Elvis Week Blog 2 - Exclusive: 'Where No One Stands Alone' Producer Andy Childs
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Graceland Blog

THE OFFICIAL BLOG OF GRACELAND

Welcome to the official blog of Elvis Presley’s Graceland! You can take Elvis-inspired quizzes, get first-looks on events here at Graceland and how-to guides on everything you need to know about Elvis and his home. Like Elvis, we come with a little southern charm

Elvis Week Blog 2 - Exclusive: 'Where No One Stands Alone' Producer Andy Childs

BY JON WATERHOUSE

Yesterday, for veteran record producer and singer-songwriter Andy Childs, a project born at Elvis Week 2017 came full circle in the very spot it began. Flanked by Lisa Marie Presley, Joel Weinshanker and Sony Music’s John Jackson, Childs and company celebrated the release of “Where No One Stands Alone,” a reimagining of select Elvis Presley gospel songs with new instrumentation and Elvis’ original vocal performances as the centerpiece.

Childs and company treated the audience inside the Graceland Soundstage to album snippets, the music video for the title track –Elvis and Lisa Marie’s virtual father-daughter duet– and a 20-minute making-of documentary.

Album producers Joel Weinshanker, Lisa Marie Presley and Andy Childs discuss making the album during the listening party at the Graceland Soundstage. Album producers Joel Weinshanker, Lisa Marie Presley and Andy Childs discuss making the album during the listening party at the Graceland Soundstage.

A dream project for sure, “Where No One Stands Alone” saw Childs co-producing the album, wrangling 14 tracks, handpicking musicians and some of the original background vocalists who worked with Elvis, and crafting contemporary-minded song structure. Yet, the Memphis-born Childs said his main goal was putting the spotlight on the unmistakeable voice of the city’s endearing, international icon.

After wrapping the album, Childs, a lifelong Elvis fan, said his appreciation for Presley has soared to new heights. The aspect of the album he’s most proud of? “Elvis Presley,” said Childs, “and the fact that I feel we were able to make him front-and-center in every single song.”

During a recent conversation, Childs gave the Elvis Week blog an exclusive, behind-the-scenes look at the album’s genesis, collaborating with Lisa Marie Presley, and the daunting responsibility of spearheading a posthumous Elvis project.

On how he got involved:

“I was first approached about working on the album by Joel Weinshanker and John Jackson from Sony last year during Elvis Week. The reason they approached me is because I’ve produced a lot of projects in Nashville, and I’m friends with all of the gospel singers who used to travel and sing with Elvis and sing on his records. I’ve done a lot of programs with those guys and have known them all for a lot of years. My two sons are grandsons of Cecil Blackwood of the Blackwood Brothers Quartet. And (Blackwood) was one of Elvis’ biggest influences. So I’ve had a connection to the rock ‘n’ roll world, the record world, the gospel world, and all of that stuff. And it all just sort of dictated that I might be a good choice.”

On wrapping his head around the project:

“The first thing you ask yourself when you’re asked to do a project like this is why. What do we want to accomplish? Because Elvis made a lot of music over the years, and his records are all fantastic. You’re not going to make it better. …I told John Jackson from Sony that the first thing I had to do, before I could really tell him that I could do (the project) or not, is I had to hear the original multi-tracks with Elvis on them to make sure that Elvis Presley’s vocal was isolated enough in those multi-tracks for me to be able to work with it and create the new soundscape around it. They sent a couple of things for me to listen to, and I got with some terrific recording engineers in Nashville who know a lot about noise reduction and track isolation. And we worked with one of the songs to make sure we could get Elvis’ voice nice and clean, and separated from all of the noise to make sure we would be able to write new arrangements around it. We proved we could do it, and that’s when I thought, ‘This will be great.’ My goal then was I wanted to make sure we were making this project about Elvis and Elvis’ voice, and to try and bring out his voice and make it sound as big and as clear as ever, so everybody could really get the feel of what Elvis was doing on these songs. I wanted us to make sure we could hear Elvis above anything else. That was my first task.”

On Elvis as the record’s key component:

“(Co-producer) Joel Weinshanker and I chose the songs, and it was a pretty involved process. We were just trying to pick Elvis’ really passionate performances, and there were so many to choose from. Ultimately we had to keep it to only as many as would fit on an album, because we were going to do a vinyl release in addition to CD. …In spite of the fact that we have new instrumentation and arrangements, and the background vocals are new recordings, this is Elvis Presley’s record. He was such an amazing singer that every take on every song was incredibly consistent. There are just no bad takes. If they recorded a song six or seven times, every one of Elvis’ performances was great. Really, I let Elvis Presley’s presence and his voice dictate the arrangements. Collectively, Joel, Lisa and I tried to make a record that (Elvis) would’ve made had he made the record this year.”

Lisa Marie duets with her father on the new gospel record. Lisa Marie duets with her father on the new gospel record.

On working with Lisa Marie Presley:

“Lisa has a really interesting and gusty voice. She’s a really good singer in that she has a lot of character and toughness about her voice. But what we picked out for her to sing was more of a vulnerable song. As we went through the songs, this is the one that Lisa wanted to sing, because it seemed to tell a little bit of a story. She listened to the lyrics, and she could hear the way her dad sang it and the conviction he sang it with. And this is the (song) she identified with. It’s almost as if separated by all of these years, it puts Lisa and her dad in a spot that if they sing the song together, neither one of them is really alone. And I think that hit Lisa midway through singing the song. We had to stop for just a little bit for her to regain her composure. …She was standing roughly where her dad stood when he recorded in that studio back in 1968. And that was a powerful moment. Honestly, we got such a great performance out of Lisa that it’s probably one of my favorite moments in my 35-year music career. That was an amazing, and she’s a joy to be around.”

