All entries filed under Recording Studio

I had my second virtual assembly program on Thursday morning through Young Audiences of NJ. This was for Valley View ES in Califon, NJ, a school I believe I’ve played live with RockRoots in the past. It was slated for 300 in-school kids (K-4) and assorted children tuning in remotely.

This was my first using the OSB studio and posting to Vimeo for the school. It’s been a steep learning curve that started last October with YANJ and, finally, I was putting my boots on the ground here in April. I was lucky to have a session with Chris, the tech guy at YA earlier in the week, so I was fairly confident that things were in order – but ya never know…. It does occupy my mind.

The OBS system sets up scenes for each song, so I can put a graphics, lyrics, etc. up for the kids. I also developed three videos for guitar, banjo and mandolin that came off nicely and was able to play those in the flow of the show. My camera and the built-in mike work well and I’m glad I got a good one awhile ago. I decided to skip the green screen for now. Perhaps I’ll work that back in later on.

I wasn’t sure if everyone would be remote, but I found out the day before that most of the kids were physically in school. The school wanted a “chat” available and I looked forward to working with that aspect. As it turns out, with only a few kids online at home, the chat was pretty much limited to the teachers, the librarian and a few kids at home. They were chirping along until the librarian texted that those kids should treat their comments like talking during a performance. Such is the state of these sessions. Still, it was interesting.

As I finished out the show, one home-schooler kept texting, ‘no’, ‘no’, ‘no’. He wanted more, so I texted him that I was glad he had a good time. He texted back, “Okay.’ So that was cool.

The school enjoyed the show: “I just wanted to reach out personally and let you know how thrilled our staff and students were with both Cello Fury and Dave Fry!  I was apprehensive about the virtual setting but it has been awesome!” It’s a good thing when it works out.

It was a lot of work to put together the tech, but I don’t mind the details; I realized that once I was in performance, I was in my element, doing what I do best – interacting with the ether and the little white dot on the camera. A leap of faith, but it’s in my wheelhouse.

I found that I was exhausted the rest of the afternoon, though. Even though there’s no travel, it remains an intense performing session. It’s good to have this one under my belt.

I received a wonderful email on Sunday from an old fan/former kid that knocked me out.

