Studio Campfire Stories: “Marzipan” (feat. Eric Roberson & Phonte)

There are two key characteristics that are common when Phonte and I get into very involved music conversations… 1. They are never planned. It’s never formally announced, “Ayo man, we’ve gotta get up and talk about some music.” …Nope. It just happens. 2. The conversation usually lasts for a few hours. Kats are usually sitting at our computers going through iTunes like, “Hol’lup… Have you heard THIS shit though?! …. NAH but WAIT!! Remember that Timbaland remix joint from so and so that was on the such and such soundtrack?!?” Yeah… 2-4 hours of this – Sending music back and forth and putting each other on to new joints. Well, about three years ago during one of these conversations Phonte put me up on this song called “Marzipan” by a kat named Eric Tagg who I looked up immediately and found out that he was most known for his work with guitarist Lee Ritenhour (“Is It You”). I can specifically remember how hyped Phonte was about the joint… and this was looong before we even talked about possibly covering it. I’m actually glad it happened that way, because it gave me a chance to just enjoy the song and let it sink into my memory for a couple of years before I began to really study it. I even ended up picking up Eric Tagg’s entire Dreamwalkin’ album just because of the one song… I had to hear more of his work. 

Fast-forward to January 2011… Phonte threw the song out there as an idea for …just visiting three – this was no surprise to me at all. Funny enough, the FIRST thing that came to mind was the famous Cosby Show “CHALLLLLOOOONNGE!!” scene because knowing how the song went, I understood that the chords and the off-count of the verses were NOT straightforward at all… I knew from the jump that I would definitely have my work cut out for me. The good thing is, I enjoy challenges. So I figured that if I sat with the song long enough in “study mode” everything would fall into place. Well…. that’s KINDA what happened. It took me getting frustrated with the verse chord progression, shutting the song down…. coming back to it, and cussing out Eric Tagg and his engineer because the keys were tucked so well in the mix in that there were spots in the song where I couldn’t even hear specific chords. BUT… I FINALLY figured it out. That was by far the toughest part of the song to cover. Once those chords were figured out, I damn near felt in the clear. So finally, late January during a day that school was canceled because of heavy snow and ice, I turned the studio on in the morning and ended up recording the full instrumental by lunch time. I was hyped up because I had just purchased a new snare drum a week or two prior and wanted to utilize it for this particular recording session. To be honest, it was the new snare’s sound that helped shape and mold the direction and recreation of this song… I’m not really sure how I can explain that, but I’ll try my best. If you understand the abilities and the full working potential of a NEW instrument, not only will your ideas be enhanced, but production doors will fly open for you. Picking up that new piece of equipment and demoing it during the recording process allowed me to take another risk or two with my drum playing that I probably wouldn’t have been pleased with otherwise. This is why I usually have NO problem with investing in studio equipment. More sounds = more ideas = more risks being taken in the studio.

Another interesting part about recording a cover is finding the correct vocalist for the song. We were looking for a male vocalist  who could match the feel and the tone of the original joint. With Eric Tagg singing in a naturally higher register with a warm tone, there was only ONE kat who was even mentioned or thought about for this piece… Eric Roberson. Phonte who at the time had just finished recording a joint for Erro’s upcoming album Mr. Nice Guy, reached back out to him for my album. From what I remember, it didn’t take him long at ALL to turn the vocals around. But in the meantime, Phonte took the time to the hooks down, which gave the song new life in itself so when I finally heard Erro’s vocals on it, my instrumental sounded like a totally different joint. I hit Phonte up like, “Ayo… This is IT.” Just for good measure, instead of duplicating the guitar/synth solos in the original song, we decided to change it up just a bit and run guitar/trumpet solos back-to-back. Frequent +FE collaborator and live band guitarist Chris Boerner was called on once again to perform the guitar solo, which he took full advantage of by showing no mercy in the eight bars of space he was allotted. Mr. Johnny-On-the-Spot himself, trumpeter Stan Graham who can also be found on “Take Off the Blues,” “If I Could Tell You No,” and “Flight of the Blackbyrd” competed the solo package by adding his own melodic stamp, which opened up the feeling of the song even further. It’s amazing just how much appreciation you gain for certain pieces of music once you try to recreate it… “Marzipan” was a perfect example. I can’t listen to this song without completely reliving its creative process…

Zo! – …just visiting three (2011) | FREE DOWNLOAD + Full Credits

…just visiting three

**Click the song titles to read the stories behind the making of each**
01. Black Cow featuring Phonte Sy Smith
Lead Vocal by Phonte
Background Vocals by Sy Smith & Phonte
All Instruments by Zo!
Guitar by Chris Boerner
Trumpet by Stan Graham
Trombone by Andrew Kleindienst
Saxophone by Matt Douglas
02. Let It Go featuring Nicholas Ryan Gant
Lead Vocal by Nicholas Ryan Gant
Background Vocals by Nicholas Ryan Gant & Phonte
All Instruments by Zo!
03. Driving featuring Sy Smith
Lead Vocal by Sy Smith
Background Vocals by Sy Smith & Phonte
All Instruments by Zo!
Flute by Claudia Hayden
04.Marzipan featuring Eric Roberson & Phonte
Lead Vocal by Eric Roberson
Background Vocals by Phonte
All Instruments by Zo!
Guitar by Chris Boerner
Trumpet by Stan Graham
05. Everything She Wants featuring Phonte
All Vocals by Phonte
All Instruments by Zo!
06. Same Ole Love featuring Jeanne Jolly
Lead Vocal by Jeanne Jolly
Background Vocals by Jeanne Jolly and Phonte
All Instruments by Zo!
Acoustic Guitar by Chris Boerner
Pedal Steel by Allyn Love
07. Playing Your Game, Baby featuring Anthony David
Lead Vocal by Anthony David
All Instruments by Zo!
Trumpet by Stan Graham
Trombone by Andrew Kleindienst
Saxophone by Matt Douglas

Produced by Zo! and Phonte for Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music, LLC/The Foreign Exchange Music, LLC
Recorded and Mixed by Zo! at East Wing Studios, Silver Spring, MD and by Phonte at The Peanut Gallery, Raleigh, NC

Additional Recording and Mixing by Chris Boerner at The Burlap Palace, Raleigh, NC
Mastering by Soiree Records
Cover Photography by Keith Estep of Keith Estep Photography
…just visiting three: THE ORIGINALS
01. Black Cow
Written by Walter Becker and Donald Fagen
Originally Performed by Steely Dan
From the Album “Aja” (ABC, 1977) 
02. Let It Go
Written by John Lang, Richard Page, and Steve George
Originally Performed by Pages
From the Album “Pages” (Epic, 1978)
03. Driving
Written by Ben Watt
Originally Performed by Everything But The Girl
From the Album “The Language Of Life” (Atlantic, 1990)
04. Marzipan
Written and Originally Performed by Eric Tagg
From the Album “Dreamwalkin'” (EMI, 1982)
05. Everything She Wants
Written by George Michael
Originally Performed by Wham!
From the Album “Make It Big” (CBS, 1985)
06. Same Ole Love
Written by Marilyn McLeod and Darryl K. Roberts
Originally Performed by Anita Baker
From the Album “Rapture” (Elektra, 1986)
07. Playing Your Game, Baby
Written and Originally Performed by Barry White
From the Album “Barry White Sings For Someone You Love” (20th Century, 1977)
© 2011 Chapter 3hree, Verse 5ive Music, LLC/The Foreign Exchange Music, LLC