MARQUETTE - Somewhere in Nebraska, Bernie Larsen was anxiously awaiting a stop for his second cup of coffee for the day.
The singer-songwriter-producer was making his way to the Midwest for a biannual visit to his former stomping grounds and took the time while driving through the seemingly endless flatness toward that next dose of java to talk about a CD he produced for an Upper Peninsula musician.
Larsen was born and raised in Los Angeles, but does have strong ties to the U.P.
Above, Scotty Alan and Bernie Larsen pose for a photo.
"My dad married a woman from Toivola," Larsen said. "After visiting them a few times, I bought 40 acres up the road from them. It was 1994 when I ended up there. I put a studio in the garage and ended up producing a lot of albums there."
He kept his U.P. connection going with this latest CD production, Scotty Alan's work, "Wreck and the Mess," which is on Larsen's label, Spinout Records.
Larsen and Alan are doing a number of gigs in support of the CD, including an appearance at Upfront & Co. in Marquette Tuesday.
Who's who on CD:
The album was produced by Bernie Larsen and recorded at Spinout Records, Los Angeles.
The album features: Bernie Larsen, producer, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, lap slide, keyboards, percussion, backup vocals; Butch Norton, drums; David Sutton, bass; Jorge Caldern, backing vocals; Kristin Mooney, backing vocals; Phil Parlapiano, accordion, mandolin, organ; Randy Mitchell, electric guitar; David Lindley, fiddle, acoustic lap slide; and AIan McLagan, Hammond b3, piano. The album was mixed by Bernie Larsen and Niko Bola. Additional engineering by Amani Smith. Mastering by Richard Dodd in Nashville. Executive producers: Andre Abadie and Carey Bohjanen.
- 9 p.m. today, Brownstone Hall, Atlantic Mine
- 10 p.m. Tuesday, Upfront & Co., Marquette
- 6 to 7 p.m. Wednesday on WFXD 103.3 radio, Marquette
During his first stint in the Houghton area, Larsen opened a venue called Suburban Exchange, which highlighted the Copper Country's many musical talents.
"It was late 1997 when I decided to move back to L.A.," Larsen said. "Then in 2002, I was back in Houghton and bought the same place. This time, I called it XUrban."
But eventually, Larsen moved back to California.
"My father got sick and then passed away," Larsen said. "Then my mom asked me to come back to L.A. Really, the weather in the Midwest was too harsh for me. But I still come to the U.P. two times a year."
While he is reluctant to name drop, when prodded, Larsen does finally mention some of the famous artists he has worked with through the years like David Lindley, El Rayo-X, Melissa Etheridge, Jackson Browne, Rickie Lee Jones, Lucinda Williams and Public Enemy.
"I think I am very, very lucky," Larsen said. "I think my personality has something to do with it, too. I have no complaints and make no conflicts. That makes me low maintenance."
In his mid-1990s stint living in the northern U.P., Larsen produced records for a number of local artists like Clint Maki, as well as a compilation disc called Misery Sessions Volume 1. And he heard about a Marquette-based punk band called The Muldoons.
"They were very talented," Larsen said.
Forward ahead to present day: Larsen got a call asking if he'd like to produce a solo CD for Scotty Alan, who had played bass in The Muldoons.
"Scott is wonderful. He's sweet and he's talented. He's a real genuine person," Larsen said. "I said I would love to work with him."
The details were worked out and Alan began to work with Larsen, first long-distance from Alan's cabin near Marquette, and then by traveling to California.
"Scott originally was doing Irish punk music," Larsen said. "What it became was Americana with an edge to it, kind of alt-country."
For Alan, the experience was amazing.
"This project has been a long time coming but it feels like there was no waiting involved," Alan said. "Every step was exciting. Sitting here at my cabin it is fun to think of the scope of this project, from Old Kiln Road to L.A., but somehow it always felt so close to home. I wrote all the songs in my cabin, the album cover is (was) the barn not far from my place that we took two winters ago. All the texture pictures behind the lyrics in the lyric book are of trees and stumps from my property and different wood sidings on my cabin and outhouse. So even though it was recorded in L.A. it is very rooted here. Hometown. Kind of like roots and wings, if that makes any sense.
"Working with Bernie was such a treat for me. having known him for close to 19 years and seeing him at work in his L.A. studio coordinating everything," Alan said. "The musicians really told the story of his longevity, depth and professionalism when it comes to producing. We lived and worked in the studio for 14 days straight (minus one day off to go up the coast to Big Sur). At the end of the day, which was usually about 10 in the evening, we would head out to Bernie's favorite little bar and just hang out. Bernie is a good friend all around."
Larsen was looking forward to his U.P. visit.
"The colors are amazing. It's such a beautiful time of year," he said. "And people there are so supportive of music in personal ways you don't get in other places. There's real value and genuineness. People in the Midwest listen. They really listen."
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.