“Dear Dave,
     When I was about 7, you came to my elementary school in Lebanon New Jersey. Everyone set up beach towels in the auditorium and you sang and played and did your thing, brought down the house as far as this seven year old was concerned. My mom bought me your cassette tape AW SHUCKS and you signed it for me. Played that thing for years like it was going out of style!
     Time warp…
     It never did go out of style. In March, I turned 37. My mom gave me back that old cassette because she never throws anything away. Lol. I popped it in my tape deck in my 2004 CRV (the only working tape deck I have, of course) Now, 30 years later I’m still jamming out in my car to your cassette tape with my 6 year old son, Bennett. He knows all the words and my wife and I are getting a kick out of it. – Jesse Loubet. “
This really brings home the power of that initial recording, as well has my school performances over the years. I reflect on Wendi and Lauren’s great vocals, Hub Willson’s playful keyboards on Spider on the Floor and his great photo on the front, and the many other musicians who added their whimsey to the project and the Bear Swamp boy genius Clark Ferguson. In its reincarnation as part of the I Like Peanut Butter CD, it remains a creative romper room for both kids and adults, and that’s no small thing.
I posted it on my FB page this morning and has, of this afternoon, gathered 310 likes. I’m going to share some of the comments, just to have them in one place. Indulge me.
I also really like the fact that many of the professional, touring musicians I truly respect from across the country have chimed in, perhaps never knowing what music I’ve made under the radar all these years. That’s a big bow on this event, friends.
Here we go:
That’s FOLK music, by gum. Folk’s music. Scott Alarik
Love this story! I’m certain there are several dozen just like it! As you are well aware of, Dave Fry, you have entertained my family for years. And now you continue to entertain my granddaughter! We “took you along with us” from PA to Washington State and back twice, and many trips to Nebraska over the years. I’m privileged that I have joined you in concert all these years. Looking forward to getting together to play in the future. John Christie
Same here! You came to my daughter’s elementary school. Years later I’m sharing those same songs with my grandchildren!! Thanks for so many great memories!??? Pat Brennan
Awww shucks! What a legacy. What a legend. And you keep on keeping on. Talk about making a difference in the world. Love you my friend! Mary Wright
My 4 year old granddaughters love your CDs, But they refuse to believe it’s you on the radio ? Sandra Peters 
We are on our third generation of Dave Fry fans ?? Diana Walls 
This was my favorite as a kid ??? Avalon Christine 
I wonder how your wax Victrola albums are doing…  Gail-Elaine Tinker
You harness the power of music to do good in this world — and you get priceless returns on your investment. Patricia Moore Brown
I had given a copy of this to my nieces & nephews. Their CHILDREN now know all the words, too! Wendi Bourne
That was the tape you sent me to come play the Circlewood! Still have it. How cool is that? Tom Kingston
Thanks for sharing this, Dave! Just never know how much you can make a difference in someone’s life through one performance … one cassette tape ! {I’m impressed that he still has a cassette player in his vehicle !} Gail Simon-Bierenbaum
Your life’s work has been a profound influence and you’ve brought joy to so many, Dave  – and you continue to do that…. That’s a life well lived, well served – and still going strong! ❤️?❤️ Nina Romnenko 
That’s gotta bring a tear. What a wonderful tribute. ???❤️ Dave Hulshouse ( it did for me ? Fred Gilmartin) 
I’ll never forget the day my daughter came home from school after you were there and sang “The Library Song”. It had many verses. She knew THE ENTIRE SONG BY HEART and sang it to us over and over ? you made QUITE the impression!! Cheryl Baker
You’re a significant piece of his life. You can’t hope for more ! Mike Stengel
?❤️?Yup…our kids and grandkids listen to this cassette & others of yours! Barb Shafer
Many more short but sweet comments. I feel blessed.

Having completed most recording and mixing of the Troubadour CD, Kevin and I decided to record a “secret” cut that will end the set list. Since everything else is pretty thickly produced, I thought a very simple guitar, vocal and body percussion tune would be a way to give a nod to the folkie origins of the album. I’ve been doing Sally Rogers’ We Are Welcomed over the last few months and its a simple and direct folk song – one that is wonderfully positive.

Kevin set up mikes in the open part of his basement, no baffling and quite alive. As I played guitar and sang, Kevin clapped and stomped away across from me. We did a couple live takes and repaired to the studio to see what we got.

Kevin has the software to correct my pitch, and, unfortunately, I need it. But, it’s a great tool for my music, especially if I have to live with the final project. We tweaked away a came up with a nice version of the song. Sally and Claudia are coming on Saturday and will share with them the good news.

Off to Marvine for my first songwriting session with a fifth grade class.

Having done most of the recording sessions on the Troubadour project, I now have to move on to the more arcane details of physically producing the album. I’m now contacting the songwriters about publishing information, some of whom are friends, some of whom are drifting in the ether.  It’s an important part of the process to acknowledge their special work.

I’m also experimenting on the order of the songs on the CD. The flow of the album is a paramount design, and informs the totality of the project. Unfortunately, this is considerably less important these days since few folks listen to an album all the way through. There used to be substantial thought put into this process (Sgt. Pepper’s comes immediately to mind), but nowadays, people remember the cut’s number more than it’s title. Parents tell me that their kids ask for #7 on my albums in the car, instead of the song title. So it goes. Still, it counts heavily. It’s important for radio programmers and the way they select songs to play on the air. I know.

