Sunday, March 30, 2003

I met with The Southern Backtones today to work on an updated version of the 1958 (!) hit record: 'Talk to Me' by James O'Gwynne. this is for a tribute CD that SugarHill Studios is doing to commemorate 60 years in the business. The CD will include updated versions of hit records recorded at SugarHill during the past 6 decades.

Anyway,.. I have engineered the last two records for the Backtones, but have never produced them from the get go, so this song is a real treat. The band brought some real textural, spacey material to the table as references, (most notably, the new Beck CD). Now this is very interesting in light of the fact that this song is a straight, missionary-position country classic. They could have gone rock-a-billy, but instead, want to stake out some higher ground for the song. Hell, yeah!

We came up with a game plan at rehearsal to cut a 'live drum loop' with their new drummer, Todd. Mike will layer a super fundamental bass line, (go Mike), and then we will get busy with guitars, and hopefully, some very unusual instruments. We kicked around the ideas of calliope, (sampled unless someone out there has on original), mandolin, treated B3 organ. Further departures from the path of music rightousness, include backwards guitar, and backwards vocals. John and Hank will sketch out some vocal ideas, and I plan to make some sort of instrumental appearance as well. We'll book time tomorrow. As usual, I am pumped!

Saturday, March 29, 2003

I just finished an incredible meeting with the band, Adamo, Their music is complex but accessible, and combines rock idioms with classical and jazz shadings, (my words, not theirs). The instrumentation is guitars, bass, drums, vocals, and violin. The singer can sing, the players can play, the songs speak to me, and they seem to be �really nice people�. Mixing their record would be an incredible journey. Zach and James (guitar and bass, respectively), are going to send me some references to listen to, and even more important, two pro tools sessions to start poking around in. I really am excited by the prospect of being a part of this music.

Friday, March 28, 2003

Did battle with errant computers in the morning, then rode off in the wind, cold, and rain to Kevin Ryan's studio to work with Jeff Skiba. Kevin, Jeff, and I are really starting to gel as a songwriting/arranging team. The grammer is comfortable between us, and we share very similar visions of the songs. Kevin's facility in his studio has really helped us progress rather quickly. I've noticed that we play a round of 'top that metaphor' while we work which is not only a lot of fun, but an effective way to talk about the music to boot. Jeff and I will do vocal pre production next week.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Check out the article on Moses Guest in the Spring '03 issue of Texas Music Magazine.

We'll be remixing 'Invictus' next week. Graham and the guys want to pursue a different vision for the song, (no 'do-wop's, for a start), and I am ready to follow their lead. Maybe the 'do-wop' mix will make it to their Anthology IV CD, in the year 2023. Hah! I do love working this band.

Finished the day with another songwriting session with Donnie Vondra. Donnie carried me through the task incredibly well. We came up with a song called 'Let Love Find Me' and Donnie really put himself out there in that it was a very autobiographical song. I had arrangement ideas. Maybe I have country music songwriting chops? Not without a lot of help. Kevin Brandt has been looking over our shoulders while we write. (Thanks Kevin!) I can't wait to see what he thinks about this one.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Just finished a very great day with singer/songwriter Jason Landry. We continued a project I originally engineered last spring -- cutting rhythm tracks with Chris Axelrad, (drums), and Anthony Sapp, (bass). Today we had guitarist Sam Arnold, (Opposite Day, Honey Brown, Sarah Sharp), TOTALLY raise the bar on three songs by playing some truly beautiful and inspired guitar arrangements. Before Sam got involved, I felt that Jason's songs were good. Sam and Jason together have an unbelievable chemistry, and I'm getting the feeling that this project will be unusually good.

Be sure to check out Opposite Day's, 'Economics For Mr. Ugly'

On a tech note, I used a John Hardy MP1 pre amp for the first time today on electric guitar and it is unbelievable. It is 'open' sounding and has tons of headroom, which translates into a very punchy sound. Another inspirational tool.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

I just finished mixing the two songs for Moses Guest and I am suprised how good I feel physically. Usually their mix sessions wear me out, but I am just happy and relaxed. 'Jackson' turned out to be simply incredible. I can't find the right supurlative--it could not have been better played, and therefore the mix went easy. 'Invictus' will be revisited at a later time, I think. The mix is great--good energy, but some of the performances didn't withstand the scrutiny. The band and I agree that we will listen and do some more work on it in the near future. The mix we have now is still very good, and we plan to use it to sweeten the pot for the label interest we have going.

