Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

My very best wishes to each of you this Christmas.

May we receive no lumps of coal, only the diamonds within. May our identity be found in the True Identity. And may our brand new wall calendar fill with possibilities.

Cheers to a bright and hope-filled New Year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Countdown to 300,000, FINALE!

300,000 miles is now official and complete. Taken at 12:14pm CST. Nashville, TN.

In my neighborhood on the way to an auto parts store - appropriately enough - to buy a replacement bulb for the passenger-side headlight.

Is 400,000 in the cards?

The Countdown to 300,000, Pt. V


I can cut the tension in the air with a knife.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Countdown to 300,000, Pt. IV


Another dumb photographic travel-log moment. Taken late Sunday night, westbound on I-40 between Oak Ridge and Nashville, TN. I am tremendously weary by the end of this trip owing to the fact that I've gotten very little sleep over the previous 48 hours. Thanks to the keep-awake power of mandible motion, symbolically represented by a styrofoam coffee cup full of chewed, used sunflower shells, I arrive at my Christmas light-lit house, eyes red and burning, mouth dry from salt intake. Alas, there weren't quite enough miles on this final leg to flip the Big Six-Digit Switch. That will have to wait until my next cliffhanger episode.

I sense the event will occur sometime in the next couple of days, especially since I have to sub early the next morning, and that's easily another 40-45 miles.

The Countdown to 300,000, Pt. III


Despite foul weather in southern West Virginia southbound on I-77. I agree, there is no logical or safe reason on earth I should ever have taken this picture, especially considering the driving conditions, but extra-ordinary milestones demand prompt attention. Notice: "Maintenance Required"fading green to yellow.

The Countdown to 300,000, Pt. II


In a gas station parking lot somewhere in east Tennessee on my way to Beckley, WV. 1000 miles to go. Good chance I'll spin all six dials on this trip. If not, 2009 certainly looks to be the year.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Countdown to 300,000

298,929. That's what my odometer reads. For the next few weeks I will entertain you by cataloging the final countdown to what some consider a fairly major milestone in in the automotive industry: 300,000 miles on an original engine.

I bought a baby blue 1996 Honda minivan in the spring of 2000. Mind you, this was six years BEFORE I became a father, if that tells you how interesting I am. It had a mere 45,000 miles at the time I signed the papers (and paid too much, I might add). I distinctly remember turning 100,000 miles somewhere underneath an interstate overpass in south Mississippi. The car sat idle at exactly 200,000 miles in a friend's driveway in Houston, TX, the very same trip that my wife and I bought that little red 1965 VW Karmann Ghia coupe. That particular milestone was six years ago.

There's a healthy chance Oddy and I will clock another 1,000 miles, turning 300K "together" somewhere on yet another trip to who-knows-where in the coming days. If I'm not on slippery, wintry terrain, and it's safe for me to pull over, I plan on taking a photo for posterity sake, and to send to the manufacturer. I wonder if Honda will care. They should. I don't know how many vehicles today reach that level of distance endurance, but surely it can't be a high percentage, though they aspire to it.

"What's your secret, Eric?" Since you didn't ask, I will now bore you with a few details: very regular oil & filter changes (there's something manly about getting your hands that filthy), two timing belt replacements (read, expensive), one major oil leak repair (doubly expensive), and enough washes, waxes and interior cleanings to make a professional maid service proud. The car, for what it's worth, still looks like a million bucks, minus a few bucks, of course. I'm slightly compulsive about aesthetics, just ask my wife. By no means am I a handyman or a mechanic, but at the very least I can change the oil in my car and mower, landscape a lawn, wipe soiled baby bottoms, vacuum, and take out the trash. All in a single leap.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Holiday Sale

This holiday season, take advantage of some special deals at

Chrome (2009) or Scarce (2006) -- $6.99 per copy (regular price $13.00)
Chrome + Revenge of the Birds combo -- $13.99 (regular price $17.00)
Holiday Pack: Chrome + Scarce + Revenge of the Birds + The Only Thing -- $24.99 (regular price $38.00)

Don't forget about the nifty Volkswagen "Beep Beep" t-shirts (sizes S, M, L or XL) or the EP Box Set (6 full-length CDs)

Prices good through 12/31/09. Available in limited quantities.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Brad Pitt's Butt

We're watching the movie Troy in the Ancient World History classes. I'm, effectively, watching it three times in a row. I am humored by the director's decision to show Brad Pitt's (aka, Achilles) buttocks several times throughout the movie. Humorous and crafty of them. I can hear them now: "A single cheek of that man's butt will sell more tickets than Orlando Bloom's peachfuzz mustache could ever hope to do." No mustache will ever have a prayer against a rear-end.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Names Unanswered

Happy Veterans Day to everyone.

If you are, ever were, or ever plan on being, in our nation's accomplished military, please accept my humble civilian thanks for your service to this civilization, to this nation, to my family. If you are currently serving overseas, or are putting yourself in harm's way, may your name return answered with every roll call. Blessings and utmost safety to you.

We are grateful for every single one of you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Band Fest

The school where I have been substitute teaching this fall offers a Rock Band class as part of its curriculum. When I first learned of it I immediately thought of Jack Black and his fantastic antics in the movie, School of Rock. Yesterday afternoon, here at school as part of an annual tradition, the Rock Band classes (two high school bands, one middle school) each played a set of songs they'd learned this semester. A production company was hired, they assembled a stage along with an above-average sound system. There, underneath the sun's full scale lighting (sorry, no blue gels here), I got a glimpse into what makes some of these students really tick, what makes them bloom. I loved every second of that privilege.

