I’ve known Deni Bonet for about 7 years now; we first met backstage at Richard Barone’s show at Joe’s Pub and Deni had been part of the night’s line-up. When she released the firecracker album, It’s All Good in 2013, I wanted to interview her for Popdose and we met up for lunch and conversation, which was great – but the damned tape recorder went haywire on me, so we lost most of the good parts…! Nonetheless, our friendship has remained; I’ve followed Deni’s career closely and was fortunate to hear Bright Shiny Objects before it was even completed. It knocked me out, especially because this is an all-instrumental collection and that isn’t an easy thing to do, but the absolute exquisite beauty and power in her playing is something to marvel at. So I didn’t want to lose a second opportunity. Deni and I had a chance to pick up where we left off and here are the results.
My thanks and gratitude go to the wonderful Ms. Deni Bonet, without whom this conversation wouldn’t finally be complete!
When we first started this interview, it was summer 2013! You had released the wonderful It’s All Good and suddenly here we are and you have this magnificent instrumental album. Talk about It’s All Good and what made you decide to not sing on this one.
Boy, time flies! It’s All Good was a project that I really wanted to do at the time. I was going through some personal stuff, and instead of wallowing in moodiness, I was determined to make a record that would be a truly happy and joyful album. I called up my good friend Richard Barone and asked him if he would be interested in helping me create this “feel good” record with me. He agreed and we spent a couple of months writing songs together. We laughed a lot along the way. Since Richard was so perfect for this project, I asked him to produce the record. We’ve both got lots of amazingly talented, famous friends who we called up to come into the studio to join us, including Fred Schneider of the B52’s and Peter Buck of R.E.M. I love the way that record came out. It’s All Good was very much where I was at the time.
Over the years, I’ve performed or recorded with so many wonderful artists. When I perform with others, I sometimes play differently than when I play my own singer/songwriter tunes. As a singer, I’m always aware that the main focus of a song is the lyrics and the voice. I always try to complement the song. It’s not about the soloist! This new album, Bright Shiny Objects, was an idea I had a couple of years ago. I decided that I wanted to kick myself in the butt as an instrumentalist and force myself to play, shall we say, “fancier” than I had been on the singer/songwriter material. To have my violin be my voice. We were kidding while we were creating it that we should call the record, “No Pesky Lyrics”!
Virtuosity and being able to showcase your skills without vocals aside, this also rocks very hard on many tracks and in general on most. What influenced the sound and feel of this record, making it a much “heavier” affair?
I’ve always enjoyed co-writing with others. I love the process of creating with different musicians from all sorts of backgrounds. I wasn’t completely sure what direction this record would take. I only knew that I wanted to challenge myself as a player, so one of the first people I called to write with was Steve Gaboury. I worked with Steve when I played in Cyndi Lauper’s band. He was her keyboard player and also co-wrote a bit with her. He had some ideas about me writing songs that could be played at jam band-type festivals! Tunes that are melodic but definitely rock! We started the first track on my birthday and finished it exactly a year later on my next birthday. So we named it “Light This Candle”. Steve would suggest parts that are off the charts! But definitely the challenge I was looking for was there for me. After working with Steve, I reached out to my dear friend Ian Hatton. Ian played in the group BONHAM with Jason Bonham, so those tracks, “Raise The Roof” and “BBC2” ended up having a bit of a Led Zeppelin feel. All of my co-writers brought their influences to the table. I can’t tell you enough how much fun these songs are for me to play live!
What else have you been working on? Who have you been playing with? What have those experiences been like? What are your funniest/fondest moments from these last outings?
Now that the record is out and getting great reviews, I’m starting to go out and promote it! We’re working with a couple of orchestrators who are writing out full orchestra parts so that I can perform select songs from Bright Shiny Objects with a full symphony!
I was lucky enough to perform my original music a couple of weeks ago at a sold-out concert at the legendary Carnegie Hall! This was a dream come true! Here’s a little video from that night:
I started a business a few years ago called “OverdubStrings.com”. People send me their tracks and I record all of the strings from my home studio here in NYC. It’s great. I’ve played on so many wonderful songs from truly talented songwriters, and the best part is I don’t have to bother leaving my apartment! Just think, I can record a small orchestra dressed in my PJ’S!
I’m also super busy playing out live with other people. There’s never a dull moment around here! I’m part of the All-Star band for “Joe Hurley’s All-Star Rock Review (Cast of 1000’s)” coming up March 11 at the Highline Ballroom. I’m also playing with Larry Kirwan of Black 47 at BB King’s NYC on St. Patrick’s Day! Both are super fun gigs! With Larry’s music, I have to learn the melodies to these Irish tunes that totally rock! But since this isn’t a style that I normally play, I have to really get them in my head and my fingers. Unfortunately, that means that those songs are going through my head when I get into bed. A couple of times my husband woke me up to stop me from kicking him in my sleep while I the tunes around running through my head! Guess I’m dancing in my sleep!
For someone who may not be aware, who and what are your musical influences? I would presume you paint from an extraordinarily broad palette.
Such a hard question! There were so many influences! I have a college degree for Fine Arts in “Applied Violin” with a minor in piano. I did grow up listening to a lot of classical music. I truly love Bach, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and Tchaikovsky. But I’ve always adored the Beatles and jangly rock. That’s why all of my previous albums, which are more song-based, all have a standard pop song structure. Verse Verse Chorus etc. Early influences were The Police; Ghost In The Machine, which was a game changer for me. The Pretenders & Chrissy Hynde RULE; The B-52’s for not taking themselves so seriously. The only violinist I really listened to growing up was the late, great Stephane Grappelli. His playing, in my humble opinion was perfection. Just didn’t get any better than Stephane. I’m so lucky that I got to meet him a couple of times. He was inspirational to me! In general though, I’ve spent more time listening to guitarists rather than other violinists. I’ve always wanted to play my violin like a bad-ass guitarist! Loud and rocking!
Now that you’ve done this remarkable piece and are taking it on the road, have you begun making plans for the future and the next album?
I’m hoping to start touring soon. The record is getting airplay and amazing reviews – not only on many stations and publications in the US, but Internationally, including the Benelux, the UK, Ireland, France and Germany.
When I started working on this record, I set out to work with people who would challenge me as a player. I love the writing process and I really enjoy working with other writers. I’ve already started working on the next record. I’ve reached out to some of the writers who I wrote with on Bright Shiny Objects, and some that I’ve never worked with to see what we can come up with. The last record took 2 years to write and get out, so I’m hoping this next one won’t take as long!
The Popdose readers have a pretty wide range in musical taste and sophistication. Tell them about some of the people you’ve worked with.
I’ve been so very lucky to have played with some of the greatest artists ever! The list is kind of nuts: Cyndi Lauper, Sarah McLachlan, R.E.M., Chris Whitley, Gravity Kills, Daniel Lanois, Indigo Girls, Shawn Colvin, Richard Thompson, Robyn Hitchcock, Warren Zevon, Gene Clark (of the Byrds), Mundy, Scissor Sisters, Allen Toussaint, Bruce Cockburn and so many others. There’s a nice list over on my Wikipedia page… LOL!
Bright Shiny Objects is currently available