Sunday, April 27, 2003

I've mentioned in earlier studio logs about working with Pale. Well, today Calvin, (lead singer and general spiritual leader of the band), and I had what was supposed to be a vocal pre production session. After several miscues, we did NOT get to rehearse the night before, so instead of working on vocal performances, we took the time to get to know one another.

Anyone who has worked with me knows that I get very involved with the people on a project, and I had a feeling that Calvin the individual might become the 'project' (not in a postive sense). Much to my suprise, our time spent together revealed an intensely focused artist & man whom I am super eager to work with. Our 'alpha male' territory dovetails instead of clashes, and the vibe was fantastic. Needless to say, the songs we do together should benefit from an unusually strong collaboration.

As for other news, today I inked the deal to mix Melanie Covington's song, "Thinking of You". This song has gobs of potential, and the vocals were sung and recorded very well. I think I'm going to play guitar on this as well, and, although he doesn't know it yet, Kevin Ryan is going to play a keyboard part, (unless he is still in London).

Tonight, the Southern Backtones come in to work some more on "Talk to Me" for the SugarHill tribute CD. I am hoping to get a killer vocal from Hank. After that, who knows what will happen. As the song sits now, it's just drums, bass, and two tracks of backwards guitar. CRAP! I've got to go transfer it right now!!!!!!!!!

(the rushed love)

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Guest-star producer/engineer/pedal steel virtuoso, Steve Palousek came to town to play on Jeff Skiba's song, "Burn With My Fire". He was incredible, (as predicted), and we got to kick around the idea of him putting together a superstar tracking team to do some of Jeff's more country/swing tunes. Everybody had a grin on their face at the end of this very short session.

Big Mixing News:
Melanie Covington has been trying to hire me to mix a track for her for over a month. Well, today I took delivery of her session files, and began the discovery process, and although there are a few problems, things look good for a Big Mix. I am eager to try out some new big-dog ideas on this tune, so I'll keep you posted.

Finally, although I still have not rehearsed with the band, things seem like they are getting ready to happen with Pale. Steve Christensen is going to engineer two songs with me. I KNOW this band can sound world class, and I am very into making that happen.

Time to go groom some tracks.


Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Today we cut Jeff Skiba's vocal on 'Burn With My Fire'. The session went really well for a number of reasons. First and foremost, was that Jeff came in very prepared. He had done his homework, and he sang with confidence. Second, I found that limiting his voice with the Manley compressor really made him sound full and rich. This combination made for a very good sounding vocal. Now this track goes off to Steve Palousek for the steel treatment. We tossed around the idea of having a fiddle play on it too, so I might have to call Rodgers Cochran.

Tonight I was supposed to go to a rehearsal with Steve Christensen to hear a prospective client's material, but alas, said client had bandmembers who couldn't make it, so I'm going home early. Although I was really looking forward to doing the preproduction with Steve, it is his birthday tomorrow, so he can go have some fun.

More vocals on Thursday, and I have to start getting ready to do some guitar playing soon.

On the horizon: Mixing an R&B tune for Melanie Covington, and perhaps yet another, (in the endless string of very talented and gracious....), female singer-songwriter.


Saturday, April 19, 2003

Last night was very intense. I was working with the Southern Backtones on a song for a tribute CD. We were on unusual territory because I had engineered records for the band before, but this time I was the producer. Much of the song's arrangement was left to chance because we really wanted to play with crafting the song in the studio. The result was successful as far as I was concerned, but the band was chagrined over their feeling that they took too long to get their parts.

We ended the night by flipping the 2" tape over and recording two backwards guitar parts. John Griffin, (Backtones, Row Zero, and SugarHill staff engineer) and Hank (from the Backtones really) laid down some good stuff. Next we transfer the tape to Protools and start getting really creative with some guitar, keys, and vocals.

Today, I rehearsed Mark Needs a Chick for our upcomming summer work. We rehearsed powerful rock songs at a conversational volume. The learning was fast and effortless. So effortless, in fact, that Mark was uncertain if I had been hard enough on them(!) I guess I'll schedule some screaming and crying for our next pre production session. As usual, the songs were fantastic. Josh, (drums), and Andrew, (new-guy bass), really got a dual MVP award for today. I cannot wait to track these songs, but we have one more rehearsal first.

Finally, today Jason Landry, Sam Arnold, and I laid down some PLUSH sounding acoustic guitar on three of Jason's songs. This project just keeps getting better every time we record. Jason has really worked hard to assemble a team of players that bring a huge amount of heart to the project.

Time to go do easter with the family. (All in all, a really great couple of days in the studio).

Friday, April 18, 2003

So Much to Report!!! I�m finding that if you don�t �blog� every couple of days it can get overwhelming!!! No more procrastinating, here�s what�s up in Dan-the-Producer-ville:

First off, Kevin Ryan is delivering Jeff Skiba�s songs on Protools momentarily. This is great news because Jeff and I start vocal session next Tuesday. As soon as we have vocals, we are sending one song off to Steve Palousek (ready Steve?) for pedal steel. I predict that we will mix within three weeks.

Kevin has also started a killer arrangement of Craig Byrnes song, �Blue Day�. This is going to be a really good rock song with pop song structure to flesh it out (go Kevin).
While working on Craig�s song, Kevin and I got a chance to see the DVD documentary of Wilco making �Yankee Hotel Foxtrot�. This film is a MUST SEE for a) anyone involved in making band records, and b) big Wilco fans. I am currently so inspired by Kevin�s work that I am going to be doing some songwriting with him myself(!) This will have to wait because Kevin is off to England to finish research on his book about the engineers who worked at Abbey Road Studios during the Beatles� hiatus The tentative title of the book is, �Recording the Beatles�, ( Be advised, this book is the holy grail of information on the �white lab coat-guys� at Abbey Road. These are the engineers that actually set up the gear for the Beatles� recording and mixing sessions. You heard it here first, (maybe).

Ok, enough Kevin Ryan cheering. On to Adamo. I finally made it up to College Station to meet with Zach Sloan in his home(studio). We spent the morning listening to tracks and talking about their record. I have GOT to mix this album. The only thing better would to be recording it with them right this moment. Adamo the band can play, the songs sound great, the singer can sing, (did I mention their tempo is amazing), and oh yeah, their tracks sound well recorded. Hopefully Zach and I can get our file transfer issues settled, our business in order, and start planning those mix sessions. I am hoping that I can at least go hang out during a recording session before we mix.

Finally, Sarah Sharp continues to put herself and her music out there. She has been busy meeting people, playing gigs, doing some writing with Michael Ramos, and working on new songs. Sarah is an artist who shares my passion for staying focused, busy, and making stuff happen!

OH YEAH, Hollywood Records is very interested in Ultramagg, they have requested more pictures. Does this mean they like the music?!! I think so!

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Today I heard from Adam Berry. I have engineered and mixed two projects for Adam in the past, and it looks like we will meet next week to discuss a third. Working with Adam is always a pleasure because he really knows what he wants, and he's not afraid to experiment to get there. Adam and I have discussed my producing for him, but I really feel I can best serve his music be engineering it. So his project will be a fun time out of the producer's hot seat for a change.

Donnie Vondra continued our country songwriting today. I still can't believe how much I am getting out of this. I never really imagined myself a country songwriter. What makes it special is my relationship with Donnie. Watching him mature as an artist--his finding out who he is and how he wants to put himself out there, has been a real pleasure.

Tomorrow, I'm off to Bryan/College Station to meet with Zach Sloan of Adamo. We're going to vet his tracks and HOPEFULLY I'll be able to get a copy to work on back here at SugarHill. The ride to Bryan should be really cool because the wild flowers are still in bloom in South Texas.

Finally, I just set vocal tracking dates for Jeff Skiba. Kevin Ryan is finished with the sequencing and he has done a superior job. I can't wait to begin next Tuesday.

Monday, April 14, 2003

I just met with Chris Bynum and Tracy Conover. She is an exceptional singer and blues guitarist who I cannot believe that I have never met before. She is looking to complete one of those 'long time coming' projects. I hope I can help her out.

I've had way to much administrative work lately! I'm ready for some studio/production time.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Sometimes it just doesn't go the way you plan it..... Yesterday was supposed to be delivery day for Jeff Skiba's tracks that Kevin Ryan has lovingly birthed over the past few weeks. Alas, my mother in law, Joe Ann, had to go into the bodyshop for some quick invasive cardiac evaluations so I missed the meeting, but both guys emailed me to say that we are just about wrapped up. Pedal Steel Superstar, Steve Palousek is going to be putting pedal steel parts on one tune and he is ready to go, so I hope Kevin can port his work over to Protools files soon.

On an even weirder note, Zach Sloan, from the band, Adamo, (see earlier Blog ref), has sent me no less than two sets of files for mix evaluations, and neither of them will open correctly. Well, that's just another day at the office, but what makes this situation so weird, is that his cell phone number will not work either. I refuse to believe that this is anything other than a chance to bond with the band over pseudo-adversity.

Finally, I THOUGHT I was supposed to be working with Jason Landry and Sam Arnold on guitar overdubs today, but (sigh), someone had the date wrong, and, you guessed it, no session.

