Greetings from the innermost chambers of Gadgetbox Studios in Santa Cruz, where Kevin and I have spent seven of the past nine days immersed in the creation of our second album. Such a complex, collaborative, and cool process!
We arrived last Friday morning and greeted our amazing 'band' of session musicians - the same great players we worked with last year on our Send Me A Sign EP: Gianni Staiano on Hammond B3 Organ, Rhodes keyboard, piano, and melodica; Beau Bradbury on drums and percussion; and our multi-talented co-producer/engineer Andy Zenczak on bass guitar.
These guys played their hearts out while Kevin and I sang "scratch" vocals for our five songs with Patrick Brede at the helm in the control booth. It was a long, laughter-filled day that resulted in many amazing layers being added to songs that Kevin and I had only ever heard with his guitar and a few rattles of my tambourine as accompaniment. For the two of us, it was like watching a pencil drawing become a brilliantly colored painting. Five paintings!!
We drove home exhausted, elated, and amazed at how much was accomplished on Day 1. Day 2 brought in additional collaborators and musical revelations. A newcomer to our roster, Charlie Wallace added the unique, expressive voice of his pedal steel guitar to two of our songs in the morning, then Beau returned and devised a percussion track for We Create using found objects -- you'll have to listen closely for the throat-spray mister and camera shutter sounds when the EP is released! :-)
That evening, we welcomed back string players Chad Kaltinger (viola), Laurel Thomsen (violin), and the wonderful cellist/string arranger Barry Phillips to add a sweeping emotional component to our song Can You Hear It Ring?. All in all, another full and thrilling day.
The first half of Day 3 was spent cleaning up the tracks, and adding percussion elements and guitar as needed, in preparation for recording the vocals. We had the pleasure of my parents' company for a few hours (cashing in on their Kickstarter Executive Producer reward!) and I was ecstatic to get to play tambourine on a few tracks (I do love whacking that thing!).
After a brief dinner break with my folks and a short walk to the ocean, we got down to brass tacks: recording vocals! This was the scariest part of the process for us, since we needed to bring out our best and deliver the songs with all the energy and storytelling dynamics we possibly could since we'll be living with them for a long time...
To make matters more interesting, Kevin and I each have a song on this album that stretches us and demands our absolute commitment as singers. So we were pretty nervous going in. I am so glad to be able to say now that those two songs ended up being mountains that we did finally scale, and that rewarded us with great new horizons. On the drive home afterwards, Kevin said he'd never sung bigger in his life, and the experience of that much sound pouring out of me is one I won't ever forget.
We spent the next two days sitting at Andy's side weighing in on the literally thousands of small decisions included in the editing process, then took a few days off to sit with the rough edits of the songs. We returned yesterday and logged a final day of editing and invited Barry back to add some final cello touches.
And that brings me to the present, and our plan to complete "mixing" two songs today and two more tomorrow. If you haven't ever been involved with mixing before, think of preparing your taxes while simultaneously cleaning your house, cooking a meal for ten, and riding a motorcycle. It's an exercise involving endless variables, extreme focus, and the stick-to-it-tiveness of a rabbit in heat.
So, for the next few days we'll be battling decision-making fatigue and buoying ourselves with coffee, day-old doughnuts, and occasional tangents on items of popular culture importance such as JJ Abrams films, zodiac signs and how to make string cheese. (This is the not-so-glamorous part of the creative process).
So, keep in touch and keep us in your thoughts until we emerge from the cave with bloodshot eyes, goofy smiles and a fist full of music for an EP called, "We Create".