I’m working with Dina Hall on the design of the CD jacket and I’m giving her a rough cut of the CD so that she has a sense of the music. Good idea. I enjoy involving graphic artists in these projects. They are so important. I do remember staring at album covers for hours: drinking it all in – the players, the songwriters, the lyrics, the art work. Gone but, again, it matters to me.

At Hybrid Studios, with everything in the can, Kevin and I now start the final mixing process. Kevin’s been great in pre-mixing all the tunes as we’ve gone on, so it’s now down to tweaking the tunes, adjusting the volumes, finding the best takes, etc. A very important part of the process. The final canvas.

We’ve been doing this all along, and Kevin intuits what my preferences are. Thanks to the internet, we’ve been able to listen to and digest everything we’ve recorded and work from there. That’s why Kevin and I work together so well and for so long. Simpatico.

Soon there will be the physical production of the CD’s, after Disc Makers vets the artwork, the song attributions and legalese, and I come up with the money to do it. it will happen. I’m lucky that I’ve had the extra money to toss into this project. I’ve paid everyone and have been glad to do it. I’m livin’ small on the planet.

I don’t expect to make money on this. This culture doesn’t respect the actual artistic performance of music and the people who produce it.  It only consumes music, regardless of the artistic process. It should be free, no? 

I only hope to get some airplay, use it as a business card for future gigs, and gain respect from my fellow performers. And that’s not too bad.

Today’s session featured the Drunken Lads singing back up pub vocals on Don’t Call Me Early in the Morning and The Crawl. Tom Druckenmiller, Mike Beaky, Rick Weaver and Fred Gilmartin chimed in on the choruses. It took a while to get them in the spirit, but they stepped up and nailed the songs. The effect will be pretty nice on both tunes.

Mike Beaky hung around to lay down some banjo tracks on Lessons from Pete and it was hard work for Mike, but, I knew that he would do a great job. The tune isn’t in a friendly banjo key (not G) but he did well. He understood his role in the tune – support Craig’s superlative guitar. Having played with Mike with Pavlov’s Dawgs, I knew his intuition is spot on. We went further on the outtro and Mike added some fine melodic passages that added to Craig’s playing.

Kevin, Mike and I sat around the mixer and picked out the sweet spots that Mike had laid down, knitted together some very nice moments. Again, the studio process has become a creative activity beyond the actual recording. I came away tickled with what we came up with today. This is going to be good.


I explained to Mike and Kevin that I had imagined what we were going to do six months ago, and things turned out better than I had even dreamed of.

Today was a session with Kevin at Hybrid Studios to work on cleaning up the vocals that I had laid down six months ago while I was building the basic tracks for Troubadour, the tracks that everyone else would put their parts on top of. It was a good session, to revisit singing these tunes and being able to sing along with ‘the band’ for the first time. I’ve also gotten better on several of the tunes, as well.

Before I leaned into the vocals, I brought out my Strat to do some nasty chords on the Celtic tune The Crawl. Kevin dialed up a virtual Vox amp on the board with some nice distortion on it and I did my gnarly Celtic Rock power chords the the song and it came out nicely. Good direction from Kevin to vary the strum-ma strum-ma of the acoustic guitar with the power chords. It’s going to be nice.

Kevin and I had been listening to the cuts we’ve done already, so we were ready to attack the vocals. Several tunes we massaged with small corrections but, more often than not, I sang the whole song. The performance values were much better today and we had a good time coaxing better versions.

I remarked how nice it was to sing into a great mike. Thanks to various computer filters, I was singing into a $15,000 microphone. Here’s a picture of the real thing, but I sang into the virtual copy on Kevin’s set up.

We worked on Smokin’ Babies, False from True, The Crawl, Louise, Giant and more. We did some wave form tweaking to sync up timing, volumes, etc. to really bring things together. It was four hours of playtime for us both; it’s a pleasure to work with a good friend who understands where we’re going on the project, getting a pretty sophisticated sound while maintaining the integrity of the songs.

This is going to be a fine album.

