I guess I’d have to say the heart of this record has now been firmly established. Ha! What started out a year ago as a desire to add 10 more hymns to a very humble “Homemade Hymns” CD has now blossomed into a full-on, technicolor dream of what we feel musically when we dream, ponder and ruminate on Heaven. We’re about a third of the way through the record, and we realized that for it to continue in the direction this dream has been taking it…we need help. Strings. Studio time for various instruments. Expert help in the mixing and mastering of it.
Folks, this record has basically told us…”I’m the record you’ve waited all your lives to make. The record you’ve wanted to make all your lives. I’m the soundtrack of the souls God planted in you. Go for it! Have no fear and enjoy the bliss.”
I came home from work Friday afternoon and had this feeling that something musical would pop out if I just grabbed a guitar. I can never really rely on this happening/feeling/vibe/experience/whatever it is. Years can go by and I won’t feel this. And then, when inspiration hits, I usually have a decent duration of time when I just know I can write and/or arrange a song if I simply sit down and do it. When this happens, it’s kinda bewildering how music comes through and out of me. I don’t get it…and I’ve learned not to care about not understanding it. It’s a gift when it’s there, and I’m not frustrated when it ain’t.
I plinked and plunked with my old fake Gibson acoustic guitar my mom bought in the early 80s at a Sears closeout sale in Omaha, and out flew something that had me mighty excited. I spent about an hour in the recording studio laying parts, got all giddy about what my fingers were freely and quickly doing (I don’t understand why my left hand knows where to go on the fretboard in these different tunings that I try…I can’t read music and theory baffles me) and then I ran upstairs to tell Lisa I’d sure love her to hear what I’d just done…or maybe more accurately…what had just happened.
She LOVED it! In fact, she said it was hands down her favorite thing from me she’s heard in ages. And folks, it’s quirky. It’s happy. And I feel it’s only started. When the gurlz are down tonight I plan on heading back down to the studio to tinker. If I get it near to where I’m feeling it’s close to being a full piece, maybe I’ll post it in a few days. Lisa thinks this was the piece that came to define the record. At least for her. I’ve been creeping into this zone for awhile now so my head, heart and soul are pretty deep into it. I can even recall a few rare studio/songwriting moments over the past five or six years that hinted at this vibe to come.
We have not been prolific or musically active for pert near a decade. We finished “Sunshine Saturday” in early 2002 and then recorded a very pared down hymns record a couple of years ago. That’s it. But the life we’ve lived, the new music we’ve soaked in, the huge experiences we’ve had, the friends we’ve made, the vibes our souls have soaked in, growing closer to our Lord Jesus, realizing He made us to do this, me having a day job for the past six years as an audio editor for a music company, me learning how to use a computer(!), it’s all added up to this very rich, exciting, mysterious record that is speaking loudly to us.
Folks, we’ve never made a record like this before. And yet, we kinda have. It’s definitely us. But we get to share our lives and journey with you through this. You’ll hear it. And we pray…you’ll feel it.
God bless you, thank you for reading, and always know…your prayers are much needed and appreciated.
I started tinkerin’ around with a loopy beat and droning organ sound in February with the hope that Lisa would be able to sing “What Wondrous Love Is This” over it. And did she ever! After she sang, I drenched her vocals in reverb and delay and started adding guitar parts, both electric and acoustic, until I felt the song building and continually progressing to the end. Then it was back to some more vocals!
Since we’d just finished a classic round with “Babylon”, I figured, “what the heck…maybe this one could work as a round as well.” And it kinda did! Give it a listen!
I’m going about this record in a way I never have before, and the approach is bringing new things out of me. I’m designing this record so we can perform much of it live by creating loops. I’m doing my best to write parts that either stay interesting anchored in one chord, or somehow allow other chords to shift underneath them. I experiment with a lot of different things in the studio until a weave of all the parts starts sounding full and interesting. It’s our hope and prayer that after this record is finished we can be performing several times a month (as opposed to several times a year, which has been our pattern for awhile), and we’re hoping to bring much of what people hear on the upcoming record to the show. I’ve always thought it was cool to watch musicians create their loops and then build on them. We’ve never done that live, and the thought of it excites us.
For our non-musician friends…what I mean by a loop is a musical part, whether it’s a guitar riff, keyboard line, bass guitar melody, that goes for just a little bit and then repeats over and over. I can literally play a few seconds of a part, record it and then instruct my computer to play that little part over and over until I stop it. Just give “What Wondrous Love Is This” a spin and listen for little parts that repeat.
