Monday, August 25, 2014

Evolution of a song: "Emily"

Like many, I'm a new country fan.  After countless years of saying I couldn't get over the twang, the slide guitars, and the jiggly banjoes, I have finally crossed the line into Team Country.  Don't get me wrong, as in any genre, there are still limits to my newfound appreciation (I'll take Kacey Musgraves over Taylor Swift any day, or Johnny Cash over Dierks Bentley). But overall, I've found endearment and admiration for the storytelling that goes into a good country song. One of my favorites is an oldie - Dolly Parton's "Jolene."  Roughly two years ago I got to writing a song with a similar premise, a song called "Emily," that tells the tale of a gal desperately begging another far more attractive female to stay away from her man.  Some might say I was copying the country legend herself.  I prefer to say that I was simply paying homage to a great.

Here are 2 renditions of "Emily" in its earlier stages. This one was sent off to Marc Lacuesta in Nashville to get his input on building the track: 

A few weeks later, I was lucky enough to get into House of Rock in Santa Monica - a multi-million dollar house that included a beautiful studio in the attic that was owned by Blue Microphones.  The folks over at Blue were nice enough to let me get into the studio to record a little bit, so I did a version of "Emily" along with drummer Roberto Cerletti. 

As I worked with the song during gigs, it became evident that the song would have a heavy upright bass presence. As a result, I got together with a great bassist in town, Austin Underhill, and would play the song with him during a handful of gigs. I also took the tempo down a little to make it a bit more mysterious.

Meanwhile, in Nashville, Marc and I had built the track, working off what was recorded at House of Rock with all the tasty Blue mics in the studio.  We also got Bones Hillman, of Midnight Oil, to play upright on the track.  We topped it off with some of Marc's sweet background vocals and some organ, and then all that was left was for me to re-sing my vocals during a September 2013 visit.  Here's the final version of the track!   Stay tuned for a music video soon...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Ladies and gents... The Idle Hours!

Here I am, many months later.  I promised I'd be better about blogging, but the last few months have been kind of an overload of thoughts and things happening.  You would think this would be the impetus for more blog posts, but it's the opposite with me.  I start to feel the snowball effect; I get lost in the thoughts and ideas and, instead of getting them out here, I kind of roll along with the avalanche.  Sorry, truly.

But let me attempt it anyway.

I've had a project going on in Nashville for 3 years now with Marc Lacuesta.  He's the producer behind half of "World Go Blue," and has been the other half of a duo I've started called The Idle Hours.  We write songs that we love, and we've been aiming to have them placed in film and television.  Much of that is out of practicality - Marc isn't an artist in the traditional sense and doesn't have time to tour - but we also have been interested in exploring the outlet of licensing a bit more.  Nashville (also lovingly known as Nashvegas) is a town that is built heavily on the idea of publishing music, so it's a very tangible goal for us.  I could tell you so much about working with Marc... but it'd be a hefty novel, so I'll tell you about the product of our work instead.

We are releasing our first-ever EP next week.  Not a lot of clamor or publicity about it, but we're OK with that.  We are quietly going out into daylight.  I feel like we're letting these songs escape into the world with the thought that doing so is accomplishment enough.

These songs have been benchmarks of our time as friends and collaborators, co-conspirators and penpals (2,000 miles of distance! Oy!)... there's lots of great nuggets in there, including one song that features Jeremy Lister from Street Corner Symphony, and another with prominent pedal steel genius B.J. Cole.  We tried to get Marc's bestie Ruby Amanfu in there, but her rock star schedule wouldn't allow.  :)

I learned so much in 3 years of writing and recording with Marc. The project has been half the reason for my 7 trips to Nashville since 2011 (the other being my last solo record, of course). It's also seen me and Marc through a lot of life changes.  When we first met each other he was single, and I was unsure about my own relationship; now he is engaged (to a very lovely person), and I am happily sure about my relationship (same guy; rough road, now behind us).

The good news is that even before these songs were really out in the open, we'd gotten "Bergenfield, NJ" placed in an upcoming indie film called "Old Fashioned," and have just been approached about placing it in another film as well (that one I will mention once it's final).  I guess it helped that this song was on "World Go Blue" as the final track.  During the week I spent in Nashville this past June, we were approached by a publisher about an exclusive pub deal, which means we may be on our way to accomplishing the goals we had for our songs (here's praying!).  After our EP comes out next week, we'll release a new music video, which I am producing alongside the guys at Homeroom Creative.  I'm really excited for this one, since it will be an illustrated video, with a story that is near and dear to me.

All good things.  But at the heart of everything, it's just amazing that Marc and I set out to do something and have completed it... or at least, gotten it rolling.  We've still got more music in store... but before I jump ahead of myself, I'm going to do what I'm not that great at doing: take a look at all that was created, and see that it is good. :)