna’s work with producer Nellee Hooper on her 1994 album Bedtime Stories is sometimes credited as a precursor to Ray Of Light, but “I’ll Remember” [co-written and produced by Leonard] is also quite electronic. The drum programming is so complex and expressive—almost pointillistic.

It’s also [drummer] Jonathan Moffett. [laughs]

Really? How do you create that sound?

Necessity’s the mother of invention, right? Like, this morning I’m working on a modular program version of [Madonna’s 1990 single] “Hanky Panky,” which is absolutely sick. There’s many layers to [creating that sound]. One is that the precision necessary to do it—when you force a human to that sort of precision, you get something vital. When you just do it and you chop it up on a computer, it sounds cool, but you don’t get that person sweating—

That’s the expressiveness I’m talking about.

Yeah. It forces somebody to the edge of their abilities, and in doing so, you get a human energy that I really enjoy. It’s not as accurate as it sounds; it’s not as pristine as the impression that it gives you. But part of that is that the sequence is running; your body’s taking in something that feels metronomic, it feels like a clock, while there’s things breathing inside of it.

These days Leonard Cohen is probably the artist you’re most closely associated with, since you worked on his three final albums. What was that songwriting process like?

Unlike with Madonna, he didn’t dabble in the music and I wasn’t gonna try to dabble in the lyrics. He would send me a lyric and I would work on the music. Some of them we worked on many, many, many versions, which also differs from Madonna. What Leonard was looking for was the perfect setting for the poem that didn’t interrupt the verse that he had written—because obviously that was king, and deserved to be. So those records were a bit of an exercise in staying out of the way.

I understand that your performance at Joe’s Pub last fall was a bit serendipitous for you.

It was just sweet that [Cohen] performed there and his poster was on the wall just above the stage. It hadn’t been that long since he had passed, so it was nice to see him hanging on the wall.

Watching over you.

Yeah.

What did you learn from him?

Oh, that’s a big question. A lot—as a person, and a tremendous amount as an artist. Methodology, process. How does a mere mortal get to a place where the lyrics are what his lyrics were, are, will always be. How do you get there? And his process is different than anyone else I’d seen, and anyone else I’d ever worked with. And I found it beautiful, and I incorporate it theoretically, in principle, all the time now. Once you see something like that you’re a fool not to see what you can do to learn from it. I’ll miss Leonard forever.

  • Gepubliceerd in Nieuws

Top 2000 a gogo: Patrick Leonard over Madonna

In de aflevering 'Top 2000 a gogo' van 27 december jl, werd een interview uitgezonden met Patrick Leonard. Hij werkte met Madonna samen en was onder andere verantwoordelijk voor een aantal van haar grootste hits. Bekijk hier de volledige aflevering. 

  • Gepubliceerd in In de kluis

The Devil Wouldn't Recognize You

Dit nummer is opgenomen voor de musical Hello Suckers waaraan Madonna werkte met Patrick Leonard en Mirwais Ahmagzai in 2004/2005. De musical is nooit afgemaakt.
Er gingen geruchten dat Madonna dit nummer tijdens 1 van de laatste optredens van de Re-Invention World Tour zou gaan uitvoeren. Dit gebeurde niet.
Madonna gebruikte het nummer wel voor haar album Hard Candy. Het is toen geproduceerd door Timbaland, Justin Timberlake en Nate Hills.

  • Gepubliceerd in In de kluis

If You Go Away

Dit nummer is opgenomen voor de musical Hello Suckers waaraan Madonna werkte met Patrick Leonard en Mirwais Ahmagzai in 2004/2005. De musical is nooit afgemaakt.
If You Go Away is een vertaling van het Jacues Brel nummer Ne Me Quitte Pas en is ook opgenomen door o.a. Marlene Dietrich, Shirley Bassey en Tom Jones.
Het nummers is op 2 september 2010 op internet verschenen als (illegale) download.

  • Gepubliceerd in In de kluis

Skin

De CMRRA heeft i.p.v. 2 schrijvers (Madonna en Patrick Leonard) ook nog een 3e: Susan Leonard. Of het hier dan ook om een andere (demo) versie gaat is niet bekend.
  • Gepubliceerd in In de kluis

Regfresando

Een samenwerking tussen Madonna en Patrick Leonard. Opgenomen in de database van Warner-Chappell maar er is verder niets over bekend.
  • Gepubliceerd in In de kluis

Nothing Really Matters

De CMRRA heeft i.p.v. 2 schrijvers (Madonna en Patrick Leonard) ook nog een 3e: Susan Leonard. Of het hier dan ook om een andere (demo) versie gaat is niet bekend.
  • Gepubliceerd in In de kluis

Possessive Love

Geschreven en geproduceerd door Patrick Leonard, Madonna en Jai Winding.
Madonna's originele opname is verzonden aan Marilyn Martin die het heeft opgenomen voor haar album This Is Serious.
Status: Madonna's originele opname (de demo) is niet uitgebracht.

  • Gepubliceerd in In de kluis

You´ll Stay

Geschreven met Patrick Leonard.
Of het een demo is van You'll See is niet bekend. Er is geen vermelding van Patrick Leonard bij het nummer.

Abonneren op deze RSS feed

Login or Registreren

Wachtwoord vergeten? / Gebruikersnaam vergeten?

Om de website van MadonnaNed goed te laten functioneren, maken wij gebruik van cookies. Meer informatie

Akkoord

Cookies zijn eenvoudige kleine tekstbestanden die worden opgeslagen op de harde schijf of in het geheugen van je computer. Cookies kunnen je computer of de bestanden die op jouw computer staan niet beschadigen.

Cookies zorgen er onder andere voor dat je ingelogd kan blijven op MadonnaNed. Wij gebruiken ook cookies om essentiële onderdelen op onze website te laten werken.

Social media

Deze website bevat tevens “buttons” van sociale netwerken als Facebook, Linkedin en Twitter, waarmee u (content van) onze website kunt delen op die netwerken. De buttons werken door middel van stukjes code die van deze partijen zelf afkomstig zijn. Door middel van deze code worden cookies geplaatst. Wij hebben daar geen invloed op. Leest u de privacyverklaring van Facebook, Linkedin en Twitter (welke regelmatig kunnen wijzigen) om te lezen wat zij met uw (persoons)gegevens doen die zij via deze cookies verwerken.

Analytics

We gebruiken cookies om statistieken te verzamelen van onze bezoekers om te zien hoe vaak de website - en welke pagina's - door bezoekers worden bekeken.