Patrick Leonard: The French Canadian Connection
Submitted by Michael Williams
Patrick Raymond is an American songwriter, keyboardist and music producer, known for his longtime collaboration with Madonna on many different recordings.Leonard has worked with a wide variety of artists, including late-period Pink Floyd and solo Roger Waters, as well as Boz Scaggs, Deborah Blando, Peter Cetera, Bryan Ferry, Elton John, Anna Vissi, Jody Watley, Rod Stewart, Madonna, Jewel, Blue October, and up and coming artist Rachel Loy. He also was half of the art-pop group Toy Matinee with the late Kevin Gilbert and Third Matinee with Richard Page.
His recent role of producer of the new Adam Cohen recording led Michael Williams to an interview which shed the light on his Canadian connections.
MW: How did you discover Adam Cohen and Low Millions?
PL: Adam approached me to do the “Low Millions”, album and that’s how I found him.
MW: He completely credits you for this whole project; what was it you heard in him that made got you excited?
PL: Adam was suffering from the child of the icon syndrome, I saw him as a deep songwriter. What he has to offer and what he has to say is worthy of being presented as what it really is. So I just tried to encourage him to be that in the most honest way he could. At one point he came to me and said can we do this now, this way. I just knew he had it in him to make a record like this. It’s a very real record; a lot of people can’t make real records. This is a real one, so part of it is encouragement and another part is selfishness, because I like to do a real one when I have a chance.
MW: how do you decide who you produce? Because you seem to like Canadians!!
PL: who have I done? Adam and Leonard Cohen, what can you say, Bryan Adams and Lara Fabian? I am French Canadian myself so maybe there is some kinship there. All great artists.
MW: cool, could Adam have made it without growing into this record?
PL: No! With anything that scares you have to face it, eventually you have to, no matter how fast you run it catches you, that is what we got here, and I could not be happier, I think what he’s done is wonderful.
MW: he left some blood on the page with this one, how long did it take to record it?
PL: I think we slaved over it for at least three weeks; it’s the way this type of record should be made, other records take longer because they should. Not to say that records that I have done that took over two years were not wonderful in their own way as well.
MW: Did you mix, “Sweet Dominique”?
PL: we did not move the faders, we did not add anything or take anything away, it was a wonderful moment, it got captured and when we went to balance it we put the faders up and that was that. It was it was supposed to sound like. He has a narrative sense to what he does. A great use of language, a fabulous poet and you have the benefit of someone who knows how to use the language it never hurts.
MW: Did you have to convince Adam to do this a lot?
PL: Not a lot, but initially there was a bit of that. The initial on set of it was a few rules, if you want this record and you want it this way, here are a set of rules you stick to. So when he would come up he would say” can I just do this” I would say” no.” There is no physical way this could happen in the era you are trying to represent. That’s it if you wanna keep going we can keep going but no you can’t fix this.
MW: whose idea was it to record it that way?
PL: He wanted a result and I said if you want this, here is the road to it. I am all in favour of things being as real as possible, I quite enjoy it actually.
MW: it reminds me a bit of Joe Boyd with John Martyn and Nick Drake especially...
PL: I am great fans of all of them. It’s a very high compliment for you to say that.
MW: next record?
PL: we have talked about it, recently he said , we’ll just put a couple of months aside and do it. I said ‘ what are talking about? We put aside a couple of weeks and get it done.” I think he wants to do it better next time but better than what he did; exactly what he set out to do. So the rules don’t change!
MW: its’ a different record than even you get to make these days?
PL: I guess so but I don’t make many records these days, and that’s part of the reason, I am not attracted to sitting around with a laptop and piecing samples together. It just does not interest me. I am a musician from a different school than that. Leonard’s record was not a bunch of people sitting down in a room together but it was being able to sit down with an accomplished master of something and being able to put some music together. With anybody who is masterful at what they do and is dedicated to it and devoted to it ,I am in, I don’t care what kind of record it is…It’s the lack of mastery that loses my interest. There a lot of ways to do things and it does not have to be dogmatic. But you need to understand the language.
MW: you said you are making less records and this is the reason why?
PL: I am doing other things now; making records try to get a song on the radio, think I’ve done that. Not sure how I ended up producing records.
MW: when you were a kid did you want to be in an orchestra with an instrument?
PL: No, I wanted to be in Led Zeppelin …film scores but not as a business.
MW: nice record with Stanley Clarke.
PL: Lovely man, I think a there’s a place for those unexpected collaborations, it makes me sad sometimes because without and industry to drive it, nothing happens anymore.
I am just a person who lives in a creative world, if I am not at a piano with a pencil, practicing, I am reading. I am not an industry guy. There are people who say if you were just a bit more an industry guy your career would be this or that and I say my career is just fine dude. I have worked with Madonna, Michael Jackson, Leonard Cohen and Roger Waters. My career is just fine. All those things are labours of love so I am glad that they are inspiring. It means a lot to me.
MW: Patrick Leonard – his work has changed the face of pop music, he is homegrown! Welcome him home Canada a native son done great!