Sonny Landreth reminisces about recording his fourth studio album, South of I-10, which featured Mark Knopfler.
“The fact that it has been 20 years has been a real slap of reality. I kind of always marked times of my life around whenever I made albums. That’s a point of reference for me. South of I-10 has a real sense of place that was brought to bear by every aspect of making it. Like the songs, production and especially the location, which was at Dockside Studios, on the Vermilion River in Maurice.
Since everyone who was involved in the project stayed on the property, it also had a cool tribal vibe that gave a real strength-in-numbers feel to the tracks. That had never really happened before. We would all work hard, take a break and go outside and get inspired by the beauty of South Louisiana and bring that back into the songs about South Louisiana. It was a beautiful exchange and definitely one of the greatest experiences I ever had.
It [Dockside] is on 11 acres. The property is beautiful. The studio was originally a barn which they revamped to a world-class studio. It had really nice rooms upstairs and a double-wide trailer right by the pool, which is right by the river. And there is a pond stocked with fish, a gazebo and a walkway to it. So, Kenneth Blevins—our drummer—he’s really into fishing. He’d spend a lot of time down there between tracks. When Mark Knopfler [of Dire Straits] came to town … I had my hand-me-down Oldsmobile from my parents, this huge Oldsmobile 98. Mark and his wife Kitty got on the back seat and they loved that. I drove them to Breaux Bridge … going down the Breaux Bridge Highway, listening to all this cool zydeco music on the radio, the windows are down. It was really magical. I took them to Mulate’s, ate and danced. So, it was a great time and all of that really influenced the songs. The spirit of that was really captured and set the bar of excellence for anything I’ve done since.
I was in the double-wide at one point, working late at night and suddenly the whole room lit up and everything was moving and shaking. It was like an earthquake out in Los Angeles that I have been through before. Apparently, this opossum holed up in the back of the console and I hadn’t realized it. I heard all this scratching, and it came flying out of there and ran down the hall and jumped in the—they had a place for a washer and dryer that wasn’t in there. But, they had the PVC pipe for it, for the outflow. I had no idea anything that big could fit through that, but he dove through the pipe. I had this speaker box from this company that I really didn’t care for. I didn’t know what to do with it, so I put that on top of the drain pipe. Steve Nails, the owner, he got a lot of mileage out of that. He started calling it ‘Opossum Holler.’
When I overdub, I play with my eyes closed, and next thing I know everything is moving, shaking and there is just this white light all over everything. It was bizarre and the only thought I had was being abducted by a UFO and then realizing that my last moment would be with my guitar and this opossum. We are going to disappear into the sky. It was a tug boat that had pulled up alongside the trailer. They had this really pretty red glass lamp in the window, so I don’t know if these guys got the idea that there was something else going on in there and shot the flood light through there to check out [what] was going on.
But it was just me and my guitar working on the album.”