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The Exited Door, On Sale

9 Mar

In honor of all the new friends I’ve made over the past six months, I’ve decided to make my first solo record, “The Exited Door,” 50% off at Bandcamp. For the rest of this week, it’s selling for $5 (though you can name your price, should you want to pay more). You can also stream the whole thing for free on the site, or even listen to it right here:

I had no label, no producer, no mixing engineer, no professional studio—only me, my best musician friends, and anyone else I could convince to pitch in. I guess the word “indie” has taken a bit of a beating lately, but I’m not sure it gets more indie than how I made this album.

If you’re curious, I wrote a detailed, seven-part series about the process of making the album which was fun to write and is worth checking out. Even though I hope to work with a producer and a professional engineering team on my next album (and don’t doubt that the album would have been “better” had I had them), it is a point of pride for me that I managed to make it at all, and I’m really glad that I took the time to document the process.

We also do this stuff live, and I’ve made a video montage of a show we did a year and a half ago. I seriously, mega need to do another big show like this one; it was way too much fun.

 

Huge thanks to everyone who’s bought the record so far; I hope you are enjoying it. Your support is hugely valued, so please spread the word to anyone you think might like it!

Musical Happenings

17 Aug

I’ve been working on a lot of different things, so I thought I’d take a minute to detail them here. Also, as you can see from that image, I’ve come down with a mild case of Scott Pilgrim Fever.

SF Songbird Festival Show @ The Blue Macaw

First up is a show we did a couple of weeks at at the groovy Blue Macaw in the Mission. It used to be called 12 Galaxies, and I actually haven’t been to the club since they changed names. Fortunately, the super cool Mz. Urban Therese (whom I have gotten to know as “Therese”) was putting together a bill for her Songbird Festival and asked if I’d like to participate.

We played alongside Debby Gipsman, Juliet Strong, and Jascha Hoffman, all of whom sounded great and were really cool. Debby opened with a solo acoustic set – girl has a really strong voice, sounds somewhat like Natalie Merchant, but better? And I don’t mean that in a silly way, I like Natalie Merchant’s voice, but Debby actually has a really cool quality that I dug. Juliet brought a really big, eclectic band, with accordion, cello, flute (who killed it and was a total babe to boot), cajón, upright bass and herself on keys and vocals. She sounded great, and has written some neat songs – check her stuff out! Jascha Hoffman played the closing set and gave a really charming performance with a kick-ass band – my bassist Daniel was playing with him, and his guitarist sounded great (his name is Adam Roszkiewicz, he plays with a ton of cats) and his drummer was Jason Slota, a great player from Afrodesia and John Vanderslice. Dang, that dude can freakin’ play the drums.

So yeah, our set. It was probably the most relaxed I’ve ever felt going into a show, which was so nice. All of my go-to color instrument folks (Violin, Trumpet, etc) were out of town or booked, so we went with the six-piece. Me, Dan and Lindsay on vocals, Nervo on guitar, Daniel Fabs on bass and Tim McGregor on drums. A killer group, and all friends, so we had a really laid-back vibe in general.

And we killed!  Seriously. I’ve never felt so good about a show – we could do that every night and it’d never get old. I mean, it’d get old, but it feels like it’d never get old. We went through the usual acoustic stuff – “The Darkened Street,” “No Crow, Scarecrow,” “North Kinser,” “Oh, Brother,” “If You’re Feeling Out Of It.”  Most of which are on my record, which hey, if you don’t have it, you should buy it. You know, forget iTunes even – you can actually buy it. Support independent music, man!

Just for kicks, Dan and I did our duo song “The Can Man,” which we wrote together a while back, and it was a ton of fun. We might have to start performing that one more often. And of course, at the end of the set, we played Shoshana. A hit, as always.

There was a really great crowd out, and we were so happy for everyone’s enthusiastic support. Thanks so much for coming, one and all! Thanks also to Therese and the awesome Frankie Burton, who helped run the show and took the pictures here. My next show will most likely be in September, and I’m planning on whipping out some mondo new material later in the fall, too. More on that soon.

