Transatlantic songwriting team Barry Anderson and Mark Petty, based in New York and London respectively, have grown accustomed to writing together from afar with the help of technology. However, when they set out to record their long-anticipated debut album, “You Are Home – The Songs of Anderson & Petty,” they were in for a whole new adventure. The pair spoke with Stage Door Dish about the album’s December release, their upcoming London concert, and what inspires their heartfelt songs.
SDD: How did you determine which performers would lend their vocals to the album?
Barry Anderson: One of the aspects of the project I’m most proud of is having approached the right people to sing this material. The talent that is on this album is incredible. In many cases, we were able to record the singers for whom songs were originally written. And it was a very cool thing to be able to let them put their own definitive stamp on a piece that they had a connection to and a history with.
Mark Petty: Indeed, matching the right artist to the song was of utmost importance. The tone and feel of each piece merged with the artist who would be singing it as we were writing the piece. “Suddenly” and “A New Star Tonight” were both written based on stories that the artists had given us and it was such an honor to be able to present their story through song.
SDD: What is the story behind the title track, “You Are Home”?
Barry Anderson: We wanted to do some full-out storytelling when we wrote the song. And there’s a whole life’s journey that happens within it. It centers around this mantra, “You are home”, which, in our story, gets passed on from a mother to her daughter. I’ve always loved the song and the title. And when we were naming the album, “You Are Home” kept resurfacing. The phrase has come to mean and encompass so much more. It applies to so many of the journeys and relationships that the songs on the album deal with. But I think it has also come to reflect our journey and growth as a writing team.
Mark Petty: It was also the first song that we completed and the piece has so much heart that it was a given that the album would be called “You Are Home.” The album is “our home.” It’s where we live, so to speak.
SDD: Is there a song on the album that was your favorite to write?
Barry Anderson: Each of the tunes holds its own unique sense-memory place for me, oddly enough. I think I can distinctly remember what city I was in when each of these songs got written. The process of crafting “Forever Child” was my favorite, on both a technical and an emotional level. There was a ton of material there to dig into theatrically, and Gina Beck has captured each vocal and emotional nuance. She is stunning on this recording.
Mark Petty: “Forever Child” was such a moving experience for me, and being able to write the song was a way of always remembering the love that I have for this little boy who never even managed to take one breath but whose spirit brought so much love to us all. People who have been in the situation of losing a child have spoken to me of how the song has helped them to come to terms with their own loss.
SDD: Were there any albums that inspired you in the process of creating your own?
Barry Anderson: I have loved John Bucchino’s album “Grateful” for years. What a talented cross-section of performers. I’d always loved the idea of getting to do something like it – a compilation album in which each song gets its own unique voice.
Mark Petty: Not really any specific album. The album does encapsulate all of the different genres of music that I have grown up with. Thanks to my father and his love of country music, I grew up listening to these wonderful story songs from an early age. As a teen I fell in love with bands like Starship and Heart but also James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon, so there are influences from all of these on the album.
SDD: Were there any unexpected challenges when it came to getting the songs recorded?
Barry Anderson: Location, location, location!! Since I’ve been on the road with Jersey Boys (playing Bob Crewe) throughout this entire recording process, the album was recorded at 6 different studios in 5 different cities. So, that was a bit of a logistical challenge at times. But, we had the most amazing producer for the project, Dennis Michael Keefe, whose work is incredible. He is a tireless editor, and I trust his ear. His mixing and mastering of the project created something that is cohesive and whole and has an artistic through-line.
Mark Petty: Yes, location indeed, but it was also a blessing as we were able to have both Broadway and West End performers lend their amazing talents to the album. The recording sessions were set in stone so everything had to be perfect.
SDD: What was your favorite part of the process?
Barry Anderson: Getting into the studio and actually bringing the song to life, trying things a few different ways, and working with the musicians first-hand to create is so fun to me. I had a moment when we were in the studio working on “We Stand Together” with Frances Ruffelle when I just sort of thought to myself, “THIS is what it’s all about.” I really am grateful and humbled by those moments of collaboration and artistry. There is a moment I’ll remember and cherish from every single session we did for this album, I think.
Mark Petty: So many of the songs were written as standalone pieces and we were never sure where they were going to fit so once we finally decided that we were going to put all of these into a songbook album, everything else just fit into place. It was like we were stepping onto a roller coaster ride which has been thrilling from beginning to end. Hopefully the listeners will hear a true representation of who we are as writers and it will make them look forward to the upcoming song-cycle and musical that we are working on.
SDD: Did anything surprise you about the experience or about the finished album?
Barry Anderson: I have been most surprised by talking to so many people who have now listened to the entire album, and the fact that they all seem to pick different songs as their favorites. It’s sort of been this happy relief for me to know that people are connecting to ALL the material for a variety of reasons.
Mark Petty: I have been so thrilled with the complete unconditional love that people have given us who have worked on the album. Everyone that we approached from the performers to the engineers and designers have all immediately come on board no questions asked. It has been a truly beautiful experience. It’s like we have given birth to our first child. We couldn’t be prouder.
SDD: Tell us a bit about your upcoming release concert this March, and how will we be able to get tickets?
Barry Anderson: It’s going to be a musical love-fest featuring the West End’s most spectacular talent in the classiest new venue in London! How’s that!? Seriously, we’re looking forward to this being our biggest concert yet, full of songs from the album, new material and even a few surprises.
Mark Petty: We are so thrilled to be having it at the St. James’ Studio. It’s a beautiful venue. I first went there a year or so ago to see two friends of mine, Megan McGinnis and Rob Hancock, in a wonderful show which is now one of my favorites, called “Daddy Long Legs.” I happened to wander downstairs into the studio space and knew immediately that we had to have a concert in there one day. As Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Tickets will be on sale through the St. James’ Theatre website and the concert is on Sunday, March 16th at 7pm.