Over the last few months, my co-producer and accompanist Jeffrey Mikulski and I have been working in earnest to complete the new CD, "Testing For Rust" - recording the bed tracks, and bringing in a few guest musicians to record additional parts. It's really hard to believe that another three years has literally flown by since I released "The Long Way Home". It made me wonder about the gap between records, and whether or not I was operating at too comfortable a pace.
However, when I really thought about it, I realized that it's not as simple as a three year span between records. It's three years of playing live dates to support the last record and three years of living life, experiencing things, going through wonderful moments, heartbreak, etc... storing all those things up and writing a new batch of songs that reflect where I am now as a person and songwriter. I even began to question the number of songs that are going to appear on the CD - eight - and whether or not that would reflect some lack of proficiency or prolific nature on my part.
In between all of those live dates and living life, I wrote about 12-15 new songs. When the time has come to begin the process of recording for any of my records, it basically starts with Jeff and I at his studio, me playing the songs for him on my acoustic guitar. Now, it's not like he's never heard these songs before - in most cases, we've been performing these songs live and over the course of that time have gone through a development cycle. The arrangements might change, some of the parts become more refined, maybe the lyrics go through an editing process, or maybe you realize that a song just isn't working and it's dropped. Sometimes, songs are written while the record is being made and end up as last minute additions. In any event, we begin by making rough, live acoustic demos of just me playing with a couple of mics in the room. We then go through a process of listening to the 12-15 songs and begin to look at a myriad of things including arrangements, what kind of instrumentation, and what songs don't really "fit" - be it musically or by virtue of what the lyrics are addressing. So, that's how things go from 12-15 songs down to 8 or 9. Or roughly around 40 minutes of music.
I also was thinking about our approach to this record as opposed to "The Long Way Home". On "Long Way", I was was able to do something that I always wanted to do and that is to make a record where the production values were more fleshed out. More and varied instrumentation, more songs where there were full band arrangements, more electric guitar parts, etc... Our approach to "Testing For Rust" - to go back to a more scaled down, laid back acoustic record was based on a couple of factors - 1.) the material which lent itself to that approach and 2.) although I am very proud of what we accomplished with "Long Way", I began to realize that I was selling a CD that was comprised mainly of full band arrangements and playing shows in a solo or duo format. I began to wonder what the person buying the CD was thinking when they left the show, popped the disc in their car for the first time and heard "You Won't Believe" kick in after the count off - did thoughts of "that isn't what I just saw" go through people's heads? Not that any of that should matter - because "Long Way" is what it is - it represented my creativity at that point in my life. I think every creative artist probably feels that way to some extent. I guess with "TFR", I wanted to get back to basics, to record a CD that was more on par with and a better representation of how I sound live, so that there is less disparity between what you hear live and what you're taking home with you. I like to use the analogy of an artist when thinking about the differences in approach on the two CD's - with "The Long Way", it was as if I had an entire pallet of colors to use, so there was a lot more for me to "paint" my "canvas" with. On "TFR" I'm kind of going back to a sketch pad, pencils and charcoal. Neither medium is better or worse, just a different approach and ultimately a reflection of where I am now - three years and a handful of songs later......