The Quiet Year
I started this year with one goal and shortly after it got under way, I switched goals and went inward on myself and everything else with Christmas music. The first bit goal that switched was more of a continuation of a project I had revisited towards the end of 2021. It took a while to get that finished, meaning it carried over into the beginning of 2022. That was a remixing project for the very first album I had wrote, recorded and released. The end result will end up being a special digital download, though I can’t give a timeline for release.
The shifting of gears came when I was playing some Pickleball at a Christmas party roughly this time last year in 2021. A Pickleball Christmas party! One of my older friends who is notorious for bringing a portable speaker to the courts was looking to play Christmas music while the party was going on. I mentioned in passing that I had a whole bunch of Christmas music available for streaming (surprise surprise). He immediately logged it in and proceeded to play thru all 30 songs during the party. People dug it.
More Sleigh Bells Please
For some reason as I was playing Pickleball and listening to these songs, I got a wildly stupid idea. I wanted to remix these as well, but in addition to doing so I wanted to add sleigh bells. Because what better way to denote a song is a Christmas song than to slather a good dose of sleigh bells on them? Enter my over estimation on the time it would take to do this…
30 songs in 30 days. That’s what I initially thought to myself. Of course that isn’t how it went down. Yes, I did acquire a sleigh bells instrument (actually I already had it). However, being the musician that I am, it went further than adding the sleigh bells. I also updated my orchestrations with more modern sample libraries. Which further required some slight tweaks to make sure they didn’t come off odd. That took more time.
I went over each song with a finely made reindeer hair brush. Cue the cheesy sleigh bell to snare ending. For each song I had to make the tweaks. Put it away for a few days, then listen again to make sure I didn’t really miss something important. Then came figuring out methods of playing the sleigh bells so they weren’t the same on every song. A much harder prospect than it would seem. Why? Because sleigh bells are really hard to distinguish in the audio spectrum. They’re super brash, and can quickly overpower a song like nobody’s business.
Let The Remix Commence
I tackled the adding of the sleigh bells and orchestral tweaks for each song based on the album it came from. Thus I did all the Future songs, then all the Present songs, then all the Past songs. Though for reasons unknown to the Universe, I did them in alphabetical order for each release. Don’t ask, I don’t truly have an answer as to why I did it that way.
Getting to the actual remixes proved to be another avenue that required more thought. This is where I get nerdy as hell, so be prepared. I was working to learn a new DAW (Digital Audio Workstation – a fancy name for recording/mixing software). I already knew this DAW, called LUNA, was better sounding than my trusty old DAW that I still use to track everything I do when it’s new music to write and record. However, I wasn’t super versed in all the little ins-n-outs of the DAW (I’m still not, but I’m quick with it).
I made the artistic choice to do each album on a different console. A console is the old-school term for the hardware desk musicians, producers, artists, used to record and mix on before the digital versions came along. Now there are a plethora of emulations of classic consoles that can be gotten for pretty much any DAW these days [** I do believe there is one DAW that is an actual emulation of a console 🤷🏼♂️]
Pick Your Fancy
What this means is that I could now choose which console to mix a song with. Something that isn’t super common yet with DAWs and mixing engineers. I did a little research and made the determination to mix Christmas Past on a Neve 88rs. A console that was a large format desk meant to be an update to an older Neve design thus a cleaner but classic sound. A very vibey console that I believe gave great character to our beloved public domain Christmas songs.
Christmas Present was mixed on a Focusrite. This is a very rare console created by the Focusrite company of which only 10 were made but have been sought out to be used for many a popular song or album you may already know. It’s a low noise, low distortion console that I felt would really tackle the songs people are familiar with.
For Christmas Future I chose the SSL 9000 J. A very modern sounding, super clean, console for all the songs that are destined to become Christmas classics! (hint, hint – you need to add these songs to your playlists and get all your friends to do the same, or at least tell two friends to do the same).
The end result you can now hear for yourself. The albums have more character. They have more life. They sound fuller. Plus, a vast majority of the songs now have proper sleigh bells in them. What more could you possibly ask for?!?
