Musical collaborations between two strong and distinctly different artists are tricky things. In order to work well, the finished product needs to hit a sweet spot that’s a smooth mix of both parties, not too much of one or the other. So people didn’t quite know what to expect when word came that singer-songwriter Edie Brickell, best known for the ‘80s hit “What I Am,” and actor, author and bluegrass banjoist Steve Martin were going into the studio together. The result is a new album, “Love Has Come For You.”
She wrote the words to melodies that he sent her via email…it’s a 21st century project played on old-school, acoustic instruments.
At first glance, you might not think that Brickell and Martin have much in common except that, while neither lives there now, both are natives of Texas. Another thing they have in common: Paul Simon. Brickell is married to him and Martin is a longtime friend. “Love Has Come For You” arose from a meeting at Simon’s 70th birthday party last year.
In interviews, Brickell tells the story of complimenting Martin on his music and telling him “If you’d ever like to write a song together, that’s my favorite thing to do.” Soon, he was sending her melodies and she was sending lyrics by return email and songs like “Sun’s Gonna Shine” were complete.
Brickell says she always enjoyed vintage country music, but never really started studying it until 10 years ago. That’s when she got into Bob Wills, Buck Owens, and the other standard-bearers. It wasn’t just the melodies that grabbed her, the lyrics and their sense of fun were a big part of it. Working with Steve Martin gave her the chance to write that kind of music herself. One song, “Siamese Cat,” sees her give a lighter-than-usual twist to a break-up song.
The writing process was evenly divided between Martin and Brickell on “Love Has Come for You”: she handled the words, he wrote the melodies. She sings lead on the songs, and it is his five string banjo that you hear out front. Other musicians include Martin’s touring partners The Steep Canyon Rangers, Sara and Sean Watkins, The Webb Sisters and even producer Peter Asher contributes a few handclaps and background vocals.
This was the first collaboration between Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, but it’s proving so successful they hope to bring it to Broadway. A week ago, the pair had a several concert readings of their work-in-progress musical “Bright Star.” The show is set in the mountains of North Carolina and features songs from the new album.