I’m going to post a pretty fleshed out version of “Wondrous” tonight. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s much further along than the previously posted “Babylon” sample. Just a couple of nights ago, “Wondrous” was in about the same place as “Babylon.” I kept givin’ it guitar parts, arrangement, more reverb and delay (the echo sounds you hear) and vocals.
And speaking of loops, the next couple of songs we plan on recording will probably throw you for one if you’re getting the impression our whole album will be like “Wondrous” and “Babylon.” We’re headin’ to Americana pop land next folks! How will these disparate musical approaches work together on an album? We have no idea! And that’s what is makin’ this FUN. I’m not getting bogged down in anything stylistically. My main parameters are “Can we do this live?” and “Is this givin’ me goosebumps and butterflies as I record?”
I’ll be going for an old hymn that I learned from the Louvin Brothers later this week. My weird head is hearing it done ala Marshall Crenshaw. Hope to have somethin’ for you soon!
As always, prayer is needed and much appreciated! God bless you!
One nice thing about tropical heat and humidity in Minnesota (believe it or not, it gets like that in the upper midwest) ~ it drives me to the cool basement where my studio is set up. I’ve gotten a great start on three songs and I’m already feeling the vibe of what this record wants to be. It wants us to fly our freak flag. It’s Americana. It’s Florapop. It’s Sun Studios rockabilly. It’s got tastes of Lemon Jelly and Massive Attack. It’s stuff we’ve never done. It’s stuff we’ve always done. Now…how all that will mesh and/or mash remains a fun mystery. Lisa and I had such a great night of tracking last night on the old spiritual “Babylon” that I’m tempted to post a stream of it here in it’s early, bare form. Maybe I’ll just do that tonight after I can tweak a quick mix of it. It’ll give you a peek behind the curtain of this record. A peek that just came to me this past week as I rolled up the sleeves, surrounded myself with stringed stuff, parked myself in front of a computer and thanked the good Lord for my air conditioned basement.
We shot some great footage out in South Dakota a couple of weeks ago. A valiant attempt to record us singin’ live in the prairie church we married in…well…failed. Our little camera’s built-in mic couldn’t grab a decent signal with all of the echoes and reverb surrounding us. We’ll have to try that again with microphones and a portable recorder next time. But we did have a beautiful sunset and a big, blue sky to play with.
We look forward to sharing that with all of you!
Whoa…February was the last post? Actually, that one has remained current with our status regarding this record and our live show. Records for us have a way of brewing for awhile, and then in a flurry (and an open calendar) we actually get it done. Heh.
We have been shooting some video out in South Dakota for future DVD and Youtube projects, and we’ll be filming 5 or 6 songs this summer of us singing live in the prairie church we married. It’s our hope and prayer that cool moments are captured!
One very cool moment happened this spring at one of our shows. Joe Englund, the cellist who has played on almost every album we’ve made, was in attendance and was really into our version of “In The Garden”. He said he heard cello parts, and I enthusiastically told him I can’t wait to hear them! Recording of those will commence this summer Lord willing!
Prayers for our music are always appreciated!
Well, I have been bitten by the bug to start recording. But the bug that bit me is somewhat of a second cousin to the first 10 songs we recorded for “Homemade Hymns.” Ha! We knew the next 10 were going to be a bit more uptempo. However, I didn’t foresee some of the flavors and vibes that are now entering our sonic palette. And folks, that makes it more interesting already!
What kinds of flavors and vibes? We LOVE the dirge-like stuff going on in Johnny Cash’s “There Ain’t No Grave”.
When Lisa turned me onto that mesmerizing video and song, you could say the tone of our record shifted immediately. Our record isn’t going to be a consistently dark affair, but there’ll be more to sink your teeth into. It’ll still contain the balance of what the first 10 songs did.
After we released “Homemade Hymns”, we started hearing from folks. Some in South Dakota asked for permission for a song to be played at a mother’s funeral. Some friends here in Minneapolis who tragically lost a daughter asked us to sing a song from it at her memorial. These songs deal with hope. With sadness. With life and death. With Heaven. All of these things are moving us as we start crafting the next 10.
Other musical influences? “Pet Sounds” era Beach Boys, the High Llamas, Lemon Jelly and Air. How will those work with these historic hymns? We’ll be just as surprised to hear them as you!