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Best Recording Package:
Brothers (The Black Keys)
Michael Carney, art director
Eggs (Oh No Ono)
Malthe Fischer, Kristoffer Rom, Nis Svoldgård & Aske Zidore, art directors
[Friendly Fire Recordings]
Hadestown (Anaïs Mitchell)
Brian Grunert, art director
[Righteous Babe Records]
What Will We Be (Devendra Banhart)
Devendra Banhart & Jon Beasley, art directors
Yonkers NY (Chip Taylor)
Andrew Taray, art director
[Train Wreck Records]
Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package
Light: On The South Side (Various Artists)
Tom Lunt, Rob Sevier & Ken Shipley, art directors
[The Numero Group]
Minotaur (Deluxe Edition) (The Pixies)
Jeff Anderson & Vaughan Oliver, art directors
[Artist In Residence]
A Sideman’s Journey (Limited Collector’s Super Deluxe Box Set) (Voormann & Friends)
Daniel Reiss & Klaus Voormann, art directors
Qing-Yang Xiao, art director
Under Great White Northern Lights (Limited Edition Box Set) (The White Stripes)
[Third Man/Warner Bros.]
Well, the 2010 Nashville Film Festival has now wrapped up and Collide was there throughout the week to see some of the best films on the festival circuit. Here are some that we felt were particularly noteworthy.
The Festival opened with “Nowhere Boy”, a full length bio pic about John Lennon’s years before The Beatles. While I felt the movie was a little long and the score didn’t quite work, the cast gave some of the best performances I have ever seen. This is not really a film that tells much about The Beatles and it is not an overly cheery tale, but if you’re ok with that, it was definitely worth seeing. This movie is set to release in theaters in October.
“I Can Speak Swedish” is a short film about a woman with social issues and how she overcomes them, at least for a little while. This was a very humorous story that had me giggling throughout. At this point I don’t believe you can see it anywhere but festivals, but if you happen across it, make a point to see it.
“Dear Lemon Lima”, a full-length narrative about an awkward girl in Alaska getting in touch with her Eskimo roots. This story is a little bit “Napolean Dynamite”, a little bit “Northern Exposure” and a little bit “Dead Poet’s Society”, but it is smart and funny and although the graphics are a bit distracting at times, they make for a great feel to the film.
“Feeder” is an innovative short film that amazingly tells a story through the view of a camera inside someone’s mouth. Warning: Not for those with a weak stomach! : )
“Wisdom Teeth” is another short that makes you question whether or not you should really be laughing. This one is animated and some of you may recognize the style of Don Hertzfeldt. He has done several films along this line. Disturbing but hilarious, definitely track this one down.
“TiMER” is a full length narrative that proposes the question, “what if we could know, down to the exact second when we would meet our soul mate?”. Even though this is pretty much a romantic comedy, it is funny and clever and thinks out of the box. If you live in Nashville, it is showing on Comcast on demand under the Tribeca Film Festival section. We actually missed it at the Nashville festival and cheated and saw it in the comfort of our own living room!
“Hipsters” is a Russian musical about teenagers in the 50′s… enough said. : ) We missed this one at the festival too, but I have no reservations about recommending it to you all. It won best narrative in Nashville and everyone I heard talk about it just loved it.
I have attached links to all of the trailers I could find online so you all could check them out for yourselves. Just a side note, most of these are not kid friendly. If you want to take the kids, we did see “The Secret of Kells” at the Belcourt. There are a few scary scenes, but man, if you can choose to see only one of these films, go to this one. It is animated and each frame is more beautiful than the last!
Until next time,
(continued from Part 1)
Comin’ To Your City
By the time their second album was in the preparation stages, Big & Rich had become quite a success, and there had been many changes at the record label. I was thrown headlong into the second album project, and after we settled on a concept for the cover, I set about getting the final imagery to have the right look. I had in mind a very specific aesthetic for the globe on the cover – a vintage-looking globe with “chunky” topological features and not much other detail. I searched high and low, scouring stock collections as well as antique stores, and just when I was about to give up hope of finding just the right globe, I was on my way to one last antique shop, when, while stopped at a traffic light, I found it on the side of the street.
It’s very seldom that a “Eureka” moment happens in the course of a project such as this, but this was one– there it was, mounted on the side of a building. To this day, I have no idea what business had existed in years’ past that warranted a huge globe as part of its signage, but at the time the building was occupied by a cleaning company and an attorney, as I recall, and the globe is still there as of this writing. After some difficulty in tracking down the owner, we worked out a deal, and I had photographer Eric May capture the globe from several angles. (By the way, if they ever tour China, India, or Australia, I’ve got an alternate cover image). The band had put together an outlandish photoshoot independently, utilizing the talents of the recently wed Christiev Alphin as art director & stylist, and photographer Kristin Barlowe, and incorporating everything from buffalos and camels to a bank robbery scene, to… a life-size plastic cow.
Sadly, on the day of this album’s release, we bid farewell to Warner Nashville’s Creative Services director Eric Mansfield, who was tragically shot in a carjacking. I had worked with Eric for several years at that point, and though we were only “work friends” I have to say I was very impacted by the tragedy. Eric was one of the kindest people I’ve ever had the privilege to work with, or probably ever will, and I know that everyone whose life he ever touched thought very highly of him. It is some tiny solace, however, to know that the two young men responsible are currently serving prison sentences.