On working with background vocal legends Darlene Love, Dr. Cissy Houston, Terry Blackwood, Armond Morales, Jim Murray, Donnie Sumner, Bill Baize, Ed Hill and Larry Strickland:

“Purposefully, I handpicked the ones we called. And I anticipated the days we’d have them back in the studio. We were recording them in two studios, partly at the Tracking Room in Nashville and at RCA Studio B where all of them recorded with Elvis at some point. I knew those days would be really fun. I had the new tracks and arrangements, and brought (the singers) in so they could listen to what was going on and create the parts they would sing. And seeing them sitting around this table and singing the parts, and figuring out what they were going to do was this major flashback. I thought, ‘This is probably how they did it the first time.’ And in fact, it is how they did it the first time. They’re all great singers, and they just got together and figured out what they were going to do. Those were magic moments when I could just sit back and let them do their thing.”

The new Elvis gospel album, "Where No One Stands Alone." The new Elvis gospel album, "Where No One Stands Alone."

On his favorite arrangements:

“My favorite moments arrangement-wise are when I chose to weed out things and make it more about Elvis. …Some of my favorites have the least amount of production on it and just way more Elvis. On the treatments I came up with for “Stand By Me” and “In the Garden,” the production is so sparse, and we were able to get Elvis’ vocal so clean, so out front that it’s just magic to listen to, because it’s all Elvis. Same thing with “Crying in the Chapel.” The beauty of it is that on most of these songs you’re listening to alternate takes, some of which you’ve never heard. But my favorite things are when everything’s stripped out, and you’re just listening to Elvis.”

On the pressure of producing this project:

“It’s an incredible honor to be in that chair, but it’s also an immense responsibility. I felt the weight of that responsibility all through making the project. But that’s where having Lisa around was a blessing. Because surely on this planet there is nobody who can know and feel Elvis Presley’s voice better than his daughter. So that was great to have her around and have that approval.”

Purchase "Where No One Stands Alone" at gift shops at Elvis Presley's Memphis at Graceland or online at Shop Graceland.


Graceland Excursions: Tupelo Top Five

Memphis remains ground zero for the Elvis experience, but surrounding areas hold deep, definitive roots to the king’s life, lineage and musical ancestry.

This prompted the launch of Graceland Excursions in January. Guests pile into a luxury motor coach for guided day trips of their choosing: either the Tupelo, Mississippi - Birthplace of Elvis Presley Tour or the Mississippi Delta Blues Tour.

The latter taps the historical vein of the Delta blues, a strong, ever-present ingredient among Elvis’ melodic influences. The trip includes stops at the Gateway to the Blues Museum, the Delta Blues Museum, the Grammy Museum Mississippi, and Southern Sounds at Dockery Farms. Elvis Week guests can bask in the blues on August 18.

On August 16, the 41st anniversary of Presley’s death, Elvis Week fans can hop aboard Graceland Excursions and celebrate the beginning of his life in Tupelo. (The August 17 Tupelo Graceland Excursion is sold out.)

Although I could type volumes on both trips, I’m focusing on five of my favorite Tupelo landmarks.

Elvis Presley Birthplace

The two-room house in Tupelo where Elvis was born. The two-room house in Tupelo where Elvis was born.

The epitome of a humble, shotgun house, it’s the actual two-room dwelling where Elvis entered the world. Per Vernon Presley’s recollections, it’s recreated to look just as it did when the Presleys lived there, from the bed near the entrance where Elvis was born to the fully-equipped kitchen. Take a seat on the front porch swing for a photo op.

The Overlook

The "Becoming" statue. The "Becoming" statue.

Don’t miss this outdoor area, part of the Birthplace attraction’s 2015 expansion. A pair of statues, collectively known as “Becoming,” depict Elvis at two stages of his life. A bronze version of an 11-year-old Elvis sits on a milk crate, guitar in lap. Behind him stands an adult Presley, shrouded in a jumpsuit, his cape at full mast. It’s the handy work of sculptor Michiel VanderSommen. His other piece on the property, “Elvis at 13,” can be found adjacent to the Birthplace house.

Elvis’ Childhood Church

Go to church like Elvis! Go to church like Elvis!

Step inside the Assembly of God Pentecostal Church, the actual building where the seeds of Elvis’ spirituality were planted. An immersive film depicts the type of church service Elvis and family would’ve experienced. Keep an eye out for musician and entertainer Memphis Jones, no stranger to Elvis Week, playing the part of the pastor.

Tupelo Hardware Company

You can purchase your own guitar at Tupelo Hardware. You can purchase your own guitar at Tupelo Hardware.

For nearly 100 years, this mainstay has been shilling hardware and other goods. However, it’s the fact that Elvis’ mother, Gladys, snagged her son’s first guitar here –$7.75 plus tax– that really put the place on the map. Walk across the hardwood floors and stand in the spot in front of the cash register where a young Elvis likely stood the day of the purchase.

Elvis Homecoming Statue

Take my hand... Take my hand...

This massive creation, located in the Tupelo Fairpark district in historic downtown, lives near Tupelo City Hall and just across the street from Tupelo Hardware Company. The statue –created by sculptor Bill Beckwith and based on a photo from Elvis’ 1956 Homecoming Concert at the Tupelo Fairgrounds– has been drawing visitors since 2012. Thanks to the Tupelo Elvis Fan Club and the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau, it stands on the former site of the fairgrounds.

Book your Graceland Excursions experience!

Posted by Elvis Presley's Graceland at 2:04 PM
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