It's a beautiful night, and I will enjoy riding my motorcycle home. All in all, a really great day.

Saturday, March 22, 2003

I met Sarah Sharp and Buffallo Speedway today for fruit smoothies. We adjurned from the smoothie shop to her car where we listened to the Marc Geary CD I mentioned before. It gave me ideas about where Sarah's latest direction in songwriting may take her. The coolest part of the afternoon, though, was having Buffallo play a new tune on the guitar in the back seat (we had to wake him up), while Sarah sang in the front seat with me. The song was open, full of space and cool silences. While I listened, I closed my eyes and heard the cars passing, some birds having a great time, and a guy trying to change a tire. I want to cut this song in their car in the studio parking lot--the experience was that good.

I spent about 7 hours editing the Moses Guest tunes for mixing tomorrow. Upon review, Dan Johnson and I determined that he probably has a better pedal steel solo for 'Invictus', so he's on deck first thing. We get to cut with his brand new pedal steel which is supposed to sound super cool. Time to rest up.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Super, super, tired! Finished odub's with Moses Guest, and true magic broke out in the room. We actually sang 4 part 'doo-wop' harmony backing vocals, all of us together at the same time on one mic, on 'Invictus' and it worked like a charm. I made an ultra rare appearance on backing vocals myself. Going home very happy. Time to edit & mix on Sunday. Whoo Hoo!
I�m getting my head cleared, and my heart ready, for more Moses Guest overdubs. Tonight�s agenda is a conga part that I am convinced will open up �Invictus�, a brief electric guitar overdub, and Graham�s vocal for �Invictus� and �Jackson�. It seems to be important to be �spiritually smoothed-out� at this point in the project. I mix these two songs on Sunday, and I know how I want them to sound. Both of these songs are very intimate, and the sounds we have created are almost filigreed�tiny repetitious detail contained in broad strokes of sound. (You can tell I�m getting into it). I am SO ready to mix these songs!!!

Couple of things on the horizon: perhaps more work with Avalon, and an interesting singer songwriter from Las Vegas, Adena Sampson. Finally there is a band named Adamo, (notice that there are a lot of �A�s�?), that sent me a very interesting song to listen to. Maybe next week will be B�s.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Last night I was on the phone, totally engrossed in Sarah Sharp�s blow by blow of her SXSW exploits, when, alas, GB came on the screen to tell us the war with Iraq had started. Sarah says I need to check out two artists: Mark Geary (, and Leona Naess (MCA).

Today, I am working on a song with country artist, Donnie Vondra. Donnie is doing some pretty heavy personal work as a part of our project. It has led us to doing some songwriting together. I�m surprised and excited with the results, so far. I think we will finish our first song today, and perhaps start another one.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Back to the studio to listen to CD's from new artists interested in doing specific songs. I've got heavy singer/songwriter relationships going right now, although I remain uncertain why the universe is offering these opportunities up to me in such a concentrated dose!

Iris, (my super cool, and relatively unpaid, assistant), got A&R packages out to a bunch of labels late last week. Are the reps. watching CNN? or listening to Ultramagg, Sarah Sharp, Moses Guest, and Secret Agent 8? Maybe both at the same time would be the the best way to do it!

Finally, Jeff Skiba's music is being born as I write. Kevin Ryan is doing a killer job at what he calls, 'song building', and Jeff's songcraft skills are arcing along a steep learning curve quite nicely.
I'm still pumped from my session last night with Moses Guest. We were doing overdubs on two new songs, 'Invictus' and 'Jackson'. These songs are very rich, with many acoustic stringed instruments, such as steel & nylon string guitars, grand piano, mandolin, and banjo. They sound PLUSH. Also, I really enjoyed what their new pedal steel player, Dan Johnson, brought to the mix. He doesn't have the theoretical muscial knowledge that the other guys do, but he can play the magic wild card really well. He's a great fit personality wise, and looks the part.

Today is country-flavored music. The songwriter is Jeff Skiba, and the arranger/sequencer is a really talented guy, Kevin Ryan. Off to make some more good music!