Dann Huff


Giant - Dann Huff (1999)


After many attempts at getting Dann on the phone, I was finally able to last week for a brief chat in between recording sessions in a Nashville studio.
What you read may not be exactly what you wanted to hear, but at least the door is open to the chance of a new Giant record...maybe!


Hey Dann. Have you got a few minutes to talk?
I sure do.

I appreciate your time, thank you. Well it's great to get you on the phone.
Yeah, sorry it's taken so long.

No problem, it's just great to be able to talk to you. So how's life?
Fine. You know, working ahead every day. Doing what seems like the same thing…but somehow you seem to make some headway and over a period of time you look back and see what you've done and it's more than you think when you are doing it.

Well you've got quite an impressive body of work if I might say so, both as a producer and as a session guy now.
Yeah well the session stuff has definitely been the predominant.

Are you enjoying the producing side of it?
Yeah it's kinda always headed that way, it was just a matter of making the commitment to do it.
And you know just not turning back, that's the hard thing. Not taking sessions as a guitar player…that's the hard thing.

So you get a lot of offers you have to turn down?
Yeah well over a period of time people know that you're not working anymore. So you know not everybody calls me any more. As a matter of fact I get very few offers to play. You know you can't turn down people two years in a row and expect them to keep calling you. After a little while they kinda get the picture.

Yeah, so now they're calling you to produce their records?
Yeah well that's it exactly.

When did you move to Nashville?
In '90

Oh as far back as that!
Oh yeah. I haven't been in Los Angeles for about 7 and a half years, or somewhere around that.
I never intended to stay out there. I mean I grew up in Nashville. So this is home.

So you're not just one of the many who are flocking there?
No, I grew up here till I was 10 years old.

Oh fantastic. I've got a buddy in Knoxville, he says it's the greatest place in the world.
Knoxville is beautiful, eastern Tennessee is actually more gorgeous than middle Tennessee but
There's not much music business in eastern Tennessee.

Great. Well I'm ringing primarily because I get a stack of requests from people who want to know what you're up to - and they want to hear a little bit about Giant and what happened and is there is any chance of another record out ever?
No I don't think so. We've been asked that ever since, well for 10 years now and you know I don't see it. It's all about time.
If you were really going to make an attempt, well when we did the band we pretty much dropped out of what our normal jobs were at that point. I quit my session career, that was the first time I quit it. We then stayed out of the circuit for a couple of years and then rock 'n roll as you know suddenly jumped tracks and went to a whole different style. We then had the option of moving to change, and musically I think we could have probably done anything cause we can play so many different styles but it's like why attempt at trying to be modern? Half the time you do that it's like cheating anyway. I'm actually in to soul music before anything…never country, never rock 'n roll, always soul music. Most people knew me as an R&B rhythm guitarist in LA, so they were all shocked that I could play rock 'n roll. But that kind of rock 'n roll we did I really liked doing it. All of a sudden it became like dinosaur music over night.

Isn't it a shocker.
Yeah but that's the way it goes. You can't begrudge it. If it doesn't get re-defined, if the kids of every generation don't evolve it and play it for themselves, it's not rock 'n roll. Rock 'n roll is not defined by old farts you know.
Also none of us would have the desire to go out and tour. Just to make a record, you know I have a real problem doing anything half hearted. You'd have to sink a lot of time in to doing something that I thought was worthy and then the idea of just doing the record and never supporting it.
You know first of all no one's gonna want to put any money in to it. So that's kind of where we are at.
Unless something drastic changes and I just don't see that happening.

Yeah it's funny that you should say that. There's a real cult following and I'm sure they would be able to shift a number of records but what number I am unsure of.
Yeah well who knows what any kind of market for what we do would be. We were never known as an entertaining band. I always felt we were 5 years too late wish we had we had a 5 year jump and I think we could have hit a bigger mark.
But you know we just came near that time for that music to become extinct.

Well I tell you what, the "Time to Burn" record is absolutely legendary. There are also more fans out there than you think!
Thank you.

And it's one that constantly has other records compared to. I don't think anything has ever come close.
Well I appreciate that (laughs). We felt really good about it when we did it and if we'd really dragged it out it never would have seen the light of day.

Yeah but I tell you many people that read my site have got a copy of this.
I'll be damned.

Well I don't know if they picked it up when it came out, or whether they picked it up later down the track but everybody seems to have a copy. And as far as a market I have a thousand people a day visit the site, so there is still a few of us out there.
Well you know I've had a lot of calls, seems like in the last year from Japan and Europe also Scandinavian companies have called to.

