Tuesday Tune-Up: Tracking the New Album

I’ve Got Twelve Songs Selected for My First Solo Album, and Tracking Has Begun!

So, I’ve been playing guitar since I was fifteen. I started playing gigs at a couple of weeks prior to seventeen. That makes this my twenty-fifth year playing music out in bands. It also represents the twenty-fifth year since I released my first recorded work to the general public—such as it was at the time. If you’d like to know about how things went that first time, I wrote a short memoir about it and published it both here and in “Northwest Boulevard,” the literary magazine for Eastern Washington University.

It seems to me, a quarter-century of doing anything is an occasion one should mark. So mark it I shall.

This post, therefore, is all about the twenty-five years I’ve spent playing music in front of audiences and in recording studios and how I’m finally commemorating that work with a solo album. Please don’t take anything I’m about to write as bragging. While I know I’ve put in a lot of hard work to get where I am today and to have been able to do the things I’ve done, the fact that I live a life not many people can say they get to live is not lost on me. I’m incredibly humbled by the opportunities I’ve been given in my lifetime, and this post is a way of me expressing that gratitude.

Twenty-Five Years Ago…

In the spring of 1995, I recorded eight songs in a now-long-forgotten studio in East Central Spokane. I had two friends in the band with me. A drummer, who, sadly, passed away a few years ago, and a bass player, with whom I’ve kept in contact off and on throughout the years.

We were a three-piece grunge/metal hybrid band called Kimara. I was at the end of sixteen when I recorded those sessions. We had enough money for eight hours of studio time, and we just busted through the best takes we could.

Looking back on it, it seems like those two four-hour sessions in the studio took forever. Maybe that’s because when you’re sixteen, time lasts forever. It certainly doesn’t at 42. In fact, within the past nine months, I’ve spent ten days doing twelve-hour plus recording sessions and ten days covering the entire Western United States on tour, and both of those trips now seem like the blink of an eye.

Still, I had big dreams back then. Dreams I never quite let go of—and that’s why I’m still doing it today. Some might wonder why the hell a 42 year old teacher would decide to spend his winter break galavanting around in a van with the same five dudes for ten days straight. Or similarly, why he would agree to go across the country and spend ten days sequestered in a recording studio. Some people would wonder that. Other people know exactly why.

In twenty five years of doing this, I’ve recorded nine total independent releases. Six full-length albums and three EPs. After I sold nearly a hundred copies of that first demo tape back in high-school, I got a call from the engineer who produced it for us. He booked us for our first live show at one of Spokane’s most historic venues. At the time, it was called “The Met,” and it’s now named after Spokane native Bing Crosby, simply called “The Bing.” It’s a lush Victorian theater where I’ve seen the Spokane Symphony play, as well as Beth Hart. I’m incredibly fortunate to say that I played my first show there.

If you’d have told me twenty-five years ago, as I was about to step into the studio, or as I stepped onto that stage at The Met, that playing guitar and singing would afford me even half of the opportunities I’ve had since then, I don’t know if I’d have stopped smiling for the rest of the year.

A Quarter-Century of Experiences

If you’ve read this blog at all, you know that the thing in life I value above all else is experience. Now, while I would love to say I could give a shit about material things, I’m a Taurus, born in the Year of the Horse, and that’s just not in the cards for me. I like flashy things. I mean, Jesus, look at my guitar rig. Still, the reality is, when it comes down to it, if you gave me a choice between a $4,000 Paul Reed Smith guitar and a $4,000 trip to Europe, I’ll take the trip every time.

My number one motivation in life is to have the most amazing experiences I can possibly have, and music has been a huge part of that. In fact, since we’re commemorating twenty-five years, let’s recollect, shall we?

The band with which I recorded that first demo tape was short-lived, and I soon found myself running in Christian circles. As bitter as I am about a lot of that time, the one thing I’m grateful for is that it gave me the opportunity to play in front of audiences ALL THE TIME.

I played in the worship band every Sunday morning, and led the youth worship services every Wednesday night. Then there were the two nights of rehearsal a week for each, plus the Christian rock band that we had on the side, independent of church services.

I played hundreds of shows over the course of a couple of years. In fact, from 1999 through 2001 I bet I performed over three hundred sets. Jesus-music or no, playing live is playing live, and the experience is the same. Trust me. In the Christian world it’s just wrapped in guilt and self-loathing. Once I broke free of that period in my life, I learned that it was totally okay to look out at the crowd and notice every beautiful woman looking up in adoration. I learned that people want someone to give them a show, and there’s no shame in giving them what they want. Best of all, though, I learned that in honest-to-goodness rock and roll, nobody ever tells you to turn it down, or to tone down the guitar solos.

From the Christian rock days, I started working in classic-rock cover bands on the weekends. I’ve played dive-bars all over the Inland Northwest. From Kettle Falls, WA, to St. Maries, ID, I’ve played for the best and worst kinds of drunks. I’ve played so many classic rock cover sets that I now charge a $1,000 fee to play “Sweet Home Alabama.” That’s my personal fee, by the way, over and above the band’s negotiated rate.

Since then, my main focus has been with Buffalo Jones. I’ve done a lot of great things with that band. I’ve played festivals, toured the West, and recorded three albums and one EP. It’s been fourteen years in that band now, and I love it…

…Now On the Other Hand:

In all of those years, I’ve never really released a solo album. I mean, if you want to talk writing credit only, then if you look at the Kimara demo tape and Plastic Saints’ Evolved album, you can say I’ve done two solo albums. But they were released under band names and I credit the other musicians with the final product.

So that’s why it’s important for me to get this album done soon. I learned a lot about accepting imperfection while I was in Georgia last summer, and I’ve decided to do the majority of the tracking and producing for this solo album. But I am still going to have a few friends help me out.

I currently have three songs tracked (I may go back and re-do some of them, but again, I’m trying to stay away from perfectionism). So I’m a quarter of the way through. I’m really excited to share it with you all.

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