Hackney Diamonds producer Andrew Watt says Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger took an “anti-singing” approach to his vocal work.

He added that both Jagger and guitarist Keith Richards were concerned about the lead voice carrying enough of Bob Dylan’s trademark delivery.

“The first take, second take, the sweater is still on,” Watt told The Guardian of Jagger’s usual three-layer appearance in the studio. “End of take two, the sweater comes off. Two more takes. As he’s singing, he’s unbuttoning the button-down, and then he’s in the T-shirt.

“When he’s in the fucking T-shirt, and he’s on that microphone, watch the fuck out. It’s 100 percent Jagger. He becomes that thing you see on stage. He would shake when he was singing notes. He would drip with sweat.”

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Watt said “both Mick and Keith were like, ‘It’s not Dylan enough.’ It’s anti-singing, it’s almost speaking. He has such attention to detail in his voice, of making it not too good. That’s so cool. Every other singer I’ve worked with is like, ‘I can sing that better.’ He’s the opposite: ‘I could throw that away.’”

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The producer described Jagger as the hardest-working artist he’s ever known, noting that Jagger was also actively involved in the mixing process. “He was making sure you could hear a snare all the way through the song, that you could hear Keith and Ronnie [Wood] and their interplay. Singers are usually, ‘Here’s my vocal, you do the rest.’ But he cares so much about this band, and how everyone is represented.”

Hackney Diamonds is the Stones’ first album of original music since 2005’s A Bigger Bang, but Jagger and Richards had been writing all those years. They gave Watt between 70 and 80 songs to pick through. Watt said they told him, “‘Listen to everything we’ve got, and pick what you like.’ So I did exactly that.”

Watt said “some were demos; some weren’t developed. And there was a whole bunch of material with Charlie [Watts] that we needed to listen through.” Some of those tracks are likely to appear in the near future, although no details were provided.

“There’s never been anyone else that has been a group for this long that has made an album this good at this point in their career,” he argued. “Listen to [Jagger’s] vocals, man – there’s no difference between 18 and 80.”

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