Yeah I thought as much…
Yep, yeah. I mean I could never say never cause life changes too drastically.
You know I love the music and I miss it, genuinely miss it. Even pulled out the CD the other day. Somebody had a copy or someone was laughing at my hair or something like that. I pulled it out and listened to it and I was genuinely really proud of that. I wish it could have been a little better lyrically, but…

No, no lyrically you were fine.
Well I just wish it could have been something more substantial…you know, but that wasn't our thing. I felt musically it was good and I miss singing.
But you know I'm getting ready to do another Megadeth record.

I heard that… that's fantastic
I'm really looking forward to that. They're all of a sudden on the up swing.

All of a sudden you come aboard, you produce a record and they just sound amazing, dynamically amazing as far as the sound and they have the best selling Megadeth record ever.
Well I don't know if it was better selling than there earlier stuff but they had more hits of it.
But considering the market has dwindled to a quarter of the size it's done extremely well. So we were all pleased with it. If it had been the middle of the 80's we would have sold 8 million copies of that thing. I'm thrilled with it and they're really determined to grow on the next record too. So I'm really looking forward to that its going to be a real fun experience, we're really seriously going to go for this thing. They're out there touring all the time, I think they are in South America at the moment. They are totally committed at the moment; they are a real band you know. At least I can stay in rock 'n roll music like that. Least I get some of it. It's a little different for me, you know. I miss the hands on, you know pick up a guitar and do what I wanna do.
Until something comes along, it would just have to be the right situation. I don't know if I could even define the right situation for our band to do something. It's only three of us really.
Pasqua and the 3 of us really parted ways at the end of the record.

Yeah I wondered about that.
Yeah well 3 people felt one way and one person felt differently. You know in a band the majority kinda wins. Other than that Dave, Mike and I all live here in town, we see each other as much as we can.
I was just hired to do a record; it's the first time we've all played together the same time in years. It's a record for a new artist on Mercury. Shane Myers. They're kinda gearing him to be the male Shania Twain. He's really great, really great music, he's a lot of fun to work with. It's just a different record, especially for county music.

Yeah well you and? Have done great things for Shania.
Yeah well I just played on that. Yeah she's as big time as they come.
Look this Myers guy is phenomenal, and us three guys got to play together. It's county but the way Dave plays is the same way he plays on anything. Mike's great, he's always been a busy session player.
So we see each other, and we always reminisce about times when we were playing.

Well look just keep in mind that people still want to hear it. I mean you guys could record an album in your sleep mate.
Who knows, who know it. It just takes time to do this good stuff.

And you said you didn't want to do anything half-heartedly.
Yeah well that would just be a let down. We could do a couple of tracks and put it out, that might be a fun thing.

Is there a catalogue of unreleased Giant?
Yeah there's small handful of demos…some of them are ok.

I reckon your home demos would sound better than half the albums released these days.
Well apart from the sound not being great the songs aren't horrible. Certainly our demos were always pretty good. I can recall about 3 or 4 songs.

I'd love to hear those.
There's actually one real cool song that we didn't release on our last record. It was a song called 'Don't leave me'. It was a really cool song, a major power ballad. But we never released it.
If I could find it I wouldn't care if you heard it. The only thing is I don't own that one. I think Epic owns it or something.

I wouldn't do anything with it but I'd love to hear it.
Yeah I think I can find it. Off the top of my head I can think of three, that's all. I can just remember stuff that we were writing that didn't make our last record.
They've got to be down the studio at my house. Next time I'm down there and I've got a spare few minutes I'll take a look in the DAT player see if I can find a handful of things.
It's not gonna be cream of the crop stuff, cause they didn't make the album.
Actually there's one song we did record in the 'Time To Burn' session, 'Don't Leave Me In Love' that is actually a mixed song, that's a done deal. I really love the song it was kinda a sad thing that we didn't end up putting it on the album.

You know I have a lot of CDs but I can narrow it down to a top 20 and you are on 5 of them.
Rick Springfield's ' Rock Of Life' record. How much were you involved in that?

No idea!

Can't remember that one? Rick was a cool guy to work with though?
Yeah he was a really nice guy to work with. The main guitar player on all his stuff was Tim Pierce.
I love him he's a great fried of mine.

Also the two Van Stepheson records?
Oh yeah, he's in a country group.

Blackhawk, right?
Sure is.

Do you see him a bit still?
Oh all the time.

Man you guys wrote some great songs.
Yeah he's a killer. He's very happy…making a living.

Doesn't sound like he'll go back to it either?
No, no. I'm not that old yet I'm only 37 so…….

So you're pretty young.
Yeah that defining line comes about mid forties as far as rock 'n roll goes and it's when things really start changing.

Actually you're very young compared to some of them, compared to what you have done.
Oh yeah. Oh I'm glad people still like it. It's just down to time…the hardest thing to get.

