Sebastian Yatra Poses For A Portrait Emulating Elvis Costello's Iconic Album Cover This Year's Model At Hit Factory Studios.



As time runs away or runs out, depending on your frame of mind, I’ve
been thinking about how incredibly fortunate I have been to share both
the stage and the studio with a remarkable cast of characters.

And the number accumulate; 45 or so shared, on and off with Pete Thomas
and Steve Nieve, the last 20 or so with Davey Faragher and we all knew
Charlie Sexton by reputation long before we had a chance to play

In the studio, our most well-known collaborator has to be Nick Lowe,
producer of five albums in as many years between 1977 and 1981 with
enough stand-alone singles, B-sides and songs for the occasion to fill
another twenty-track album, cunningly titled; “Taking Liberties”.

The only comparable in volume of record releases would be between 2018
and 2023, during which time 10 albums or E.P’s were issued all of them
co-produced or mixed by Sebastian Krys, so I thought I’d like to take
the listener through this more recent catalogue and acknowledge a pal
without whose hard work, insight and encouragement I might not still be
pretending to linger in the recording game.

I first met Sebastian Krys in 2008 during the frantic rehearsals for
NIGHTSPOT, a collaboration with the choreographer, Twlya Tharp for the
Miami City Ballet. I was spinning plates and juggling knives; pitting
chamber orchestra in the pit against a crack Miami dance band positioned
behind the dancers at the back of the stage. Sebastian knew many of the
wonderful players in the ranks of that line-up from his production work
in the city and could appreciate the curious and nearly impossible
puzzle that I had set myself. We became friends right away.

For a few years, following the release of “National Ransom” in 2010, I
became a little disenchanted (or perhaps realistic) about the arrogant
assumption that one has a right to record, let alone the compulsion to
follow any record release with a tour of the same identity.

There are a lot of ways to frame songs; in a stage show, whether
accompanied by a single instrument or by pinning them to a spinning
wheel or performing them inside an oversized television set but I was
only tempted into the studio again, firstly by Questlove and Steven
Mandel for “Wise Up Ghost” and then by T Bone Burnett as part of the
twelve-day wonder that was the “New Basement Tapes” collective.

Meanwhile, Pete Thomas had been recording regularly with Sebastian Krys
in Los Angeles with a wide range of artists and little by little they
convinced me to make the record that would become “Look Now”.

Along the way Sebastian had invited me to sing on a La Santa Cecilia
record with Marisol and recorded her vocal session for “Cinco Minutos
Con Vos” which Steven Mandel later mixed for the “Wise Up Ghost” album
before recording my Italian language debut on “Dio Come Ti Amo” – a duet
with Spanish singer, Vega for her album of songs first heard at the San
Remo Song Festival.

Before long I found myself walking to work, dancing between the stars
embedded along Hollywood Boulevard on my way to EastWest Studio, a
recording facility formerly known as United-Western and later Ocean Way
where I had recorded half of “King Of America”, most of “Spike” and
“Mighty Like A Rose”, some sessions for “Brutal Youth” and all of
“Painted From Memory”.

“Look Now” was completed on an incredibly tight budget in Studio 3 – a
famous room in which much of “Pet Sounds” was recorded. One of the most
remarkable sessions saw Burt Bacharach lead The Imposters from the piano
on our songs, “Don’t Look Now” and “Photographs Can Lie”.

Steve Nieve and I then moved down the street to United Studios – also
formerly an Ocean Way facility – where I had recorded “Indoor Fireworks” –
for piano, keyboard and vibraphone overdubs. We also cut a two-man
version of the ballad, “Isabelle In Tears”, one of my favourite songs
from these sessions.

The final vocal and overdub sessions for “Look Now” took place in NYC at
Sullivan Street Studio and my string orchestrations and horn charts
recorded at Electric Lady studios while the mixing of this and all my
other co-productions were always done by Sebastian, at his own studio
back in Los Angeles.

Our next release was the E.P., “Regarde Maintenent”, which included,
“You Shouldn’t Look At Me That Way”, my orchestrated ballad written for
the end titles of the motion picture about the last days and love of
film noir actress, Gloria Grahame entitled “Film Stars Don’t Die In

The record also included, ”Adieu Paris (L’Envie Des Etoiles)”, my first
song to rhyme English with French as an attempt to imagine the emotional
echo of an outrage such as occurred at the Bataclan in 2015 or perhaps
on any given day in a town one loves or calls home.

We followed with “Purse”, another E.P. collecting songs co-written with
Paul McCartney and Burt Bacharach and settings of words by both Johnny
Cash and Bob Dylan, all recorded during the “Look Now” session with The
Imposters, the final song also featuring vocal harmonies from my
friends, Rebecca and Megan Lovell of Larkin Poe.

