Q&A: Halley Phillips and Rodney Hall Discuss Their Musical Collaboration on "Who Will The Next Fool Be"
Sam Phillips Recording Service and FAME Studios are two of the most iconic recording studios in the history of music. Made famous by the late Sam Phillips and Rick Hall, the two men helped shape the sound of Rock and Roll, Rockabilly, Blues, Soul and Country throughout the 1950s and 60s, leaving a legacy that still thrives today. For the first time, the two studios have come together to collaborate on a project that will be included on a tribute album honoring Charlie Rich later this year.
Originally performed by Charlie Rich, this new version of "Who Will The Next Fool Be" was produced by Sam’s granddaughter, Halley Phillips, and Rodney Hall, Rick Hall’s son, at Sam Phillips Recording Services in Memphis and mixed at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals. In advance of its release, Hall and Phillips graciously took the time to answer some questions via email about their collaboration on the song and more.
How did the two of you, Halley and Rodney, connect and come to collaborate on the project?
We’ve been friends for years. I would say the Phillips are definitely family friends! I’ve known Halley, her Dad Jerry, and the whole family for years. Sam gave my Dad much advice in the early years. He was definitely a mentor of my Dad’s. I was fortunate enough to get to spend some time with Sam as well. There has always been a lot of respect between the two families. ~ Rodney
I completely agree with Rodney- Our families have been close for a very long time. Really the idea to collaborate happened when I was sharing with Holli how I had always wanted to record “Who Will The Next Fool Be” on a female. We were really just hanging out that night as we have become really good friends over the years. About a week passed and she called me and said “I have been thinking about that Charlie Rich song you told me about and I really love it. Would you want to record it on me?”. It all came together from there. Holli has been working with Rodney/FAME for years… I have been lately working very hard trying to build the bridge back between Muscle Shoals and Memphis again —there is just something different about these two cities… So this was the perfect opportunity for us to work together- and it happened very naturally! ~Halley
The song will be included on a tribute album to Charlie Rich, which I imagine is something of an honor to be a part of knowing the history.
Absolutely, we couldn’t be more honored to be part of a Charlie Rich project. Anyone with any knowledge of music would be thrilled to be a part.~Rodney
I don’t know that I can put into words how special this project was. It was a total passion project for me as I have wanted to record that song that way since I was a little girl. Charlie Rich is one of my all time favorite artists-one that I still don’t believe has received the credit he deserves- So I was tickled to know that they were doing a tribute to The Silver Fox. :) I want to extend a big thank you to Johnny and Jeff Phillips at Memphis International Records/Select-O-Hits as well for including our song on the project. We actually were going in to record this as a single project and once I realized that there was a tribute album I pitched the idea to them to include it on the project and it all worked out wonderful! On this particular track, we had so many different people from different areas involved and actually ran into some complications getting everyone there at the same time for the recording— which is the only way I was going to do it. We tracked the song live— everyone on the floor— to tape. AFTER we recorded the song we realized that all the recording date changes/complications we faced we really just meant to be. We were driving back to Muscle Shoals from Memphis, listening to Charlie Rich, and Holli asked me “When did Charlie Rich pass way?” I responded “ You know I can’t recall the exact date but I believe it was in the early 90’s… Look it up”.. she says “ Ok here it is.. Charlie passed away on July 25, 1995” and with chills on our arms we both looked at each other and realized that we ended up recording a Charlie Rich song, for a Charlie Rich Tribute album with his son Charlie Rich Jr. on the session on the Anniversary of his death and didn’t even know it! Then we realized that the mixing of the session that weekend fell on the anniversary of my grandfather's death. We were pretty damn emotional the entire way home. Completely unplanned and had we not faced the complications we did- that would not have happened! ~Halley
How did you come to choose that specific song, “Who Will The Next Fool Be,” for the project?
Halley came up with the idea. ~Rodney
Again it was just something I had always wanted to do since I was a little girl. It truly just came from a passionate music conversation one night. ~Halley
Were you both involved in choosing the players as well as the vocalist, Holli Mosley?
Yes.. it’s a combination of Memphis and Muscle Shoals players. We had Jimbo Hart and Chad Gamble from Jason Isbell’s 400 Unit as drums and bass. I’ve been working with Holli for several years. Halley has been one of our biggest fans. It just all seemed to fit together at the right time.~Rodney
Yes. I really wanted to have all male BGVS with a female lead on this song so I worked really hard to get the group “Levon” on the track. These guys are insanely talented and have become really good buddies. Of course, my first approach on keys was Charlie Rich Jr. because how could it not be? He was a total gem to work with and what an honor for me. Then on guitar, we had Memphis’ own Dave Cousar. We truly had an all-star team of people on the project....players/producers/engineers everyone. ~Halley
What drew you to choosing a female lead and how did her vocals impact the track? Halley?
