“Billie had been listening to this record and had grown attached to it,” explains Chris Dugan, the go-to engineer/mixer for Billie Joe Armstrong’s projects, with and without Green Day. The album referenced is The Everly Brothers’ Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, a collection of folk standards originally released in 1958. Armstrong was so enamored that he decided to make his own faithful version of the entire album.
“And then he had to decide who he would sing along with—who would be the other ‘brother,’ so to speak,” Dugan says. Armstrong made the inspired decision to pair with Norah Jones. “He told me she was in, and so I tried to envision what kind of sound we would end up with. Once I heard them singing together, it all made sense!”
Last May, Armstrong and Dugan headed to New York to meet with Jones, drummer Dan Rieser (who also plays with Jones on solo records and in the Little Willies), and bass player Tim Luntzel (who also played on the Chapin Sisters’ Everly Brothers tribute, A Date With the Everly Brothers). During pre-production, this core band developed arrangements that are true to the spirit of the Everlys’ versions but are a little more percussive and gritty, with some more forceful drumming, piano and harmonica parts.
They laid down the tracks in Studio A of The Magic Shop (New York City), which features a 1,000-square-foot tracking room and a custom wraparound 56-input Neve console. “Norah recommended the studio. It was our first time there, and we loved it. Good people, great vibe. They have an amazing 80 Series Neve desk that is one of a kind,” says Dugan, who mixed on a Neve 8068 in Studio A of Armstrong’s home base, Jingletown Studios in Oakland, Calif.
Magic Shop assistant Kabir Hermon helped Dugan keep the tracking running smoothly and find all the equipment he needed. For the centerpiece of the project, however—those Everly-esque vocal harmonies—Dugan brought in a pair of Didrik De Geer mics, rented from Stephen Jarvis Audio.
“Billie and Norah ended up facing one another, playing and singing,” Dugan says. “Most of the time, their [vocal] mics just went through the Neve. I would occasionally use a little compression, but for the most part it was a basic signal chain. The important thing was to make sure their voices were clear and pristine-sounding, and those mics did that for us.”