6 May 2011

in the evidence of her brilliance: Guy Sigsworth speaks

Guy Sigsworth

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.”


G said...

very interesting! I love this blog!
I spoke to Sigworth in feb 2004 at a Frou Frou showcase and he revealed to me that Nothing Fails was the very first track he had ever written but not produced. He explained that Madonna wanted to do a song with him, but was absolutely determined to produce the whole record with Mirwais, and although Sigworth was nervous about giving his song to someone else, eventually he was very happy with the final result.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the feedback!

Look out for more from my extensive interview with Guy Sigsworth - as well as more about Nothing Fails from one of the other co-writers!

G said...

looking forward to it!
this is an excellent blog!
what we need is to talk about m-u-s-i-c !

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more! It makes the people come together - yaeah!

Parlo lover said...

Great blog!!!

Looking forward to your other posts about Madonna as a musician / producer / songwriter.

Mo'Hawkins said...

fantastic read, just fantastic. thank you for starting this blog. i have been a huge M follower since I was 5 when I stole my older sister's casette tapes of I'm Breathless and Like a Prayer. I've been obsessed with her music ever since- key word, music. I think she and her producers are absolutely brillant. I'm so floored to find this blog dedicated to talking about the making of her music and her creative process. Since I hooked into M when in the 90's (i'm in my early twenties now), I'm more familiar with her producers in the last two decades. I have been studying William Orbit since the moment I heard the first track to "Drowned World" on the Ray of Light album. My god... M and William are a genius duo. Music album is simply tremendous, it was my savior in middle school. American Life too in high school - and you know I just love the bold step she and Mirwais took with that album as a music artist. I love Stuart Price's recent work with her as well, it was the soundtrack to my first few years in college. Ok - sorry for the blab, I'm just really excited to check up on this blog from time to time. I am very familiar with her old material, but just not with the producers so I am eager to learn more from your blog here. THANK YOU

RE: your post, "less is more" is, I think, one of the wisest things I was told. Keeping things simple allows so much more room for growth. As an artist myself, I am constantly reminding myself of that. No doub that is but one reason why her music is consistenly successful. One of many reasons... :D

Anonymous said...

Hey Mo - thanks for your comments - I did this blog for people like you! Hopefully you'll learn more about those early years over the coming months. Stay tuned!

Rabbitbunny said...

Both Guy Sigsworth and blogger Hawkins are right! What Madonna does best is that she keeps it deceptively simple
because her melodies are all her!
Nothing Fails and
What It Feels Like for a Girl are two brilliant Sad Ballads-Prime Ciccone! Her reputation as a musician is severely overlooked and underrated! Still, Ardent Rock Fans and Critics are coming around to Madonna's rescue because she has taken her sad songs and made them better because what the Beatles started, Madonna finished. We will never see the likes of them ever again
In This Life-the quality is such that both the Music of the Beatles and Madonna will live forever. Let's all Live to Tell and follow both Rock Acts' example!

Jack said...

This blog is brilliant!! THIS is the stuff worth talking about . The actual MUSIC and not what someone is wearing or who they are dating! Thank you so much for this blog!!