Exclusive Interview with Markus Rill
Why country music ?
~ I'm drawn to songs with substantial lyrics and that led me as a young guy from singer-songwriters like Springsteen and Mellencamp to their sources in folk and country, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. I like the storytelling tradition of country music, its simplicity, honesty and realness. Of course, these are not characteristics that apply to the bulk of the "product" they try to pass off as country music today.
If everything would be possible (waking the dead included) , which two people should sing the ultimate country duet?
~ Tough question. I think Johnny & June did alright for themselves, didn't they? I love how Don Henley harmonizes with Trisha Yearwood and I love Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis singing together. Since you mentioned the option of waking the dead, I'd sure like to hear Shawn Colvin sing with Elvis. I bet Bonnie Raitt and Springsteen would sound great together as well.
What song you ever recorded means the most to you and why?
~ There's a few that carry personal meaning and still hold up a number of years after I wrote them. "Dying Bed" which I wrote half a year after my mother passed on is one them. "What Might've Been" is another, that one is about a harsh ending to a relationship. "The Things That Count" also feels true every time I play it. I think there's also some on the new album that'll stick around.
Who would you like to write a song for you?
~ The obvious answer would be Bob Dylan. I've actually never thought about that cause I'm a writer myself. More often I ask myself "who would I love to record a song of mine?" There were a lot of songs I wrote thinking "I'd love for Johnny Cash and Rick Rubin to get their hands on this one."
Whisky wine beer or water?
~ None of it for me. My liquid sin is cola.
If you could turn back time to make only one change, what would you change?
~ Being from Germany, the first thing that comes to mind is avoiding Hitler's regime.
What is the question interviewers never asked you while you were always hoping they would. (and give us your answer)?
~ Any question that surprises and shows they've listened to the record or a particular song and have found some food for thought in there, is a good one.
Describe the ultimate recording studio (not the technique but the facilities)
~ The ultimate recording studio is a place that makes you feel relaxed. It's a vibey place that makes you want to play music and be creative, rather than a place where you feel the pressure of making a record. It would also come with a cool and knowledgable engineer and be next door to a Mexican restaurant.
Johnny or June? (and tell us the reason behind your choice.)
~ That's not an either/or situation, they're a package deal. But here's a hint: I bet I own at least 20 albums by Johnny Cash and only one by June.
What are your top favorite 3 country songs of all time?
~ That's really an impossible question, it makes me want to name a whole bunch of Johnny Cash and Buck Owens and some Dolly Parton and plenty more. But ok, I'll name these: "Gentle On My Mind" by John Hartford. "Pancho & Lefty" by Townes van Zandt. "From A Kitchen Table" by Dave Alvin.
What was the most memorable day in your musical career and tell us why.
~ After making a few albums in Germany, in 2003 I got to make the first of (so far) three albums in Nashville with the help of the great Duane Jarvis. We'd been holding out on the great accordion and keyboard player Steve Conn to come in for overdubs. I'd seen him in 94/95 touring with Sonny Landreth and have been an admirer ever since. Finally Steve came in with only two hours of free time, so we had prioritized which songs we needed him on and which songs we wanted him on if time allowed. We had shaken hands but Steve mostly interacted with Duane, the producer, and George Bradfute, the engineer. But after playing on two or three songs, Steve looked me squarely in the eye and said "these are great songs, Markus. I could be doing this all day." My heart jumped for joy. This from a guy who has recorded with Bonnie Raitt, Mark Knopfler, the best of the best. He ended up staying a lot longer and playing on eight or nine songs. - One of many memorable experiences I've had.
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Answers given on August 18, 2011
Photos by Thorsten Wingenfelder