Day One in the Studio

posted December 5, 2009

Driving up to Conway, I was filled with a momentary dread. These songs stink! I have no voice! I will be forced to be awake midday which is almost impossible for me to do without huge amounts of caffeine which will burn a hole in my stomach. Turn Back, O Woman!

Then I remembered: it’s always like this. This is just resistance.

Today was pre-production: We played through all the songs and did some loose arrangements. “Full Catastrophe” got a new groove and some harmonies. “Back at the Fruit Tree” got a Beatles-esque “Getting Better” treatment; “Fear the Gap” got a new last verse, and we agreed to carry Tracy Grammer up the studio steps if need be to get her promised background vox on the tune (“Gap, gap, gap, gap, gap…”) and perhaps some crazed fiddle, too, if she’s willing. There are a couple of environmental tunes that I am excited about, songs I wrote two years ago that I’d almost forgotten about: “Hakatai,” which is a sort of “Clementine” rip-off, a la Sister Holler, and “Last Train Home,” which is the song I am the most excited about of all, at least for this five minutes. “I Am Half My Mother’s Age” is pretty much ready to go, and I think we’ll start with that one when we enter the studio on Sunday. (Today we only made it as far as Katryna’s and Dave’s music room; we decided to save the gas and not turn on the heat in the studio and instead record our experiments on Garage Band. What a great invention!)

I love love love love my band. I was saying to Katryna and Dave, “We are organic now. Back in the 90s, we were five people trying to compromise. Now we’re just in service of the song and of that elusive person who is meant to hear it and have it mean something to him or her.”

And we don’t get to know who that person is. We could go all market driven on our audience and try to write and produce songs they will love and want, but that seems somewhat soul-killing. As much as I hated it when my artists took directions I didn’t love when I was a passionate young music fan, I now get that artists have to follow the muse, not the dollars. Besides, following the dollars doesn’t always work. I won’t name names.

The point is to love what you do, what you sing, what you play. We are making this CD for ourselves and for the audience that will organically come to it. I hope that will spark a dialogue; I hope the songs will spark dialogues, inside and outside. I hope someone will see his or her journey and feel less alone, the way I did when I heard Joni Mitchell’s “Case of You” when I was a miserably-in-love 21-year-old.

Also, I love to sing background vocals, to layer vocals, and that’s the one musical direction I feel sure about on this CD. Lots and lots of vocals, please!

I bought the Robert Plant/ Alison Krauss CD. Delicious. This is more my speed than the White Stripes, though I am also enjoying Elephant. Also, the Decemberists’ “16 Military Wives” and everything from Picaesque. YUM!!!! There’s so much good music out there! Who knew? And it’s so easy to get! I love iTunes! Keep on suggesting stuff to me, friends. I am loving it.

I am reading Sylvia Boorstein recently. I can’t recommend her highly enough. She’s a Buddhist meditation teacher and she writes anecdotally, short pieces perfect for before bedtime. I am also reading Kevin Henkes a lot. Elle prefers “Chrysanthemum.” Jay likes “Moo Baa La La La.” Tonight when I pulled it out pre-bedtime, he cackled and went, “La La La!”

The Comments

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  1. Oh, what an album!! Hakatai?! Last Train Home? I can’t wait to sit and ruminate with these. Have so much fun with these songs, this process, each other. La la la, indeed!

  2. Music –

    Joanna Newsom – The Milk Eyed Mender
    St. Vincent – Marry Me
    Arcade Fire – Funeral
    Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
    Belle and Sebastian – The Life Pursuit
    Neko Case – Middle Cyclone

  3. Skinny Lover by Bon Iver
    Click, Click, Click, click by Bishop Allen
    Come una Pietra Scalciata by Articolo 41 (take on “Like a Rolling Stone)
    Head Full of Doubt by The Avett Brothers
    Nil’s Polska by Folk Arts Quartet (heard this year at Falcon Ridge)
    Which reminds me of girlyman’s “East Bake Ovens”

  4. My wife and I love Kevin Henkes stories. We are huge fans of Lily, with her cool cowboy boots and indominitable spirit. (I use Lily’s Plastic Purse in my Intro to Education course to show the power of a teacher in children’s lives.)

    Can’t wait for the cd. (Love the preview clips.) Any idea when it will be released?

  5. Thanks Kris! Thanks Inflammatory writ and Davidow2. I will look all these up as soon as I digest Radiohead, the Little Willies, the Decemberists and Neutral Milk Hotel. And Jeff, we are hoping (HOPING!) for a July release for Falcon Ridge.

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