It was a wonder to witness students, a few of whom I have slowly become acquainted with during my three months here, reflect the interior passions which rarely, if ever, get uncorked in the more rigid academic setting where many of them struggle mightily. For once, it was nice to exit "my" world, and enter theirs.

I especially appreciated the accurate version of "Sweet Child o' Mine". Yes, that's Guns-n-Roses, ye fans of old.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Umbrella Pointers

I'm covering the Inca, Maya, and Aztec civilizations this week in Ancient World History. On a tiny Rand McNally wall map of South/Central America, in the absence of an adequate implement, I have been using an umbrella for a pointer. Bing Crosby, perhaps, would be proud. Didn't he dance with an umbrella? Or was that Danny Kaye?

Either way, I'm certainly not doing any physical dancing, tap or otherwise, but more like I'm dancing around the obscure fact that I know/knew next to nothing about these civilizations prior to taking this job. I'm barely a step ahead of the students. Is that normal for teachers? Is that wrong? Machu Picchu, here I come.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Out and About in the World

I played my first shows in well over a month this past weekend, and, as expected, I was as rusty as sheet metal set adrift in the Amazon River basin. It was so good to play live, in front of actual, real live people again.

I tried playing as much new stuff from Chrome as I could fit in. After all, I have yet to tour with the new record, and at some point I have to summon the courage to start playing these songs in front of people. Sunday morning's event was small and casual in Birmingham, AL for a kind group of folks who allowed me the dignity to publicly fumble my way through a smorgasbord of the new material. They clapped, nonetheless, and requested an encore. Or at least one man did, anyhow. A pleasant surprise.

That night I played in Huntsville, AL for a large group of high school students in a building that more closely resembled a hunting lodge what with the stuffed heads of sundry wild animals decorating the walls. A comfy and snug venue. On stage with me was a frumpy, red upright piano which reminded me of the piano in Ben Shive's beautiful song "Out of Tune", along with a rusted 5-foot-tall metal rooster which looked like it had been constructed out of my great grandfather's backyard chicken coop. I sang to a group of adults and mostly high school students, many of whom had their faces buried in the glow of their cellphone screens texting away the evening. LOL. JK. :)

Monday morning bright and early, I was back at my day job, temporary though it may be, posing as a high school History and Ethics teacher. I had been dreading the student-led parent-teacher conferences looming at the end of the week, and, though the event was intimidating, I felt a natural ease in speaking positive words into each student's life. It is my regretful belief that we (all of us) fail to speak into one another's lives the things - the Good things - we see in people, loved ones, family, friends, even strangers. These things should and must be spoken, and most days we need to be reminded that we are worth so very much to someone, that we are needed, and that we matter. Some of these students, I fear, fail to receive such affirmation at home, the blinding focus being on letter grades. I may be one crummy teacher and class facilitator, but I recognize a natural desire in me to build people up. For me in high school - and really any other time in life - encouraging words and observations about my character, about the traits that make me who I am, have been a balm if for no other reason than to make me walk a little taller knowing that an adult saw something good in me.

At least once during the conference I noticed a mother's face and outward demeanor visibly change as I (along with the other teachers) told their daughter or son how glad I was that they were in that particular class, how much they offer and bring to the table, possibly in spite of their low self-esteem, learning challenges, or what not. The pinnacle of the two days of meetings came late on Friday when a mother whose son obviously struggled on a particular history project, seemed prepared to pinch my head off as a result of a "D" on said assignment. I understand her deep frustration, but I left that meeting hollow and in a daze while recalling that I never had the chance, as I had with the other students, to tell this boy how much I appreciate his presence in 4th period, how much I am grateful for his offering me his respect, even as I am a temporary part of his school year. All this sophomore heard in that hour-long meeting was negativity from his mother, and for that I left deeply distressed. I hope I can bring these experiences to mind as I myself am the parent at one of these conferences, perhaps frustrated by my son's academic record, but able to remember that the sentences of the heart matter far more than any letter grade.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Mister Peters"

This fall I am temping as a substitute teacher, filling in for my neighbor, who is on maternity leave. I teach - I use that word in the loosest sense - high school sophomores and seniors the subjects of Ancient World History and Ethics. I am happy to report that my collection of Mr. Rogers sweater jackets are the perfect accoutrement to my new role. Now, if only I could smoke my Dunhill in class.

The students respectfully refer to me as "Mr. Peters", and I think, Oh God, I've gone to the other side. Daily, I am reminded that I am more grown up now than I ever wanted to be, especially when I recall that I used to be the student goofing off, counting ceiling tiles during class thinking, Lady, who made you boss, and why the hell should I care about the Pythagorean theorem?

So Monday through Friday go I, a mere mortal, cravat tied around my neck, cup of coffee in hand, and curiosity in my heart -- Will this be the day I finally break through to the kids and they fall hopelessly in love with history? Hold onto that dream, pal.

