In August, I called up Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields, Future Bible Heroes and Gothic Archies. He seemed a natural for this idea I had: to document the songwriting process. We gave him two days in a studio filled with drums, guitars, a Moog synthesizer, a sitar, samplers, a grand piano and more.
We wanted to make his stay here comfy, so I asked him, "What do you like to sit on when writing a song?" I figured he'd say a couch or a nice chair with a table lamp or some such, but he said, "A barstool."
I figured that was easy. A day later, it occurred to me that he meant he likes to write his music while sitting in a bar — it wasn't the damn stool!
So we scrambled to get a bar — he wasn't a prima donna, mind you, but I wanted to make him feel at ease. Our photo editor Coburn knew someone with a bar and some stools, so our studio engineer Chris and I, along with my son, hopped in a white van, went for a ride and carted the bar back to NPR and into what we call Studio 4A.
When Stephin Merritt arrived, he liked what he saw, including the green tea and the 1974 Scotch.
Below is the video that documents Stephin writing and recording the song. It's called The Man of a Million Faces and was filmed by John Poole, the videographer for NPR.
Welcome to Project Song, and also to our blog.
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Robin Hilton and I will share/fight for this space.