Psychedelic folk troubadour Robyn Hitchcock released his latest excellent album The Man Upstairs this past Tuesday. The album features a selection of Hitchcock originals alongside covers of The Doors, the Psychedelic Furs, Roxy Music and more.
Earlier this month, Hitchcock spoke with The MusicNerd Chronicles about the making of The Man Upstairs and working with renowned producer Joe Boyd (Nick Drake, Fairport Convention) who helped him realize he is as much a singer as he is a songwriter.
You recorded and mixed The Man Upstairs in just one week. Was doing the record in such quick fashion done out of necessity or simply not wanting to overthink things?
When I was speaking with Joe Boyd about making the record, he said he was willing to come on board with the condition we completed it in a week. And honestly, he was speaking my language. Neither of us are very patient people. We both feel that if you’ve got a great song, you should be able to capture it quickly. That mindset allowed me to get to the very essence of these songs.
Do you feel that artists are getting too mired in the fine details of making music these days as opposed to going with their gut?
If you can perform a concert in an hour, there is no reason why you can’t make a record in a day. All of the performances on The Man Upstairs were captured somewhere between the first and third takes. Joe is very binary; he either likes the performance or he doesn’t. I’m very much the same but it is also important to note that neither of us are perfectionists. When you strive for perfection, you are getting a very good performance in the technical sense but you are risking losing the spirit behind the song.
It was Joe Boyd that suggested you make The Man Upstairs a ‘Judy Collins album,’ meaning it would be comprised of covers, favorites as well as original material. Was this approach a refreshing way to make a record?
This album was more about capturing a performance and is actually the first time I thought of myself as a performer on record. I always thought of my albums as a means to showcase the latest bunch of Robyn Hitchcock songs but it was Joe’s suggestion that ultimately liberated me. He helped me realize that I am as much as singer as I am a songwriter.