David Garza Recounts a Few of the 10,000 Stories Behind Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Texan muse and former Austinite relocated production to El Paso

“It’s a true labor of love,” wrote back David Garza on Friday when queried about the fact that his name lists among four producers on last week’s biggest album drop, Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters. “Full-on Tejano invasion, I did all the cover art and hand wrote the lyric art as well.”

To which he added, “For the record, the official album production credit reads: Produced by Fiona Apple and Amy Wood with Sebastian Steinberg and David Garza.”

David Garza headlining an Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival in East Austin (Photo by John Anderson)

Born and raised in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, and becoming a star in 1989 at UT-Austin when his collegiate trio Twang Twang Shock-a-Boom touched off its own Beatlemania, Garza, 49, remains a musical and music industry conduit adept at feminine muse support. Edie Brickell, Juliana Hatfield, and Sara Watkins represent a mere three citations in that undocumented scroll. In 2018, he and Charlie Sexton enticed Apple to appear at the Austin Music Awards, wherein the singer-songwriter-pianist fury made a Moody Theater throng hold its collective breath.

“2001 began our journey together of many, many gigs and sessions and collaborations, etc.,” emails Garza about his association with Apple. “There’s 2005, opening for her and playing guitar on her Extraordinary Machine tour, then the 2007 [concert film] Largo, and she sang on two of my songs for my 2009 Dream Delay album. In 2014, we did the Watkins Family tour together, and then the Mose Allison tribute record last year.

“Moonlight trance night walks amid thousands of acres of pecan orchards in hallucinatory July summer set the tone for us to explore in reality these dreams and visions Fiona had imparted to us.”

“There’s much more, but this is off top of my head.”

How did the longtime Austinite, now a denizen of Downtown Los Angeles since 2015, come to help shape Fetch the Bolt Cutters, whose sessions he characterized as “more like a sculpture being built than an album being made”? He answered questions from an hours-long, 3am deep dive of Apple’s biting, percussion-driven, tell-all with the following:

Origin Story

I had known Jon Brion since 1994, when I brought him and Jason Falkner and their band the Greys to play some shows with me in Texas. So we were old pals.

In 2001, when I moved to Downtown L.A., I played a Thursday weekly residency at Largo and would often play with Jon on his Friday night residency gigs. I had just written a song called “Outloud,” where I sing the lyric, “The born won’t live, the butter won’t fly.” I walked offstage and Fiona walked up to me and said, “Did you just say, ‘The butter won’t fly?’”

It was either on one of my Thursdays or one of Jon’s Fridays, that little magic time and place she and I first met.

Fiona Apple performing at the 2017/2018 Austin Music Awards (Photo by David Brendan Hall)

Labor of Love

It was the four of us: Fiona, Amy, Sebastian, and me against this mystery. A LOT of labor, but a lot MORE love. Producing-wise, we all four instinctively trusted and listened equally to each others’ opinions and silences. As for a full-on Tejano invasion, I talked my friends into the classic, “Órale, let’s leave L.A. at midnight and drive to El Paso and make a badass album” line!

Sonic Ranch: A mile from Rio Grande river, vibrant energy of Juárez, rumors of Guadalupe Mountains smugglers’ gold buried in view of the 100-year-old haunted adobe room where we recorded tribal rhythms. Moonlight trance night walks amid thousands of acres of pecan orchards in hallucinatory July summer set the tone for us to explore in reality these dreams and visions Fiona had imparted to us.

The Tejano invasion maybe is more accurately the Tornillo frontera initiating us into our rock & roll mission.

Garza (r) onstage with Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones and Sara Watkins at ACL Fest 2009 (Photo by John Anderson)

Hand Drawn Art

Fiona herself is a powerfully unique, singular, visual artist. She did the hand drawn beautiful art for her previous album, The Idler Wheel, which I loved. She paints and sculpts her own instruments and art objects, and draws and has done so for years.

Art-wise, we are like high school troublemakers in detention after school – playing Exquisite Corpse, trading watercolors, pre-gig Sharpie tattoos, etc. In late February, out of nowhere, she said we needed to start doing album art, but she didn’t say exactly when. The day after she said that, I flew to El Paso to produce the new Ozomatli album at Sonic Ranch.

When I got back to L.A. in mid March, COVID was in full swing.

“Fiona started texting the lyrics to me, one by one. I wrote them all by hand with no computer for backspace or spellcheck, haha. [It was] like visual mountain climbing, one letter at a time. Don’t look down!”

There were no art stores open for supplies, so I did what I could with what I had. Collage and print (not cursive) were visual elements we both felt rhymed with the Earthy, tactile, visceral sound of the music – a vibe of a film noir anonymous ransom note crossed with Rufino Tamayo palette and late Matisse cut-out art.

Fiona said she loved magenta. All I had was buckled, water damaged, tracing paper. I was all out of legit watercolor paper and very little blue to mix for a magenta. It was a serious squeeze of the toothpaste for every drop of blue for her magenta with no art stores open. It was full quarantine under the gun, so we couldn’t even discuss or brainstorm in person.

The mutual trust of artists made this happen – no “art director” or “label guy,” etc.

Transcription by Text

Fiona started texting the lyrics to me, one by one. I wrote them all by hand with no computer for backspace or spellcheck, haha. [It was] like visual mountain climbing, one letter at a time. Don’t look down!

She has so many unique ways of saying things. Also, the line breaks and rhymes are sacred to any real poet like Fiona, so as transcriber do you follow the singing voice? Do you follow the poetry?

Finishing front and back covers and 13 lyrics encompassed painting, collage, calligraphy, and some vague thing called “design” all with this urgent online release clock ticking. What a wild ride.

The incredible response to the record? Come on, man, there’s only one Fiona Apple and there’s only one Fetch the Bolt Cutters. Every great album has 10,000 stories. What more can one say?!

Garza’s handy work: The back cover of Fetch the Bolt Cutters

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

David Garza, Fiona Apple, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, Twang Twang Shock-A-Boom, Charlie Sexton, 2017/18 Austin Music Awards, Edie Brickell, Juliana Hatfield, Sara Watkins, Mose Allison, Jon Brion, Jason Falkner, The Greys

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