Tuesday, May 27, 2008

falling in love with a pump organ

Last Saturday's session was notable, mainly for the fact that I think I have finished (knock wood) my vocal tracks on all tunes. I will be paying careful attention to each playback to any possible vocal issues I overlooked, but it is safe to assume that this part of the process is finished. No big deal, I don't fancy myself much of a singer...in fact if I did not write songs I am not sure I would have even attempted singing in the first place. (OK...there was that appearance in the musical Bye-Bye Birdie in the seventh grade, but I digress...) It is enough for me to have communicated the song the best I can and to leave it at that. I want to get better as a singer but when you boil it down I think the recording process is about capturing things that have already happened.

When I initially came to the conclusion that I needed to start recording a bunch of my tunes, I thought that there would automatically be three distinct projects/directions I would go in: an album of singer/songwriter (rootsy, folky) stuff, a hard rockin' in-your-face up-tempo garage rock-fest of an album, and finally, a more experimental ambient and quirky project. This just seemed to result from the fact that I have a bunch of material that seems to want to divide itself into these categories. I hear things in my head. And to borrow from Sesame Street, sometimes "one of these things is not like the other." Sometimes I think certain songs could never be on the same recording...and while this might be correct I also need to keep challenging my assumptions about what belongs and why.

Which brings me to my point: I am falling in love with the pump organ. It is a mournful, quietly desperate, aching carnival sound that I have grown to love through many songs, especially on numerous Tom Waits recordings. While I heard this in my head, I was unsure if this sound would "belong" on the current project. But all is fair in love and war, and so I hope to use the pump organ wherever possible on this project. It is going to add a lot to many of the songs, especially those recorded without drums (i.e., 9 of 15 tracks)..it suffices to say that the easy divisions in my head of what is appropriate sometimes blur...and blur they should...that is how we make new colors.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

and the band played on...

Last weekend we assembled a session band and got some really good takes of six tunes. Joining us on the session was a group of really talented local musicians. On drums we had the amazing Andy Plaisted, known for his work playing with the likes of Tim Gearan and Dennis Brennan (FYI the latest Tim Gearan album "No Remedy" (w/Andy on drums) is unbelievably great!). Andy brought a solid steady groove to each of the tunes, and contributed many valuable ideas as we arranged the songs. On bass we had Tom Bianchi, local musician and entertainer extraordinaire. Currently playing locally both solo and in the duo Vagabond Van, Tom brought a variety of sweet bass sounds to the tunes (both electric and upright) and had some great ideas to tease the best out of each song. It was also a pleasure to have Tom on the record because it is through his excellent weekly open mic at Lizard Lounge that I have gained a lot of great experience and had the chance to try out many of these songs, as well as meet a ton of really talented songwriters and performers. On keyboards we were grateful to have Paul Schultheis, known for his work playing with Superhoney and more recently, Club D'Elf. Paul has a knack for digging inside each groove and painting beautiful colors with every stroke of the keys. Strangely enough, it was Paul who played on The Jody Grind's album as well, so when his name came up I knew from experience we would be lucky to have him play with us. Finally, Mike Null, while primarily in the role of co-producer on this project, laid down some smooth guitar lines on most of the tunes. When not producing or teaching, Mike is busy playing with many great local musicians including the legendary Toni Lynn Washington.

All told, we cut six tunes: Atlantic Street, Paper Man, Dreamin' Ghosts (Ocean Song), Riddle In My Suitcase, Diamond Highway, and Every Stone. The rough tracks sound really good, much better than I anticipated (i.e., much better than they ever sounded in my head)! I am very excited to finish the vocal tracks on them, and get them ready for your ears. It was a privilege and an honor to have such great talent in the studio helping me bring these songs to life. These last sessions will surely go a long way in (hopefully) making this project a worthwhile success.