Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Tao of Recording

Recording is a process I have been through countless times over my 15 year career. Hours have been spent professionally recording my music, helping others record their music, or working on demos and other unreleased projects.

I've hears what feels like hours of kick drums being mixed. Put up with way too much pizza and Chinese carry out, and poor light.

Yet, I learn so much each time. Even more about myself, than with the actual recording process.

We start with ideas about the songs, and they always end up in a different space. A song starts off mellow and becomes a rollicking tune. Some songs get mellowed down. You never really know how a song will end up.

It causes us to be flexible and not be attached to our preconceived notions for these songs.

Each recording also challenges us in unexpected ways.

This project has had its fill! First of all this was a very long project, and the time frame found me moving from joy to despair to boredom back to excitement. I found myself ready to give up on it. Found myself disliking the songs. And then I found redemption in the music, and new life in totally changing my vocal style.

We recorded a new, more soulful version of Surround Me for this project. In doing this, we decided to change my vocal approach to the song. It took me into some very tentative places, vulnerable places. Uncomfortable places. And yet, in the end, it pushed me through to a place where I now have a new skill in my belt.

I like working with my band, and enjoying their creative input. That's part of what helps a song to grow on its own and go to a place where I might not have taken it. A random mandolin part can suddenly take a song in such a random tangent - a tangent so far out of my ideas for the song, that it was physically uncomfortable. Until I stood back and realized the song wanted to go there.

It's all a process of letting go.

Of realizing the best take is usually right after the worst take. Once we stretch ourselves beyond our ability, we find a new comfort zone.

Of finding our antidotes.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Lessons of Lennon

Like many young folks, my life has been dramatically altered after deeply listening to the Beatles.

High school was just beginning. I was a basketball player. Summer was rolling around, and I began to have a severe pain in my abdomen. After a couple days of fighting through it, I went to the hospital. Who had no idea what was going on. So I went to another hospital, and they had no idea either. Nearly a month had passed before our family doctor suggested looking at my appendix.

It had ruptured. I should have been dead.

But my body contained the spewing poison. Worn out from the weeks of inaction, and the drugs and pain from the surgery, I was facing a lengthy recovery. As I lay in a hospital bed, sad to be missing the joy of running in the summer sunshine – hours of backyard football and basketball, sleepovers, and all the many joys of being a kid at summertime – someone had brought me in music to help cheer me up.

A cassette for my Walkman.

The White Album.

The oldies channel was my favorite channel, so the Beatles were not a totally new experience for me, but this was the first time I actually listened to the songs.

I was hooked by the time Dear Prudence came on and jumped into their catalogue whole-heartedly.

Almost immediately I was intrigued by John Lennon. Gravitating towards his music and personality, I dove into his solo records as well. There was an honesty and power to his music. It meant something beyond just a clever rhyme. My eyes were opened to the power of an artist with a cause.

Music can change the world.

And someone who is willing to put their career in jeopardy to stand for what they feel is right will inspire many. John worked for Peace. He wrote political songs and used his music and art to make statements. His power was so great, that Nixon felt he was a large threat! That is some power!

Lennon opened my eyes to Peace, to activism, to the role of the artist.

My life has brought me to this point largely because of this early influence.

So I celebrate all that John created and its impact on my life. Today would have been his 73rd birthday.
Imagine is his best record, in my opinion, but my favorite is Walls & Bridges. Enjoy it here: