Don Miggs On Working With Producer Phil Ramone

Sep 6, 12 • Featured, Posts

It’s hard to speak about Phil Ramone without first reminding people what the name means: Phil Ramone has 15 Grammy® Awards and about three dozen nominations. He has a Lifetime Grammy award. He is a last remaining icon in an industry quick to announce and quicker to denounce “genius,” and we are the closest thing he’s done to a “Rock” band since Billy Joel.
I feel like this album was as much a crossroad for him as it was for us. Can he still make a Rock record? Should he? Does he still count in an industry hell-bent on heralding what’s new over what’s tried and true?
Simply put. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
Phil Ramone works longer and harder than men a quarter of his age and his ears are undeniably the best in the business. Still.
We handed Phil about 30 songs to sift through for 15TH & HOPE and some of the ones he selected (or didn’t) I questioned, but I never questioned him or his vision for us once we started talking. He just understood where we came from and what we needed to do to grow and take our music to another level. Some of it is subtle; a melody change, a suggestion to expand on a lyric and some of it was more major like stripping a song (“Home”) to its essence and telling me “Ray Charles would have been proud to have sung this one.” That alone was worth showing up for.
Our experience with Phil was better than I imagined it could be. It started with him receiving a pile of 30 songs to sift through and decide which would go together to make up an album. We would talk on the phone about music and what moved us and why he chose these songs and where he heard them. I was most impressed by his ability to communicate like he was 25 years old. He knows the musical landscape today, he knows the references and he understands the need to stay current but he also brings with him Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Bono, Lady Gaga. Endless supply of stories and inspiration to draw from.
I loved that he hadn’t done a Rock record in a long time. I loved that he didn’t want to change who we were, but to help us more fully realize what being miggs meant. He wasn’t interested in me singing like someone else. Just more like me. That didn’t mean he didn’t have strong opinions. It was impossible to budge him if what you were trying to do didn’t make sense. He knows how to argue and compromise.
15TH & HOPE doesn’t sound anything like a “Phil Ramone” record. It sounds like a better miggs record and that’s the secret to being Phil.
Working with Phil Ramone was a great experience. He inspired me throughout the whole recording process by sharing his amazing behind-the-scenes stories about experiences with many influential artists across the span of his career. I was most impressed by his ear for a great performance. He made sure right off the start, that we were all comfortable in the studio environment. With no pressure felt at all, he very easily managed to extract the best out of each of us. I did things I didn’t think I was capable of. The overall feeling in the studio felt like family. I looked forward to every session. It all went by so quickly. I am so honored to have worked with him.
Phil has a knack for the whole “producer thing,” lol. He understands what the music you’re trying to create is about and he gives you the encouragement and guidance to find it.

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