So, yeah, I grade homework assignments, projects, tests, class participation, the whole nine yards. I even fill out tardy slips and hold students accountable for missed homework assignments. I'm mostly an easy teacher, the kind you could (and probably would) have walked all over due to my semi-spineless facade. I am and always have been an easy target, in that way. The kids are mostly enjoyable, respectful, can be moody as the day is long, but are good, genuine kids, and most days I enjoy their company. I only wish I weren't inheriting someone else's curriculum, instead able to devise and construct my own. Maybe next time.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chrome on iTunes

Chrome is now available on iTunes, that Apple technological monstrosity. If you haven't yet, but would be willing to leave some positive feedback/reviews there, I would greatly appreciate it. With all due respect, please avoid such wordings as "Eric Peters is the best musician ever." No one will ever believe you, especially me.
Thanks, guys.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chrome podcast

I'm pleased to announce that I've written a tutorial for all 11 songs on Chrome. In the form of a podcast, it details the specifics of why I wrote each song, my thought process(es) behind them, and sheds some light on my enigmatic, ofttimes abstract way of writing. I hope it will help you decipher some meanings and shed a ray of light from my cloudy brain to yours. Go here: Rabbit Room Chrome podcast

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ad in Sept./Oct. '09 Relevant Magazine

Check out the massive ad for Chrome in the upcoming issue (with Jeff Tweedy/Wilco on the cover) of Relevant Magazine. Really amazing.

Many hatfuls of thanks to Larry of Hoboken, NJ for making this happen. Dude buys me primo ad space in a major magazine - full color no less - then treats me to dinner and a beer while he was in town on release day. I, in turn, hand him a $2 copy of Chrome in return. Seems like a weak trade to me. Grace is hard to accept, especially when you know you can't afford an equal or adequate gift in return.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

One Week

Dear you:
Chrome officially releases in one week on 8/25/09. After that, I have no idea what to do with this blog. Since I'm obviously such a prolific writer, constantly twittering, full of ceaseless, rapid-fire information regarding all manner of things, I wondered if you might have, and offer, any suggestions as to what I should do with Middle Of The Storm? Continue in some, non-album update form? Turn it into a Here's-what-I-did-with-Ellis-today blog? Pictures of my home projects before and after? Lawncare with Eric Peters? Or should I let it die and cancel the whole thing altogether?

Any suggestions?

Thanks for following the making of Chrome. For you Patron Saints, your CDs are in the mail; you should receive them any second now. For everyone who pre-ordered, your CDs will go out later this week/early next week. Many thanks!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Chrome Release Day & Pre-Orders!

.:: Chrome ::.

At last. Please mark your calendars, Tivos, TV trays, refrigerators, forearms, iPhones, and/or bicycles for August 25, 2009, official release day of Chrome.

Pre-order your copy today in the Goods Section.

From now until 8/25/09, you can get Chrome for $10.00 each, two copies for $15.00, or, if you order in increments of five or more, for just $8.00 each. Also, in my ongoing campaign to occupy the recently vacated Alaskan governorship, we're offering Chrome + Revenge of the Birds (1 CD + 1 book) together for $15.00. Your kids will be mesmerized by the mini-epic tale of Geolly Chester and his wily band of outer space bird-battling adventurers, and you, in turn, will have 11 new songs to dive into, surely a win-win situation.

If you are one of my Patron Saints -- by the way, it's still not too late to join the party -- you will receive your two signed copies, complete with your name in the liner notes, by/on August 11, 2009. Thank you!!

Side note: For those who prefer to purchase their music via download (as opposed to buying the physical copy), please allow me to make an artist's sales pitch: Chrome artwork/graphic design is going to be more than a little swell, thanks to the diligent, insightful and skilled artisanship of David Van Buskirk. Early on, I cast the overall album concept to David, and he ran to great lengths developing it, turning corners I didn't expect. The environmentally friendly (a.k.a, "digi pack") CD packaging further develops and illuminates the narrative of the songs themselves, precisely to which art and humanity should aspire -- tell stories to illuminate the greater Story. I'm eager for you to discover the themes in both the music and the accompanying art design, as they are complements to one another. This, I propose, is why you should purchase the physical representation of this album, not a mere download. Instantaneous digital downloads, though I purchase them myself from time to time, are cold, sterile, lifeless X's and O's, lacking a certain heart, gravitas, and are deficient in spirit. Merely my opinion. Either way, I do not yet know when the album will be available on iTunes or at other online distributors. Eventually it will make its way to these venues, but not right away.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mixing 101

This week began with the very detailed process known as mixing. This stage is slow, deliberate, and, for me at least, involves hours of sitting quietly and twiddling my thumbs while Ben (mixer) dials in a hi-hat, or a floor tom, or an electric guitar in terms of equalization (high, mid, low frequencies) and volume as each track courses through the song. Sometimes we want to hear a magnificent pedal steel part to shimmer and stand out at certain moments, so Ben automates the digital software to do so. Sometimes individual words need a little extra volume to cut through the music so it can be heard and understood. Mixing does that. On and on goes the list, and includes each and every instrument on each and every song. Generally speaking, it is customary for a song mix to take up all eight hours of a work day. The process is slow, laborious, and can be mind-numbingly boring if you have no idea what's actually taking place or if you've been listening to the recycled sound of a soloed kick drum for consecutive minutes at a time.