In early 2020, I left for Helsinki with the intention of recording where
as few people knew my name as possible, laying out three songs in as
many days, playing as many instruments as my fingers would allow and
then traveled to Paris where Steve Nieve had assembled the players who
made up “Le Quintette Saint Germain”, named for the neighbourhood and
the studio in which we then cut nine songs over one weekend.

The original plan then called for an Imposters tour of the U.K. after
which Sebastian would join us in Studio 2 at Abbey Road and we would
record the remaining songs for a new record.

You don’t need me to tell you that this is not the direction that the
world went for the next two years.

I soon found myself back home with my family on Vancouver Island and
might have remained in splendid and agreeable isolation had my friend,
the composer, arranger and trumpet player, Michael Leonhart not asked me
to contribute “remotely” to some material he had been working on.

Michael’s compositions asked for a very different vocal and lyrical
approach and I asked if we might include the resulting pieces, “Radio Is
Everything” and “Newspaper Pane” on both of our albums – his being
entitled, “The Normyn Suites” and including a third lyric and vocal I
had provided for “Shut Him Down”.

I now viewed those first two songs as the missing pieces of a puzzle
between the cranky solo productions heard in what I called, “The
Helsinki Sound” and the “live-in-studio”, largely improvised, approach
of the Paris sessions.

Over the next months, I completed the last of the overdubs, either at
home on my back porch or in the newly re-opened, Armoury Studios in
Vancouver and Sebastian set to work mixing all of this material into the
album “Hey Clockface”.

A request from the French record company for an additional Francophone
track led to the creation of the E.P. “La Face de Pendule à Coucou”
containing re-mixes of “No Flag”, “Revolution #49” and “Hetty O’Hara
Confidential” with new French language vocal performances by Iggy Pop,
the renowned actress, Isabelle Adjani, Tshegue and Etta Somatis et AJUQ.

During this time Sebastian was also working on two other complex
projects, firstly, taking on the re-mixing responsibilities for the live
material to be included in an “Armed Forces” box-set and the
on-going/in-coming work which led to the album, “Spanish Model”.

David Simon and HBO had asked us to re-mix “This Year’s Girl” for the
Season Two opening titles of “The Deuce” but also requested that a
female singer be heard in the second verse. Our friend, Natalie Bergman
delivered this deadpan role immaculately but becoming reacquainted with
the instrumental tracks and finding that the original multitracks were
in good order brought an unusual question to my mind: “What if we
removed my vocals from every track on the record and replaced them with
someone singing in Spanish?”.

I told Sebastian my idea and waited for him to tell me I was crazy and
he asked if he could think about it for a minute…

30 seconds later, we were making, “Spanish Model”.

Obviously, Sebastian’s work as a multi-Latin Grammy winning producer
gave him the advantage over me in identifying the right singers for each
track but after starting with artists like Marisol and Vega with whom
I’d already worked and Fito Páez who had hosted a party to welcome The
Imposters and I during our sole visit to Buenos Aires and he worked in
the studio with Pete Thomas.

The cast quickly expanded to take in a broad range of artists from
across twelve Spanish-speaking countries with vital contributions by
Elsten Torres, Ximena Muñoz and Vega who provided the lyrical
adaptations for singers who did not feel able to take on that task.
Otherwise the singers and performing artists created their own Spanish
version of my original lyrics.

Vega both worked on lyrical texts for other artists and took on the
performance of one of the rarer songs for “Spanish Model”, a number that
had never proceeded beyond an acoustic demo which Vega re-created, down
to the false start, really bringing the song to life. In thanks, I wrote
her a tune intended for similar instrumentation, called “Six Bells

The coordination of recording schedules with the guest artist’s new
releases and tours, not to mention reaching agreements with all the
record companies all called for patience and diplomacy but I cannot say
enough about the ingenuity, integrity and wit that the performers
brought to the record, even when they were taking on music that sounded
very different to their own work.

I was so impressed by Raquel Sofia’s take on “[Yo No Quiero Ir A]
Chelsea” in contrast to my favourite among her recent releases:
“Cortar”, that we wrote a song together in both English and Spanish,
entitled “Artificial Fire” which we hope to record in the future.

It was curious to hear the perspective of a 23-year old young man sung
back to me by a young woman like Cami on “La Chica De Hoy” (“This Year’s
Girl”) – the “object” of the original version becoming subjective, in
another language.

The way the Spanish cadences fell on the music sometimes revealed the
songs to be a little more tuneful than I imagined from my own
renditions, sometimes suffering, as they did, from a surfeit of

In time, several of these singers and I appeared on television or stage
together. Juanes and I performing “Pump It Up” on “Kimmel Live”, Marisol
and Fito Páez made live appearances with The Imposters, while Fito Páez
also invited me to share his classic song, “Yo Vengo A Ofrecer Mi
Corazon” in Spanish before doing the same with “Radio Radio” during his
last appearance at Radio City Music Hall.

