Though best known as a jazz artist, Diana Krall has occasionally flirted with pop music in the two decades since she became a solo artist. Yet until the Feb. 3 release of her magnificent new disc, Wallflower, Krall had never released a bona fide pop album.
In a phone conversation, Krall retraced the forces that inspired her to create Wallflower's unapologetically pop sound. She also revealed how she snagged a new Paul McCartney tune for the album and explained why hitting 50 last November was no big deal.
Q: Fifteen years into this new century, what inspired you to revisit pop music from the 1970s?
A: I've been performing "Wallflower" [which Dylan wrote in 1971] for about a year and half now. I love Bob Dylan, and I love that song. For the album, though, we didn't start out thinking, "We're going to do such-and-such an era." The disc does focus on those songs, but there's also a Paul McCartney song on it ["If I Take You Home Tonight"] that was written three years ago.
Q: Why did you decide to cover "If I Take You Home Tonight" on Wallflower? Did Paul McCartney write it specifically for you?
A: No. He wrote it for his disc Kisses on the Bottom. He played it in the studio when I was working with him on his disc and I really loved it. I never thought "If I Take You Home Tonight" fit in with the other songs on Kisses on the Bottom, but when I came across the sheet music for it I asked him if I could do the song. And he said sure.
Q: What has it been like to step outside the world of jazz and make a purely pop record?
A: Not only did I play all these songs when I was a kid, but before I could make a living playing jazz I supported myself by playing pop music. So these are all songs that I know well. In that sense it wasn't so much stepping outside jazz as just going back to what I know.
Q: You ventured into pop on The Look of Love (2001) and experimented with Brazilian repertoire on Quiet Nights (2009). Did you take a similar approach with Wallflower?
A: There are definitely references to those two discs, but on Wallflower we did things so that it wasn't a radical change from the originals. Wallflower still sounds like music that I do. At the same time, I didn't want to take pop songs and turn them into jazz standards — instead I wanted to do these songs in a way that would honor the original writers. By keeping the original chords and not hipping them up too much, we hoped to make a beautiful record of the songs that I really love.
Q: Which track is closest to your heart?
A: I don't think you're allowed to ask me trick questions like that. [Laughs.] Seriously, though — I don't know! I like all of them.
Q: You were in the last wave of boomers turning 50 last year.
A: I still can't believe I'm 50, but at the same time I haven't given it that much thought. When you start obsessing about a certain number, you can put too much pressure on yourself and lose sight of your true goals — which, for me, are making sure I have as much time as I possibly can with my children and my husband, and playing music that I really want to play.
I feel like I'm moving backward a little bit — not physically, but from the point of view of what I need in life. I still want to play music, and I still want to do it really well.
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