But this is also the phase where the body of a song ultimately takes on its final, curvaceous shape. The challenge for Ben, as I see it, is that he is already so wrapped up in the project that it might be difficult to approach the tracks with a new perspective. Having never heard the song or any of its recorded tracks before, a separate mixing engineer has the advantage of coming at the songs with fresh, unbiased ears. Clarity is a gift. That's not to say anything negative of Ben, or my doubting of his abilities in this department. If the money were in the budget, we would both prefer to hire someone to mix the album. But that is not in the cards, and I believe Ben will, in the end, knock it out of the park. Pray for Ben's clarity in this process, and for patience with his oft-crashing software. We've got a mastering (the final step, the icing on the cake) date on the books: 23 July 2009.

More on an official release date SOON! Cross my heart.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Please Believe Me

I know you may not believe me, but we are oh so close to mixing the album. We worked hard last week, re-recorded a couple of vocals (see previous post), added some really fun instrumentation (ukulele, hammer dulcimer, keys, new BGVs), got a good hold on most of the songs on the whole, and ate sushi on back to back days. Thank heaven for California rolls, Unami and soy sauce. Next week's rumors I'm hearing are of harmonica and acoustic guitar overlays.

Well over 365 days into this laborious process, I cross-my-heart promise you I am, indeed, making a record of eleven songs. Please believe me. If I can ever figure out how to add a music/audio player to or to this Middle of the Storm blog, I will do it. Not that you require proof...

Monday, June 22, 2009

I Had To Tell You... That I'm Sleepy

I'm dragging today, and am fighting my daily bout with the post-1pm lethargy (a good reason my friends call me "Pappy") as Ben and I are up at the studio adding touches to "I Had To Tell You". The A/C is on today, and we give thanks. I'm struggling to stay focused and to engage myself in the process of listening closely and contributing ideas. I've avoided the computer until now so as to force myself to actively participate. It's not that I'm disinterested, but that these hot summer afternoons absolutely zap what little energy I already possess. Must. Keep. Eyes. Open.

Ben added a keys pad (i.e., a layering, bedrock, sonic glue) to the first verse of this song. Something resonant and binding has been missing here and we're trying to uncover what it is by experimenting with sounds. Also, he and I have both realized that my lead vocal on this song is not very good. It is too dark, it tries way too hard (who me?), and is not at all that convincing. I will re-sing it. The more times I've listened to it today, the grumpier I've grown. Must re-do. Take that, communism. The pads Ben is adding is helping set the tone of the song a lot more than my stunningly smooth 12-string guitar playing could ever do.

Ben is overdubbing more hammer dulcimer over a piano part he played a few moments ago. We're going for a Raggedy-Andy sort of sad to prop up the lyrics that include these lines:

I've had chains wrapped around me for the last seven years
I crowned myself Messiah since Messiah was not near
I shook my fist at heaven, I told God to go to hell
There was so much that I had to say, but had kept it to myself

These are potentially expensive words. I see how they could easily be misinterpreted or taken out of context without knowing the story's backdrop. Hence, they may be expensive in that customers might want their money back after purchasing a "christian" album expressing such sentiments. I have no idea how the song will be received, as it is hopefully as honest in its narration as the true story on which it is based. The reality of humanity is that we owe to grace as great debtors. In our worst moments, we curse the blessing of our own skin, our own breathing in and out, the universe and Maker alike. In our best moments, we remain desperately in need of that which is beyond our frailty or capacity to bring anything good to the Mercy Table. I struggled for weeks, in the process of writing it, to allow the main character the red-blooded freedom to tell God, "I hated you that day." That is not the sort of cheap, plastic, pre-fab line that floats easily upon the waters of this industry. I am trying to be as honest as I can, since I so personally and closely related to the story of my friend's losing and losing, while in the midst of such tremendous anger, hostility towards God, loss of income and business, found himself spewing those very words with all the venom and bile his hard, tired heart could muster. And in the process, God still showed up with all the mercy and hope He ever possessed. And redemption occurs like fire through the open windows of a dry and brittle house. So it is with beggars and new beginnings. The story of any one of us is, in some measure, the story of us all.

These are the stories I hope to tell you.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Hammer Dulcimer In An 85-degree Studio

Ben is currently playing hammer dulcimer on "I Had To Tell You". The overhead ceiling fan is spinning, usually a no-no while recording with such sensitive microphones, but since it is a brisk 85 -degrees indoors, we had to act responsibly. Be merciful, oh air movement across cardioid patterns. We tried turning off the central air and fan for the first few takes of this summer afternoon session, but our misery and sweat got the best of us, and, henceforth, we've thrown recording caution to the wind by allowing these invisible cooling breaths to traipse across microphonic brow. So be it.

Earlier, Ben overlayed hammer dulcimer over an Andrew Osengan electric guitar part on "You Don't Have The Strength". Feels like a Crowded House tune. I definitely like this.

More journalistic endeavours next week. This is EP with the latest Chrome scoop, over and out.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lawn Care with Eric Peters

Yesterday, I mowed and weedeated (weedate?) Ben Shive's lawn. His yard is fairly gigantic, and it made me sweat. Afterwards, I met him - by then, 3pm - for Mexican lunch. Mental note: never again eat cheese dip immediately after three hours of yard work. An unpleasant afternoon ensued.

That is all.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

French horn & Prep-mixing

A mostly slow week for me on the album front, but we did manage to lure Aaron Sands over to The Beehive Friday afternoon to play French horn on three songs. Though I've heard Aaron's name mentioned here and there over the years, I've never actually met him. As it turns out, we're neighbors.

