Silk Sonic’s Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak knew how to make their music sound like they wanted, and it paid off. They’re nominated for four awards at the upcoming 64th Annual Grammy Awards, all for their album, An Evening With Silk Sonic‘s biggest hit, “Leave the Door Open.”
However, none of those nominations would have come if not for a certain vintage car.
Silk Sonic started as a joke that Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak created on the road
According to Rolling Stone, Silk Sonic began about five years ago as a joke Mars and .Paak hatched on the road.
Mars and .Paak met while touring in Europe. “I was opening for the 24K Magic tour,” .Paak recalled, “and a week in, we were in the studio.” “Real quick!” Mars said.
“They went in with no specific reason beyond their admiration and fondness for each other,” Rolling Stone wrote. “One of their main MO’s when it came to collaborating was to take cherished backstage in-jokes — as they call it, ‘jibb talk’ — and see if they could turn those jokes into songs.
“Jibb talk, .Paak explains, is ‘bulls*** with a smile — we just talk all day and do bits. But it’s all from the heart, because we’re writing from our experiences, from our relationships — it’s rare that two men can come together and talk about love.'”
After the tour ended, their sessions went forgotten — until right before the pandemic hit the U.S. and Mars listened back to them. Mars called .Paak to come over, and they started working together again. “We had so much fun in that session,” Mars said. “It turned into, ‘What are you doing tomorrow?'”
“I’m not sure we would have done it if it wasn’t for the pandemic,” .Paak says. “It was tragic for so many people, but Bruno would have probably been on the road, me too — but we had to be here.”
A ‘decade-plus-old’ Cadillac CTS helped reveal something about Silk Sonic’s ‘An Evening With Silk Sonic’
Initially, Silk Sonic established what .Paak calls their “foundation — the Sixties, Seventies, the old school.” Listening to a single note of An Evening With Silk Sonic, it’s evident that the sounds of the 1970s deeply inspired the artists.
Mars said, “I don’t know what year it is. I’m not looking at the charts. So we’d just come here every night, have a drink, and we play what we love.”
However, a vintage car helped them realize what they were missing on the album. Rolling Stone wrote, “There’s a decade-plus-old Cadillac CTS parked in an alley next to the studio.
“‘I got it washed four days ago,’ Mars says proudly. In a way, it’s become one of his closest musical confidants — he’s mixed every album he’s put out since 2010’s Doo-Wops & Hooligans by listening to it inside the Caddy, getting a sense for it in the sort of real-world scenario he deems optimal: A pimped-out American luxury sedan so old it has a CD player.”
“For Silk Sonic, one of the things the Caddy helped reveal, .Paak says, was ‘Oh, we’re playing too hard.'”
Then, both musicians embarked on a journey of making Silk Sonic’s An Evening With Silk Sonic sound as if it came straight out of the 1970s.
Mars and .Paak ‘did research’ to make their music as authentically 1970s sounding as possible
After listening to the album in the Cadillac, Mars and .Paak knew what they had to do.
Rolling Stone continued, “In order to re-create the Sixties and Seventies soul and funk atmosphere they were aiming for, Mars explains, they and Mars’ longtime engineer, Charles Moniz, ‘did the research’ to ‘get the right things, down to the skins on Andy’s drums. I’ve never realized till this album how much the right guitar pick matters. The right gauged strings. All this science kinda stuff.'”
After consulting old session guys about which gear they needed and reading old drumming magazines, Mars and .Paak “focused on emulating old-school playing styles and then recording them in a period-accurate way — just one or two mics on a bunch of musicians playing at once in the same room.”
.Paak said, “Those players back then were playing with such patience. The music we grew up with is heavy drums, bass smacking, so we got all the instruments but were still like, ‘Why doesn’t it sound right?’ Because we were f***ing bashing!”
So, on Silk Sonic’s An Evening With Silk Sonic, Mars and .Paak did what actors do for Oscar-nominated roles. They did the research for the album, going one step beyond. We’ll see whether their efforts helped them win at the Grammy Awards on April 3.