A.J. Croce’s ties to New Orleans run deep. Having opened 60 touring dates for the Neville Brothers and completed an early and unfortunately scrapped album with Johnny Vidacovich and James Singleton in the 1990s, Croce’s musical soul has found kindred spirits in many of the city’s musicians.
The singer songwriter and only son of the legendary Jim Croce, who tragically died in a plane crash when A.J. was only two years old, will return to New Orleans for a pair of shows at the Maple Leaf and the Old U.S. Mint on July 8 and 9, respectively.
Croce’s current tour is in support of his most recent album “Twelve Tales,” and retraces the route he took in recording the album, which included a stop in New Orleans to work with the legendary Allen Toussaint.
“He [Toussaint] produced ‘Tarnished and Shining,’ which is my favorite song on the album, and he produced ‘Rollin’ On,’ which is a song I wrote with Leon Russell,” Croce said. “It was kind of intimidating because I’m playing piano with Allen Toussaint there, and it’s something that I wrote with Leon, so I was under the gun to play right.”
Croce worked with five other notable producers on the album, including “Cowboy” Jack Clement shortly before he passed away in August 2013, Kevin Killen, Mitchell Froom, Tony Berg, and Greg Cohen, orchestrating a road trip that took him from Nashville to Los Angeles, through New Orleans, and up to New York.
“It was all about working with six legendary producers,” Croce said. “Part of what makes them legendary in some cases are the players that they choose to use, or the studios that they like to work in, or the cities that they work out of, which is the case with Allen Toussaint and ‘Cowboy’ Jack Clement. This was his last production, so it was a real thrill to be able to work with him.”
Despite being nervous while in the studio with Toussaint, Croce said the session was extremely productive and enjoyable, allowing him to continue his schedule of releasing one new song from the album every month during 2013.
“We had limited time to be together, only a couple of days,” he said. “There were occasions where we would go in on a Thursday and Friday, mix on a Saturday, master on Monday, and then the song would be on iTunes on Tuesday.”
That rapid-fire schedule didn’t lend itself to much tinkering in the studio, which worked out well with Croce’s other main goal with the album, which was to record live in order to capture as much raw emotion as possible.
“I know I’m different from a lot of people, but I love the raw recording,” Croce said. “I like the sound of a recording on my iPhone. I really do. I think it’s just honest. As long as you can hear the instrument and the vocals, I really like it. I’m a fan of old music, so it’s kind of the same in that regard. No hi-fidelity there.”
Much to Croce’s delight, each of the six producers enthusiastically took to the idea of recording live, making the recording process roll along smoothly and making the current tour even more enjoyable.
Earlier this year, with the Old U.S. Mint show on the books, Croce decided one night in New Orleans wasn’t enough, so he doubled down with the Maple Leaf show.
“I’m not sure which nights, but I’ll definitely have some local guests,” he said. “I look forward to seeing Allen Toussaint while I’m down there.”