Sidebar: I have been wanting to find a place for French horn on one of my albums ever since I first heard Vigilantes of Love's eclectic, and great, 1993 album, Killing Floor, on which it is a featured part on the song, "Eleanor." My hopes for such a moment were never realized until yesterday, thanks to Ben and Aaron, who allowed me the opportunity to see if what my ear has been hearing - or wanting to hear - for months might actually transpire on tape. I hope so.

Ben has been working on prep-mixing the songs, a somewhat tedious process in which he tunes vocals, both lead and background, the various instrumentation in need of it, cleans up all the "punches" (where two or more recorded takes run awkwardly together), and gets a general mix going. This step allows the person mixing the album - in our case, Ben himself - to have a clean, prepped slate to work with to start making all the pieces work together. Mixing will involve weeding out parts, decluttering sections in a song so as not to be overly busy or crowded, and creating the sonic atmosphere in which the essentials of the song itself will rest.

We are estimating a mastering date - the final process before going to the duplication plant - sometime in mid-late June. I'm going to try and figure out a real, live, actual release date in the coming days. Targeting late July or early August. Here's to good vibes, smooth mixing and a soon-to-be Chrome release date!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Percussion Rhymes with ?

Today was full-on yard work, so I've not had a chance yet to post about yesterday's proceedings, which were good.

After spending two early morning hours at the Apple Store trying to get my iBook G4 (yes, it's old) back up and running (but not before first believing with such hope that I had managed to spare all my iCal (booking), address book and *possibly* iTunes library in the hard drive cleanout of '09). It was not the case, and all is gone. I went from euphoria to a sick stomach in the time it takes to click a button. Still ill from losing the information all-too pertinent to my business, I managed to meet Ben at The Beehive by 10:30am where Steve Hindalong - of The Choir fame - was to hold court with his oodles of percussive instruments and the great faces he makes while playing them. I was honored Steve was willing to do it since he had no idea who or what I was. A very nice man who is very skilled at what he does. Steve *listens* to the songs. Not many players actually tune in to lyrics while they're recording, but he does and proceeds to pick out the percussive instruments according to the lyrical image being painted at the time, in an effort to further color the scene. Brilliant. Steve is also a wearer of bright green socks; that, I appreciate immensely. I originally thought we'd get Steve for a couple of hours, on two, maybe three songs, but he was quite generous, working for several hours and playing on nearly the entire record. He played on 9 of the 11 songs. How great of him.

After Steve departed, I added a few background vocal parts we had forgotten to record on "In the Movies", and then called it a day. The Shives and Peters later ate fried chicken tenders together that night. 4 adults, 6 kids -- you get the idea. It was a good day, not an especially productive week on the album front.

I hear rumors that we will begin mixing next week. This is a good thing. That means all/most of the actual recording is finished. But then again, I think I've said that before, so you probably shouldn't pay me much attention. *Insert chuckle*

Friday, May 22, 2009

Nearly Complete!

Ben and I returned to work this week after a couple of weeks off (I had shows in Louisiana). It was good to be away from the album for a bit. Those last few days prior to our break were exhausting and punishing in their humbling.

We picked back up on Monday and Tuesday with more background vocals. My old compatriot, Andrew Peterson, was kind enough to drop by and sing harmony on "Run Down". We ate (yet more) Mexican food, this time with AP, Ben, and Mr. Paul Eckberg, who played drums on half the album.

Wednesday was Hammond B-3 day at Ben's friend's place. It is still hard for me to dislike B-3, try though I might. Ben worked hard for three hours recording keys, whereupon we disconnected his portable system and reconvened, Subway sandwiches in hand, back at The Beehive. After lunch, I sang more BGVs, and we convinced Andrew Peterson to come back up to the studio to help us sing a "gang" vocal (sort of like a choir, sans church robes) to a counter-melody part I had written/imagined early on for "Come Back A Fool". Though I wish we would have had another three or four folks in attendance, it seemed to work well enough. The more voices, the more variety, the better.

Thursday was another day of overdubs with Gabe Scott. We all met at 11am, and he played pedal steel on "Louisiana in the Dark" and "I Had to Tell You", and lastly played lap steel on "Reality Came Crashing Down". Good, very good stuff. Ben played accordion on "Louisiana", also. This was a good day. Doing overdubs (the ear candy) is extremely gratifying because you have the chance and the privilege to witness your songs come alive in the hands of talented musicians. When it comes to recording an album, this is easily the fun stuff.

After Gabe left, I sang a few more final BGVs, and came up with a spur-of-the-moment counter-melody to the outro of "You Don't Have the Strength". So very glad that moment happened when it did.

Today, Friday, was brief, but good in its progress. I met Ben at David Henry's studio at 1pm, where David played cello and violin on three songs: "Sad to Watch You Wave", "Come Back a Fool", "Traveling Onion". David and Ben seem to be similar spirits, both talented and musically astute fellows. I've spoken of my deficiency in this before, but these guys easily engage in that musical language that I know little to nothing about. I tried not to beat myself up too much, and simply to listen for ideas. They were kind enough to accept my suggestions, something I am still terrified to offer up in the presence of obviously skilled musicians and producers. David knocked it out of the park. He was kind enough to brew me a pot of coffee, too. Brilliant.

