The good news arrived the old fashioned way.
“Hiatus is over!” Peter More wrote on Facebook last week. “Excited to announce upcoming shows, record release, and name change.”
More, frontman for the band formerly known as Oh Whitney but now as “Peter More,” was referring to his show in Austin on Sat, Feb 18, and also his album produced by Steely Dan cofounder and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Donald Fagen (“Oh, Donald,” Feb 13, 2013).
For a minute back in the day, Oh Whitney was sort of poised to become the next big thing. Or at least “a” next big thing.
The peripatetic Americana band fronted by the Fort Worth native had just started recording with Fagen in Fort Worth, at Eagle Audio Recording, and in San Miguel de Allende, the arty Mexican city where More and his bandmates lived for a while before relocating to Austin recently. That project launched three years ago. Nothing became of the record. Until now.
Though no firm release date has been set, More said, he and his bandmates are considering putting out the material piecemeal. At the very latest, there’ll be new Oh Whitney/Peter More tunes by spring.
The 11 tracks represent Fagen’s inaugural foray into producing a record without his name on the cover.
Working with The Nightfly, More said, was “incredible.”
Along with playing nearly all of the keys parts, More continued, The (Real) Donald also sung on a few songs and was a “big part” of the arrangements on several tracks.
“A lot of times, we would workshop songs with him at first,” More recalled, “go in and sit down with him, and he’d have a Nord or his melodica, and we’d sit down, go through songs. He’d say, ‘Alright, that sounds good,’ ‘I have an idea for this part here,’ ‘You can take this part and move it.’ ”
Some of the band’s material, More said, was already arranged. The guys could play it front to back and be done. The rest, he said, were sketches developed in collaboration with Fagen over the years-long duration of recording, a process that took the crew from Fort Worth and Mexico to Woodstock and the wilds of New Jersey.
One of the biggest setbacks, More said, was a theft. A couple of years ago, his car was broken into and relieved of one laptop: “I had all sorts of lyrics and melody ideas [on it], work I had all ready for the next recording session. I had to, basically, rewrite a bunch of stuff.”
The guys in Oh Whitney and Fagen met purely by chance in San Miguel (“Time Out of Mind,” Nov 21, 2012). When Fagen initially expressed his interest in working with More and company, More said, the band’s expectation was a demo or maybe an EP. “When it turned into a full project,” More recalled, “it was exciting.”
More than challenging, More recalled, he and his bandmates were excited to take an improvisational approach into the studio: “The whole process was just amazing with Donald in the studio. He’s such a pro, he’s got such an incredible ear … . One thing that was so cool about working with him was that as soon as he got what he was looking for, we could just wrap it up and finish. At first we didn’t know what that might be, but when it came together, it was awesome, to hear how his production process works.”
More said Fagen was “very much onboard” with whatever the band wanted to do.
“He would throw out an idea, and then we would … try it. ‘If you guys like it, that’s cool, but if you want to go in a different direction, that’s cool, too.’ He was extremely patient and hands-on and definitely very open to what the band thought.”
More said he “couldn’t be more excited” about how the record turned out.
“To get to work with someone like that and have him be such a part of it was really incredible,” More said of Fagen. “And it was educational in terms of learning all sorts of ways to approach a studio … [and watching] how he would mic a drum set to layer harmonies on choruses, background vocals, counter melodies, trying different instrumentation … it was almost like a master class in recording.”
More said Fagen and his wife of 23 years, Libby Titus, were “amazing.” (An assault charge against Fagen for allegedly pushing Titus in private early last year was recently dropped.)
Fagen, More said, is “hilarious. He’s one of the funnier people I’ve ever met. I’ve never worked with anyone like him in the studio, I’ll say that. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life, for sure. It was definitely the coolest music experience I’ve ever had.”
The 31-year-old More said that since his parents still live here, Fort Worth is an immediate tour stop: “We always love playing Fort Worth. The scene there is one of our favorites. I think Fort Worth has a really beautiful thing happening with the music scene and the different venues, and Leon Bridges and Niles City Sound, their approach to recording and the sounds they get out of that studio – I think it’s a really cool thing that’s coming out of Fort Worth now.”
More is excited to release the record. Finally.
“There were definitely times to put this record out sooner,” More said, “but there were reasons why it got held up. In the end, I’m really happy, really glad we didn’t rush it and that the record turned out the way it did.”