The Calm Before The Storm
It is almost a month away from my debut album coming into this world and I am so excited to share it. I am having a release party at The Basement here in Nashville on May 18th which is also my birthday and saw it fitting to have the debut of my music also be the day I was brought into this world.
This birthday is going to be a very special one because I have always been obsessed with the legend of the 27 club, so much to the point where I was actually afraid of becoming a member. Luckily it looks like I am going to make it. It is going to be special as well because this entire album is composed of songs that were carefully selected by the biggest fan I know, my Mother. Her and my father will be at the show and I couldn't be happier.
With putting out an album there is a lot of stuff that goes into it that I think people who are not part of this crazy world that is Music don't really get to hear about so I thought I would just give a little break down about what I have been working on for the past year.
August 2014 - I decided that I was going to work on recording a few songs that were really close to my heart and met up with Nick Bullock at Awake Studios here in Nashville to just start talking about making a little ep that was going to be really bare bones. We got together and I showed him some of my songs which surprised him because he had known me mainly for my role of Lead singer and songwriter for The Heavy Heavy Hearts. He wasn't as accustomed to the more sensitive and dark side of my songwriting. I played him a few songs that I was thinking about putting on the ep and each one that I played seemed to be something worth recording. I had asked my Mother to pick out a handful of songs out of about 15 or 20 and she picked out the first six that were going to go on the record. All of this excitement sparked a flame in my mind and I started churning out new tunes that I thought were just too good to pass up on which started growing the list of songs.
September - We had settled on 8 songs by the time we started Pre Production. This is a step where you work with the producer to refine the songs to make them as best as possible, as well as work out instrumentation. We wanted to do it live so we brought in Tom Elephante and Clark Singleton to really set the heart of the songs in stone. We rehearsed the songs in studio for a few weeks with Nick giving notes to each person about what would make the song stronger, and when we were ready it was time to hit record.
The first day of recording was a very crazy experience for me, one that I have never had recording. I had some of the best players I knew backing me up in the studio and we all had the songs down but after spending 7 hours in the studio recording live nothing felt right and I was angry. We broke for dinner and I had a conversation with Nick about how I felt like something was missing and went out to grab some drinks for everyone. When we all met back at the studio I decided the only thing that was really missing is the truth behind the songs. Sitting on Nicks back porch I did something that I had never done before and was completely honest about where these songs came from. I love using metaphors to hide the true meaning behind songs but I felt like the only way that we would truly connect to the music was for everyone to be on the same page. I told them the story behind the darker songs on the record the first night and we all took our drinks without speaking and hit the studio trying to live in this emotional state and capture it. Throwing out everything that we did before we just all started speaking through our instruments. Everything felt right and for the first time in my life I was 100% connected to what I was saying.
The second night we did the lighter songs on the record but still approached it the same way after having a nice potluck dinner where I told the truth behind the songs as well and we hit the studio running and finished out the 8 songs we had been working for. It felt great but then it was time to beef it up with the other instruments.
September 2014 - November 2014 - I started asking all my friends in town if they would come and add their magic to my record. First I had background vocalists come in and add their beautiful harmonies to the songs. This included Guthrie Brown, Maddy Brown, Jenny Leigh, Kiely Schlesinger, Nick Bullock and myself. Then there were the organs done by the amazing Adam Scott-Wakefield shortly followed by Greg Herndon on the Keys. We needed some haunting sounds so in came John McNally to add Pedal Steel and some Guitar. Nick and I also had been adding guitars along the way but there was a song where I needed the expertise of one of my former bandmates Anthony Mancini to come in and lay down parts I could hear but only he could play. Last thing that was really needed was aux percussion in the form of shaker and tambourine and something you might not know about Clark Singleton is that he is a beast at them. He knocked out most of them and Nick rocked the shaker and tambo in a few songs but after that we were pretty much done.
January 2015 - New year comes with new songs. I went home and had a few songs I was working on and actually got an opportunity to go out on tour playing for Kirstie Lovelady and Preston Summerville for the Pepsi On The Rise Tour. It was an awesome experience but it also put the breaks on finishing up this record. One because I was out of town a lot but secondly because I kept writing songs that I wanted to put on the record.
February 2015 - We were heavy in the mixing mode getting mixes of the songs back and tweaking them constantly. Also I decided that 2 of the songs that I had written out on the road needed to be on there especially because Kirstie and Clark co wrote one with me. We went in one night in the studio and laid down "Heart Is What You've Found" with Clark on bass and Frank Ford on drums. We managed to get the entire song knocked out in one night and around 3 in the morning I was sitting with Nick in the studio debating if we wanted to try and get "Carolina's Calling" which we decided to just give it 2 takes and if it didn't happen we would try again later.
This was the moment that everything that we had done the entire way hit me. So many emotions bubbled up as I sat in front of the mic. Just me, a guitar, 2 mics and Nick sitting 3 feet away pressing record. This was it. I sang through the song once which broke me down because I was so happy about this entire experience and from that point I ask to go straight into the take that is on the CD. After that take I just cried and Nick talked to me about how proud he was of this record and of me. It was the first time in a long time that I truly felt proud of myself and what I had done.
March 2015 - April 2015 - We were in full mix mode and I was in full breakdown mode. Each mix I would hear I would get flustered and freak out because it was still a work in progress. I had an idea of what I wanted to hear but the tracks we laid down were so different than anything that I had ever heard before or thought I would hear made me live in a state of uncertainty for a long time. Nick was a huge emotional coach through the mix process because each time he would say that it wasn't the final end all be all and just reminded me that it was a solid album. When we finally got to a place where we agreed on the mix it was time to take it to Adam Grover at Georgetown Masters and polish it off. We went to the mastering studio to take a listen to the mixes and get the final notes of things to tweak before Adam added his magic to the album. It was really awesome to listen to the record in its entirety on speakers that were bigger than me. Adam knocked out the songs over one weekend and I had the final masters in my hand. Everything was paid off and everything was almost done. We took a week or two to sit down and listen to the record to make sure that everything was ready and decided to do a few tweaks on the masters. To listen to an album my favorite part is just putting it in the car and taking it for a ride. My favorite place in Nashville to do this is Natchez Trace Parkway and that was the road that got to hear the very first listen of the album. It was awesome. I was so happy and if there is anything that I could leave behind for people to know who I was, this album would be the best thing I could think of. It isn't something that I think is going to hit major charts but I do believe it will connect with a lot of people. This record is just an honest look into my life and at my heart and I can sleep easy now knowing that it is finished.