In the summer of 2009, I was approached by a friend and former colleague who also happened to be a musician and producer. He asked if I might be interested in working with a new client of his to execute her vision for the cover of her new album. I could, of course, bring whatever I wanted to the table for discussion, but she had something very specific in mind and my job would be to realize that. Of course I was interested and that’s how I came to work with Carly Simon on her album, Never Been Gone, a quiet, low-key reinterpretation of some of her greatest songs.
Carly Simon is one of Martha Vineyard’s most famous residents. The fact that I also had a summer residence there certainly gave me a foot in the door — credibility, perhaps, but an easy and delightful commute for sure.
Our first meeting, and all of the subsequent work sessions, were done at Ms. Simon’s house. She laid out her idea to me; she wanted the cover to literally interpret the album’s message of re-examination, and showed me a photograph taken by her husband. It was a close-up of Ms. Simon looking through a magnifying glass. And though I would provide alternative layouts, that photograph would, in fact, become the cover.
Throughout our work sessions, which would often be held on the porch overlooking apple orchards and horses, Ms. Simon was volunteering and riffing on ideas at a machine-gun rate. Her sketchpad came out as she hand drew the type as she wanted it to appear on the cover. As pastels and pencils of different colors filled in the type and made drop shadows and flourishes, I knew this was going to be a bit of a challenge from a production standpoint.
I’ve learned not to bore artists with details; most don’t care how you get there, as long as you get there. Ask any producer, who’s tasked with getting a specific guitar or drum sound. But I watched as Ms. Simon created very ornate and detailed sketches; my mind was simply working out how to separate the layers and colors and then recombine them in the digital world (bitmapping and transparency issues, for those that care). She put an asterisk next to her favorite, and I was happy to eventually present it to her, seamlessly integrated into the final cover design.
In the end, the cover was exactly as Carly Simon had envisioned it in her head, and it was very gratifying to be able to provide that. I respected that she knew exactly what it was she wanted for her artwork and it was a unique opportunity to work with a legend, and especially to do so in “her world” on Martha's VIneyard. She graciously offered a tour of her fantastic house, including the bedroom "James and I built,” her exquisite kitchen, and a lavatory with a backstage photo of Simon and Mick Jagger. It was beautiful, quirky and so quintessentially “the Vineyard.”
We accomplished most everything in a couple of days —
the rest could and would be done back home in Boston.
The ferry ride home after those sessions was a bit surreal.
I've spent a lot of time on the island, but nothing like this. And now that I was headed off-island and back to the
"real" world, it hit me that, in some sense, I had in fact