February 28, 2004

Well, we've run into a little delay in the project. Matt's internal drive crashed, but none of my tracks have been affected, thank goodness. We should be getting back on track in a few days. I'm getting anxious for the project to be done, not because I'm not enjoying every minute of it, but because being away from home and "making do" and eke-ing out an existence is not easy and certainly not always fun. And I miss people, darnit!

I am looking forward to the next gig I have with my full Columbia band, which is on Tuesday, March 16th. We won't really have had any time to rehearse and get back into the swing of playing together before the gig, so it will be raw emotion and getting back into the good old groove.

I'm really excited that one of my band members, Bill Adams (acoustic guitar and slide) had taken over some of our radio promotion work. He's been in community radio for years and has connections, plus the knowledge and savvy to get our music to the correct people. If you read this blog and would like to know more about some of the stations that have our music and are willing to listen to your requests and suggestions, check out the radio station link on the website. We actually have CDs at radio stations in several different states now. When the Nashville sessions are completed, we will be able to send those radio-ready songs to these stations, plus many more, since it's more likely to fit the commercial-AAA format. However, we really appreciate community and college radio, and they've been playing my music already, in its current format with longer songs, etc. The goal is just to get it out to as many people as possible!

On a totally unrelated note, I cooked this week! Really cooked! (Anyone who knows me knows this is a rare occurence and I did it four times this week!) I made up a bunch of stuff, instead of looking in a cookbook. I found a great way to prepare asparagus, and suddenly it's just about my favorite food, especially sauteed with garlic, onions, spices and balsamic vinagrette. I put it in soup, in spaghetti sauce, on salads, on the side, anywhere! It tastes so GREEN...that's the best way I can describe it. And since spring is coming I crave vegetables all the time. Everything will soon be green, the coolest time of year for me.

GREEN! My favorite color...

Well that's enough babbling for now.

February 19, 2004

Today provided me with another example of why I love the night. I woke up SUPER early this morning (okay, so for me EARLY is 7:00am - but still) and was raring to go, but I still had some stuffiness in my head from this cold I'm just getting over. I laid down final guitar tracks on 'My Friend,' then decided to go for a vocal take on 'Calls From Springfield.' Well, we got some acceptable, good takes, but things just didn't quite fall into place as I had wanted them to, and I think a big part of that was trying to lay down my most emotionally-effective vocals at 10am. It just wasn't happening. I am a night owl, and I am usually onstage at night, when all emotions seem heightened, and I needed to capture that in the studio.

I spent several hours this afternoon watching Matt work his magic on 'Brave New World,' (he's added some amazing guitar licks and also used a special effect that synthesizes the natural voice - sounds almost like strings, but very cool and subtle and is built directly from my ACTUAL voice) and I was so inspired I asked him if he'd mind going back into the studio after dinner to let me have a go at final vocals on 'Brave New World' and possibly 'Calls From Springfield.' Magic happened in the hours between 8 and 10pm. I can honestly say I may have delivered some of the best vocal takes I personally ever have. The emotions were there, right on the tip of my tongue, and I was able to recall why I had written these songs in the first place, as they came alive to me again. It was fantastic. It wasn't about absolute technical perfection, just raw emotion.

I feel this week has gone very well. We've run into a delay getting Jerry Kimbrough back into the studio to lay down some more guitar parts, but I feel very confident in how the songs are shaping up. Apparently, especially after tonight, so does Matt. He said I had 'made him a believer' tonight with my vocal performance, which meant a lot to me and was a relief, since my voice has been so sub-par lately with this cold. However, having just a hint of rawness from the illness adds a touch of pathos. Ask any member of my Columbia band who has worked with me on past projects and they will say I've got at least one song on every album recorded when I was, to some degree, ill. (It's a state of being for me - allergies, colds, etc.)

Anyhow, I will take this opportunity to say that even amidst all of the great musical creativity and excitement I am a part of down here, I miss home. I miss my band mates, whom I had gotten used to being with nearly all the time since we spent the last few months touring. I miss Michael. I miss my cats, Biko and Dewey. I miss my friends in Columbia. This project is necessary and it will be a vital part of the growth of my career, but leaving home, even for only a month or so, sucks. But I let that pang of sadness drive me on. It's great creative fodder...

February 18, 2004

Music Row has to be one of the most beautiful neighborhoods I've seen in any city. (It's a musicians' paradise.) From the mammoth ASCAP building to the tiniest houses hiding world-famous studios, it's a glorious place to see. I can only imagine what it will look like in the spring with the foliage and flowers. Immediately surrounding Music Row are several blocks of ritzy shopping and great dining. I can see why Nashville is so beloved by the industry, but it's also a town of great dichotomy. You go from the poor industrial sections immediately into the wealth of Music Row. Of course, this is true of many big cities, but Nashville has more the feel of a small town. Just as Music Row is a loop to drive in, once you're "in the loop" so to speak, you get to know people very quickly, and the circle isn't that big.

We also went to see a couple other studios in Berry Hill, which is a mile or so from Music Row. Just bunches and bunches of little homes that have been converted into studios for recording, mastering, mixing, what have you. 75% of the businesses in Nashville, it appears, are directed at the music industry in one form or another, be it directly music-related or an offshoot like photography, disc pressing, advertising, lawyers and agents, etc. It is almost overwhelming, but it's a living example of why networking is so important, and in Nashville the "network members" are all within a few miles of each other.

I'm tired. I'm going to drink some Throat Coat and take a nap. Today Matt took some serious time on "Brave New World," and it's shaping up to be a fascinating tune with subtle string sound, harder-edged guitar, and a very cool drum track where Steve Brewster took a kick drum, turned it on its side, and used it as an extra tom. It creates a huge, low, open sound that is very unique.

