Interview: Alison Krauss and Union Station9 min read
The unstoppable force that is Alison Krauss and Union Station have been going strong for the best part of three decades now. Pushing the boundaries of American Bluegrass and making the genre cool to listen to, the collective have recently released a further addition to their already rather expansive catalogue.
With Alison retaining a firm grip on her status as the most most awarded female recipient in Grammy Awards history with ease (she has accumulated 26 to date) as well as her band Union Station being garnished heavily also, the band have been absent as a collective for over seven years now with projects including Krauss’ highly acclaimed collaboration with Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant, but the wait is finally over as new record Paper Airplane proves that the kings and queen of country are back and in top form as they hit UK shores this month to promote their new album.
As part of the bands short visit to the UK Brendon was given the honor of sitting down with Alison and Union Station band member and Dan Tyminski to chat about the new record, the bands creative process and their thoughts on their Grammy success. Here’s what they had to say.
Brendon Veevers: How are you both doing?
Dan Tyminski: Well, I guess. Yeah we are good thanks.
BV: Welcome To London. Have you been in London long?
Alison Krauss: Since Monday.
DT: Is this Monday?
AK: No, since Monday.
DT: I was gonna say (laughs).
BV: So it’s a quick visit to the UK then?
DT: Yeah, as you can tell we are both right in between jetlag (laughs).
AK: We leave the day after tomorrow.
DT: Yeah, Friday we are off home.
BV: What do you have planned? Seeing the sights perhaps – I presume this isn’t your first time in the UK?
AK: No we’ve been here many times. We’re doing a BBC radio live concert tomorrow and it’s gonna be wonderful.
BV: Let’s talk about your latest record, Paper Airplane. The album has just been released over here in the UK. How have you found the reception has been so far to the new material?
DT: Really you would know better than we would because everyone tells us that it’s good no matter what and then they will go to other people and say ‘I don’t really like it’.
AK: Yeah what are they gonna say like ‘your record is crap and its your worst ever’?
DT: Yeah exactly. There have been a lot of positive comments I suppose I should say. Basically if people didn’t like it they wouldn’t be telling us.
AK: We’d read about it instead.
BV: Can you tell us a bit about the record?
DT: (Turning to Alison) I don’t even know what number record this is for you. You have like 3, or 4 or 5 out right now – I’m kidding. The record was very overdue. We spent so much time between recording that it ended up being close to 7 years between records for us which was a little longer than we had intended but now we’re back at it and hopefully it’s business as usual. It’s kind of a tough question because it’s what we do.
BV: So why was it such a long time for the new record to come out. 7 years is a considerable gap between records?
DT: We just all seemed to get pre-occupied. We don’t mean to spend that much time between records but we decided to put it off for a year and then we put it off for another year so we didn’t really say that we were going to take this chunk of time instead we just kept moving it back before we realized it was years between.
AK: Yeah and everybody has a career outside of the band too so everybody was busy and then at some point we had five schedules. Plus our engineers schedule is very busy too and it was hard to coordinate. It just got tougher and tougher to get it all but we did.
BV: How does the creative process work between yourself and Union Station?
DT: Part of what Alison is in life is that she is a hunter/gatherer. She likes to find songs and it’s the thrill of the hunt for her so it’s about finding those songs. I am probably polar opposite of that. I don’t spend my time looking for a lot of songs but we get together in a room and everyone brings what they have and what they’ve found or what they think might work and we try to play everything and listen to everything and the ones that work for us we pretty much know. We all know as soon as we hear them if we’re interested and then there’s some that some people like more than others, there’s some that other people don’t like as much as others, but for the most part I think we all have a pretty good sense as to what works for us as a band and when we feel like we have enough material and it makes sense and we rehearse it and then take it to the studio.
BV: You are both regarded as very influential people in the industry, who influenced the two of you?
AK: Oh a lot of people.
DT: Yeah there are several directions we could go down with that. Early in our lives I think we listened to a lot of the same stuff, a lot of traditional Bluegrass. We all kind of grew up listening to the same people but the influences don’t stop within that little circle of Bluegrass I mean, we all listen to all types of music.
AK: Top 40 radio.
DT: Yeah Top 40 radio. Going down the road you’ll hear on our bus anything from Def Leppard to Mel Torme. It’s a pretty wide range of music that we listen to.
AK: I’m trying to think of what was in the Top 40 when we were younger. We had Paul Rodgers on the radio, we have some amazing singers, some passionate singers. It was a very different Era in terms of what we were growing up listening to as apposed to the video age now.
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BV: You are both also known as somewhat ambassadors of Bluegrass music and pushing the genre into the 21st Century. How does that feel and is it something you even think about?