You know they put the Van Stepheson back out on CD?
No kidding.

A label in Germany.
I'll be damned
I'll have to tell him, I don't know if he knows that.

Well if he doesn't and you don't let me know, I know the guy at the label and I could probably get him to send you a couple of copies or something.
I really enjoyed doing those records.
You know he didn't go and play those live, so not many people knew about them.

Suspicious Hearts is one of my all time favourite records.
That's great.

Okay then Dann. I know you're busy, so I thank you for your time. I am gald that there is at least a little hope in the world for another Giant record sometime.
Yeah, maybe. If I get around to finding some of this Giant stuff I'll send it to you.

Thanks Dann.


c. Andrew J McNeice, 1998.


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Producer Profile: Dann Huff

From Rolling Stone Magazine Online

Former Giant lead singer plants his rock roots in country, resulting in some of the most beloved albums of the decade

June 11, 2014 11:01 AM ET
Dann Huff
Dann Huff
Rick Diamond/Getty Images for ACM

With a resume that includes fronting a glam-metal band and playing guitar on Madonna's "Like a Prayer," Dann Huff insists no one is more surprised than he about his gargantuan wave of success in country music.

"It was all rock & roll," the renowned producer laughs of life before around age 29. "All I wanted to be was a session guitar player — that was my dream."

Beyond his wildest dreams, the Nashville-bred musician started booking sessions at just 16 years old, eventually moving to Los Angeles and strumming for superstars ranging from Madonna and Michael Jackson to Neil Diamond and Barbra Streisand. A short-lived stint as the lead singer of Giant (one-hit-wonders with 1990's "I'll See You in My Dreams") taught Huff that his talents were a bit further behind the mic.

"Giant came and went quickly…. Pearl Jam came along, and that was it! We moved back to Nashville," Huff reflects to Rolling Stone Country. "I was a horrible frontman. I hadn't been born to be that. So I just jumped back into what I knew, which was playing sessions. In the changing face of country music, it was perfect."

Huff credits legendary producer James Stroud with hiring him to play guitar on "pretty much every record he did," including projects by Tim McGraw, Clay Walker and Tracy Lawrence, just to name a few. And it was Mutt Lange, producer for the likes of Def Leppard and Shania Twain, who encouraged him to try his hand behind the board.

"He's one of the greatest, living or dead, producers. He's my hero," Huff says of Lange. "He told me early on, 'You're a producer.' I took that as a compliment and said, 'Well, please call me for gigs!'"

Huff's first time at the helm of a country album was for a brother-sister duo called the Wiggins. But it was while he was producing a Megadeth record when his big springboard to country came calling: Faith Hill was looking for co-producers on what became one of her most successful — and polarizing — albums, 2002's Cry.

"Artistically, it was phenomenal. But she just got murdered for that record," Huff reflects of the criticism Hill faced for her melodic infusion of pop and R&B. The backlash from country purists continued to haunt him through projects with Lonestar, Rascal Flatts, Keith Urban and a laundry list of other big country names, but, ultimately, blurring the lines between country and pop is what has kept Huff one of the most in-demand producers to this day. Major country record labels have him on speed-dial, booking him for budding acts such as Hunter Hayes, the Band Perry and Cassadee Pope.

"Music evolves," Huff muses. "You tend to be most critical of what scares you. The debate about too much pop in country has been going on well before I [started producing]. We just took it to new levels."

One of Huff's longest working relationships has been with Urban, teaming with the Aussie superstar for his last six albums. He describes their pairing as yin-and-yang, with opposite musical visions that made for grueling recording sessions, but chart-topping music.

"It wouldn’t be unusual to sing a song, comp it and come back a week later and do it again — sometimes three, four, five times," he recalls of recording with Urban. "It wasn't that he couldn't sing it, it was that he was trying to live it. We'd spend days on just one vocal, looking for that moment where it feels like a known thing. Keith is very performance-driven, which makes him a great performer. I honor and respect that; I love going to shows after all these years. But that doesn’t affect me when I listen. It's not a moment, it's a clinical endeavor — trying to bring life out of something. We'll argue, and out of that comes a lot of great music."

In fact, when asked about the magic that is his producing method, Huff's answer has nothing to do with electric guitars, drum loops or anything that involves Pro Tools. Instead, it's all about the moment. To him, the definition of "producing" is helping a recording artist pour the kind of raw emotion into their songs that is evident to even the untrained ear.

"I like working with people who really make you feel as if you're living a lyric," he says, citing both Urban and Hill as two of the best vocalists when it comes to making deep connections through their deliveries. "It's not just poetry; it's not just music. The combination takes you to another place."

And that — all rock roots aside — is country music.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/producer-profile-dann-huff-20140611#ixzz34ObBaRTs

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