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Earlier this week I spent a couple days recording all my guitar solos, both acoustic and electric, and singing some harmony parts on a few of the songs. And although it’s frustrating at times, at least the duration of each take is only 30-40 seconds. I will admit I was surprised when Chris told me I had done 39 takes for one particular solo, though. It turned out well, but it took some doing, that’s for sure. I’m relatively new to electric guitar playing, and while I’m totally comfortable with my rhythm playing I still find the electric solo to be a daunting task at times. In a live setting you have the luxury of the energy in the room and the ability to fool around some, but in the studio it’s more like a 30 second composition that has to have body and flow and melody and direction. I’m not saying that acoustic solos don’t have to have that same recipe, but in my particular style you can just throw a lot of notes at it and usually come out on top. With the acoustic it’s generally a lot of staccato notes, too, whereas the electric has the added quality of sustain that can be used (or abused). At any rate, I put my best into it, and I think it came out fairly well. I have a long way to go, but I’m on the path. And the solos are recorded.
The vocal harmonies were no problem, really, except that some of the parts you think will be great sound like barbershop when you hear them recorded. And that’s not quite what I’m going for. Will is going to come in and record one of the harmonies he has been singing live on “The Simplest Things” in the next couple weeks. And we also have a guest artist coming in to play on 2 or 3 of the songs in a couple weeks. I’m not going to disclose any details, I assure you it will be worth the wait!
So unless something goes awry, all my parts are completely recorded for the new disc. Everything it’s going to have from me is down in the bits and the bytes. I did make the decision to stop working on one of the songs that was lagging behind a bit. I have certainly put out a few songs in the past that I wish I hadn’t. And in hindsight I had a funny feeling all along that I wasn’t comfortable with the tune or lyrics of each of those in one way or another, but left it in and forced the song onto the CD. So I decided to go ahead and honor that feeling this time and act on it. At least that way I get the opportunity to fix it and keep it for a later project and road test it live. There are also a couple more that I think will be cut just because there’s too much material and they might not fit in with the others well, but we’ll go ahead and mix and finish those and stash them away for some later use. The songs are sound, in those cases, but they just don’t seem at home on this album. As my friend Mr. Rosser says, “too many songs is a good problem to have”.
I got the first four final mixes yesterday, and Chris will be mixing the other 8 or 9 late next week. By next weekend I should be able to start putting it all together and thinking about song order and final cuts and all, in addition to the dozens of little tweaks to the sound we’ll be making before the final audio mastering is done. It’s like each song is a chapter in a book that you can’t put into perspective properly until it’s printed. I know that was the case with the last CD, and I’m sure it will be with this one, as well. As much time as you put into crafting something in minute detail, it’s true significance and nature is often only apparent when you can step back from it and look objectively, or as objectively as any artist can view their own work, and take in the bigger picture. And even though I am reaching that part where I can sort or turn a corner in my mind as far as the intense creative work is concerned, I’m still very much immersed in the details and unable to step back too far. But the glimpses I do get from time to time bode well for the final product. I think this will be the most representative recording I’ve made to date, and one I can proudly hand to anyone, anywhere and say “here’s what I do”.
That’s the real goal as far as I’m concerned, to put out a quality product that I can be proud of and stand behind. There are bajillions of details and tasks that need to be attended to in order to make a living of making music or any kind of art (and even to release this CD), but the biggest and first task is to create a quality product, with your whole heart in it. I am told that all the other stuff will line up behind that of its own accord and in just the right time. I’m looking into lots of those details now, leaning forward into the CD release time frame later this summer, but doing everything I can to stay here in the moment with the music I’m creating and producing. There’s a lot of work to be done yet, but it’s starting to come together, and take on its own life. My job, as always, is to do my part, do my homework, believe in my abilities, but also let things happen as they will and trust in the process and the outcome.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll check back in soon.
Last week I had a couple days in the studio, and the highlight for me was my old friend Andy Pond stopping in to record a few banjo tracks. I have to admit that one of the tunes we threw at him was a “hail Mary”, the first song that was going to be on the chopping block. It is one that I really like, though, and we had spent a good bit of time on it and recorded a bunch of options, but none of them were working. So before I threw it out I thought I’d give Andy a shot at fixing the dang thing. We stripped it back to just my live performance and Will’s bass track, and started there. And within 45 minutes Andy had recorded a banjo track and a cajon hand percussion track that put the song squarely back in the list of the very best on the album! I will also admit that just hearing that particular way Andy plays with my rhythmic style took me back about 15 years to the time when we played together up in Boone as we were both just getting started. I won’t lie, I got a little misty thinking about it. It’s funny how time can change a lot of things but can also leave a lot of others untouched. There was a moment in time that the sound of me and Andy together was the best thing I’d heard and a part of the soundtrack of my days. There are some recordings of us made by our friend Jimmy Dulin back in the day that sound very much like this tune we just recorded, although not quite as good. Well, at least not quite as “mature”.
So good progress was made on the recording front, and so far no songs have been cut. I do have one or two in mind, but we’ll see how they play out over the next week. I don’t give up easily.
I’d be remiss in reporting my activities in operation “figure out how to make a living or at least really enjoy yourself a lot of the time playing music” without conveying the part about the actual business of getting gigs and making music. I had a meeting last week with an advisor on the music scene, and I would call it very productive, at least from my point of view. He helped me get refocused on the bigger picture and remember a lot of things I’d heard before but not internalized about how it’s done and how to keep on moving forward even when it feels like you can’t. And here’s what it looks like today: I have been working here on the computer for the past 3 hours sending out booking inquiries and making follow up calls to venues. That’s what I’ve done after my 9 hour work day on the day job. It really takes a lot of time, and there’s no way around that. Somebody has to do it, and every single time someone has offered to or said they’d do it in the past I’ve been let down, so I guess it’s time to start to learn how to do it myself. I’ll get it, it just takes time to work up relationships with venues and booking contacts. And here we come back full circle to the “do the next right thing” mantra and let the stuff after that come up later.
Then after the music business for the day it’s time to reach back out and keep in touch with all of you reading this, as none of it will work without you. I’ve been a little slow posting the past couple weeks. but it’s just because of having to concentrate on taking care of the day job and fitting in a couple days of recording as well. There are only so many hours in the day, in case you hadn’t heard.
I am back in the studio on Thursday and Friday, recording my (shredding) guitar solos and (non shredded) vocal harmonies. That’s not too bad a part of the process, but it can have a lot of the same mind games action as the initial recording. I’m not too worried about it, because I can just show up and do my best and that will be good enough.
There’s no doubt at all that this is the CD I’ll be most proud to hand out to anyone and say “Here’s a good example of my music”. It’s got some rough spots, but so do I. I can’t wait to get it to you all, and thanks again for your support. I already said it once, but I’ll say it again: I couldn’t do it without you.