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Saturday, July 9, 2011


My reasons for this project are:

1) to document my musical life as it really is—in live performance, and in informal jams at home with family and friends.

2) to record my latest songs in a way that will best capture the energy, organic cohesion, joy, and human character of those performances.

3) to extend the "live locally" lifestyle to my music by recording within the unrefined sonic character of my home.

These were virtuous reasons, but could I pull it off? In this less-than-ideal environment—with Jesse in the hallway and Tannis on a squeaky floor upstairs—could the band and singers manage to perform entire songs without any significant glitches? In the days when artists had no other option, there are stories of sessions going into thirty or forty takes, and I couldn't imagine us all having the stamina for that. And historically, the bands that could knock off final versions quickly—like the early Beatles—had often been playing together every night for years.

When I approached Nik Tjelios about engineering the project, he listened and made a fascinating reply. He basically said that the intention of the project, as he heard it, was to capture the essence of performance, and that intelligent, limited editing, using state-of-the-art technology would not only preserve that, but could enhance it. I was intrigued. Why toss an entirely good track, he said, just because someone bumps a microphone in the last four measures? If we fly in a section of another entirely live track, how does that compromise the project? I was looking to avoid the sterile effect of multiple overdubbing, and what he was suggesting maintained that.

And what about unexpected moments of live magic? What if, on one otherwise mediocre track, there is an exception musical moment? Why should it be relegated to oblivion when, as a truly genuine, live, full-band expression, it can be incorporated in the final take?

After our meeting, I mulled over these options and realized that not only did his suggestions fit within the parameters of the project, they would enhance it by allowing us to play for fun—like we usually do—and not succumb to the tension and mediocrity of playing for the "no error" track. 

When we finally did record, we always played for the ideal take but would stop when we intuitively knew we "had" it, without analyzing every detail. The least number of takes was the instrumental, "Chapter Eleven" with two. The most was "Next Time," with fourteen.

Post recording, we are following the ethic of only using live performance edits when they have artistic merit within the intention of the project. And what I'm hearing so far sounds fantastic!

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