Crafting a highly successful cover album is a unique challenge for any musician. It requires a delicate balance between paying homage to the original artists while infusing your own style and creativity into the music. Award-winning producer and sixth-generation musician Wayne Brewer (well-known for his work with Gary Brewer & The Kentucky Ramblers) and his talented wife Alyssa teamed to salute country legends George Jones and Tammy Wynette on their album A&W Sing George & Tammy and share their valuable insights into the art of crafting a cover album.
- Respect the Source Material
It’s essential to respect and understand the artists you're covering. Every song is a piece of artistic legacy, reflecting the time, emotions, and experiences of its creators. By covering a song, a musician becomes a custodian of this legacy. Respecting the original material is a testament to the enduring impact of the music and the artists who crafted it. It acknowledges their contribution to the world of music and ensures their influence lives on.
Recognize that no one can replicate their original magic. Instead, use their work as a foundation to build something new and exciting. The goal is not to imitate but to celebrate their influence in a way that resonates with your audience. By honoring the original work, musicians contribute to a legacy that transcends time, culture, and generations, ensuring that the music continues to inspire and resonate for years to come.
- Maintain Your Authenticity
Throughout our journey we were reminded time and time again of the importance of staying true to oneself throughout the cover album process. Striking the balance between avoiding limitation and embracing interpretation while still keeping the point above in the forefront of your mind. It's easy to get caught up in trying to mimic the original artist's style, but this can lead to a lack of genuine emotion and expression. By infusing your own heart and soul into the music, you breathe new life into the beloved classics. We found ourselves reminding each other many times to not try to phrase or sound too much like George or Tammy because we felt it was important to put our heart and soul into this legendary catalog.
- Balancing Vintage and Modern Production
The production phase plays a crucial role in capturing the essence of the original material while adding a contemporary twist. We advocate for a blend of vintage and modern equipment to achieve the desired sound. We cut everything with period correct microphones just like the same time period that they would have used then, all tube mics and tube preamps and everything. Then we mixed all that digitally with the best technology that money could buy nowadays. Back in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, the main difference was everything was just more treble and less bass because they didn’t have subs.
By utilizing period-correct equipment, such as vintage tube microphones and preamps, artists capture the essence and authenticity of the golden age of country music. These elements also provide a warm, rich texture that is difficult to replicate with modern technology alone. Combining this with state-of-the-art modern equipment ensures that the album is accessible to a broad audience in today's digital landscape.
- Catering to the Modern Listener
In today's music industry, accessibility is key. Our approach ensures that the cover album reaches a wide audience through various platforms, including streaming services, digital downloads, physical CDs, and specialty colored vinyls. This maximizes the album's reach and ensures that it can be enjoyed by both dedicated fans and those discovering the music for the first time.
Careful song selection is also key. Choose tracks that possess enduring qualities, melodies, or lyrics that still strike a chord with today's audience. Give a good variety… we decided on several of their most well-known but also pulled several obscure tunes that people haven’t heard much or ever since they were originally released. While honoring the classics, be mindful of their relevance and appeal in a modern context.
Engage the modern audience with visual storytelling. Create visual content that complements the music. Utilize album artwork, music videos, or behind-the-scenes footage to provide context and enhance the listener's experience. Engaging visuals help connect the nostalgia of the old-school cover album with the visual-centric preferences of today's audience. –Alyssa & Wayne Brewer
WAYNE BREWER, a sixth-generation musician well-known for his work with Gary Brewer & The Kentucky Ramblers, and his talented wife ALYSSA teamed to salute country legends George Jones and Tammy Wynette. The Brewers approach their debut album with equal amounts of unbridled enthusiasm and humble trepidation. Married since 2015, Wayne says recording a duet album has been a goal since he and Alyssa began dating, but other career demands kept getting in the way. Wayne not only performs with the Ramblers, but is also CEO of SGM (Stretch Grass Music) and Alyssa serves as COO of the label. Eventually, the couple found time to get in the studio and recorded the Townes Van Zandt classic “If I Needed You,” a song they had sung to each other at their wedding.
Photo by: Katie Kauss