Garage Band Americana

When I set out to make this record, I knew I wanted to record away from home.  I’ve made all of my records in the past here in Richmond—and mostly with John Morand at Sound of Music Studio.  John is great to work with and I still love the records that we made.  But this time, I wanted a different experience and a different sounding product.  I wanted to go away to record and be done with it, resisting the temptation to go back in and fix things over and over again.  I wanted this record to be different from my others and different can be risky.  But it can be equally rewarding.

I made a list of places where I knew people—friends and relatives—who lived in other cities and states where I might record.  There is a really cool old church that has been converted into a studio in Asheville, NC that caught my eye.  Some well-known artists have recorded there, but it was a bit pricey.  Asheville is an awesome town, but it was just beyond my financial reach for this record.  I also considered recording in Nashville because, well, it’s Nashville.  After a good bit of research, I contacted a small studio about the project.  I was impressed with the young man who owned the place and with the quality of work that had come out of the studio (mostly lesser known artists like me).  His prices were affordable and he had access to quality session players.

Then there was Dallas.  I have relatives in the Dallas area, but didn’t really know much about the music scene or any studios.  My musical connection with the city was that one of my favorite bands, The Old 97’s, call it home and have made several records there.  I had met their producer, Salim Nourallah, once a few years back.  We literally bumped into each other after an Old 97’s concert where his band had been the opener.  He seemed like a nice person, appeared laid back and friendly, and I knew he had produced some great records.  Those are all good qualities.  The clincher though was that he is also a really good songwriter.  His songs are different than mine.  Though maybe in the same overarching genre—rock and roll, or whatever you want to call it—his songs are a little quirkier and less conventional than mine tend to be, and I thought that it would be an asset working with someone who hears things a little differently than I do.

So, I called Salim one day last summer and asked if he would be interested and available to record my new EP, and if I could afford him.  Happily, the answers were yes.

I’ll skip over the details of the week in April I spent in Dallas for now other than to say that I am very happy with what we accomplished.  Salim lined up some really good musicians to play on the record (John Dufilho, Jason Garner, Paul Slavens, Richard Martin, Camille Cortinas, and Joe Reyes).  Salim even played bass on a few songs and added backing vocals to several songs.  None of these folks had heard the songs prior to coming into the studio.  They just picked up on the feel of the songs and added their interpretations.  Salim provided guidance as they worked through the parts.  I just sat back and listened as they added instruments to complement my acoustic guitar and vocal tracks. There was a time when I would have wanted complete control over all of the decisions about my songs, but as I have gained experience (or gotten older, not sure which is the more prevalent variable), I have learned to give up much of that control.  Think about it for a minute.  These folks have made a lot more records than I have.  And more importantly, they have made good records.  I think it makes sense to benefit from the experiences of others, especially when they have been good experiences.

Sonically, there aren’t too many effects on this record.  It sounds like people playing and singing without much studio gimmickry.  That’s one of the things I like about the way this record is shaping up—it has a raw feel to it.  Not like punk rock raw, but more like the kind of rawness that someone’s first record might have, before they feel like they have to make radio-friendly records.  Call it garage-band Americana.  Whatever it is, I like it, and I think you will too.

Salim is mixing the record in Texas this month and it is being mastered in North Carolina in early July.  Then, I am hitting the road for a short tour through Western NC, GA, and TN.  I hope to be able to mail pre-orders the first week in August.

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