Keyboards This Weekend with Blue Rabbit!

Next thing up is a cool one. I’ll be subbing on keyboards with the groovy chamber-pop vocal band Blue Rabbit! This is a band who, if you’ll recall, I described upon first listen as sounding like “the best episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer ever.” (Don’t worry, I elaborated. Or maybe, worry: I elaborated.)

They are awesome, and we’ve been friends since we shared a bill last year at the Rickshaw Stop. Tim, their keyboardist, wasn’t available this weekend, so they needed someone to fill in. They gave me a ring, and even though my first instinct was “Seriously? Can I learn this much keyboard music in a week?” after thinking about it, I realized “Yeah actually, I can!” So I went for it. We rehearsed last night, and the show is going to be a blast.

We’re playing at the Rock Make Street Festival in the mission, going on at noon. The best part about playing keyboards is that I don’t have to bring an instrument – just myself and my middling chops. So, after the set we’ll hang around at the festival and drink beer and listen to music. Come out! Say hi! Meet these people! They are like the nicest band ever!

Info on the festival is here. Do eet. Do eet.

New Songs, New Projects, DRUMS

Last but not least are the new things I’m working on. Mostly, it’s new music. A bootload of it, actually. I’ve got around eight songs in the hopper, and a few more ideas that are slowly working their way into more fully-formed tunes. It’s really, really fun stuff, and I’ve been having a blast finally adding lyrics and finishing up the form. Pretty soon, I’ll have demos out to the band and we can start actually learning this stuff!

It’s bigger, I’d say, than anything on The Exited Door. Not a huge shift in style or anything, just more fully-realized – the tunes take greater advantage of the three vocal parts, as well as the strengths of Lindsay and Dan, my two vocalists. In addition, they’re geared a bit more towards live performance – as fun as “The Bird Women of Golden Gate Park” and “Down By The Water” are, they’re not really songs that always come off amazingly live.

So, ton of new music there, as well as another cool project (or actually, series of projects) I’m working on with Khamara Pettus, the amazing actor/director/producer/force of nature with whom I’ve been working, scheming, planning over the past couple of months. We’re putting together some things to perform at the Brava Theatre, and I’ll have more on that stuff once it’s a bit more ready for the light of day. Suffice to say: it merges a lot of things about which I am quite passionate. Also, Khamara is a rock goddess.

Last, my odyssey into becoming a real-life drummer is all but complete – I’m confident now that I could hold it down in just about any bitchin’ rock band that’d have me. And I want them to have me. Do you know of a kick-ass, stripped-down, glammy rock punk freakout band, preferably with some female energy in the mix, that is in need of a tall, goofy drummer who makes up for his lack of extreme burning chops with energy and musicality? If so, A) I am surprised you know such a specific band and B) GIVE THEM MY NUMBER.

That’s All, Folks

So, that’s it for musical updates. I’ll post some demos and further thoughts on the new songs once I’ve got them in shape to share, and in the meantime, SFers come on out to the Rock Make Festival this Sunday and say hi!

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday

18 Feb

I am beyond excited for Sunday’s show – let me take a sec to tell you why.  Actually, if you know me at all, you won’t be surprised: I’m excited because of the super awesome band I get to play with.

We cranked out the set last night in rehearsal, and I continue to just feel so lucky to play with musicians who are so good that we only need to get together once to prepare a killer set.

I’ll be joined by Dan and Lindsay, singers from The Exited Door and extreme badasses, as well as my main man Dan Nervo on the guitar.  The set will be acoustic, so Nervo won’t get to do his shredding thing (and, alas, this force him to leave his beautiful new black Les Paul studio at home), but the guy picks a mean solo and is sounding amazing as always.

