in the evidence of her brilliance: Guy Sigsworth speaks
In 2005 I conducted my first ever interview with one of Madonna’s collaborators, Guy Sigsworth. Guy co-wrote and co-produced What It Feels Like For A Girl, the third and final single from Madonna’s Music album. “It was definitely the last song recorded for the album. I think that she heard the track quite late on and it was literally the last track done. At the time I was in Iceland doing stuff with Björk that was going to be the base of Vespertine. We just arranged that, as soon as I got back, we’d hook up.
It was a joy that it happened so quickly and that lots of people loved it. I’m extremely proud of that song. It was a career high for me and I definitely learned a lot from working with her in the studio.
There are definitely some artists that I have worked with who more or less come in and would almost like to fax you their vocals and go away and wait for you to give them their record and Madonna’s certainly not one of those people. I think she’s probably not appreciated even in musician circles for being very much a co-producer, being very much in there making the record. It’s very much her record, it’s not just that she sings over whatever Mirwais, or me, or William [Orbit], or whatever person does. I think that’s one of the reasons why she’s really quite brilliant.
Before we did this thing, she invited me over and she was playing me some of the tracks of what became the Music album. She said something, which I thought was brilliant. She was playing me this stuff and I was hearing backing tracks by William and Mirwais and I have great admiration for both of them. In a funny sort of way when you’re a tech-y kind of musician yourself, you can listen to that and go, “Oh, that’s a great squelchy bass sound!”, or “God, I wonder how he did that?” But each time the main thing that knocked me over was that in the middle of all this kind of electronic scribble, she would plant this huge flagpole, that would be her and her melody and her vocal, that would commandeer the track and take charge of it and give it shape. I just loved it immediately.
She said to me at the time, “I’m really good at simple”. “I do simple really well.” I said to her, “Yeah, but I think simple’s very hard to do. I’ve worked with a lot of musicians and complicated is actually easy and it’s easy to think that complicated must be better because it’s more. But actually simple is very hard to do and you’re really great at it.” I think that’s what she knows that’s what she’s got to give is, in the midst of this, she’ll find some huge simple centre that she puts to it.
I think that makes it possible that the kind of noises that Mirwais, or me, or William come up with, that might otherwise only wind up on some obscure, left field, scratchy track, are in the pop charts. It’s because of her and it’s not just because of her fame. I think she gives the ideas the kind of focus and centre.
She’s very aware. Even though we were only four days in the studio it was like, if I worked overnight and she came in the next morning and if I’d changed one element of the bass line she knew it. It wasn’t like it passed her by. She was very aware of everything that was going on musically.”