Not all people reading to this point will be Spotify users, which is why I did link to the releases on my website. Those links will take you to updated release pages that contain links to all the major streaming services (Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Deezer, Tidal, YouTube, etc). For the truly bold, I implore you to go pick up the deluxe version of Christmas Brought Me You which includes some extra goodies. Or if you’re getting cold and need a great jacket to help keep you warm with that special Christmas feeling, I do have a lovely Christmas Brought Me You jacket.
Thank you for reading all the way to here. Have a wonderful set of holidays no matter what you celebrate or who you celebrate it with. See you next year with more new music, cause yes there is a lot of music I have coming.
It’s a rainy Memorial Day
In a way that’s a bit fitting for the real reason behind Memorial Day. Generally most Americans are out partying BBQing and generally enjoying a day off. Then there are those Americans who are spending time visiting the resting sites of loved ones who have given their life in service of their country.
That’s the intent behind a song written by Greg Watton and myself. A song called Forgotten Warriors. Greg is a military vet who is fortunately still alive and walking the earth. He wanted to write a song in honor of those who have given their lives and/or given their bodies and have been forgotten. I was all in on being a part of it.
We released it last Veteran’s Day.
Today we released an updated remix of the song to help beef up elements of the song and make it hit a little harder and deeper than the original mix.
Hats off and heads down while we honor those Forgotten Warriors. May you have a reflective and amazing Memorial Day.
Maybe You’re The Problem: Once Upon A Time…
There was a pop princess that was loved throughout the land. She came up thru the ranks and wowed people in one genre then shifted to another genre. All the while, she was growing up in front of everyone’s eyes – to a height of 5’10”. Being so public her dating life became fodder for chatting around the water cooler and for the gossip tabloids. She’d bounce from guy to guy, cavorting and having fun. Much as one would do as a teenager in anywheresville the universe.
Yet, the songs this troubadour was creating dealt with how every guy had done her wrong. That she was a victim of the male counterpart at any given point in her story. Making them out to be “the bad guy” was the m.o.
At one point in this tumultuous time of her dating life a comedian suggested that a male songwriter ought to write a song from the perspective of a former boyfriend who had been dumped by the songstress. What he went thru. How he felt about it. And then… His response.
That’s where I stepped in. I wrote just such a song called Maybe You’re The Problem. Recorded a demo of it and made a makeshift music video to go along with it. All in good fun. Posted it to YouTube where a PR friend caught wind of it and posted the link to the video. All of a sudden it went viral! Racking up 10s of thousands of views in a matter of hours.
Comments started pouring in. Lots of hate filled comments defending the songstress. Others were a bit more jovial, getting the joke and the fact that its only a song and meant to be on the humorous side.
The song remained in its little silo for a few months getting more views and more comments. Then one day, POOF! It was gone. The video had been yanked from the video site claiming violations of the end user agreement. Or rather violations that were a bit more vague. Honestly, I’m still not clear as to exactly why it got deleted.
Shortly thereafter a lovely woman wanted to be my manager and suggested that I rerecord the song and pull the reference to the songstress out. I thought, why the hell not. I can do that. No big deal. This manager really loved the song, just not the reference. Voilá the song now exists in the world without the reference to the imaginary songstress. It’s dressed up in new sonic beauty and ready to be shared in the world.
Which is why you’ve spent time reading this far. Be my royal fan and press play:
A Perfect Man exists
Something so simple, yet so complex has been created by Claude J Woods Jr and myself. The idea of a perfect man isn’t something new. No. I’m sure there are plenty of women out there chasing the concept of a perfect man.
Claude and I have done several tracks together and he came to me wanting to do more of a ballad type of song. So I decided I wanted to reimagine the idea of a ballad. Not the typical ballad or power ballad, but rather a stripped down and barebones bare the soul kind of thing. I came up with a very simple yet rhythmic solo electric guitar part that expressed that vibe. Claude responded with a melody and lyric idea that transformed into what you hear now.
In Claude’s words: “The song turned out to be an introspective of being a man basically in charge of his world. Where he’s not egotistical enough to think that he is invulnerable or infallible in his endeavor to be the man that he was taught to be. He’s able be strong in his conviction and responsibility, while still keeping his self esteem and self confidence. This man has a strong desire to be good whilst at the same time staying honest and humble.”
