The Making of Nine Lives, Vol One – Disc One, Track Twelve

 Why Can’t I See Tomorrow

The final track on disc one of Nine Lives is this gentle reprise of the earlier song, I Wish It Was Tomorrow.  In that song, an 8 year old Belinda sings of wishing for a better life, of going to college and having the perfect family like she has seen on television in shows like The Waltons.

In this song, Why Can’t I See Tomorrow, Belinda is now grown.  Though she has been careful and studious throughout high school, one mistake on prom night leaves her pregnant.  She sings this song as she sees her hopes evaporate.

Tanya Boutté sings the older Belinda on this record.  Tanya is another niece of John Boutté, daughter of Lynette if you happen to know the song John and I wrote called Sisters.

Tanya has a gritty, soulful voice that reaches in to touch hidden depths in both her and the listener.  She learned the songs musically but she also talked a lot about the words, the emotions of this character.  She got her mind and heart around singing this track in a very personal way.

Instead of the piano which accompanied young Belinda, I wanted an acoustic guitar because it would sound less grand, to make the suggestion that life was going to be smaller than she had dreamed.

Chip Wilson is a wonderful acoustic guitar player as well as a luthier so his knowledge of the acoustic guitar comes from both the ability to create the guitar and to create the music that comes out of the guitar.  It is a unique approach and he is very centered about it.  He is a very quiet fellow who is as respectful of the folks around him as he is the guitars he loves so much.

Michiel Huisman was to play electric guitar.  Michiel plays Sonny on the HBO series, Treme.  I met him while filming a scene for season one.  He was a pop star in Amsterdam before becoming an actor.  He is very focused and intense as an actor but I see a warmth of expression come over him when he has a guitar in his hands that relaxes me, makes me comfortable in his company.  I wanted his vibe on the record.  I also dig that both on Treme and in his real life, he represents the new New Orleans in that we are becoming an international city since the flood.  Artists, musicians, dreamers from all over the world come seeking the poetry, mystery and magic of New Orleans.

Chip showed up at the session first this day.  We began talking as he set up to play and he very politely asked if he could show me a guitar part he had come up with for the song.  Michiel showed up as Chip started to play, listening as he set up.  Chip had added a turn around at the end of the verse with a different chord change.  He was into it and listening to himself play it as we talked about the song.  When he got to the part he had added, Chip slowed and said, “I added this turn around because the song doesn’t really do anything here”.  Michiel, who was setting up, joined in adding, “Yeah, it kind of sits there.”  I was laughing to myself that they felt free to be this openly critical in front of the producer who also happened to have written the song.  I could have told them that the demo I sent them was recorded two minutes after writing the song and wasn’t really an arrangement.  I could have said that I had a violin part in mind for the space between verses.  The fact is, Chip had come up with a lovely part that was a fine arranging choice so I kept my laughter inward and agreed with them both because sometimes being a good producer is allowing other folks to have ideas.

The Craft Brothers came in to play violin and cello again and I can’t say enough about how much I enjoy working with these young fellows.  They are very skilled and schooled, can read and write music.  I can’t, but like most pop guys, I hear the parts I want and could sing them to Jack and Sam.  As gifted as they are they had no trouble with playing parts I sang to them which is not always the case with great musicians.  It was wonderfully fun for me to sing parts to them and to hear those parts come to life.  It was also beautiful to watch them take those parts and build their arrangement from that theme.  Again they huddled off the microphone, alone in the big room at Piety, oblivious to Wes at the controls and me at the sound board waiting to begin.  When they were ready they simply stopped talking to each other, looked in the direction of the control room as they tuned their instruments and adjusted the eye glasses on their respective noses.  No statement in the act, they are just in their own world when they talk arrangements and when they come back to this world they are sort of waiting for the rest of us to catch up.  They are brilliant, funny and I hope to make many more records with them.

Tanya is a bad ass R&B singer but she is also a big Barbara Streisand fan and had been looking forward to singing along with strings for some time.  She arrived at Piety and listened to the track.  The strings don’t come in on the first verse because I wanted it sparse and lonely.  As the first verse played she leaned in and whispered, “Where’s them strings you told me about?”  Just then, the strings came in and the smile that spread across her face was as sweet as a little girl on Christmas morning.  She went in to the vocal booth and, in just a verse and a half, told the story with her vocal inflections as much as the words and melted our hearts with Why Can’t I See Tomorrow like I knew she would.

~ Paul Sanchez – June 1, 2011

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