As a short background to this exclusive interview, I've always loved the song "Quittin' Time" released in 1989 by Mary Chapin Carpenter. I recently looked up the writers because I was curious. Ah, the benefits of Google!
In any case, I found and contacted one of the writers, Roger Linn, through his website and asked if I might interview him. What followed was not only the story behind a great song, but an extremely intriguing career journey...
How did you get started in writing songs and when/how did you get your first big break?
I was a guitarist, songwriter and recording engineer in LA in my late teens and early twenties. My first hit was Eric Clapton’s 1979 “Promises”, which I co-wrote with a friend named Richard Feldman. In my late teens I had played guitar for a popular artist at the time named Leon Russell. Eric Clapton worked with musicians who had previously played in Leon’s bands, which provided a nice connection to get our demo to Clapton.
The song “Quittin Time” is a great one—what’s the story behind it?
I wrote it with Robb Royer, who was a member of the 70's band Bread and got an Oscar in 1970 for the song “For All We Know” from the film Lovers And Other Strangers. For "Quittin’ Time", I had created a track that Robb liked so he wrote lyrics to it, we recorded a demo and pitched it to Lou Ann Barton, who recorded it on her album Forbidden Tones. Then Mary Chapin Carpenter recorded it for her first album and it attained a fair level of success.
Really interesting! What happened after that?
I haven’t done much in music since around age 22, when I invented something called the Digital Drum Machine and created a company to manufacture and sell it. The drum machine was called the LM-1 Drum Computer and it and its successor the LinnDrum were used as the drums in many 80's hits by Prince, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Peter Gabriel, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Devo, Bruce Hornsby and others. In the 90's I designed a drum machine and music production instrument called the MPC60, which was the basis for most of the hip hop hits of the 90's. In the 2000's, I created a unique rhythmic processor for guitar called the AdrenaLinn, which was used on hits by John Mayer, Green Day and others. (Note: In 2011 Roger won a Technical Grammy for his achievements).
Wow. That is so neat how you took your career in a totally different direction as an inventor, manufacturer and retailer! What are you up to these days?
Recently I created a new analog drum machine called Tempest, and a new type of musical instrument called LinnStrument, which captures three dimensions of finger movement in order to bring to synthesized sound the level of subtle performance expression normally achievable by acoustic instruments like violin, sax, clarinet, guitar, etc.
For more information and videos of Roger's instruments, visit his website: www.rogerlinndesign.com.