Listen to Page McConnell on Rhapsody...
By: Brian Bavosa
Not So Strange Design
It is just shy of 9 a.m. on a Thursday, and my house is eerily quiet. My dog sleeps at the foot of the stairs, only shifting as I walk by. It is pouring rain outside while I wait for a call from Page McConnell (Phish, Vida Blue) to discuss his first-ever self-titled solo album. When McConnell does call, his voice is as warm and welcoming as the smell of fresh coffee wafting through the air on a Winter morning.
McConnell's career has been quiet the past three years with barely any public or concert appearances. Instead, he decided to spend the time with his daughter out of the spotlight. His bio states, "I considered going back to school. I wondered, 'Should I pursue another career? What is it that I enjoy?' But pretty quickly, I came back to music. I realized I needed to continue this, that there was more for me to do. I am a musician."
McConnell benefited from making his solo album on his own terms, in a truly organic way, with no specific goal besides making music that meant something personally to him. Over the last few years, he built a small home studio in Vermont that was put together with the help of friend, bandmate and co-producer, Jared Slomoff.
"It was great to have him there," says McConnell. "When I first started working with Jared a couple of years ago, we were editing together some demolition derby footage I have of Team Vida Blue. I didn't even know he was an audio engineer at that point. I thought he was a video editor. We set up a little home studio, and for the first couple months he was still living in New York and I was doing a lot of the work on my own. He would come up on the weekends, and then he finally moved to Vermont. Still, through all of this, I didn't even know he was a musician [laughs]. It was about a year into the project that I became aware of his musicianship [laughs]. So, it's an ongoing discovery with him. But, to have somebody around, to have the camaraderie of working with a friend, I really like all of that stuff."
Jared Slomoff by Rod Snyder
McConnell's relationship with Slomoff foreshadowed the way the album would eventually take shape. "I'm a slow writer," says McConnell, who worked on the album at his own pace for over a year and a half. McConnell also reached out to another friend on his debut, Adam Zimmon (Spam All-Stars, Shakira), known to McConnell fans for his guitar collaborations with Vida Blue.
When I ask McConnell how this album and recording process stacked up against his previous collaboration with Russell Batiste (Funky Meters) and Oteil Burbridge (Allman Brothers Band) - the other two-thirds of Vida Blue - he points towards the lyrics. "Vida Blue was my first foray into lyrical writing. I had written a couple of instrumental tunes, but I've really only been doing this for about five years, so it's not like I've been doing this a long time. I learn as I go."
Besides the lyrics, he mentions how he had some more songs prepared in advance this time around. "With Vida Blue, we had two songs and the rest of the stuff was just writing in the studio, writing the songs out of those jams and developing them from stuff we created there in the studio. [For] this project, some of the songs were written ahead of time and some of the songs were created in the studio in that same sort of a jam sense. I think on the next project, I'll probably work with songs I write ahead of time, and more towards traditional [material]."
For a man who took a while to surface after the demise of Phish, he appears to be making up for lost time. McConnell enthuses, "It's coming a little bit more easily to me each time around, I think just through experience and repetition [laughs]. Just doing the process over and over again, it's easier for me to get to that place. It all has contributed, and I've learned from it."