Sunday, June 29, 2008

News From Nowhere

Hey folks:
You're probably wondering why there's been no new content published here. I promised consistent updates, but honestly, there's been nothing to report since my last official studio post. Ben has been wrapping up a slew of other album projects (Sara Groves, Allen Levi, etc.) and has been swamped with that work. Myself and my family will be out of town the entire month of July where we'll be volunteering at a Young Life camp in Minnesota (I get to play my music). So, in essence, though Ben will be brewing up production ideas for the album and I will *hopefully* be writing another couple of new tunes while overlooking Pelican Lake, there will be very little, if any, actual recording done for the album. So, I guess I'm writing to tell you that I won't have much to offer you in the way of updates for the next month or so.

Ben and I will hit it hard in August and thereafter. I'm excited about what we're doing, though still in infancy, and I will be cautiously eager for you to hear these songs. Stay tuned to my website for the Album Patronage, coming soon. Thank you all, and to all a goodnight.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Ben Shive: The Ill-Tempered Klavier

A reminder to those reading that Ben's brand new album, The Ill-Tempered Klavier, releases today. It will be special. You can order it in the Rabbit Room.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Day Two : 6/12/08

Met Ben at 10am and we looked at You Don't Have the Strength (War of Wills), a song I had written on the 5-year anniversary of 9/11. I'm not much into politics, and I certainly don't appreciate mixing politics with entertainment or the arts, but this song is certainly a political statement of sorts, though mild in proportion and not laced with bile or anti-leadership venom as seems customary and trendy these days. It is more of a statement to America on the whole and our constant waffling on foreign and domestic issues. It's not that I'm trying to be a jerk in this song, but for a mild civilian like myself, this feels like I'm screaming at the top of my lungs the way Elisha, as bald as a paved street, might have done when he called down the she-bears on those cub scouts who were mocking him in the Old Testament story (2 Kings 2:23-24). I imagine that you might one day have more questions about this song once the album is released, so perhaps we could pick back up with this topic at a later date. Besides, maybe I'll later come to realize that the song is not at all a political statement, just my way of griping at the way things are, and issuing a challenge.

We ate lunch at The Copper Kettle, a superb little meat-n-three (apparently, this is an exclusively southern dining experience). The "meat" stands for meat; sometimes pot roast, sometimes chicken, sometimes meatloaf. The "-n-three" stands for the number of sides you get; sometimes actual veggies, sometimes mashed potatoes, sometimes salad, sometimes mac & cheese. Today was yummy coconut fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. None of it is good for your arteries.

Back to the Nest where I got Ben's remarkably astute opinion on some first verse lyric changes to better set the tone for the song, In the Movies. This song is about the vices that maim and destroy marriages. This is about some friends of ours who experienced this first-hand. At some point after I'd recorded the guitar part, Ben had to edit it, whereupon I "wrote" jingle #2 ("Editing in Pro Tools"). I should start recording these jingles for posterity sake.

We knocked off early since I had to drive out to the airport to pick up Danielle and Ellis who had been gone for the better part of two weeks in Louisiana where she was taking care of her ill dad. Our house has been way too quiet and I have noticed a growing loneliness in the plaster walls of our home while they were away. It is more than good to hear their reverberations echoing throughout the house again.

Day One: 6/10/08

Late this morning, Ben and I met at Andy Gullahorn's studio, The Night Owl's Nest, to work on final song arrangements, tweak/clarify lyrics, and officially begin recording this album. From the moment I asked Ben to produce it, we've never been quite sure where we'd wind up working since Ben does not have a work space to call his own yet. So, it worked out well that Andy & Jill (Phillips) were out of town for the week, and allowed us to use their studio while they're away. Neither Ben nor I are much in the way of late night owlery, since we both have little ones at home who like to wake up bright and early in the morning, but I do happen to like birds, so perhaps that gives me some small modicum of credence in recording at such an ornithologically-named studio. Neither here nor there...

Ben set up a couple of condenser mics behind the makeshift baffling (jingle #1) while I checked email and mentioned to him that I was thinking of "going viral and blogging it out". He and Nick seemed to think that a few folks might find this album journaling process interesting. I wanted Ben to hear a new song I'd been working on, so I sat on the futon and played him what I had of Sad to Watch You Wave on the 12-string guitar. He responded favorably, so we worked on the arrangement (basically, how to get from point A to point B, from beginning to end), he provided some great imagery to help clarify the first verse, and away we went to record the main acoustic guitar part. I sang a scratch vocal (a very rough, non-keeper vocal, just so the other musicians can have a roadmap of the song) and then we broke for lunch since we had started late. We were set on a generic Mexican meal when we happened upon my new favorite Thai place in town, Thai Kitchen. Here, we wound up downing Pad Thai noodles, an excellent spring roll, flat soft drinks, and lots of intermittent spices. A good start to the meals-eaten-while-recording experience. Next up was to record a keeper 12-string acoustic guitar for I Will Go With You, a song I wrote for my son, Ellis. I sang a scratch vocal for it and that was the end of day one. A healthy start. 

I've noticed that it's been a little difficult honing on the actual keys for some of these tunes. Some feel too low for my voice in the verses, while getting pretty high, and challenging, by the time the chorus kicks in. It will be interesting to see how my non-25 year-old voice handles it once we begin recording vocals. More on that later.

Note: If you're a recording-phile (audiophile?), you're probably already wondering why we seem to be working backwards tracking acoustic guitars first, not drums and bass as is customary. Brent Milligan did this when he produced Scarce and Land of the Living, and I absolutely love the way it worked, placing the absolute essence of the song - me & the guitar - before any of the supportive production values. He built the production around the basic elements of the tune itself. I thought it worked well. This way, the song hopefully stands on its own when I get out and play these songs live in a solo setting. Or maybe not.


Hello from Nashville, TN!

I'm thrilled that you are willing to follow along and watch (or help, as the case may be) as I connect the dots for this, as yet untitled album #8, in this vocational career of a husband, father, and indie singer-songwriter. Thank you for being here and for being interested enough to spend a few moments with me *hopefully* each working day as I catalogue the recording process with my good friend and producer, Ben Shive. Also, I've begged Ben to occasionally offer up some of his own witty insights and thoughts along the way as we press the "record" button, eat good food, tidy up songs to their purest form, and perhaps even pen a few unsaleable jingles together (which has already begun).

Thank you for being you and for being here. Here's to good vibes, great signal paths, and a collection of worthwhile, edifying material. I'm so glad you are for me, not against me.