WOW! The session Wednesday was a dream...I don't know where to begin. The three session players were Jerry Kimbrough on guitar, Gary Lunn on bass, and Steve Brewster on drums. These guys are all over hundreds of grammy-winning best-selling records in many different genres, yet they were the most down-to-earth, modest guys I've met in a long time. The minute they sat down with their instruments in hand, I heard my songs transform into pieces of art beyond my wildest dreams. The best part of the experience was that they listened to my input and used it to create the new versions of the songs.
From the moment I started writing songs, I had ideas about what they might sound like with full instrumentation. My Columbia band and I have created a very cool, roots/folk/blues sound which I love. I also thought it would be great to experiment with a bit heavier, more edgy rock sound, and I feel that is what I have gotten from this particular group of guys. It's so great to see your songs develop down different paths with the different influences of certain players. Some people believe your records should sound exactly like your live performance, or vice versa, but I am from a slightly different school of thought. I believe records are records, and they are works of art that should stand alone. One option for live performance is to try to replicate the sound of the album exactly, but I always enjoy live shows where a favorite song is done differently, be it something as simple as playing a guitar song on piano instead, changing the tempo, or extending the song by five minutes, it's great to see musicians in creative action onstage. I think the Nashville sessions will bring my music to a radio-ready level, but my band and I will be free to bring our interpretation of the songs to the stage whenever we like and in whatever way we choose. I feel much more freedom in this approach, as the songs can truly be organic, changing and growing as it feels appropriate.
The day after the session (Thursday) I turned on the radio to hear Faith Hill's "Cry" which was on one of the multi-platinum selling records which Steve Brewster played on. I was so excited to listen to his drum work and realize he'd played on my songs as well. Another highlight of the session is the guys gave a lot of time and energy to give the songs a creative edge. They weren't simply reading off a chart and laying down the tracks, they were helping develop the direction of the take, and they really seemed to enjoy that. I'd sing the song live for them in the studio, they'd make sure the chart was accurate, then they'd ask questions, give suggestions. We also joked around a lot. I felt comfortable and accepted by these amazing talents.
It is difficult for me to pick a favorite song from the session, but I did go absolutely crazy with joy when 'People on a Train' came together. We had arranged the song a bit more for radio, and I was wary about that only because in our live performance it's been established as more of an 'anthem,' where we build and build to the song's cresendo of an ending. It takes eight minutes to complete the song live, and I wasn't sure what would happen when it was cut down to four. Well, the drums became an unimaginable, and unexplainable force in creating the song. I cannot do justice to the drum track in any words printed here, so I will simply say, wait until you hear it!
The day will forever be imprinted in my mind as a turning point in my development as an artist. I recognize that I had a unique experience in terms of Nashville studio sessions. These guys gave me their all, and I didn't ever feel I was being pushed into a pigeon-hole of a certain sound or genre, they never acted like they were 'on the clock' and they never treated me as beneath them. It was simply, in one word, fabulous.