When The Wallflowers landed in Nashville to record their latest album, Glad All Over, they were under the gun. With no songs written and 29 days scheduled for recording, there was no time for sightseeing or leisurely club hopping. Well, almost no time.
“Nashville is a great place to get work done and have fun,” said the band’s bass player Greg Richling, noting that they did get around town a bit between sessions. However, most of the time was spent inside Dan Auerbach’s Easy Eye Sound, all of the band in one room recording live and letting the sounds bleed into one another. “We’ve always recorded very organically,” explained Richling, and that approach was ideal for Easy Eye’s analog raison d’être.
The stripped-down approach comes through in the songs, with a much rougher edge to some of the tracks than you might expect. “I had been listening to a lot of The Clash,” Richling recalled, inspiring a bass line which became the foundation for stand-out album track “Reboot the Mission.” Once basic recording was completed, the band realized that they really had channelled “The Only Band That Mattered” and decided to gamble on asking Mick Jones to appear on the song. Jones agreed, and after a few transatlantic file exchanges, Jones had contributed not only to “Reboot” but “Misfits and Lovers” as well. For die-hard Clash fan Richling, who counts Paul Simonon as a bass hero, it was bucket list-worthy achievement.
Music has always been a passion for California native Richling. Having the great fortune to grow up eight blocks from legendary music shop Rhino Records, he made regular pilgrimages to the vinyl outlet. He sought advice and buying tips from whomever happened to be in the store, whether it was Henry Rollins, Mike Watt, David Byrne, or sales clerk Nels Cline. There, he found a long list of albums that fired his imagination for juvenile satisfaction: Minutemen Double Nickles on the Dime, Hüsker Dü Candy Apple Grey, Gun Club Miami, Blondie Parallel Lines, Green on Red’s debut, Dream Syndicate Days of Wine and Roses and so many more.
Often, they were placed in his hands by the shopping musicians or working staff with the command, “Here, listen to THIS!” It was a priceless musical education, delivered at 33 1/3 RPM.
Jump cut to 1992: Richling fell in with some like-minded musicians, they formed The Wallflowers and rang the platinum bell 4x with their 1996 breakthrough LP, Bringing Down the Horse. Beyond the band tours and late-night talk show appearances, Richling honed his producer chops, riding the faders for artists like Minibar and prodigal Nashville resident Matthew Ryan. Richling formed an especially strong bond with Ryan, leading to the formation of Dead Satellites, a side band which Ryan and Richling lead when not working on their night jobs. The band also includes Wallflowers’ keyboardist Rami Jaffee. With audible pride, Richling relates that Dead Satellites’ track “Shook Down” was chosen as NPR’s “Song of the Day” on 7/08/09.
In the ‘90s, Richling succumbed to the compact disc’s siren song, as so many did, discarding of most of his LP library in the process. Fortunately, a chance encounter 1 1/2 years ago rekindled his vinyl desire. While shopping in Hollywood’s expansive Amoeba Music, he saw a teen-aged girl carrying a copy of Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy LP and “It was a lightbulb moment!” he declares. It brought back those days spent at Rhino and he resolved to start buying albums again. “Getting back into vinyl saved my excitement for music,” testified Richling (AMEN!) and now he eagerly seeks out record shops in his travels. Recalling when purchasing an album meant that you “studied it, it became your whole day,” he once again relishes the tactile ritual of placing an album on the turntable and pouring over the sleeve notes.
With The Wallflowers currently on tour supporting Eric Clapton, Richling should have ample opportunity to visit some vinyl emporiums along the way. As for opening for “God,” Richling doesn’t seem intimidated and says that the band won’t change their approach. They’ll do what they do and hopefully win over a percentage of the Clapton crowd, surely finding some Marlenas caught in the stage-mounted headlight. Personally, I would advise Greg to find a clean copy of Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs and cue up “Bell Bottom Blues” on the dressing room turntable. Damn, that’s a good record.