February 16, 2004

Isn't the night supposed to be darkest before the dawn? The only low point of my Nashville experience has been leaving my purse unattended in a restaurant for a few minutes and returning to have several hundred dollars (all I had to live on) missing. Well, 'missing' implies something can again be found, so let me use the correct word: STOLEN! It has made me feel depressed, and a little wary of humankind. Not that bad things haven't happened to me before, but almost never at such an inopportune time. It filled me with such angst I couldn't even write about it until now though it happened 4 days ago. However, I've taken the last few days to try to put it into perspective, and I've gone through the immediate despair, the subsequent anger, the kicking myself because 'I should have done this or that,' and now I'm almost to acceptance. (Isn't that the grieving process?) OK...it's just money, and luckily I'm not hung up on that, but it was money that was going to buy my food. So now, let me relive some of those college days when I ate mostly cereal, Ramen, and PB&J. I'll survive. I sure hope whoever took the money needed it more than I.

Correction: Steve Brewster's drum work is on 'Breathe' and several other Faith Hill records, but I don't believe, after all, that it is on 'Cry.'

February 13, 2004

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.

February 10, 2004

Tomorrow is the big studio day. We will probably track from 10am well into the evening, as I said before, and I may not have time to blog tomorrow evening, but I will try my best, since tomorrow will be one of the most exciting days in the entire process. (The day when it is completed will be pretty darn exciting too.)

Today we nailed down the tempos on all of the songs and I fell victim to vivid flashbacks of the wretched metronome I always had to practice piano to when I was a kid. I know it's a vital part of the process, but it's difficult to get "lost in the song" when you're playing to a click track!

My nose is dripping and I should go take care of it. I am VERY hopeful that by the time I start recording vocals I will be in full voice again. Today we had a bit more down-time, but it's been great to actually have a chance to discuss the songs at leisure. The "think tank" time will stretch way beyond the tracking time, I have learned!

February 9, 2004

Today was an intensive day, but that's probably me being a wimp because I've been thinking through the fog of a head cold. We went through the arrangements on songs again and laid down some more rough cuts for the studio musicians to listen to. Most of the six songs were already in very good form, but on a couple of them (Blind Me and People on a Train) we moved around a verse or chorus here and there, held a chord longer, cut a line or two. So far, I feel only positive about the changes and letting go hasn't been as hard as I had anticipated it would be.

Tomorrow we will finish our brainstorming on the arrangements, and then the bassist who is also very good at making charts, will come and chart out all the songs for the entire band. Apparently he is Amy Grant's bassist, and has played on uncountable major records, as have the other two musicians. They've been responsible for many a Grammy win, it seems. The funniest thing is that oftentimes they spend days in the studio cutting tracks for people, and then they never hear the finished product. Matt says a lot of times they will be listening to the radio and realize a minute or two into the song that, "hey, I think that's me playing guitar in this song!" So, the fruits of their labor aren't always readily apparent, they don't always get instant gratification, but luckily they just love what they do and are wonderful at it (to my benefit I get to meet them.)

Anyhow, I'm still waiting to see how drained I will be after Wednesday, when we work from 10 in the morning until about 8 or 9 at night solid. A solid 10-11 hour day. I suppose that's not a stretch for a lot of people who work 12 hours or more a day! I need to just suck it up and enjoy! Because after all, we can call it work, but it's still really the only thing in the world we wish we were doing.

February 8, 2004

I've arrived in Nashville! And I feel I've truly "arrived" at a place that will give me all sorts of new creative energy. Certainly I will learn a lot in this month. My first challenge is to combat the nice cold virus my body waited until now to let in, but luckily Matthew Wilder (the producer) and his family have basically adopted me, and I'm very comfortable. They've got this great bassett hound named Scarlet who makes me feel at home with her slobbery kisses. (I had a bassett hound when I was a child - she was named Bridgette and was my very first pet.)

Matt and I come from a very simliar place both in our musical background and our future vision, so it is an excellent pairing. I may be too excited to sleep tonight, but I'm going to go try right now. And since I have access to internet while I am here, my e-mail addiction will be adequately fed and I also hope to keep a better blog diary while I am experiencing what will surely be one of the very best months of my entire life!

February 3, 2004

Tonight I had a fabulous experience. My harmonica player Matt passed along two tickets to me today for the Judy Collins concert at Jesse Hall. I went with Michael, and we just got back. Judy, in her sixties, still has the clear-as-a-bell voice of an angel. She did nearly as much story-telling as she did singing, and she is a wealth of history, knowledge and humor. Before the show Michael and I chatted with the couple next to us, and they are regulars at the University Concert Series and donate money, so they get some perks. We got to talking about the fact that I am a musician, and at intermission, the man asked
me if I'd like to go meet Judy with him, since he has the option of meeting all of the performers. I jumped at the chance, and although they pushed us through in quite a hurry (there were about 15 of us that got to meet her downstairs in her dressing room) I had a chance to get my picture with her, and slip her assistant my card. (Oh the degrees of separation!) I unfortunately didn't have a CD on me. I couldn't have imagined I would have had such a perfect opportunity to give Judy a CD. I am so uncomfortable with the idea of self-promotion. Everyone says you have to do it, but it's so uncomfortable for me to push things on other people. So here I missed a chance to possibly have her ear turned on my CD. But, just the experience of seeing a 60's icon sing, shaking her hand, and having my picture taken with her was great.

I have one of Judy's albums, and I have to say she's more fabulous live. It really caused me to think about how much more listeners are endeared to performers when they actually get to see them in the flesh. You might listen to someone on CD and think they're good. But when you have a chance to experience their art firsthand, get a feel for their world view, and their sense of direction, you feel you know them, if only a little bit. Live performance is truly where the magic happens...