The Pepsi Challenge
The following year, I got a call from the label asking me help coordinate some artwork between the label and Pepsi, who was doing a co-promotion on an upcoming can design. It was unusual campaign, aimed at “Generation Y” and relying on a “discovery” promotional method, in which consumers are intended to mentally connect the dots between the visual clues and a special website printed on the can. It was part of Pepsi’s “Artist Series” which also featured All American Rejects and Pharrell Williams. After several discussion with Pepsi, their agency, the band, their management, and Warner Bros., it was decided that Pepsi would hire me to do the design of the can. Of course I was thrilled, and to date the resulting product has the highest print run of anything I’ve worked on (by several million). It was a complex process involving five different parties with varying levels of approval. Below are a few of the 70+ options presented, as well as the final product.
Coming in Part 3: Super Galactic Fanpak 2, Between Raising Hell & Amazing Grace, Greatest Hits, the Bell Witch, a duel, and an unwinnable board game.
Today marks the release of Big & Rich’s Greatest Hits on CD & DVD, so this seemed like a perfect time to take a little walk down memory lane on the past 6 years of working with the genre-redefining band (and brand) known as Big & Rich.
It’s a rare occasion (at least for me) to have worked on every release by an artist from their debut album through their Greatest Hits album, and I’m honored to have that distinction. Big Kenny & John Rich are two of the most talented guys in the business, and it has certainly been an interesting journey.
A Horse Of A Different Color
I had been working with Warner Bros. Records Nashville for a little while, having worked on a few projects including a sadly-never-released Neal McCoy album, under the art direction of the late Maude Gilman-Clapham (whom I had had the pleasure of working with previously at Word), and the CD packaging for the first Blue Collar Comedy Tour. Warner Bros. put on a big red-carpet premiere for BCCT at the Belcourt Theatre, and Becky and I attended. At the show, we couldn’t help but notice a couple of odd-looking gents a couple of rows behind us who caused a few distractions during the show (can you imagine sitting behind Big Kenny’s top hat in a movie theater?). Something about them stuck out in my mind, and the next day, I spoke to then-WBR-creative-director Janice Azrak (now a citizen of the great state of Hawaii) about some current projects, and couldn’t help asking who those guys were, and she told me they were a new act who had just been signed at Warner. Now, I’m not sure if it was this conversation, or the fact that Janice had an affinity for what she had seen in my work up to this point, but a few weeks later, I got a call from her to come and meet about their first album.
Honestly, I would have never thought they would have been as successful as they soon became. I liked what I heard of them – it was different and refreshing, and they were even-handed with elements of humor and heartfelt seriousness, all of which appealed to me very much, but I kind of saw it as a niche, and thought it would be a great project to work on. I have never been so happy to be so wrong!
From the beginning of the project, we had the issue of the logo that has adorned all of their album covers. Many people probably assume that this is something I created originally, but, in fact, the original version was created by friend-of-the-band Bob Morris, and and it’s something that I have continually modified along the way, based on the original.
It must be said that I was never happy with having to use this logo, and that I frequently proposed that we create an entirely new one, both on the first project, and on subsequent projects, but they were dead set on using this one, and on being consistent by using it repeatedly on future albums. But, of course, being asked to use artwork from an outside source is not uncommon at all, and plenty of successful acts ave consistently used the same logo treatment on their albums, so I certainly can’t fault them for that decision, and I think a key influence is that their management company also managed the career of Alabama, who is a prime example of this.
The process that led us to the cover for the first album, Horse Of A Different Color, was a long and winding one. Despite many alternative options, we kept coming back to the aforementioned logo, and a “swirl” element that I had created an early promotional sticker which the label, band, and management were all very fond of for some reason.
The album was a huge success, thanks in part to the hit “Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy).” In the initial run, we ran the album in 3 different colors: red, blue, and purple; and the following Christmas, we did a green & red version with snow on the logo (which I think was a bit confusing, myself, because it made it seem like a Christmas album), and the band had a loyal fanbase.
Backwards & Upside-down
Before long, there seemed to be demand for another product, and so the label conceived of the unconventional “Fan Pak” idea – a 2-disc release that comprised a CD of a few tracks of unreleased material (live, remix, etc) and a DVD containing photos and videos. The resulting project, Big & Rich’s Super Galactic Fan Pak was packaged unconventionally, using an idea I borrowed from Beth Lee (who conceived the idea a few years earlier for Squint Records’ Sixpence None The Richer and Burlap To Cashmere albums), where we use a standard jewel case package, but put the inserts in “backwards and upside-down” so that the back/traycard is used as the cover (thus confounding manufacturers and rackjobbers to no end). This made something a little unusual without adding to manufacturing costs. The packaging was inspired by vintage comics and pulp fiction, and the credits were built into something slightly resembling a “game” – an idea which I think we executed much better in the subsequent Super Galactic Fan Pak 2 (more on that later).
In Part 2 of this retrospective: Comin’ To Your City, Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace, Super Galactic Fanpak 2, Greatest Hits, Pepsi, and more.