It's been a while since I've checked in with you all here, and since I've finally found a moment for slowing down to take a short break, I wanted to catch you up and talk a little about the new album I've been working on--which is mostly the reason for the delay until now, in posting here again.
I started recording the first song (“Endgame”), for the new album, around August of last year. Typically, I'll start a recording with an acoustic guitar and vocal part for the “basic tracks,” and then start building onto the song from there. After finishing those tracks for this song, I began to search for a special electric-guitar sound to add to the arrangement. I had something very specific in mind mood-wise and texturally, and I had a general idea of what equipment I might need to use to achieve it, but all of that was just the very beginning of the process of actually creating/producing the sound and then testing it out to hear if it was going to work the way that I had envisioned and hoped it would, with what I had already recorded. I spent several days just experimenting with different guitars, amplifiers and effects pedals and then, after narrowing down the choices, I spent several more days adjusting knobs and parameters to zero-in on the sound that I was trying to create. I eventually wound up using a Gibson 335 electric guitar, with a stereo signal from the effects board feeding a Fender Princeton and a Paul Reed Smith Archon amplifier, both set for very clean, non-distorted sounds. I went with using the stereo signal into those two separate amps, to enhance the gently swelling, spacious and ethereal sounds being generated from the Leslie-simulator effects pedal (the one I landed on after trying out several for this part) and which happily had a stereo output. I attached an expression pedal to the Leslie simulator--to be able to vary the speed and intensity of the effect while playing and recording the new part--and added a volume pedal and treble booster into the signal path for some more subtle tweaking of the sound options. I gave the set up a few test-runs and adjusted the parameters some more, until I felt like the combination of equipment and their settings provided me with the right palate of sounds to work with, and for me to be able to make something musically moving happen. Since specific sounds can create specific feelings, it was really important to me to reproduce and create that sound I wanted for this song, as closely as possible to how I was hearing it in my head, so that everyone listening could also hear it as I was imagining it to be and could feel what I was feeling and how I wanted the song to feel. That connection--the making and sharing of it--that's what music is all about for me. It's what I hope for and strive for, and it was probably more than a week, and maybe two, before I finally felt that I had achieved the sound that I was hoping to add to this song. In the end, it was well worth the time and effort. After creating the sound that I wanted, with the equipment on hand, I got to work (read: great fun!) composing the electric guitar part that I wanted to add to the vocal and acoustic guitar tracks. I spent nearly another two weeks coming up with different ideas and selecting the ones that I liked the most to complete this part of the song, which, aside from the vocal part, is a central point of focus in the recording. The challenge was to have two equal focal points (vocal and electric guitar) that added something musically interesting to each other, without one distracting from the other. Finding the right balance was the key to unlocking the magic, and I worked on this song from early August of 2022 well into September of 2022 turning that key. After completing the electric guitar part in September, my attention got diverted to other callings, including a road trip to Nashville for AmericanaFest 2022, which then detoured me to Colorado for some mountain time and then took me back home, where I decided to plant some trees--about 20 of them. It was something that's been on my “too-due” list for a long while, and with the weather being so mild so late in the year (2022), I saw it as the perfect time to get to it and to get it done. So that's what I did, and it feels good to be able to watch them growing! When I got back to recording again in January of this year, I found that, working through the process of patient preparation and experimentation for the first song for this record, had somehow carried over and set the pace for the recording of the songs that followed--three others so far, each of which I've easily spent just as much, if not even more time and effort on already.
The second song, “Time Is a River Now,” also has electric guitar accompanying the acoustic guitar and vocal tracks, but it's definitively a straight-up rock-guitar sound. I used an Ernie Ball/MusicMan EVH Signature guitar, with a treble booster, a volume pedal and a Sabadius “FunkyVibe” (Filmore Model) Univibe Clone, with an expression pedal attached (to vary the speed of the Univibe effect while playing and recording), running through a vintage Marshall JMP-1 pre-amp and a vintage Mesa Boogie 2-Ninety stereo power amp, powering a full Marshall stack! This set up makes such an incredibly expressive and satisfying sound to play with, and I had an absolute blast recording this part! It's funny, because it all started out as a folk song, and then, well, something turned a corner in the making and suddenly the song “went electric,” with eight, 12" Celestian Greenbacks weaving electric guitar riffs into and around the Folk acoustic guitar and vocal tracks. It will be a bit of time yet, before this album can be released, so, while I am sad to have to wait to share it with you, I can mention now that, if you enjoy hearing the interplay of the acoustic and electric guitars when the song is released, even one quarter as much as I enjoyed playing and recording them, then you're gonna really love this song! Many of the earlier years of my musical path were devoted to the electric guitar, and it's so much fun to be able to draw buckets of water from that well, to complete the songs that I'm writing now. This one was really fun!
For the third song, “It Keeps Me On The Run,” I leaned more on Folk and Roots fundamentals, adding some understated mandolin to the acoustic guitar and vocal tracks. I had experimented with adding another guitar part on top of that, but later decided that the song didn't need any more guitar parts, and sounded better with a simpler, more stripped-down arrangement, and so I left it as it was/is. My plan is to have other artist friends add bass, drums and other instruments (such as piano, organ, pedal steel guitar, dobro, banjo, fiddle/strings, and/or whatever else might come to be) to some of the 12 or so songs that I have in mind for this album, after I've finished recording all of my parts for all of them. That's a process that's worked well for me in the past and that I hope to begin sometime toward the end of this year or in early 2024.
The fourth song that I've recorded so far, is titled, “And, So (Deep Into the Dark)." It's a song I wrote some years ago and it leans to the Americana side of things. Presently, it has just an acoustic guitar and vocal track--which I finished just last week. I'm thinking acoustic piano and a string section, along with bass and drums, will be great additions to this one, and I'm looking forward to getting those parts worked out and recorded later down the line as well.
I love how these first four songs have already turned out and I can't wait to get started on the rest! I can already tell that this album is going to be something really special. Overall, it will likely have just two, or maybe three songs that feature electric instruments, with the others being more in line with the style of my previous records, while still offering something new and unexpectedly different from what you've heard from me in the past. I've got at least eight more songs written and ready to start recording for it, and since part of the fun of recording is in the doing and another part is in the seeing and hearing where you wind up when it's all said and done, I'm excited to get back to it. Wherever it ultimately takes me to, the process feels so good already. I'm also excited about the songs themselves and the fact that with no looming time pressure or planned imminent deadlines ahead, there's lots of space for fun and thoughtful, creative composition to enjoy and make them shine.
For now--for the rest of this week--I'll be taking a little R & R on this North Carolina beach. Since my attention is going to be focused on getting this record recorded when I get back home to New York, my live shows will be few and far between for a short while. I've got a house concert in KY coming up in September, 2023 though, just before AmericanaFest, and I have visions of a full-on tour to see through for 2024, after that. Check back here from time to time, and I will keep you posted as things keep moving forward on this new record. As always, I so appreciate your love and support, and am looking forward to seeing you out on the road again soon!
With much love,