My friend Craig Thatcher asked me to join him and Nyke Van Wyk on a music video project on Monday in one of the old buildings on the Bethlehem Steel Company site – the Turn and Grind Building. LA singer songwriter Ken Goldstein and award winning producer and director Peter von Puttkamer were putting together a music video about the demise of the Steel and how it’s rebounded with the arts at Steel Stacks. “The Song of Bethlehem” is an interesting tune that Craig sent me, and I figured out the chords and arrangement on Sunday night and Monday morning. Live, Craig would play guitar, Nyke violin and I would chip in on mandolin. Eventually, a local choir came on board to do some vocals. All the rehearsal happened on site in 40 degree temperatures.

It was a cold morning in the dilapidated building, with the occasional space heater cranked up, some coffee and bagels and a full crew of video and audio folks on hand. When I got there, Ken was recording his vocals and guitar and we waited patiently for our turn. There were many pauses to let the frequent trains pass by. I thought that was pretty cool but not for recording. Eventually, after more than an hour or so, we were set up to do our parts. The arrangements were done on the fly, and we were pretty rough to begin with, trying to play along with Ken’s guitar part, his vocal and a click track in our headphones. It was pretty cold – Craig and Nyke were having the worst of it. My hip was bothering more than the cold. 

As we worked through the arrangement, my mandolin part was shoved back further and further into the song. Ken’s initial guitar rhythm on the track was a problem, and I had some problems with synching up. But, I was fine with sitting out while the song builds. We ended up doing about 10 takes while Ken figured out what he wanted. Craig and Nyke are champs and were able to add some fine licks while I added my mando noodling in the back. It actually turned out nicely. Craig heard some of the final mix and thought my part was great. I wasn’t as confident, but it was good to hear it from my friend.

We eventually took a break to get some lunch in the warm visitors’ center nearby, and I got to catch up with my fellow performer/clown Bruce Ward who also spend a long time working in the Steel while it was still functioning. He gave me the lowdown on that building and his time on the job. He has also taken it upon himself to produce several videos on the Steel and laid a copy on me. He said it wasn’t as cold as standing on a metal ladder outside a shut down furnace, with a sub-zero wind whipping down the Lehigh River. Perspective.

I headed back into the shoot site to get paid, but ended up waiting an extra hour to ask Ken for my money. Not terribly professional on several parts. Just because you’re from LA doesn’t mean you treat the locals as an afterthought. Still, I appreciated the chance to experience this whole thing. I got my $200 in cash, signed the waiver and finally headed home after four and a half hours in the cold.

The local TV-69 crew did a 10 minute piece on the shoot and I got a couple of close-ups on my mandolin, my tapping foot (!!) and the three of us playing in the cold. All in all, it was a marvelous experience, a chance to play with my two good friends and contribute to a historical piece about my home town.

Bethlehem Steel

By Kenneth Scott Goldstein

intro C | F   C / Am

  1. 1. They closed down the steel plant that Winter,

And left the people out in the cold.

No work to do, no plans offered, no sympathy,

The day Bethlehem Steel Factory closed.

2, Families, generations – lost their wages

As they watched their benefits go up in smoke

These were the same men and women who built America

On Bethlehem Steel Factory’s goals

But what they left a legacy of integrity,

From hard work, their families would prevail.

Deep in the soil beneath the furnace

Their roots burrowed deep

They dug in, trusted and believed

They went boom bang boom we’re going to re-build this city,

Boom bang boom this time on solid ground.

Boom bang boom no fear of this land will break us,

Because Bethlehem Pennsylvanians won’t back down.

3. From the banks of the Lehigh River you can feel it,

But the factories got a make-over you just gotta see.

Where once stood ghosts of things they’d lost; stands a vision

Of a future proud to have this past.

What they built was a legacy of integrity,

From hard work, their community will prevail.

Deep in the soil beneath their homes

Their roots run deep,

Because they created; re-imaged; and believed.

