GRAMMY Award-winning producer and songwriter Daniel Tashian is no stranger to collaboration. Tashian, who serves as co-producer and co-writer behind Kacey Musgraves’ GRAMMY-winning Album of the Year Golden Hour and its follow-up star-crossed, teams with his musical hero for his latest solo effort, Night After Night.
Tashian enlisted longtime family friend, songwriter and guitarist Paul Kennerley (Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, The Judds), for the project. The pair, who first met around 1985, co-wrote Night After Night’s nine songs.
The son of folk duo Barry and Holly Tashian, the singer’s earliest memory of meeting Kennerley was on the bus at one of Emmylou Harris’ concerts. Kennerley had just written Harris’ future No. 1 single “Born to Run.”
“I got on the bus with my dad and was very excited to go on the road,” Tashian tells me.
Tashian and Kennerley’s collaboration happened gradually over several decades. Tashian was nine when he first met Kennerley. As he began releasing his own music, Tashian would send his songs to Kennerley. About three years ago they met at Kennerley’s home and got into conversation over music. They both picked up a guitar and wrote “Somebody’s Thinking About You,” an upbeat and uplifting song of support that was inspired by Tashian’s daughter.
Tashain praises his collaborator, saying Kennerley brings “terrific soul and spirt and experience and craftsmanship” to each session. He says his idol pushed him in the writing room as Kennerley doesn’t like to use minor chords.
“There’s no minor chords on the album,” Tashian explains. “It’s an elegant way of writing songs and has influenced me quite a bit.”
Much of Night After Night pays tribute to Kennerley’s musical heroes – Buddy Holly, Bo Diddley and The Everly Brothers. The title track sounds like something Holly would have recorded in the ’50s with rhythmic acoustic guitar, mesmerizing harmonies and simple yet hummable lyrics.
“Sometimes we’d write a song and I’d be like, ‘This is too simple to really be that good,’” Tashian says. “And then I would get home and find myself humming it and strumming it, going, ‘I think this is actually really good. Wait a second, this might be one of the better songs I’ve written.’ At first it sort of strikes you as maybe it’s too simplistic, but really there’s something I just really admire and love about that.”
Songs like “She’s Sad” epitomize this simplicity. The track was inspired by a woman Kennerley saw packing up her car with tears in her eyes. It was this vision that informed the narrative of the song.
As Tashian explains, inspiration can strike at any moment. “A lot of times I get ideas from things people say and then sometimes some things you see from movies or TV shows,” he says. “As soon as I saw Rushmore, I wanted to write 100 songs. That movie was my life.”
Just like he takes inspiration from films, Tashian finds creating his own projects helps his own creativity when he gets back into the room with other collaborators. He’s currently working on projects with Musgraves, Brittney Spencer and Rainbow Kitten Surprise.
“It sustains you and it sort of reinforces other avenues in your life in terms of you come to them with fresh ideas and sometimes I’ll sit down, and I’ll write a song for myself and then I’ll think, ‘Well, that might be a good melody to show to someone else, someone like Kacey or someone that I could be writing with,’” he says. “It’s important to keep that relationship with yourself. … I’m used to bouncing the creative ball around the room and I never want to lose that muscle and get rusty to where I can’t write a song on my own.”
As much as the album is keeping his creative muscle alive, Tashian says Night After Night really serves as his tribute to longtime musical hero Kennerley.
“I’m proud that I was able to make an album with Paul,” he says. “Paul is somebody that I just want to shout from the rooftops that he’s one of the greatest of all time and has a sound all his own. He’s an icon and a legend and he’s brilliant and so I want to both learn from and shine a light on his brilliance.”
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