I know I am repeating myself here but I truly have just envisioned this song this way since I was very young. Holli is a Country Soulstress - which is exactly what this song needs. The lyrics “Will she believe all those lies? End up like me with tears in her eyes.. I know I Know I Know.. And I’d like to be the one to tell her so cause after all that’s said and done- you won’t be satisfied with anyone.. After you get rid of me…who will the next fool be” just begs for the vocal of a pissed off woman that makes you want to cry but also set something on fire..and Holli had the ability to deliver that vocally. ~Halley
Did you do anything else differently with the song, sonically or production-wise?
I think we tried to stay true to the original, but also wanted to cut it like Etta James would do it from the female perspective. ~ Rodney
We for sure wanted to hold on to the integrity of the original and tip our hat to Charlie. But we did change the Key, changed up the background parts a little, added a guitar solo. Actually, after we rehearsed vocal parts I wouldn’t let Holli hear the original again until after the session because I wanted her to really “feel” the song from her perspective as a female artist. I really wanted to record everything live- and we did. I feel like that is so lost in modern music. All the players on the floor looking at each other- really feeling it. That’s where you capture magic. All three BGVS were around one microphone on the floor looking directly at Holli who was also on the floor…with no walls. Not only was it a lot of fun but it was real- I hope young people that hear it//see the video from the recording are inspired to try things this way. ~Halley
It seems like a truly collaborative effort between two iconic studios being that it was produced at Sam Phillips and mixed at FAME. Are there any future plans to collaborate again?
I hope so! We love the Philips family and Memphis. We in Muscle Shoals definitely have a kindred spirit in Memphis musically. ~Rodney
I sure hope so! The Halls/Phillips’ are family. No reason not to! But not just our families and our studios. There are so many great places in both cities to record! Memphis and Muscle Shoals have something that other cities do not have. It’s hard to put your finger on it exactly but you can feel it. It’s in the people..It’s in the water… That real raw gritty non-sterile atmosphere! I cannot encourage artists that want that creative escape enough to come and see what it’s all about. But we don’t fake around here now… You gotta put your big britches on and bring it! ~Halley
Your grandfathers shaped the world of music, how do you both, at your respective studios, continue to do that today?
Af FAME we stay true to the music. It’s all about authenticity. Real songs, real singers, real musicians with real instruments. ~Rodney
We keep it REAL! We are still an analog studio and we believe in having a place that is truly an escape for an artist. Walking into the studio is like walking into 1959… It’s funky- it’s vibes, the rooms sound incredible, we have an incredible team of people who are “FEEL” people. My grandfather built every bit of it..In his vision, he imagined it -- from the pyramids on the front of the building to the angles of the studio walls. It was the summation of all that he had learned about music and creating sound— We intend to keep it that way! Jeff Powell (Take Out Vinyl) is also cutting vinyl inside our studio! So when people get ready to do a vinyl project he is the man to send it to! (And people really need to be educated on the correct way to record/mix for vinyl projects.. ) ~Halley
Finally, being that you are involved with different artists and projects, is there anyone that we should keep our ears open for?
Of course Holli Mosley! Got a great new R&B artist out of FAME named Billy D. Allen. He’s also phenomenal. Other projects we have coming out that we’re excited to be part of at FAME is the new Gregg Allman Band album as well as the new Third Day project that is amazing! ~Rodney
There is an EP available now on a guy named Jacob Stiefel called “The Memphis Sessions” that I produced. JACOB CLAIMS WITHOUT A DOUBT “THE MEMPHIS SESSIONS” IS HIS FAVORITE THING HE’S DONE TO DATE. “BEST WEEK OF MY LIFE, HANDS-DOWN. THE PEOPLE, THE MUSIC, THE STUDIO, THE ATMOSPHERE… I NEVER WANTED TO LEAVE… “ SAYS STIEFEL. “BUT THAT’S WHAT YOU DO. MAKE HONEST, FROM-THE-HEART MUSIC, POUR YOUR SOUL INTO IT, THEN TAKE IT OUT TO THE PEOPLE AND SHARE THE LOVE…”
Other artists to keep an ear out for who have recently recorded at Sam Phillips Recording (I did not produce these but my engineers worked on/produced these and we are family so I’m sharing) Emily Barker, Sean Rowe, Patrick Sweany.. (Produced/Engineered by Matt Ross-Spang) Susan Marshall (Produced/Engineered by Jeff Powell & Matt Ross-Spang) St. Paul and The Broken Bones recorded part of their latest project at Sam Phillips Recording. They added strings at our studio. One of our house engineers Jeff Powell engineered the entire record. Tamara Saviano has produced a tribute to Sun Records at Sam Phillips Recording/Sun featuring Bobby Rush, Valerie June, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Shawn Camp, Jimbo Mathus, Bryan Hayes and some surprises. The project benefits St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Release date TBD. ~Halley
For more information on FAME Studios visit here.
For more information on Sam Phillips Recording Service visit here.
Photos Courtesy of PLA Media