They went boom bang boom we’re going to re-build this city.

Boom bang boom this time on solid ground.

Because Bethlehem Pennsylvanians won’t stay down.

Because Bethlehem Pennsylvania is our home.

It took a long time coming but I finally got violinist Nyke Van Wyk in the studio to put down tracks for the album. We lined up three cuts, the first being Louise, a fairly straight-ahead country tune. Nyke got a handle on it right away, was able to lay out for the piano and steel parts to come in and then add fills and rhythm chops as well as playing a fine lead. He is no stranger to the studio, being a producer himself, so he knew what to do.

Next up was Giant, a fairly different feel but he has Celtic sensibilities to go with his country ears. Again, fine work, supporting the strong melody while being able to play around it. There’s some great improv going on as well and was able to respond to the outtake of whistle and bodhran.

We finished up with Ten Men, a fairly aggressive ballad that has some anger in it. Nyke was able to attack the tune, play with emotion and give Kevin and myself plenty to work with.

Nyke was able to deal with three different pieces of music, with three different feels. He knocked them out of the park today.

This project has been great, working with professionals who happen to be friends, as well. We’re getting to the end, with a couple of sessions with my “drunken friends” on The Crawl and some retakes on my vocals. It’s been a expansive experience to hear the songs rise from nothing into musical pieces of art.


This was a session I’ve been waiting for: adding female vocals to the Troubadour project. I leaned on my close friend Wendi Bourne, who has been a major part of all my recordings over the last 28 years. She has worked with me and her fellow  Girls From Mars cohort Lauren Jansen on I Like Peanut Butter, Shake It! and Pearls, and also with Robbi Kumalo, most recently on Playground. Wendi is a superb swing guitarist and knows her vocal arranging skills as well.

With Lauren and Robbie out in the greater universe, I invited Annie Patterson, the third Girl From Mars to work with Wendi on this session. This was my first time working with Annie. I rehearsed on Thursday with them down near Landale and we worked out our ideas on Wendi’s porch. They did their homework, incorporating my ideas and adding theirs. This hand-held phone technology is incredible and made for today’s productive session.

We got started around 10:30 am at Kevin’s studio, and thanks to familiar relationships, we were able to get Annie and ourselves comfortable and we set to work. We had five songs to work on: Louise, Rosie is a Friend of Mine, How Legends are Made, False From True and Smokin’ Babies, the last one considered the ‘fun’ tune to end the session. (Yes, it was the hardest one.)

Kevin is wonderful to work with, He really is at home (quite literally, in his basement) with his equipment, his creative musical instincts and his warm and encouraging presence. We have always worked well together (RockRoots and more), and he is great with the players who visit his studio. It’s why he is good at what he does, beyond being a fine drummer.

Wendi and Annie set up with the vocal mikes in the studio and we set into the project. The communication between the women is really deep (why I trust them), and they had worked on some ideas ahead of time and we could refine the arrangements with Kevin and myself in real time. There were lots of trial runs, punching in on troublesome spots, on-the-fly improvisations and collective thoughts passed around and we came up with some simply wonderful stuff. Some will never make it to disc, but we agree that the object is to have it ready to use if we need it.

Their overall effect is to support my vocals, add some nice atmosphere to some sections and generally soften my sound. That’s exactly what they did today. They did it professionally. And we did it together as good friends. That’s as good as it gets, in my book.

Their voices are the cream in the icing on this project. There’s a great foundation with all the instrumental players but it takes Wendi’s and Annie’s warm, human voices to infuse my songs with that something extra. It’s the stuff I tend to listen to when I put on my old recording efforts. The human voice rules.

We finished up after four intensely creative hours, and we all split for home in four different  directions. I continue to be heartened by my talented friends who support me in making music on this earth. I am blessed.

This is good stuff.

