In-Session: Phil Palazzolo With Nicole Atkins & The Black Sea

PARK SLOPE, BROOKLYN — We recently caught up with Brooklyn-based producer/engineer Phil Palazzolo who’s been working on the new Nicole Atkins record. “I think this is her time,” he says of the New Jersey songstress and her new material. “She’s definitely due.”

Phil Palazzolo in Seaside Lounge with Tony Chick (left), bass player for Nicole Atkins & The Black Sea.

Phil Palazzolo in Seaside Lounge with Tony Chick (left), bass player for Nicole Atkins & The Black Sea.

The same could be said of Palazzolo. He’s been in-the-trenches working with bands for over a decade — producing, engineering, playing guitar/bass, touring, mixing FOH, etc — most notably engineering on Radio 4’s Gotham, Stealing of a Nation and Enemies Like This. And over the last few years, his star’s been rising.

He produced/engineered on The New Pornographers Challengers and A.C. Newman’s Get Guilty, and has been working through a whirlwind of back-to-back projects ever since, with Neko Case, Okkervil River, The Bogmen, Bird of Youth, Ted Leo and the new New Pornographers.

Early in 2010, Palazzolo started sessions with the newly formed Nicole Atkins & The Black Sea at Seaside Lounge Recording in Park Slope to make the full-length follow-up her ’07 debut LP, Neptune City. Atkins has a new band in the Black Sea, a new producer in Palazzolo, and a new sound is emerging. Read all about it:

So, how did you and Nicole Atkins come to work together?
About two years ago, she sang with a choir that backed up Feist on David Letterman. A.C. Newman from The New Pornographers was also part of that choir and got to talking to Nicole Atkins and had her come sing on the sessions for what would become his solo album, which I produced. Then, I played guitar in the A.C. Newman band and Nicole came and did backup vocals live, so I got to know her even better.
We’ve been talking about working together for a while now. She got a ton of songs together, and called me saying she wanted to get going right away. I’d just finished the Ted Leo record, and was just wrapping up mixes for the next New Pornographers record, so it was perfect timing to do the record in January and February.

Nicole Atkins & The Black Sea drummer Christopher Donofrio tracking at Seaside

Nicole Atkins & The Black Sea drummer Christopher Donofrio tracking at Seaside

How’d you get started and where are you working?
We did a week of pre-production in Seaside Lounge’s B Room. Pre-production involved finding the strongest parts of the songs and bringing them out. Sometimes that meant changing the feel and the pace of things. Then we started on basic tracks in Seaside’s A room. We just finished four days of basics and actually got to some overdubs and vocals. It’s starting to really sound like a record — we’re in that exciting phase where you can really hear it coming together.

Her last record was really lush and orchestrated, and kind of dark/melancholy. How does this record compare to that, and what would you say she’s trying to accomplish in the studio?
After getting a chance to live with her other record, I thought — yes, it is lush and it’s beautiful, but it’s also a bit disjointed. It kind of feels like it took two years to make, maybe with a little too much time passing between sessions. The new record is a little bit more fun in spots. There are some lighter and more upbeat numbers that she didn’t really have on the last record. I really want to showcase what she can do beyond the brooding Dusty Springfield-revamp type of sound.

So, is it more of a band record?
Yes, I’d say so. And she has a new band. Most of the guys are from New Jersey and play together in this other band [Sikamor Rooney]. They’re hometown guys and they’ve all known each other for a long time, whereas her other record was largely session players. Working with session players can be awesome, and we’re definitely going to bring in guests for specialty parts, but on the whole, there’s a real band making up the foundation.

So how would you say you’re working with her to realize the sound / direction for this album. Are you trying different things to figure out what it is?

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  • michael gray

    this woman and her sound is awesome. i cant wait to see her at SXSW2010 at la zona rosa.

  • michael gray

    this woman and her sound is awesome. i cant wait to see her at SXSW2010 at la zona rosa.

  • I am so looking forward to the new record, especially after reading this piece. Her voice IS amazing, and I really like this approach.

  • I am so looking forward to the new record, especially after reading this piece. Her voice IS amazing, and I really like this approach.

  • Angela

    I think Nicole Atkins is Phenominal & Amazing! But most of all she is UNIQUE!!! I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s when we not only lived with the music, but we lived IN IT! For many years I was so disappointed that I never heard any new music that touched me deeply, but the first time I heard her voice it touched my mind, my soul, by whole being. It was in a little pub at the Jersey Shore she was just a young girl, but the second I heard this ‘VOICE’ I grafitated directly to this ‘singer’. It was like I was a magnet, and I HAD to see this person that was singing and playing guitar. I was mesmorized!

    I am sooooooooooooooo looking forward to the new Album! She is so Addicting!

  • Angela

    I think Nicole Atkins is Phenominal & Amazing! But most of all she is UNIQUE!!! I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s when we not only lived with the music, but we lived IN IT! For many years I was so disappointed that I never heard any new music that touched me deeply, but the first time I heard her voice it touched my mind, my soul, by whole being. It was in a little pub at the Jersey Shore she was just a young girl, but the second I heard this ‘VOICE’ I grafitated directly to this ‘singer’. It was like I was a magnet, and I HAD to see this person that was singing and playing guitar. I was mesmorized!

    I am sooooooooooooooo looking forward to the new Album! She is so Addicting!