Intimidating things to say to people
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That album, and the three that followed over the course of the next several years, constitute some of the most timeless music of the past half-century, and certainly rank among the most significant work of Cash’s career.
That was one where I had to re-record the song to present it to him, because when he heard the original recording of the song it really terrified him ().Few, if any, producers can boast a body of work that matches that of Rick Rubin in terms of variety, influence and substance.First as co-founder of Def Jam Records in 1984, then in his role as head of American Recordings, Rubin has produced some of the most important albums of the past 20 years.There’s something very beautiful in seeing someone allowing themselves to be vulnerable. How did you come to the decision on American Recordings, the first Cash album, that the approach was going to be as stripped-down as it was? We didn’t go into it with any preconceived idea of what that first album should be.We recorded many different ways, with different bands and different players and different styles.Was there something in particular that drew you to Johnny Cash, something that made you feel you were the person to produce him?
I think it came from the idea that, at that point in my career, I had worked pretty much exclusively with young artists, either making their first album or their second album.How invisible do you think a producer should be, as far as the work goes?Do you feel a producer should have his or her own style, something that’s detectable in the albums they work on?The fact that young people were coming up to him, telling him how much they liked the album—that’s when he really knew. Was there a conscious effort to attract a younger crowd? I know the two of you participated as song-finders, but did the original method change over time? It was just whatever I could find that I thought he might like, or that I thought might be appropriate.And then he might call me back and say, “Well, I like four of these” or “I like this one a lot.” And he would send me songs, and I would tell him which ones I liked and why, and which ones I didn’t like and why.The first thing we did were acoustic demos in my living room.