This was on my bucket list: to have two of the best blues guitarists in the Lehigh Valley over the last 25 years have a blues conversation with each other on my album. I’ve been doing False From True, a Pete Seeger song I snatched from Guy Davis, an exercise in understatement that also is a reflection on a long life in folk music. The tune only had a I and IV change, and invariably drives my blues friends up a wall. No V chord, therefore, no normal closure that the western ear demands. The format brings some interesting tension to the song and gives focus to the lyrics.

Craig Thatcher laid down his tracks earlier, both on electric and acoustic slide, and Mike Dugan came in tonight to lay down his tracks. It was a pleasure to not only see him burn his stuff, but watch his performance instincts come alive in the studio. He had some spot-on suggestions and was also able to provide an array of licks to work with, from snappy jazz licks to basic BB King.

I was looking to have Craig and Mike pass leads back and forth. Craig has a cleaner sound, so Mike offered a more distorted attack, and it worked wonderfully. Their ability to listen to each other (even on tape) and respond with passion and intelligence is a magical talent, one that is essential to blues and rock and roll. Tonight’s session became a musical conversation between these two friends and will turn out to be a special track for the album. We were done in an hour.

I paid Mike a good fee and he was surprised, thinking this one was ‘from the heart’. I told him, if we count it per note it wasn’t that good a deal. I also mentioned that there were 50% fewer chord changes (again, no V chords) so it all works out in the wash.

I am blessed to have such professional folks in my circle of friends. Kevin mentioned after the session about this “band” for the album. Though we’ve never played together live, we’ve put together a homegrown superband with Kevin on drums, Kjell Benner on bass, Dan DeChellis on keys, Craig and Mike on guitars. Oh, and then there’s me on vocals and acoustic guitar. Not too shabby. Wendi and Annie’s vocals to come.

About the song. Mike was surprised when I told him it was a Pete Seeger song, on several levels. He was most surprised to find out I didn’t write this song. I take that as a compliment. The song speaks to me and conveys a lot of my personal thoughts, and I am able to make the song come from me. That’s why I pick these songs. It is also amazing that Pete wrote a blues (though, not so surprising….). It also acknowledges my dependance on my audience to find meaning in my life. No small thing.

False From True – Pete Seeger via Guy Davis

When the songs I sing turn to ashes on my tongue,   C G

When I look in the mirror and see that I’m no longer young, CG

I gotta start the job of separating false from true,   CG

And then I know I need the love of you. CG


When I find tarnish … on some of my brightest dreams,

When some folks I trusted … turn out to be not what they seemed.

Then I got to start the job of separating false from true,

And once more, I know I need the love of you.


No song I sing can make the politicians change their mind.

No song I sing will take the gun from a hate-filled mind.

But I promise you, brother and sisters of every skin.

I’ll sing your story while I’ve breath within.


We got to keep on keeping on, even when the sun goes down.

You got to keep on living’, living til another day come around.

Meanwhile you better start over separating false from true,

And more and more and more, I need the love of you.

I had farmed out three tunes to my friend Craig Thatcher for my CD project. Today was an amazing experience, for both myself and Kevin Soffera, co-producer, drummer and friend. Working with professionals.

Craig came prepared, having absorbed the tunes we shared on Dropbox, a wonderful way to prep  ‘works in progress’ with other musicians. Craig brought in a dobro, an acoustic and two electrics, and with Kevin’s tools, we were able to dial up classic Fender amps, and use sophisticated microphones for the guitars. We rolled. False From True up first.

Craig added some nice open G slide backtracks to the mix in support of my basic acoustic tracks. He then stepped up with some nasty electric licks for the lead sections. Never getting in the way. Mike Dugan waits in the wings to reply. Craig’s electric leads made our collective hairs stand on end.

We headed into  Lessons from Pete and Craig had a notion to bring out a nice Gretch to give us some Duane Eddy/Mark Knopfler tones. He nailed it. Again Kevin could dial up very comfortable ‘amp’ sounds for Craig. These guys were able to communicate about these sophisticated tonalities to make everyone comfortable in a this great creative space. It happens in the studio, too. That’s what it’s all about. Magic happens here.

