Last month I opened a package containing two cd’s mailed to me by Red Beet Records. One was called “Mission Door” by a handsome young man named Peter Cooper. I’d never heard of him, so I put the disc aside and looked at the other one. I believe I actually heard myself gasp at that point because the artist on the second cd was billed simply as Fayssoux. In my whole life I’ve only known of one performer with that name, but I hadn’t heard of her for thirty years and wondered if it could be the same one. It was, so I began the maddening and laborious process of trying to get the cd out of its packaging. Twenty minutes later (a personal best time), I finished the task and was hearing that wonderful voice again.
She was once Fayssoux Starling, the wife of John Starling, the original guitarist and vocalist for the innovative bluegrass band, the Seldom Scene. Under that name, she sang backing vocals on at least twenty of Emmylou Harris’s first songs back in the 1970’s. It was a starter marriage and when it dissolved, Fayssoux disappeared from the professional music world. Now all these years later, here’s this cd and her name is now Fayssoux McLean. It says on the production notes that the cd was produced by this Peter Cooper fellow, the guy on the other cd, and BONUS----there are backing vocals by Emmylou! The two have switched roles. This calls for an interview. An online search revealed Fayssoux and Peter were coming to town in just a few days, so I booked them both and started doing the research, which yielded still more fabulous details.
Fayssoux (pronounced fuh-SOO, as if you’re sneezing) was teaching speech therapy in the public school system in Spartanburg, South Carolina when Peter Cooper (him again!) arrived in town to research a book about the many fine musicians that have called that town home at one time or another. It turns out that Peter is a journalist. (Hey, I’m beginning to like this guy.) In fact, he is the chief music writer for the Nashville Tennesean, while also working as a music producer and session player. His book, Hub City Music Makers includes a chapter about Fayssoux and Peter had her sing with him at the party announcing the book’s publication. That performance got Fayssoux interested in resuming a professional singing career. Peter encouraged her to record a cd and decided to make one of his own. It’s the debut solo recording for both of them.
Peter gets credit for Fayssoux’s re-discovery, but I probably wouldn’t have listened to his cd if he hadn’t had all those connections to her. So credit Fayssoux for helping Peter.
My interviews with Peter Cooper and Fayssoux McLean are featured on the next Bob Edwards Weekend, making them eligible for free podcasts immediately afterward. In the meantime, go here and listen to Fayssoux sing a beautiful song that she wrote. It’s called “Early” and it’s the title cut from her cd, with delicious backing vocals by Emmylou—a pair of angels, those two. As for Peter, go here and listen to him cover Eric Taylor’s “All the Way to Heaven,” which has an irresistible chorus you’ll be singing all weekend. Both Fayssoux’s cd and Peter’s feature superb steel guitar work by Lloyd Green.
Even when you have great music and fascinating conversation, someone needs to turn those elements into compelling radio. Our senior producer for Bob Edwards Weekend is Chad Campbell and he is the master of the music interview. When Chad produced these interviews for our weekday show, I told the staff that this is the show they should cite if they someday mentor a future generation on how to produce a music interview. Enjoy.
Aw shucks, thanks for the compliment Bob. I have one small but important addendum. If you want to find and purchase these CDs, the best way to go might be the Red Beet Records website. But if you do search Amazon for Fayssoux's CD, be warned that it does NOT show up if you search "Fayssoux McLean" - you should search by her first name only.