Folks - or whomever, if anyone, is reading this - I can't wait for you to hear this album. It's shaping up nicely, thanks in very large part to producer Ben Shive. I'm glad I get to call him "friend." As soon as I figure out a release date, I will start taking pre-orders for Chrome. More work, including french horn overdubs, hopefully, next week. Stay tuned, please.

Lastly, happy birthday, Danielle!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Background Vocal Mania

This week in the studio has consisted of a steady diet of inexpensive Mexican food, expensive Straybucks coffee, snappy one-liners, new commercial jingles, and, of course, lots of background vocals ("BGVs", as they are often called). With headphones stirrupped atop my noggin, "Ben, I need more reverb." became a common phrase ushering forth from my mouth as I wailed and whispered my way across six of the eleven songs. Ben has monster ears for the task - this is a compliment - and has no fear of layering vocal pads (the long, sometimes subtle "ooohs" and "aaahs") so rich and thick that they might as well be glue holding the entire thing together. I like this.

Like recording the main vocals, I am equally worn out from the creative aspect of the ornate and sometimes delicate process of singing background vocals. We are making a lot of the parts up as we go along, and it is, like singing the main melody, intense in its acute focus and concentration. Part of my problem is that I don't like to work, but part of it is that my overall energy level is already running near empty what with a two-month, and a two-year old at home. I'm lame for passing the buck, I know. I'm not sure that I possess the mental capacity of late to take a step back to see my life, my everyday life, for the mystery, the fathomless chasm, that it is. Lately, I'm all too eager to crawl into bed by day's end.

If ever I thought I was a great singer, recording background vocals is a firm reminder that I am most certainly not. Walking away from our Wednesday session - our last one for a couple of weeks - I was humbled by my lack of talent in this department. There are notes of a chord that Ben hears that I simply cannot hear, and cannot get my voice to manufacture without much help and guidance, without much ado, and without much consternation and frustration on my part. I departed the scene on Wednesday feeling pretty beat up, not by Ben, but by my own mean, perfectionist self. Hello, acedia. Nice to see you again.

So goes the process of making this, my first album, as a full-fledged parent (Scarce [2006] was recorded and released before our oldest boy, Ellis, was born). For this reason, Chrome carries a grittier weight to it that I have never known in the making of any of the previous albums. Now more than ever, I sense a focused desire for the album to "succeed" (both monetarily and artistically), with a gut feeling that if the thing should fail, then so too goeth my career of holding on, and holding on, and hoping. The economy is a joke, and I'm certainly guilty of paranoia and melodrama - this is only music, after all - but I can only hope that the kind, believing and generous folks who have held up my arms in this process, who have patroned this project with their hard-earned cash, will be proud of me, and will be glad they invested the money they did (we reached the halfway point = $7700!) once it is all said and done. Here's hoping for a June release...

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Milestone

I can't believe how famous this blog has been.

Today we reached (rather, punched) a milestone: I finished singing vocals on the record (The final song was "The Traveling Onion"), and we managed to finish comping it before both our brains exploded. Or melted. Into delirium I nearly caved. It is a mighty good feeling to be done with this major step in the process. Next week we begin background vocals (far more enjoyable), which I'm hoping to enlist the help of my friends, and then to finish the instrumentation. After that, we mix the album. Then, mastering. Then, off to the duplication plant. Like crossing the sea and finally sighting land. The end is near.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

One More Day of Singing (Hallelujah)

Sorry (to the pair of you following this blog) I've missed a couple of days in the journaling of Chrome. Since I last wrote, it's only been more of the same: singing the songs eight or nine times through, then going through line by line, even word by word, weeding out the chaff from the cream of the crop (to marry idioms). The good news, which I am thrilled to report, is that there is one final song to sing ("The Traveling Onion"), then it's off to BGV (background vocal) land, and, from there, more sweet luscious overdubs. Ben and I have plans for: strings, percussion, pedal steel, keys, accordion and french horn. For these, I can't wait. Tomorrow is Friday, as fine a day as any to wrap up vocals.

I sang "Reality Came Crashing Down" this afternoon, and I gave myself a very hard time with its execution. I suppose I expect too much of myself, what with all my grand delusions. But this song, to me, feels like a rare moment at the crux of something sad and bright waiting to walk through the door. Reality doesn't always follow the course of my dreams, as was the case with my voice this afternoon. We'll listen back to today's work first thing tomorrow morning to determine if I was being hyper-critical or if there was any truth to the mental-flogging I gave myself while singing the song. We'll see....

Monday, April 13, 2009

On Being Eric Petered

Yet more singing and vocal comping yesterday and today. Today's song was "Run Down", yesterday's was "I Had To Tell You". As of this moment, we are over halfway done with getting final vocals, and for that I'm very glad.

Andrew Peterson dropped by and helped me and Ben polish off a couple of key lines in the second verse of "I Had To Tell You", which I was thankful for, though hesitant to accept. The reason I say I hesitated is because I am proud, too proud of my individualism, preferring to proclaim that I was the one who started and finished a song in its entirety with no help from another living soul. But I believe their attentive contributions to the overall project will offer stabilization rather than weakness.

