Some collaborations seem natural, while others are less conventional, which oftentimes end up being the most exceptional of all. The recent team-up between indie rockers Mrs. Henry and traditional American singer-songwriter Jack Tempchin is certainly less conventional and certainly exceptional, as heard on their recently released single “Waiting.” Tempchin is a celebrated artist for his contributions to various legendary artists’ careers, most notably The Eagles, for whom he and late Eagles frontman Glenn Frey wrote several of the band’s biggest hits, including “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” “Already Gone,” and “It’s Your World Now.” He’s also written songs for George Jones, Glenn Campbell, Emmylou Harris, and so many more.
Mrs. Henry initially met Tempchin when he joined them to jam during their Last Waltz concert, a show in tribute to the final performance of legendary classic rockers The Band, which took place in 1976. When they all got together to rehearse for this Last Waltz show, the chemistry was evident from early on, and it got everyone excited at the possibilities of what could happen if the two sides collaborated. Out of these sessions came “Waiting,” with more collaborative efforts between Tempchin and Mrs. Henry planned to be released soon.
In a very special guest blog today, Mrs. Henry’s Dan Cervantes has joined us to discuss his band’s partnership with Tempchin, what it was like initially starting to work with him, what the actual collaboration was like, and what the quartet learned from working with such a celebrated singer-songwriter.
Jamming with a Legend; My Experience with Jack Tempchin
“The first time we worked with Jack Tempchin was in preparation for the Last Waltz concert we did in 2021. We were introduced to Jack by the talent buyer at the Belly Up in Solana Beach. We had hit Jack up about playing together in 2017, but he wasn’t available then. Luckily, he was last year. He came down to our space, and we worked on the songs together. He was playing the Neil Young role for the Last Waltz, and we had just finished rehearsing when he started playing one of his own songs. We started playing it together, and it just felt very natural. It was a lot of fun and was the first seed that was planted.
After that, we started working pretty consistently together. We were playing about once or twice a week and were just working on the songs and getting the set together. We did one secret show at Beaumont’s in La Jolla, California, which is our local spot. You can slip in and rehearse a set; we’d go there to play a show in front of people and work out the kinks of our set.
Working with Jack is such a trip. He’s the heart, soul, and epitome of a singer-songwriter. He writes songs he brings to many artists, but he brings a brand to our work together, and we help make his work our own. Jack is just one of the guys. It’s a band, the way we look at it. We’re just one big band having fun.
He’s been around the block a lot more times than we have, obviously. He’s put in the time as a songwriter. He wrote great songs right out of the gate and has a track record that speaks to his ability and talent as a songwriter. It’s been a pleasure to get inside his mind and work with him, and really understand what he’s doing, how he’s doing it, and why he’s doing it with us.
We all feel like that now we’re playing with Jack, that some people who might not have known him understand his brilliance and talent. He’s more than a musician’s musician or a songwriter’s songwriter. There are a lot of big names that know his work or have worked with him. He’s one of the greatest songwriters of all time, and he’s also Jack to us. He’s Jack coming in to play, and he’s Jack when we’re hanging out. He’s cracking jokes; he’s one of the band. We have this mutual respect; a player’s performance that we all share.
Working on these recordings felt very much the same as rehearsing for the live show. We had talked about maybe going into the studio, but based on our experience we’ve had, we felt like the live approach felt very natural; we wanted to do everything live. We were already very comfortable playing together on stage.
We took time to get our rehearsal space and gear together. Our equipment and microphones are good enough for government work, so we figured why take all this stuff in the studio when we’d be trying to recreate the live sound that we’re already doing? We had everything we already needed, going to the studio didn’t make much sense.
There’s a lot of strength in not going in and overdubbing a million things or fixing and making it perfect. There’s a lot of time saved and a lot of effort. The whole concept was us trying to create a record of what we’re doing, a reflection of reality in our space. To share and make millions of people happy.
Recording ‘Waiting’ was pretty straightforward. Jack started playing the song in the space; it’s a previous song he put out several years ago on a solo album of his. As he played, we jumped in and started playing overtop, while working out the arrangement. We then ran the song back, and made little tweaks as needed the next day. But for the most part, that’s it! Overall, working with Jack on these songs felt like a natural extension of the Mrs. Henry process.
It’s pretty true to the original recording. We’re doing our thing and just playing as a five-piece band with Jack on it. I don’t really think it changed all that much; I think more just we gave it our sound. I haven’t gone back and listened to the original one, but when we heard it, we said, ‘Rock n’ roll, let’s do that.’
For the other songs we’ve done with Jack, it’s been a little different. For ‘Waiting,’ it was a pretty simple format. With ‘Rambling Freeborn Man,’ there wasn’t anything that was already there to work with. We had to make the structure in the arrangement. I look at ‘Rambling Freeborn Man,’ and that’s a song that he wrote in the course of meeting us. There wasn’t a recording of it; it was more just him saying, ‘Here’s a song.’ We told him, ‘Let’s try this feel.’
There wasn’t very much experimentation because it felt natural. We had to sit there and work on our harmonies, on the background parts, and on the arrangement. We only played it three times, and the third take was the one we used. It all worked, and we hadn’t even finalized everything. But we gave each other the nod for when I should do the instrumental hook, and then we just knocked it out.
These songs are great songs at the core. Jack’s a classic songwriter, and what I mean by classic is you can pick up a guitar and sing a song, and the song is all there. All we’re doing is adding something that you can tap your foot to a little more. A little bird that sings another song that you can sing to. It’s all there; we just pick up our instruments and go. It’s different than coming in and saying, ‘I’ve got a riff, now I want a song.’
Jack has shown us to not take things so seriously. To enjoy the ride and be thankful for what you’ve got, and to try to see when you got it. Jack’s been pretty big on moving forward with opportunities when you see them, and we’ve followed suit. Enjoy what comes to us and follow each opportunity. We don’t know where we’ll be a year from now, so we might as well enjoy what we have now.”