We lined up  Rosie is a Friend of Mine and Craig brought out a nice acoustic Martin to add nice and  mellow acoustic leads and also added some fine Allman Brothers harmonies at the end. His sensibilities are spot on in many, many ways. Craig is there. My good friend.

We dealt with three sophisticated tunes and nailed them in two hours. And Craig donated his check to Godfrey’s.

Nuff said.


Kevin and I had some unfinished bitness today, with some guitar and vocals for Smokin’ Babies and some mandolin on The Crawl. We set out on recording stereo guitar for Babies, worked through the snarls and snares fairly easily (it is one of my favorite tunes to play on acoustic) and we turned to work on some mandolin. As Kevin was listening to the guitar tracks, I picked up my mandolin and noodled along with the song and found it pleasing to the ear. I suggested we try adding some mando to this track and so we did. I hadn’t played any mando on this tune til now, and it brought some real freshness to the tune. The first take provide some of the best material. No surprise.

As we worked it out, Kevin and I figured out that mando chops worked well on the choruses but a simple melody improv during the verses really stood out, so we did several takes on the song, some with good results and, when I was thinking too much, some staleness. We managed to gather some very nice music that we can cobble together for the song. It was a leap that we both took and it will add some sparkle to the song as we go along. That’s the creative spirit at work! Taking a leap is good!

Since we were working on my mando, we cued up The Crawl for some rhythm chops for the tune, and, after some mental lapses on my part, we were able to add some good folkie sound to the song, as well as coming close to a fairly strong ending.  I really enjoy the process itself: self-correcting, challenging myself to play it well, with feeling, and simply being in the moment, listening to the drums, vocals and bass in my headphones. The song continues to grow as we go along. We’ll add some barroom vocals with friends and their spirit, along with a tin-whistle, to make it kick.

We finished up with my final vocals for Smokin’ Babies, and, though it is relatively short, I have to be able to express some humor, irony and fun in order to be able to ‘sell’ the song, so that folks are clued in with the somewhat sarcastic slant of the song. Kevin’s new mike is able to capture some incredible resonance of my lower voice, and that’s a vital part of the song. We listened to a rough mix of the new vocals, guitar and mandolin parts, and, again, the song becomes something new and wonderful. That’s what I love about being in the studio, creating something that is more than its parts.

Soon, we’ll figure out where the songs grow from here: vocals, leads and other ear candy. I love it!

Yes, it is work, and after three hours plus, I was semi-exhausted. Today we worked on my keeper vocals for Legends, Lessons, Ten Men and The Crawl, with three takes on each along with various punch-ins for some of my petty mispronunciations, slurs, and less than professional grade performance. Kevin and I work together well to get the best out of me, with various efforts to make it grade A. It works, but three hours of vocals is intense. But, as I told Kevin, it’s a great way for me to really hone the songs and my vocal presentation, especially with headphones and a rich “band’ mix to sing against. In fact, some of the mixes were the first time I’ve heard full bass, drums and my guitar on a couple of tunes. I also get a chance to think about breathing correctly, especially on the endings of lines, when I have to hold a note (and actually sing….).

Lessons from Pete was hard, trying to do spoken word and make it sound natural, in spite of no melody lines on my part. John Gorka’s How Legends are Made was interesting, especially since I’m trying to do John’s real lyrics (I’ve been performing an abbreviated version live), so it took a while to fine a comfort zone on those verses. David Mallett’s Ten Men is also a relatively new song for me, and has to be performed with a certain snarl. Kevin suggested I do the four take and overact on the whole thing. We can add some of those lines in with some of the more laidback spots in earlier takes. What turned out to be cool, is, in fact, that take seemed to be the best.