AK: I don’t really know how much we think about things like that. I do think that’s a huge compliment but we just do what we like really.
DT: I don’t think there is any sort of preconceived thought process of ‘lets try to further our music’. We play music because, well I don’t think that any of us even chose it. It chose us. We’ve just always played. And I think like Alison said, it’s a compliment when you hear people say that you’ve influenced them or that you’ve helped to carry the music on but I don’t think that that was the initial goal of our playing.
BV: What advice would you give to someone wanting to start a career as a recording artist in the music industry?
AK: Just to make sure that you’re in it for the reason of playing music and representing yourself in a truthful way because if it’s successful you’re going to be misrepresenting yourself for a long time if it’s not who you are. You know it’s scary too because you change so much. You’re tastes change and what you wanna say changes whether it becomes new or wider. It’s an interesting process and we’ve been very lucky to be able to have the length of a career that we have and not only individually does it change but when you’ve been in a group for so long and it’s the same people then the whole thing changes and I like being a part of that.
BV: Alison, you are one of the top Grammy Award winners in history with a winning total of 26 Grammy Awards and Dan, you have won 10. Did you ever believe that your careers would get to the heights that they have?
DT: When you start out with a passion for the music, especially the type of music that we all grew up playing, I don’t think that any of us ever thought that it would be listened to by anymore than a small room of people.
AK: And most of them you’re related to (laughs).
DT: Yeah a small group of family.
AK: I remember one time thinking ‘I can’t believe anyone is in this room’ but it was because they had to come (laughing).
BV: Alison – your brother Viktor got involved with the latest record and has writing credits. That must be a nice experience to be able to share your music with your brother and to go on this journey together?
AK: Yeah it was and he has through the years. There’s been a number of times that we have done things together and it worked out great on that particular song (Lie Awake from Paper Airplane) because I had been driving home from Indianapolis and I heard a tune on the radio and I thought ‘oh I wish we had that kind of tune’ because it was a chanty song and the thing that made the chorus was the harmony and it was just this repetitive, great melody and feel and he is really great at writing with an idea and he is pretty quick. He says, ‘yeah yeah I can do that’ so yeah he came up with that and then we met a really great lyricist and it was magic right off the bat. (turning to Dan) I think it was the first song I played you guys when we go together to talk about recording.
BV: The songs that the two of you have contributed vocally to the record are very different in style and rhythm, Alison offering the more laid back numbers and Dan giving us the uptempo tracks. After the album was finished did either of you listen back and wish you had taken on one of the others songs?
DT: We do such different types of track that I don’t think I have ever gone back and said ‘Wow, I wish I were singing that song’. It’s very difficult to find songs that suit you if you’re really honest with yourself on what works and what doesn’t and I don’t think that the songs that Alison does would suit me and vice versa, I don’t think the songs that I do would suit her.
AK: I mean, when people bring that up, the difference, I think that those tunes are very much Dan and my version of who I see Dan as. I think that’s why they work together because it’s a true representation of us.
DT: Sweet and sour.
AK: (in a strong Southern accent) Sweet and sour and sassy!
DT: Sweet and sour. Salt and pepper.
AK: (laughing) But seriously, that’s why I think it really works.
DT: There is a lot of contrast there. But then that’s the same with everything. If you were to eat a really good meal you don’t want everything to be the same. You want something sweet and you want something a little more salty.
BV: Do you have any performances penciled in for us to see and hear the new record being performed?
DT: Right now nothing is set in stone. We hope to come back to the UK and get to perform the stuff. We have, like everyone else has, AlisonKrauss.com is a great way to find out where we’ll be playing and hopefully we will be able to add some European dates to that shortly.
BV: So what’s next for Alison Krauss and Union Station?
AK: We go home and rehearse for the tour.
DT: Yeah we have to go and learn all this stuff we’ve recorded.
AK: We have to learn it (laughs).
BV: Thank you.
Alison Krauss and Union Station’s new album Paper Airplane is out now.
::: RenownedForSound.com’s Editor and Founder –
Interviewing and reviewing the best in new music and globally recognized artists is his passion.
Over the years he has been lucky enough to review thousands of music releases and concerts and interview artists ranging from top selling superstars like 27-time Grammy Award winner Alison Krauss, Boyz II Men, Roxette, Cyndi Lauper, Lisa Loeb and iconic Eagles front man/songwriter, Glenn Frey through to more recent successes including Newton Faulkner, Janelle Monae and Caro Emerald.
Brendon manages and coordinates the amazing team of writers on RenownedForSound.com who are based in the UK, the U.S and Australia.