It’s About Compromise
The Gin Blossoms On Tour Supporting New Release
When writing new songs for The Gin Blossoms, every member has his say.
“It’s a compromise,” Robin Wilson said.
Wilson, lead singer and rhythm guitar, and one of the main songwriters, said along with the compromise is the fact the band has great songs in its catalogue.
“Keeping a band together requires compromise and patience, like a commitment in a partnership,” Wilson said.
The Gin Blossoms are scheduled to perform Friday at the Chautauqua Institution Amphitheater at 8:15 p.m.
“I have a lot of ideas and I can’t execute them all. Our band is a democracy. There are four of us that have been together for 30 years now, and we make it work by putting our individual desires second to the band as a whole,” Wilson said.
The frontman of the band said when writing music someone will bring a song to the band and each member will spend time contributing his part, and everyone in the band contributes songs. And the band usually writes together as a group, but for “Mixed Reality,” the band’s new release, the band wasn’t together as much.
“For this record, we didn’t really spend too much time writing together as a group or pairing up. Mostly we were off in our separate camps,” Wilson said. “Then we came together and played everybody our individual batches of songs. I had hoped that we would write more together on this record, but it didn’t quite work out that way.”
For Wilson, he was committed to delivering the band a solid batch of songs that he had written all by himself.
” I wanted to prove to myself and to them that I had solid ideas. Once we had done it, I’m like ‘OK let’s write together,’ but everybody was kind of done. We were out of time at that point. Everybody turned in excellent material. I think this is our best record in 25 years. As an artist who’s been recording for 30 years now, this very well could be the best record I’ve ever made.”
The rest of the current lineup is Bill Leen, bass guitar; Jesse Valenzuela, guitar; Scott Johnson, guitar; and Scott Hessell, drums. The band’s commercial success started in 1992 with its song “Hey Jealousy.” Other hits include “Found out about you,” “Allison Road,” “Until I fall away,” and “Follow You Down.”
Wilson said the band will fine tune the new songs in preproduction with a lot of rehearsal. “But at the same time, certain parts are written in the studio while making the record. Jesse has a way where he’ll learn your song, but he doesn’t want to learn it too well before we make a record. He likes to come up with stuff on the sly. Then the challenge becomes to get him to play it like that again.”
In 2014, longtime producer and friend of the band, John Hampton, had died, so the group considered self-producing, but at one of its shows, the members met Don Dixon, a producer of The Smithereens and R.E.M.
Fast forward, and Dixon was hired as the band’s producer, and as a producer, he was paramount to the formation as a band because Dixon has recorded several of the band’s influences.
“I can say without a doubt if it hadn’t been for R.E.M. and Marshall Crenshaw, and the Smithereens, then the Gin Blossoms would have been a very different band, if we had existed at all,” Wilson added.
The guitarist said he has many recordings in his personal collection that Dixon was connected to. Wilson said his 19-year-old music collection has come full circle, and it’s quite amazing and really a gratifying place to be and this stage and arc of the band’s career.
Wilson said in the studio, when recording “Mixed Reality,” Dixon, who also plays bass, really helped the band. “Our bass player Bill really played some of the bass guitar that has been recorded on a pop/rock record — just phenomenal basslines. Bill was really looking forward to working one-on-one with Don because he really respects Don as a bass player, so every day we were in the studio was just Don and Bill recording basslines everyday. It really paid off. There was a great vibe at the studio.”
Wilson said songwriting as a craft is the most important thing for aspiring musicians. He said that musicians can make lots of money as “hired guns,” and that may be a route to pursue, but they play music that is not their own. “I’m willing to bet that most of those people would rather be writing their own songs and have the connection with their audience the way that we have been able to have.”
Wilson said in order to be a good songwriter, who wants to get noticed, one has to have command of language. If one wants to be a writer, then one also has to be a reader. He said he wrote a lot of lyrics for “Mixed Reality” with a notebook and a pen in airport bars.
“For years I was doing it on my phone, it just didn’t feel right. It feels pretty cool when you are sitting at an airport bar and you pull out a notebook and pen and sit there and write lyrics. I wrote a lot of lyrics for this last album at airport bars. Not finished things but basic outlines,” Wilson said.
With lyrics, he added, one can get away with not making sense as long as one is delivering authentic emotion.