vocal booth with a really amazing sound microphone. Sade often likes to be in the control room holding a regular 57 inch microphone that you use for live gigs. She’ll hold that and she would sit at a desk and sing from there, which is normally a nightmare for other engineers because you get the bleeding of the song from the speakers coming into the microphone. We would work around that. Many of the early takes that she did while she was writing a song we ended up using those for the album. We have our guy, Mike Pela, who is our engineer and co-producer. He is like the fifth Beatle. He is there all the time. We can be very volatile. Sade and I can be arguing or hysterically laughing and Mike is the anchor. He is always calm. He is always making notes. He has amazing patience. No other engineer could put up with our ridiculousness in the studio.
EBONY: Why do you think this record is considered a classic after twenty years?
SM: I think one of the reasons we’ve been successful at what we do is that we’re all decent musicians, but we’re not great musicians. I think we all play really well together. We all individually have a really good sound. Paul has the most amazing bass sound and he plays very simply. Sade has the most amazing voice on the planet. She has such depth to her voice. It’s just her vocal chords. She has a deep voice naturally, but she has a lot of resonance in her voice that most singers don’t have. She doesn’t do all of the R&B riffing. She didn’t start singing in the church. She wasn’t a session singer. She does her own thing. Technically, she’s not the most amazing singer, but she has the most amazing voice. Andrew comes up with the tastiest chords and lines. He’s not the most amazing jazz player, but he fits just right with us. The same thing with me I get a nice sound on the sax or guitar, but I’m not an amazing player. But it’s because of that there aren’t any egos with showing off technique. It’s just about sounding good together, which is kind of unusual in the jazz and R&B world. Everyone wants to show off their chops so it’s kind of unusual. If we had been twenty percent better, it would’ve been horrible. It would’ve been everything we don’t like about smooth jazz. Obviously, it’s amazing the respect we’ve gotten from the smooth jazz community, but it’s not really what we do.
Chris Williams is an internationally published writer. You can follow him on Twitter @CWmsWrites.