Than you see performers on television in HD, like on Leno and shows like that, and you can hear hair and makeup artists groan all across the country: "We don't have to see them that close up." [chuckles]
Another nice thing about HD is, of course, surround sound. What was your goal with the 5.1 mix for Songbook? It was a little bit challenging because there are three distinct setups for the two shows here - a band, an orchestra, and then there's me, acoustic. But I let the songs and their moods dictate the mix. In the band setting, I wanted to make sure you'd feel the pulse and the emotion from them without that getting in the way of the vocals, which needed to stand out to get across the feelings of the songs. Recording with an orchestra is always different, but hopefully you're in a great hall - which we were [the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet, Illinois] - and you get a natural blend when you place the instruments around the microphones. It's an old-school way of doing it, but really effective.
In general, I tried not to sweat anything except to make sure we evoked the right mood. I don't think that becoming too tweaky is all that helpful if it sacrifices ambience and emotion. Technology should serve emotion; it should heighten the emotion. That's the master goal.
A lot of really talented producers, when they have less technology at their fingertips, are able to get amazing, emotive performances. Once they become obsessed with technology, they wind up sacrificing emotion and mood, and the recordings get very cold and very precise. You have to remember that there is a certain magic involved with music, and you can't sacrifice that for the experience the listener is going to have. I think of Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay," with that little crazy bongo drum sound that [drummer Kenny Buttrey] did there. You have to remember that there is that magic, and you can't sacrifice that for the experience that the listener has.
I try to give a timeless feel to all of my records - with the exception of one where I intentionally went the other way . But sometimes it takes retro sounds to invoke the proper mood and spirit; it's really fascinating. I want my records to still sound good in 15 years, instead of being dated like, you know, those '80s "pouffy" bangs [both laugh].
It's good that you feel you can experiment with range like you did at these two shows, because some people will always try to put you into a certain kind of style "box." It's funny how people like to do that, but luckily, during shows, I don't have to be in any one box. I do like range. I like doing loud songs, I like solo songs, and I like singing with orchestras. My fans have always allowed me to do arias and yodel within the same show! I'm proud of that. I've always felt I'm better live than I ever come across on a record anyway. I'm more inspired onstage, and I get the most out of what I do when I'm really in sync with the audience.
By the time you get to sing "Somewhere over the Rainbow" in front of the orchestra, you've been onstage for well over 2 hours with a full band, and yet your voice is intact. I'm really fortunate to have a real strong workhorse of a voice. I think it's because I sang so much as a child. I really developed those muscles by doing 5-hour sets in barrooms. I've never been really precious about my voice. And I get personal satisfaction doing a 2-hour show with a rock band and then coming out to do an aria ["Per La Gloria D'Adoravi"], a cappella, really clean, and with vibrato before "Rainbow." I find that to be really challenging - and really fun.
What's nice about this DVD and Blu-ray release is that there are a number of songs that have never been on an album of mine. I have probably 500 songs in my catalog and do a lot of stuff that's never been recorded live, and this is the first time that some fans will have a real recording of them. Before, they'd just bootleg the shows or whatever to get those songs.