Also joining the band will be the amazing Daniel Fabricant on the upright bass, Tim McGregor on the drums, and the lovely and incredibly burning Marguerite Ostro on the violin. By adding drums to the acoustic band and removing some of the extra color instruments we had last time, we’ve got a much more focused sound, and the groove is really there. The western-swingish tunes we’re going to play – “The Darkened Street,” “Shoshana,” “North Kinser” – all finally sound as they were meant to.

I should mention that not only is Tim a burning drummer, he’s kind of the best digital graphics guy I’ve ever met. Like, four years ago he was a drummer on tour, opening for Dave Matthews with Jem, and now, well… check this out. It’s his demo reel for 2010, showing the projects he’s done over the past few years and edited together with such style and aplomb that… well, it’s pretty amazing.  Give it a sec to load, then take a gander - so hot right now.

What’s more, Sunday’s show will feature an opening set from the amazing Nice Guy Trio (with whom Daniel Fab also plays, along with trumpeter Darren Johnston and accordionist Rob Reich), and Darren and Rob are going to sit in with me, too!  I’ll also be playing a tune with the Nice Guys on tenor, accompanying the incredible Katy Stephan, who’ll be singing with them.

And that’s not even to mention the groovy headlining group Stitchcraft, or Master of Ceremonies Jeremy Dalmas, who promises to keep things really fun and loose all night, and the fact that the gig is a potluck, so there should be a ton of amazing food there (and you’ll get a discount if you bring something, too)!

God, do you need any more reasons to come out to this show?  No, you do not.  So come out!  There is a Facebook event with the info, it’s at the Make-Out room starting at 7:30 this Sunday.

Rock. Victory. Freedom. America.

The Exited Door, in Wordle

17 Sep

Thanks to Sonia for showing me Wordle.net, where I input all the text from my blog series on the creation of The Exited Door.

The Exited Door Wordle

Yeah, I'd say this about sums it up. (Click to enlarge.)

We’re Gonna Need A Montage

16 Sep

South Park Montage 2So, after cutting together a bunch of audio and video from the first-ever performance of “The Exited Door,” it became clear that I had too much of both – I couldn’t really imagine finishing, editing, and posting videos of every song, and I also couldn’t imagine everyone out there sitting there and watching that much video.

It was clear that there was only one thing to do. In the words of Trey Parker and Matt Stone:

The day is approaching
to give it your best
and you’ve got to reach your prime

that’s when you need
to put yourself to the test
and show us a passage of time

we’re gonna need a montage
(montage!)
a show-playing montage
(montage!!)

So, without further ado, I give you the official video montage of last week’s show.  It is seriously good times.

It, and other fun live videos, can all be found in widescreen on my YouTube Channel.  And if the montage-y-ness leaves you wanting to hear more, well… good! Only thing to do is come out to the next one!

Full Band Onstage 2

Here we go…

3 Sep

Well, then. Tonight’s the night.  The media’s on board – The Chronicle, Examiner.com, SFist, and, of course, the big feature in The SF Examiner… Wow. This is pretty much the biggest show I’ve ever done, in more ways than one.

So, if you’re reading this, you’re either A) in San Francisco and already coming, or B) live somewhere else, and are probably sick of hearing about the show, heh.  But I wanted to take a second here to reflect -

It’s been a long road and a lot of work to get to this point, and I couldn’t be more excited to play this music live, and with the instrumentation for which it was intended. I hope to see you there.

Rock!

Dan, Kirk and Lindsay

Can't wait, guys.

In The SF Examiner Today!

1 Sep

Today, The San Francisco Examiner printed Leslie Katz’s super-cool feature about The Exited Door, its creation, and Thursday’s show!  Leslie rules – it was a blast to talk with her about the album.

“I wanted to bring all the different types of music I love into one album,” says the songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, whose first musical success was as a jazz saxophonist (he earned a degree in jazz performance from the University of Miami School of Music). He doesn’t mind if his music is compared to that of Tom Waits, Sufjan Stevens, Stephen Sondheim or The Decemberists.

