In Austin, Day One

In the morning my brain cracks into consciousness like a flicked switch. 7am. What to do? I peer out of the sealed tinted window and attempt to orientate myself by dabbing and swiping at my phone map. Downtown juts up to the south like a distant promise. The immediate environs are hideously nondescript. Parking lots, freeways and motels. It’s a typical American scene. I walk to an IHOP* and indulge in its dubious charms. My waitress, battle-hardened from years of service, divorce and disappointment, regurgitates pleasantries on auto-pilot. I am coffee and orange juice and I’m over easy. The place is full of working types, which is reassuring for some reason. You get the feeling somehow that the punters are for Obama but the staff are a bit more Romney. I could be wrong.

This afternoon I am to rendezvous with the producer. I am a little nervous about it having only spoken to him on the phone prior to this trip. We arrange to meet in the lobby and I fuss slightly over what to wear. He has suggested we eat Mexican so I plump for a long floral dress and a shawl and drape myself groovily across a wooden bench out front. Mr. McC arrives in a Volvo with an Obama/Biden bumper sticker and a copy of Sonic Youth’s “Dirty” on the back seat. My relief is immediate. He takes me on a lightning tour of the city – east side, west side, the river, parks and cool little neighbourhoods. Most of the downtown edifices are new to me having been thrown up in the boom since I was here in the mid-nineties. For some reason they have painted the formerly gleaming white capitol building rusty brown according to historical custom. It looks like a caramel cathedral. At the studio we tentatively elide into actual work, after a little dance of mutual shyness and unfamiliarity. It’s a shock to be back with a producer again after twelve years. It’s a very personal thing, allowing another individual into the song-space. I man the piano as he does some deconstructing and thinking out loud and I manage to latch onto his thought process through a fog of travel-lag. The studio itself is a cave of vintage delights and physically reminiscent of places I recorded in in the early eighties. There’s a lot of brown, a lot of wood and gloomy lighting. At one point I have to run out to the parking lot in a panic to get sun on my face before my body-clock somersaults back to Euro-time. The sound of the city surrounds us, a pulsating growl of engines and grind woven with the light treble of insects and birdsong. Bottom end, top end. What more do you need?

*”International” House of Pancakes to the uninitiated. Basic meat stodge served with doughy pancakes. I think I’ve referred to this before. See Tales.