Jimmy Buffett says he felt a greater level of engagement on his new album, "Buffet Hotel," than he has on many of his other recent efforts.
"With a band this good and with people this good around you, you kind of get in a routine," Buffett tells Billboard.com, acknowledging that previous "listening and fixing" was done primarily by Coral Reefer Band collaborators Mike Utley and Mac McAnally. But on "Buffet Hotel," Buffett says that "we got back to doing things like we did in the old days. Instead of doing it in the afternoon, I said, 'Let's go back like we did in the old days and do those red wine and reefer vocals...at midnight.' I'd get a little buzz on red wine and get my singing chops, get in that mood, and then I'd send 'em over the Internet to Utley and Mac and say, 'Alright, I know they were midnight. You got red wine vocals there. You can throw 'em away or tell me what you think,' and they'd go, 'Do more of those!' "
Buffett adds that ProTools also allowed him to keep the project going even while he was touring. "Mac and I could sit and discuss things in the hotel rooms and look in stuff that he was working on, and the I could work on 'em," he says. "I was totally involved at that level, just wanting to tweak little things...up to the end, but without beating it to death."
"Buffet Hotel" started life with the recording of the title track in Mali when Buffett attended the Festival in the Desert (and discovered the album's namesake, Hotel De La Gare Buffet, in the Bomako Train station). He also worked on the album's 12 songs in London, Nashville, Chicago, Long Island and Muscle Shoals, Ala., with songwriting contributions by Will Kimbrough, Roger Guth, Jesse Winchester and others, as well as a cover of Bruce Cockburn's "Life's Short." Buffett and company previewed several of the songs during his 2009 concerts, notably "Summerzcool" and "Surfing in a Hurricane," the first surf rock song he's ever written.
"Mac told me on the last night of the tour we'd done seven of the new songs off the album over the summer, and I'd never done that before," Buffett recalls. "Usually you're lucky to get one or two songs from a new album into the show, so it was a complete reversal."
Buffett is planning a full-scale "Buffet Hotel" tour for 2010 and intends to start the year in Australia and the Pacific Rim. He's toying with the idea of playing entire albums next year and hopes to play 1983's "One Particular Harbor" in Tahiti. He's also putting into motion into a special performance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival with "Buffet Hotel" guests Sonny Landreth and Toumani Diabate. And while he says that he's "out of the movie business" at the moment, Buffett is working on a documentary about his trip to Mali with director Margaret Brown.
Buffett also has two books in the works, a collection of short stories set in the Pacific and "a rock 'n' roll novel" called "Mudbath" that is "based on a real-life adventure, but hopefully you won't recognize any of the characters."