In other news, I woke up with the ticklish beginnings of something highly unwelcome this morning, and tonight feels as though it's a full-on cold. Having gulped a dose of Ny-Quil no more than 30 minutes ago, my head is now a floating miasma of brick and misery. There is no air flow through my left nostril. Perfect timing to get sick. We didn't work on the album for two solid months during the peak of winter, and during that time I was as healthy as a goose on Thanksgiving eve. Now that it's time to sing for posterity's sake, I catch a cold. I've been Eric Petered. I have this thing about my name; you see, it can be used as a verb. When something goes wrong at the most inopportune time, you can say you've been "Eric Petered". Tonight, I sleep like an unburdened, inanimate sack of bones.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

More Singing

Yesterday and today were two more days of singing and comping vocals. Nothing fancy here, just the repetitive, mentally wearing work of picking out the best lines and words from each take, and magically melding them together (comping) into one final vocal track. That, after singing and re-singing a song multiple times (eight passes, on average). This is nothing like digging ditches (a job I've held before), but it will leave you mentally fried.

It was a brief day at the studio, but we're trying to take advantage of every free moment Ben has to spare in order to get this thing closer to wrapped up. Today we comped the vocals for "I Will Go With You". Yesterday I sang and we comped the vocals for "You Don't Have the Strength". Next week, we should have three straight, uninterrupted days of singing, which makes me tired to even think about, but hopefully I won't get sick between now and then (PLEASE no!), so we can knock out another healthy chunk of the vocals, which would put us on the path to the final light. Singing vocals is the scariest part for me. Sucky vocals equals a sucky album, no matter how cool the artwork, no matter how original the music, no matter how masterful the songwriting. I cringe whenever I listen to some of my early solo stuff because the vocals weren't given the attention to detail that they so desperately needed. Some of my earlier recorded material could have been so much better had I known to not settle. Live and learn.

Lastly, I hate forwarded emails, but my mom sent me this and I thought it was funny, even if it is fabricated.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Singing! At Long Last

I officially began singing keeper vocals this abnormally cold April morning at The Bee Hive. With Ben dialing in the vocal sound and giving me that sweet, tonic reverb inside my headphones, I sang through "Chrome" (or "Krome" as Ben likes to spell it with his direct sort of whimsy) six or seven times. I could feel my voice warming and settling down with each new pass, and by the final take, felt that we had much goodness to work with.

We then comped the vocal, a process by which the engineer/producer goes through each and every line (sometimes isolating individual words) with a fine-toothed comb (i.e., ears) and picks out the best, most pleasing versions. It might be a certain whisper or the way a vowel is uttered, or it might be the plaintive delivery confirming a sad mood. The producer/engineer then cuts and pastes each of these selected takes into one mothership of a vocal. Purists might argue that this process is fraudulent stating that it's not an actual take, but an amalgamation of several takes. I figure, it's still my voice singing, not someone else's (reference Milli Vanilli), and I'm a fraud already. Nobody's perfect.

I really, really like this song. The more I listen to the roughs Ben sent me, the more the song resonates with me, especially in these dark days of uncertainty and fear. I can't help but feel this song is at the center of what I'm trying to state with this album.

Chrome for my heart
Chrome for my skin
Chrome becomes a part of me like God inside of men
I want chrome

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Chrome" and the New Recession

Residing in newborn-baby land for the past month, shy of any alertness or creativity, I am indeed still alive, though my communication has been equivalent to nil. This winter/spring calendar has hands-down been the bleakest I have ever known as far as getting and securing work/shows/income. In some ways for us, it's not much different than any other month of any other year. We live in a recession each and every month, never really knowing where the next paycheck is going to come from. But church budgets are way down, and since that is where I play the vast majority of my shows, we have noticed a definite slowdown in our little cottage economy. Sweating bullets. But the flipside to all this is that I've been home a LOT to help (as much as a male possibly can) my wife in the transition from one to two kids. As a breadwinning male, I have found myself in the middle of a workweek playing with Ellis in the backyard sandbox or fixing peanut butter sandwiches fighting not only the noonday demon of acedia, but the very distinct and cruel head voice saying to me, "Here you are, you lazy sack. You can't even provide for your family, you worthless loser of a phony artist." Such are my days of late. Low self-esteem is a plague riddled with guilt.

Ben has been wrapping up a couple of other projects before we make the final push to finish my ghost of an album. I've officially titled the project, "Chrome", which I will explain in a later post. The release date, obviously, won't be anytime in March, and April is looking mighty doubtful. I'm still hopeful for a May release, but this train is, and has been, a slow one, so by now I should know better than to make any promises when it comes to these sort of things. What I can give you is a sneak peek at the album cover (or something close)....

Sunday, February 15, 2009

This Just In: A Pause in the Recording

Only good news here.

Danielle gave birth to our second child, a fine boy, on this the day of our Lord, Sunday 15 February 2009. Weighing in at a moderate and healthy 8 lbs., 2 oz., Monroe Carle Peters stirred vigorously towards the light, swallowing the atmosphere with a vengeance at 13:30 hours. He seems to possess a calm and dignified demeanor, which agreeably suits his parents. Mother and child are resting and doing quite well. We are grateful for this good, good day.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sputnik, electric guitars & scrumptious burgers

My morning familial duties came first: pour cup of coffee, eat Kix, practice juggling handkerchiefs with Ellis (I think he's ready for clown school), empty cat litter box, take out trash and recyclables. Step outdoors to vibrant sunshine and warmer weather; ah, such welcome guests upon my skin. I cast my ballot on the way to Sputnik Studio. Upon arriving, though I was 30 minutes late in true Peters fashion, I discovered Andrew Osenga and Ben hard at work recording electric guitars on "I Will Go With You". Andy then added mando-guitar for a chorus idea I was hearing in my head. There was much rejoicing, at least in my head. Andy then played baritone and electric guitars on "Louisiana In the Dark", electric guitar on "The Traveling Onion", "Come Back a Fool", and, finally, "Sad to Watch You Wave".