For me, it became about how a man could be put on a pedestal by his significant other. He realizes he’s been put there. That he wants to let them know about his imperfections and despite the possibility he might let them down, he’s still there for them, to the best of his abilities.
The journey of getting the song tracked initially went very different from how I had expected to do it. The simplicity of the guitar part took a lot more work than it what the auditory sound like. I spent a couple of days playing thru various amp and mic combos to get the right vibe with the guitar I was playing.
Once I had the guitar sound and got it tracked, I fought with my arranger & producer self to keep from putting too many instruments or layers into the production. In doing so, I really had to pay attention to how much emotion was coming thru the minimal amount of parts. A lot of attention to the detail of being able to propel the song forward came in to play. Usually I can throw the kitchen sink at a song and keep it interesting by sheer number of noises and layers I put in. The concept here thwarted that notion and made it more difficult to achieve.
I gotta wonder if the feelings I ran thru working on accomplishing the goal of simplicity runs anywhere similar in nature to how Apple designs their iconic products.
It’s my pleasure to present this song to you. I’ve already had some female friends tell me it makes them feel super sentimental to the point of bringing a tear to their eyes. To me, that’s the ultimate in compliments when a song can move a person to such strong emotions.
Let me know how it moves you. I know Claude and I will appreciate hearing your connection.
p.s. you can read more about the song here.
Let’s Just Go Starts Streaming Today
My new single titled Let’s Just Go went live early this morning on all the major streaming and digital services. Think of being in a Tesla launching into ludicrous speed while having Gal Gadot riding shotgun as you go into the wild blue yonder. A whole lot of fun for the blacktop adventure that awaits for the summer.
TL;DR: For those who want to know more…
A Little History
A few years back I got invited to perform at a songwriter’s in the round event. I was placed on stage with some heavyweight songwriters who have written for acts you’ve heard of.
Was I intimidated? No. Well… No.
I had already met several of them before. But there was one guy who I hadn’t met and he had the biggest cred list of the bunch.
Pre show I had asked the two I did know, James Grey and Warren Sellars, if they would play rhythm on one of my songs so I could go and kick into a solo. They agreed. Yippee!
Fortunately during the song the guy you see in the background Kevin Fisher also jumped in.
After the set I was greeted by Kevin who came up and said “We need to do some writing together.” You have no idea how cool that made me feel in that moment.
Forward A Few Years
Kevin is a busy guy. We kept touching base but had a hard time finding time to connect to sit and write. Thanks to technology, we used FaceTime when I finally found an idea and we both had time to flesh out a song.
Over the course of a couple of FaceTime sessions we cobbled Let’s Just Go into a full acoustic guitar and vocal tune that we both enjoyed. From there I took on the task of producing it into the sonic vision that would be released with me at the helm.
Originally my girlfriend at the time sang the female backing vocals. Unfortunately things didn’t work out as planned, we split up and even more unfortunate – she’s not on speaking terms. Of course I made the mistake of not getting written permission to use her vocal. Mostly due to thinking I’d have permanent permission via marriage. You live and learn, right?
That version of the song had Kevin’s publisher thinking we’d be able to get a car commercial. Exciting to envision.
New Female Singer
Rather than attempting to get someone with no desire to speak with me to agree to sign off on her voice, I opted to hire another vocalist and remove the ex’s voice altogether. Off I went to the local musician’s hang to ask around for quality female singers. This led me to Amy Lynn Whitcomb.
There is the possibility you’ve heard of her. Provided you’re a fan of The Voice, or have seen the a cappella group JANE.
I listened to the tracks she sent me as examples, in return sent Let’s Just Go over to her to see if she was up for it. Bingo, she loved it.
We found a time for her to come over to the studio and replace the previous female vocals.
Amy did an awesome job. She took direction and was even able to hit notes that seemed near impossible, you can hear a seriously high octave harmony in the chorus. That’s Amy, not a pitch shifter, I’m impressed. NAILED IT – would be the catch phrase I’d use.
I sent the revised version to Kevin and he loved it. With two thumbs up from Amy and Kevin it was time to get it out to you.
I’m excited to see the journey this song takes from here on out. Hit me back when you add it to your road trip playlists, I’d love to know.