Friday, June 13, 2008

FOURTH SESSION, June 12, 2008

Well, after twelve hours in the Mandala Music studios, you’d figure that Steve and I were getting halfway good at the routine – standing there while Bett and Jöel set up mikes and boards, turn the air conditioning on and off, work alone while wearing headsets – good enough to be able to do it on our own without Kathy or Mary Lou’s help. I guess you’d be right, but it sure was different for the two of us last night – hopefully the LAST time we’ll have to go into the studio alone.

It continues to be hot here in South Texas – triple-digit highs coming to visit on Saturday and, like a quirky aunt you’d rather talk to on the phone than in person, staying around for days on end. The fairly constant breeze of the last week or so keeps the air a bit cleaner, but also keeps everything hot and dry. As I followed Steve down IH10 in the blazing sunshine, I was looking forward to the cool, cave-like atmosphere of the studio.

Since it was to be the just two of us, Steve and I decided to record two songs that feature only our voices. We chose “Decisions” – the second song we wrote together – and “Looking Back.” Both songs are somewhat reflective in nature, and each tells a bit of a story. “Decisions” is all about someone for whom life is a sort of movie to be observed rather than a play in which he has a part. Rather than trying to understand what is happening around him and what he should do about it, the singer’s only dilemma is “which guitar should I play.” The song changes tempo at several places. This isn’t unusual for songs performed by The Tim and Bob Show. What IS unusual is that, this time, it’s by design!

Steve laid down the base guitar track on the koa. This was the first song in which he strummed this particular guitar, and Jöel will have some fun emphasizing the sound of this amazing instrument on the finger-picking while tamping it down during the strumming. As we’ve mentioned before the deep full sound of the koa fills the room. I followed with my own guitar track and then we did the vocals. Steve has the lead on this song and, while singing along, I discovered that I had no idea of the vocal rhythm he uses on those lines in which I don’t sing. Oh well, we’ve only been performing this for about 18 months! Several false starts and “cleanups” later, and we had the song done except for the possibility of a bit of guitar "dressing". It took only about 95 minutes from first note to last.

Next up was “Looking Back.” Like “Decisions” this was a song in which Steve wrote the melody to lyrics I had already delivered to him. This is the opposite to songs like “It Ends; It Begins” and “Light In the Night” in which I wrote lyrics to fit a melody Steve had written earlier. “Looking Back” is also introspective in nature, and deals with a mature man who is living a comfortable, happy life, but can’t quite get over the difference between his present reality and the way he envisioned his life turning out when he was young. The danger in this sort of self-reflection is summed up in the song’s punch line, “you can’t see where you’re going / when you’re looking back.” As is the case with “Decisions,” we don’t expect that this will be anyone’s first-time favorite recording on the CD. We do, however, think that both these songs will resonate with listeners on their fourth or fifth playing – especially those listeners who are “mature.”

Steve had a new idea about recording this song, dealing with the way the first two lines of the chorus begin. This idea was so new that he didn’t mention it to me two hours earlier when we were having dinner! It took a good 10 minutes for him to explain what he had in mind so that my feeble brain could grasp it. No surprise to me that it was a great idea. Steve switched to his “strumming and lead” Taylor 814ce that he plays during our gigs. Once again, Steve has the lead vocals on this song, so we did the same sequence of Steve’s guitar followed by mine, and Steve’s vocals followed by mine. Although there’ll be some “dressing” to come on this one before it becomes “ready for prime time,” it is finished for a time.

LESSONS LEARNED: Man, it is LONELY in there when you’re not the one on the mike! Thank goodness Steve and Kathy’s daughter Bethany dropped by for a short visit. Steve and I are confident that we did a good job, but we missed the input from Kathy and continue to miss ML’s contributions. This should be the LAST time any of us has to miss a recording session. Speaking of which, we don’t go back into the studio again until the 24th of June. We have four sessions scheduled for July, and it’s our hope to have everything recorded and almost ready for pressing by then. We’re also working on ancillary issues – distribution, CD art, pressing, publicity, tax issues, and finding a venue for a CD release party – not to mention a full range of gigs every month through the end of November.

Man, this is tiring stuff; but boy is it FUN!

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