Andy, during our original guitar session way back in early November, had rendered a slap-your-mother-in-the-face, George Harrison-cool electric guitar solo during the chorus modulation of "StWYW", but now, after listening back to it, neither I nor Ben are sure if it's the sort of solo that fits on an EP record. That's not to say that I'm cooler than the guitar solo, rather the solo is MUCH cooler than me. But, not to prematurely cast out presumed demons from pigs, the jury's still out on the part, so we'll see. I need to live with it (along with the rest of the songs) for awhile longer before setting things in cement. This paragraph is rife with an odd assortment of phrases, yes?

For lunch we were all invited to taste test a soon-to-open hamburger joint in town, in the shadow of the minor league baseball team's stadium. One could probably catch homerun balls in the Gabby's Diner parking lot during the dog days of summer (how wonderful that sounds right about now). Doug, the friendly proprietor and chef, cooked fresh hand-patted burgers & homecut fries, both the Idaho and sweet potato varieties, for our party of 10. My wife and I both greatly appreciate freshly ground, hand-patted burgers, and Gabby's is this sort of genuine place. No pre-packaged frozen meat here. Doug treated us all, only requesting that we give him our honest and critical feedback. I eagerly await the diner's opening, and hope that he thoroughly succeeds in the venture. I'm definitely going back to try the BBQ bacon burger.

Another good day is in the books. In case you're wondering, we're getting really close, folks. A few accents to yet add, then it's on to singing final vocals along with background vocals (BGVs). That should happen in the coming weeks. The artwork is being designed as I write this. Mix, master, duplicate (I'll explain these in more detail later) -- voila! CD for sale. I'm hoping to have a firm CD release date soon enough, but it's looking like March, maybe April. That, of course, will depend on how things go and whether there's money in the bank account to actually pay for these procedures (see Album Patronage). But I will keep the 3 of you informed as to when that when that might actually be. Hopefully, hope.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Banjo, Lap Steel, Fangs of Dang oh my!

This morning I met Gabe Scott at his place situated high on a crest overlooking the cold but clear Nashville urban horizon. We loaded his vehicle with a couple of instruments and an amp, hurriedly switched on the fancy seat warmers and made the 20-minute trek to The Beehive. En route, we stopped at his buddy's house to pick up a few other pertinent instruments. There, he & Gabe played me a sample of a song they'd just recorded together, which sounded incredible. Few know of Gabe's songwriting skills. I practically begged for a shot at writing some lyrics and melody for it, but I doubt I'll get the job.

At the studio, Gabe first recorded banjo on "Sad to Watch You Wave", more vibey tonic for this song's landscape. We met Andrew Peterson at Las Palmas mexican restaurant, where we ate too much cheesy, beany food, and then reconvened on the hill post-Speedy Gonzalez's. Ben had to leave and run a couple of errands, so Gabe and I took to arranging the lap steel parts for "You Don't Have the Strength". While listening to this song I had very nearly forgotten that I wrote it on the 5-year anniversary of 9/11 and is, in a sense, a memorial song. Andrew was gracious enough to take a break from working on his forthcoming new book, North! Or Be Eaten, to play the part of engineer and Pro Tools operator ("The check's in the mail, sir.") so I could attempt to communicate to Gabe what melody I was hearing in my head. Once again, I'm not fluent in the artful language of musicianship, so I had to hum the parts rather than explain them in more technical terms. But, like only a parent could understand his child's early attempts at speech, Gabe understood my babbling and did a mighty fine job of things. I love the gritty, haunting sound of lap steel.

We're now in the part of album-making that I enjoy most. Overdubs, for me, are like the icing on a cake; you get to mix the batter however you like, cut the cake in as many pieces as you want, and add as much or little candy sprinkles to the top as you can handle. This is the really fun part. We ran out of time to get Gabe on another song (or two), but that will have to wait until next week, perhaps. After all, there's still pedal steel to be captured. Tomorrow is electric guitar day with Andrew Osenga at Sputnik Studio. Yes, and good.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Gauging the Field

Ben and I met at The Beehive late yesterday morning where we spent the remainder of the day listening through all 11 songs. The goal, and overall point, was to gauge the progress thus far (since it has, after all, been 2 months since our last work on the album) and to get an idea of where things stood, and more importantly, where we want them to go from this point. We listened in with ears for instrumentation ideas, counter-melodies, and/or parts that might pleasantly fill in some of the spaces that need filling. I'm eager to hear where things go from here, especially as this may be the first EP album to have French horn and banjo on it.

Frankly, I'd forgotten most of what we'd already done, so it was good to hear the songs again. "Chrome" (the story of the abandoned Washington D.C. bicycle) stood out in my mind.

Thursday and Friday are overdub (adding the various instrumentation) days with Gabe Scott and Andrew Osenga (Part II). More to come.