For those who haven’t heard the new Robbie Robertson record, don’t worry. Neither has Afie Jurvanen – and he played guitar and sang on it. The album, Sinematic, was inspired in part by the film-score work Robertson was doing for Martin Scorsese’s forthcoming Netflix mob drama, The Irishman, with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci. While Robertson was working on the score and the album, Robertson’s manager phoned Jurvanen (who records under the name Bahamas) and asked him to come down to Robertson’s studio in Los Angeles. Jurvanen had never met Robertson before, but he knew he was getting an offer he could not refuse.
In his words
I was in Los Angeles last year, doing press for my latest album, Earthtones. We got a phone call, asking if we’d like to come by Robbie Robertson’s studio. It was out of the blue. There was no mention of what it would be about.
I asked Felicity Williams, the singer I work with, to come with me. She comes from the jazz world. She didn’t even know who Robbie Robertson was.
So, we met. I was flattered that he was familiar with my work. He was referencing YouTube videos that he had watched and was asking questions about how I approached my arrangements. Eventually he got around to playing me a bunch of his own music.
I still didn’t know what I was doing there. It wasn’t clear to me. But Robbie played five or six songs that were in various stages of production. Basically, he liked the way I made my own albums and my guitar work and the way I did the vocals with Felicity. He said it would be cool to have some of that on the music he had just played for me.
So, it was exciting. He said it would be great if we could work together. I was like, “Yeah, of course, let’s do it.”
I was busy though. I didn’t really have any time. Eventually he just sent me the tracks and I did most of my stuff in Toronto. Felicity and I would do a lot of singing together. Or, as we often do, I’ll play something on the guitar and she’ll just take off with that melody. She can do things that don’t even sound like a vocal part.
I didn’t record any lead guitar parts. It was all rhythm and little hooks to tuck into the choruses. It would have been fun to do it all with Robbie, together. But this modern way of making records, people prefer it. You can send someone four or five different options and then they can decide what they want to use.
Truthfully, I haven’t even heard the album, Sinematic. I don’t know what of mine is on there. But I’m glad something is.
We’ve kept in touch a little bit since then. I do like hanging around people older than me and who have been doing it longer, and just to meet people who are still engaged and passionate about music. He didn’t seem to me to really care about the scene. But he’s still involved.
More and more, I’m seeking out people like that to work with. It’s an energy I want to be around, because that’s where I want to be when I’m 60 or 70 years old. I want to be working with guys who are 30, you know?