We had survived the breakdown of Giant records and were asked to make a follow-up to Shine with Warner Brothers. We stayed on mainly because we were the band that didn’t need that much attention and, in the end, with WBR that’s just what we got with the release of Save Me—the ole’ “Sure, we’re going to push your record, trust us!” Hmmmm…
I recall being considered for a big time NASCAR event/campaign that was going to thrust us into the limelight. Well… at the last minute that went to the Goo Goo Dolls (we got nuthin’ but love for Rzeznik, we tore it up one night in NYC, as well as shows with GGD on the road). Then there was something to do with “Don’t Give Up” being the Olympic theme song for NBC. That, too, went to someone else. I recall hearing, “Of course we are going to release ‘You and I.’” Well that never saw the light of day. Please don’t mistake this info as some whiney rock star crap—it’s simply the reality of what we experienced while at WBR and all the politics that go along with the music biz. It had its highlights for sure; but, equally, it had its lows (sadly, lows that send parties packing). Hey, we got our shot; but in the end it’s not totally up to the artist if he or she is going to get that extra love that it takes to send it over the top. I heard a ton of amazing records from bands you’ve never heard of that didn’t get released or sold poorly for lack of attention from the company. I still am thankful for the experience and all the perks that came with our time spent on WBR.
Ok, so about the record… I went back to Marti’s pad outside of Los Angeles. He had upgraded his living situation since we last worked together. He had installed a full studio at his house along with a sweet-ass saltwater pool for down time. The week I spent with him he was booked day and night in writing sessions. One day when I showed up, Steven Tyler had just left and after my session he was scheduled to work with Faith Hill. The next day was Backstreet Boys in the morning, Paul Stanley of Kiss at night and lil’ ole Pat McGee in the afternoon. Um, what? He was and still is a very established songwriter and one amazing musician and producer. I am proud to say I wrote with him. We cranked out “Annabel”, “Wonderful” and “At It Again” in a matter of days. I can still remember CW hearing “At It Again” (the first song I wrote for Shine w Marti) and high fivin’ me so hard that he nearly broke my hand while screaming, “Fuck yeah Pat McGee, THIS is the song I want to crush every damn night!” For some reason CW enjoyed calling me by my full name.
The band flew into LA and we tracked right there at his house. It was so easy, so simple with no drama. Chris crushed the drums, John was laying down bass tracks on a Hofner (McCartney style bass) that were epic, Brian was having a field day of tones and killer guitar parts and JW, Chardy and I drank in the pool and stuffed our faces with Mexican food planning out what kind of mischief we were gonna get into on the Sunset Strip later that night…. Just kidding, we did our thang on tape too. What a great time. We have such good memories from that period in our career. We had 3 tracks in the can and we knew we had gotten off to a great start with this one. It was off to NYC to finish the record…
I spent a few days holed up in some swanky-ass hotel suite then Chardy and I would go out at night and raise hell all over NYC. In the morning he slept it off while I got up to write tunes with our other producer on Save Me, Gregg Wattenberg. Gregg was somewhat of a newcomer from a producer standpoint but he was young, excited, crazy talented and as driven as a pack of hellhounds. We met when he toured with Five For Fighting as their guitarist after producing their record. (FFF opened for us a few times on the west coast and joined us on various radio shows.) Anyhoo, Gregg and I wrote some great stuff together—basically the remainder of the record aside from “Now” which I wrote with Jamie Houston and “Beautiful Ways”, co-written with John Baxter.
That recording session was intense. We were basically living at Avatar Studios, the exact place where some of the biggest rock records were tracked in the 80’s. That continues to this day. It was pretty rad, I ain’t gonna lie. We had a symphony come in to track “You and I” and “Don’t Give Up”. I’ll have to post that footage. What a rush to hear players on that level bring such beautiful arrangements to our music.
I know some fans see this record as the “rock” record. It might have turned off old school fans who loved that pure acoustic sound, but I was really proud of it. I was always more concerned with the songwriting than anything and this batch of songs felt like the best stuff I had written to date. If you don’t feel that way as an artist, I say you shouldn’t press record. It’s not a cocky thing but I learned long ago that recorded music will never go away, so don’t track something you are not 100% proud of in that moment. My great grand kids have to listen to these albums! I can’t have them thinking that Pop Pop McGee wrote lame songs. By then music will be some sort of thought that you can beam into your frontal lobe. Just give me my brother’s 8-track in my parents’ basement. You couldn’t even fast forward that thing. Just pick chapters and deal with it. If you want to hear “Another Tricky Day” off of The Who’s It’s Hard, you just gotta wait through the deep cuts. Nowadays if you don’t have the song you crave, you download it by the time you’re done thinking of why you don’t already have it on your phone. Anyone seen my cane?