Bulkhead

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It took me ten months. You’d think a perfectionist would have realized this sooner, I guess my mind was elsewhere and I was trying to meet deadlines like a panicked mole digging tunnels. But I’ve come to realize something about doing things last minute: You generally sacrifice a lot of quality when you procrastinate.

This comes up because my family friend Richard Barron gave me a wonderful gift, that of taking the raw recording session and spending a good four+ hours mixing it down at his studio in Los Feliz. Consequently there’s a much more polished and well-thought-out product at hand this month. The Singles Project wasn’t meant to take that much studio time, literally two hours to come in, lay down track (ideally live) in the first hour, mix track in the second hour, and walk away with finished product. Not a huge commitment on the part of my collaborators, but we get to make a thing together and I get a monthly project.

Up to this point I’ve booked studios, engineers, accompanists, notoriously last minute. After booking their time they were lucky to receive a track and/or a chart from me of the song in question before the recording date. Accompanists were lucky to get a rehearsal. I have benefited enormously from working with people who are completely game and supportive, and have enough chops to walk into a session like this blindly. However, I now see with a good deal of shame that my procrastinative behavior runs the risk of making my friends and supporters look like hacks, when the reality is that they saw and heard the song for the first time not five minutes before we hit the red button.

So from here on out I have some new goals that are more likely to make everyone a little more comfortable, including myself. Procrastination is the pits!

A Word on the Accompanist:

Richard Barron has known me since I was an embryo. He found his first accordion in an LA thrift store about two and a half years ago and under the tutelage of some fine musicians – not to mention direct performance application for the whole time with bands like Carnival of Futility – has finessed chops that would turn the head of any polka dancer or French couple. In this session he flourished with direction and provided ample melodic material from which to choose the licks you hear.

A Word on the Engineer:

David Franz is a Los Angeles-based composer, producer, engineer, multi-instrumentalist, performer, and educator, and I count myself lucky to have gotten to work with the guy who wrote the book on Protools. Also it was nice to connect with another Bostonite on the West Coast, thanks to our mutual friend, Hugh McGowan. David was wonderful to work with, easy-going, taking my procrastination and fussy behavior in stride, and generally doing that thing I’m beginning to suspect is an overarching quality in engineers worldwide: Making his guests feel comfortable. He was very supportive of me and the project at large, and patient.

A Word on the Studios:

Underground Sun, David’s studio, has a proper beach vibe, complete with exposed whitewashed wood and surfboards stacked outside the door. Inside there’s hardly room to sit for all the magnificent instruments strewn about with the air of a wizard in his laboratory – the place has that alchemic smell of being constantly put to good uses. Richard and I were mainly in the soundproof closet where you’d be able to hear an ant breathing if you weren’t so focused on your harmonies. David’s equipment is state-of-the-art and we’d expect nothing less of such an aficionado.

Sonora Recorders is Richard’s studio – you may remember the place from “New Mexico,” the #3 single. Sonora reminds me of hanging out with people who have great public personalities: They tend to be quiet in person, have nothing to prove, and watch and listen a lot. The studio has much to boast: large rooms, a grand piano, a legacy as long as my shadow – many a name you’ve heard has waltzed through those muraled doors and tracked songs you recognize in those isolated booths. But it’s part and parcel for the place, and I get the sense that the homeless man sorting cardboard outside is just as much a virtue to that legacy as the amateurs who come in to mix their singles.

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