Around this time Sebastian asked if I would write a song for Vale, twin
sisters, Valeria and Valentina Perez from Columbia and create a hypnotic
blend of harmony and occasional unison voices for which I wrote their
first English language recording: “I Won’t Pretend”, produced by
Sebastian’s colleague and sometimes assistant, Daniel Galindo.

One of the most detailed and exacting adaptations on “Spanish Model” was
that for “Night Rally” by Jorge Drexler which he rendered as “La Turba”.
Drexler subsequently invited me to deputize for his collaborator C.
Tangana at the Latin Grammys for a performance of their nominated hit
“Tocarte” with my newly written English language verse.

On the eve of the awards show, Sebastian produced a benefit event at the
Hard Rock Hotel called “Los Producers Show” with a wide range of
nominated and participating artists playing unexpected repertoire.

Although “Spanish Model” was not deemed eligible for consideration by
the Latin Academy – despite containing more than the required 50% newly
recorded content – Sebastian led the house band as Cami, Juanes, Fito
Páez, Drexler and I shared the vocals in a ten-minute précis of the

This show was a benefit for the Michael J. Fox Foundation, an initiative
to which I have been proud to be of any small service with appearances
at their annual New York fundraiser since before my own father was
diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

The urgency of these efforts have only been heightened for all of us by
Sebastian’s diagnosis with the same condition. That his relative youth –
I believe he was just 51 at the time of the diagnosis – offers hope that
he might see the development of viable treatment options or even a cure
does nothing to diminish my admiration for his strength of will and
determination to keep working in the face of mounting challenges. I’m
not sure even the possession of the most robust, if dark, sense of
humour would serve me as well in the same circumstances.

Sebastian continued with our relentless pace of work through 2021 and
2022, completing the “Armed Forces” box-set work and “Spanish Model” and
then overseeing the remote recording and mixing of “The Boy Named If” –
coordinating sessions from British Columbia, Paris, Los Angeles and
Nashville and then blending the result into a vivid and dynamic mix. It
didn’t feel to me as if we should add to the deepening catalogue of wan
and defeated-sounding music but rather try to cheat the physics and
reach across time and distance to Pete Thomas, Davey Faragher and Steve
Nieve to howl and hammer and spoon as the songs required.

I suppose the twenty years that The Imposters and I have played together
mean that we can trust our instincts and we do not have to gaze into
each other’s eyes while doing it…

The result was a collection of songs that could sit centrally in our
live shows when we returned to the stage in late 2021, a few months
before the release of “The Boy Named If”.

Around the same time, Allan Mayes, my singing partner in his band Rusty,
which I had joined on New Year’s Day 1971, wrote to me to remind me that
our 50th Anniversary was rapidly approaching. Even though we had rarely
sung together since I left Liverpool in early 1973, he suggested we
might “make a cassette” for the few witnesses who remembered our teenage
duo. I thought about it for a moment then told him it was out of the
question but instead resolved to enlist The Imposters and make something
like the record we might have made in 1972 if anyone had let us.

Just Nicole Atkins recorded her vocal for “My Most Beautiful Mistake”
from Nashville, I recorded basic tracks in a cupboard under the stairs
in British Columbia while Allan cut his vocal and guitar parts in a
small studio in Austin, Texas, where he has resided for the last 25

We added The Imposters parts as we had done on “The Boy Named If” and
beamed in from New Mexico, Bob Andrews reprised his Hammond organ part
of “Surrender To The Rhythm” a song Nick Lowe had written in 1972 when
they were both in Brinsley Schwarz and which had been part of Rusty’s
club repertoire when it was a brand new song.

The resulting E.P. was mixed by Sebastian and issued on EMI/Capitol as
“The Resurrection Of Rust”.

Our most recent studio adventure led to “The Boy Named If (Alive At
Memphis Magnetic)” the first of a great number of recordings made at
rehearsals during which we “ran tape” constantly as we worked through
repertoire for our late 2021 and mid-2022 tour.

The re-mix of “Magnificent Hurt” by the Japanese duo, chelmico, takes
the same transformative approach to our original recording by Sebastian
as he did to the work of Nick Lowe and Roger Bechirian while working on
“Spanish Model”.

At the beginning of 2023, I went into the studio with Sebastian and his
colleague, Daniel Galindo to prepare a cache of disruptive elements that
I call, “The Imposter”; pre-recorded rhythm loops, dub delay effects and
new instrumental motifs that I could live mix from a trigger pad at my
side into performances during a 10-night engagement at the Gramercy
Theatre in NYC and on The Imposters summer dates and the 22-date concert
hall tour of Europe that Steve Nieve and I undertook from late August to
early October 2023.

Sebastian followed this with his mix of “New Wave” by the young
Slovenian band, Joker Out for which I provide the English language
adaptation and a guest vocal turn before Sebastian moved on to an
incredibly vivid re-mix of another of the band’s new songs – “The
Sunnyside Of London” – and this is all their own work. You should seek
it out…

The future lies ahead.

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