Well, I've done my bit here. I did get a chance to listen to some more of the incredible new music Sarah Sharp is working on, BUT, the weather outside is fantastic, and I have a full tank of gas in the bike. So I'm going to do some vibe research. Ciao for now.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Today was infrastructure and business stuff. The interns were tugin at the bit to get to work at the studio today. In between being the 'intern wrangler' I scheduled sessions, made conference calls, wrote budgets, and tried to open the Pro Tools files that Adamo (the band from Brian/College Station) sent to me. Those files kicked my a**!! Hopefully Zach will be able to get them to me soon, because of the tiny part I heard, I felt sure I could make the band happy.

We'll see. Can't wait to work with Kevin Ryan and Jeff Skiba tomorrow. I'm supposed to call pedal steel wunderkind, Steve Palousek (sp? sorry Steve), about playing on one of Jeff's songs once we take delivery of the songs from Kevin. I'm pumped about that.

Also, I've got a rehearsasl and studio time scheduled to begin work on four more songs with one of my favorite bands: Mark Needs A Chick. I started working with MNAC a couple of years ago. Mark is a gifted songwriter, and they rock muy bueno!!! We started walking down the path of powerpop flavored rock (my words, not theirs) last set, and this time I just have a feeling that we are going to really raise the bar by a long shot. We start rehearsals soon, so stay tuned for the progress reports!

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Setting up some more work with Kevin Ryan (he is truly the bomb). We are looking at one of Craig Byrnes' ( songs.

Also worked with Donnie Vondra on our second song that we have written together, "How We Are". Donnie and I are going to work on one song a week as an excercise. So far, we are batting .500(!)

Last weekend while visiting my friend, Andrew Amelang, we jammed with his (huge) musical family. I played mandolin for about an hour. I walked away with a new respect for mando players and really sore fingers. I do love the sound of the instrument, though. Would tuning it in fourths be cheating? Probably wouldn't sound the same.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Back from Austin, where I experienced a 'First Thursday' with Sarah Sharp and Buffalo Speedway. First Thursday is a street festival along lower Congress Avenue where merchants stay open late, (on the first Thursday of each month), and feature incredible music (live!), and all kinds of food and vendors. We checked out a show at an art gallery, and I had a great time. We returned late to Casa Sharp where Sarah and B.Speedway introduced me to five new songs--all of which were focused, compelling, and ready for some serious love. I am struck with Sarah's quick ascent to serious, mature, and relevant songwriting.

On Saturday, we drove in beautiful weather to Lake Travis where Michael Ramos lives and records. We ate by the lake, and went back to Michael's to spend the early afternoon listening to each other's current work. Michael is hard at work on his next personal project, "Welcome to the Cumbia Cafe". It is progressive louge Cumbia seasoned with modern percussion and high production values. Sarah and I were stoked.

Michael listened to Sarah's latest set and he reacted positively. Sarah and Michael are going to explore songwriting together. I am pumped!

Back home, more great news. My first vocal preproduction session with Jeff Skiba went very well. My challenge with Jeff is to direct his nascent vocal skills and he responded very well, (way to go Jeff).

Adamo is sending me material for review, (Super Great). And Melianie Covington is going to hire me to mix one of her earlier songs. There is even more to report, but I have to save some for later!

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Allen Corneau (Essential Sound) did a super job of mastering 'Invictus' and 'Jackson'. I am pleased and I know Moses Guest will be happy as well. Next stop for these tunes is RCA Records. I hope they get off the dime and ask these guys to the prom!

Off to Austin to hang with Sarah Sharp and Michael Ramos. I'll be sure to post on my return.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

It's been a few days since I've written. I've been busy with a tech day here at SugarHill, working with the guys and gals getting Studio A all aligned and working.

Today we remixed 'Invictus' and Jeremy, Graham, and I got it sounding great. We just tweeked the way the snare and bass worked and then cut a lot of parts out,.....sort of arrangement by mute button. Much to our suprise, it really opened the song up. Usually Moses Guest arrangements are 'played into the song', but with 'Invictus' we went the Pop Song route of trimming away the fat to reveal the soul of the song. Dan Johnson was MVP--he came in early and redid the whole pedal steel part, (except for the solo), with his new cool(er) pedal steel. It was quick and easy. Way to go Dan Johnson!

Finally, I got a call from Tim Plant about producing 2 songs for Pale. Now I have been watching Pale for over 4 years, and I am super pumped and flattered that they would want to work with me. Steve Christensen would be engineering, which of course is my current dream team, anyway. We will be meeting next Thursday, and I can't wait to hear the tunes they have in mind.

Tomorrow I will master the two Moses Guest tunes with my favorite new mastering engineer, Allen Corneau. Then I'm off to Austin to visit (and maybe songwrite with) Sarah Sharp. We are going to have lunch Friday with Michael Ramos at his home near Austin, and hear what he's been recording lately. Michael is a truely gifted keyboardist who plays with & occasionally produces Patti Griffin, and also plays in John Melloncamp's road band. It will be a real treat to share music with Michael!