A way with women
November 16, 2005
When Charlie Sexton and Shannon McNally first met, backstage at Bob Dylan concert, the topic that likely bound the two musicians was frustration with the business. Sexton had an entire album lost to music business turmoil (see accompanying story); McNally, a 32-year-old singer-songwriter based in New Orleans, likewise lost years to business machinations. McNally signed with Capitol Records in 1997, yet her debut album, “Jukebox Sparrows,” didn’t come out until 2002.
So when McNally was given a choice for her second album – she could have $200,000 to record three songs with a producer of the studio’s choice, or half that to record an entire album with someone of her own choosing – McNally opted not to trust her corporate overseers. With Sexton at the controls, McNally made “Geronimo,” one of this year’s finer examples of roots rock. The album was released on Back Porch Records, after Capitol passed.”I think they were insulted that I wanted to do it my way,” said McNally in an interview with The Aspen Times this summer. “They said, ‘How does she have the audacity to want to work with someone from Bob Dylan’s band?'”
What McNally sees as the crux of her difficulties with label execs is something Sexton never has had to face. “They had no idea of the way women make records,” she said. “These are the people who put out Lisa Marie Presley’s record, Kylie Minogue’s record, the last Liz Phair record. They’re old-school gangsters and wanted something kind of trite and shrill with the sex quotient over the top. They couldn’t see me for who I was.”Sexton, however, recognized a gem even through the distorting lens of television. Tuning into the music-guest segment on Jay Leno’s “The Tonight Show” a few years ago, Sexton was impressed before he ever met McNally.
“I went, ‘God,'” he said. “The song was great, the band was great, and everything she emitted just blew me away.”