After recording stereo guitar for The Crawl, we started the vocals for the song. It turned out to be fairly physical, with many verses and a rip-roaring chorus after each. We stumbled upon singing each verse unto itself, and then working on the chorus separately. It was a good move. Things cleaned up nicely.

At this point, I’ll have a really good idea of the basic tracks, with finished guitar and vocals, drums and bass. At this point, I’ll be able to start to consider the fun stuff like leads, backup vocals, and other instrumentation, and be able to deal out the cuts to my friends. This is when the album starts to sound like a chunk of art, the tunes becoming more than songs. The outline is now drawn in black and white and I get to use crayons and paint from here on.


With drums, bass and guitar in the can, it’s time to start doing my final vocals on the songs. Kevin just picked up a really good vocal mike, one that can be dialed up to match some vintage and very expensive microphones, and, of itself, has a very clean and flat sound. Kevin was quite pleased with the maiden voyage of this equipment and I was glad to be the guinea pig.

The plan was to do three takes of each song and be able to cobble a good version out of them. It also gave me the chance to warm up to each song and crank up my performance values as well. It worked. There were muffs and errors along the way, forgetting a verse, etc., but the studio process deals with that sort of thing quite well. I know and Kevin knows so we work well together punching in the corrections.

We worked on Don’t Call Me Early, False From True, Giant, Louise and Rosie is a Friend of Mine. It was about a three hour session but it moves quickly when I’m in the zone. It is more work than usual since I’m now dealing with an upper denture that affects my diction. I have to be very careful with my ‘sss’ and other minor distractions, but, thanks to my theater and other recording work, I’m used to annunciating clearly. It’s on my mind, though, and I try to focus on the performance. It’s quite intense.

It turned out well, and we will get some very good stuff out of it. I also realize that my pitch is less than perfect, but having the headphones on helps a good bit. I’m afraid that my live performances suffer from some of this rag-ear, and contribute to a certain vocal inconsistency that my good performance skills have to make up for. So it goes.

I’m wrapping up the acoustic guitar tracks for the CD, having done the scratch vocals and guitar tracks and Kevin’s drums and Kjell’s bass down. Today I worked on Legends, Lessons from Pete and Ten Men. We did two takes of each songs with two mikes – perhaps later on we’ll be able to spread the guitar across two speakers and even doubling the guitar to fatten out the sound. Kevin’s good to work with, and I’m able to punch in when I make a mistake and create a smooth and strong rhythm track. It was particularly fun to play along with drums and bass for the first time, and the songs are starting to take on a life of their own. Once I get a chance to hear these cuts, I can start thinking about adding other instruments and “ear candy” on the songs.

Next week we start on my finished vocals, another performance challenge.


I’m still at 70% with this stomach bug, but I can’t afford not to chip away on the CD project. Today I added ‘fat’ acoustic guitar to five songs that had already been worked on with Kevin’s drums and Kjell’s bass. Kevin set up three mikes, one very precise mike aimed at the sound hole, a general mike in front and a cool little one up on the fingerboard. Three different tones that can be used, or not used, depending on how we want to mix them. We did experiment with panning one to the left and one to the right and it immediately expanded the sound of the guitar. I like it.

We did two or three takes on each song while I listened to a mix of the bass, drums and my scratch vocal. There were a few points where I punched in to correct a goof-up, a place where I had forgotten the arrangement or a tricky ending. Kevin’s really good at making the process smooth, time-efficient and positive. We work together well because we both know when I screw up or even when I can do it better. No ego here.

We worked on Don’t Call Me Early in the Morning, Giant, Rosie is a Friend of Mine, False from True and Louise. Rhythm guitar is what I do best, so the process went quickly and efficiently. Though I was fatigued at the end of three hours, we made great progress.

Working in the studio is an entirely different head than performing live, and it is equally challenging and satisfying. And the progress is gratifying as well. It’s a pleasure to work with a friend and artist like Kevin to put together a piece of art like an album.