Instead, he and executive producer, Jakob Dylan, center on a window when Roger McGuinn and the Byrds “electrified folk music,” as Slater said, with their version of “Turn Turn Turn.”
“The film I wanted to make was about the idyllic period of innocence in California, before the onset of psychedelia,” Slater said in a recent phone interview. “Everyone came to California chasing a dream that they saw in ‘A Hard Day’s Night.’ The Mamas and the Papas, Buffalo Springfield, The Beach Boys – all in California and living near each other and trading ideas.”
Andrew Slater (right) talks with Jakob Dylan at an event for 'Echo in the Canyon." Slater worked as the pop music writer for the Atlanta Journal in the late-'70s and attended Emory University. He also served as the CEO of Capitol Records in the early 2000s.
Slater, who said he was inspired to tackle the material for his directorial debut after seeing the 1969 movie, “Model Shop,” possesses a deep musical background, much of it mined in Atlanta.
In the late-’70s, Slater was the pop music critic for the Atlanta Journal (back when it and the Atlanta Constitution were still rivals). He wrote for Rolling Stone, served as the Atlanta correspondent for Billboard and USA Today in the early 1980s and attended Emory University, where, he joked, “Peter Buck (of R.E.M. renown) and I were the only guys who had guitars. We had white Stratocasters and tried to do some playing. Everything he played sounded like (The Monkees’) ‘Last Train to Clarksville,’ but it worked out for him!”
Slater left journalism to work in music management (Don Henley, the Beastie Boys), produce (Warren Zevon, The Wallflowers) and headed Capitol Records as CEO for a run in the early 2000s.
His relationship with Dylan, who is on camera, but usually silent during interviews with David Crosby, Jackson Browne, Brian Wilson, Phillips and other Laurel Canyon luminaries, stretches back to 1987 when Slater was producing Warren Zevon’s “Sentimental Hygiene” album.
“Jakob walked into the studio and then (a few years later), I (co-produced) The Wallflowers’ first record,” Slater said.
He and Dylan initially had the idea to make a record of songs they both loved from the Laurel Canyon years. With “Echo in the Canyon,” they’re able to spotlight the music; Dylan sings familiar songs from The Mamas and the Papas, the Beach Boys, The Association and others with a cast including Fiona Apple, Beck, Regina Spektor, Cat Power, Jade Castrinos and Norah Jones throughout the movie – and marry it with visual recollections. (An “Echo in the Canyon” soundtrack has also been released.)
A bittersweet inclusion is several clips with Tom Petty, in what would be his final interview on film, about nine months before his October 2017 death. The documentary is dedicated to his memory.
“We had most of the film pretty much finished at that point,” Slater said. “But he liked the project and Jakob’s interpretation of the songs. It’s very sad to look at that footage and know he wasn’t here to see it.”
While “Echo in the Canyon” is expected to be released on Netflix later this year, Slater is hopeful music aficionados will seek it out in the theater. Given the film’s current financial success, it seems many are heeding that suggestion.
“We obviously struck a chord with people who want to go to the movies,” he said. “I wanted to make something more cinematic and big, more like an art film on a larger scale. We made the film to be heard in the theater.”
“Echo in the Canyon”
Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe Drive NE, Atlanta. 404-879-0160, landmarktheatres.com.
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