Still, “The Exited Door” remains a distinctly personal expression: “It’s a little autobiographical,” Hamilton says. “It’s about my early passionate rushes of music and romance. It’s songs about my experience.”

One thing it’s not is the culmination of his career.

The Inner Sunset resident — who loves being near Golden Gate Park — says, “I’m already thinking about newer, bigger things. I haven’t made my rock opera yet!”

Ha – yeah, wow, I really said that…  I guess the only thing to do now is write a rock opera, (and play it at Great American Music Hall).  Okay, it’s on.

Getting excited about Thursday’s show yet?  I sure as hell am.

As if I really needed one more thing to maintain…

11 Aug

kirkhamiltonfacebook

I now have a Facebook Music Page. Now I can finally bother you about my shows on a social networking site that people actually use.

See, even I’m a fan:

Kirk is a fan of Kirk

And what’s more, I like it:

Kirk Likes That He is a Fan of Kirk

“The Exited Door” Gets Mad Men’d

29 Jul

Mad Men'd JoanIn honor of the coming third season of Mad Men (a program which I believe to be the best currently on television), AMC has set up a site at which a user can upload a photo of him or herself and be “Mad Men’d.”  Similar to past phenomenons like “Simpsonize Me” and “Obamicon Me,” it’s a snap to use, is a great promotional tool, and results in a flood of new Facebook profile pictures.

I have yet to Mad Men’d myself (improper grammar, I know, but that seems somehow better than “Mad Men myself”), because I do not have Flash Player 10, which is required to run the necessary web app.  The reasons behind my dated Flash pluginitude are Hulu-related and not worth detailing here, but the upshot is that, though I would love nothing more than to have a Mad Men’d photo of myself out there, I do not, and I just have to be okay with that.

Fortunately, my friends David and Sonia (she of The Sonia Show), are big fans of the show, too, and after Mad Men’d-ing themselves (o, how the language bends and twists to our desires), they then went ahead and added their Mad Men’d-icized pictures to the cover of The Exited Door, with a pretty amazing result:

ExitedDoorREMIX1

HA!  I’ve never looked so white (well, outside of a wedding reception dance floor, anyway), and Sonia has never looked so much like… Velma, actually. Anyway, this is all a long way of saying that I am incredibly stoked for the show to start back up on August 16th.  I’m ever so curious about what (and when) Don and the gang are up to, and it’ll be nice to once again be able to get all of my smoking and drinking done vicariously through fictional characters.

Incendiary Magazine Reviews “The Exited Door”

22 Jul

Incendiary MagazineAnd they liiiiiked it!  Well, specifically, reviewer Damian Leslie liked it. This is the first review of the record online, so it was, somewhat understandably, a bit terrifying to read at first.  Thankfully, after some initial kvetching about how lame theatrical music is, Leslie goes ahead and lets the album win him over. Groovy.  Highlights include:

This is one of those rare treats that is so impeccably put together and so effortlessly charming that you’ll be willing to follow it wherever the hell it wants to take you. It’s like no other album you’ll pick up this year. Daft as a brush in many ways, although by no means a comedy or novelty album, it’s a blast from start to finish.

As well as

Everybody needs something as ridiculous as Lock You In The Attic in their catalogue. “So you’re a strange Pygmalion/ And just a bit Australian.” Just wait till they try to rap in the middle of it. It’s hilarious, in a good way.

The full review is here – good times.  I actually didn’t ever watch “Fame” growing up, though I have a feeling I know what he’s getting at.  I’m happy that I could win over a theatrical music skeptic… one down, fifty jillion to go.

The Bay Bridged April ’09 Podcast

22 Apr

baybridged

My song “No Crow, Scarecrow” was featured in this month’s Podcast at the groovy online Bay Area music magazine The Bay Bridged. The podcast features only local artists, and it’s a great way to get to know SF bands and hear what everyone else is up to. I certainly enjoyed giving it a listen.

In addition to my track, this month features Harbours, Trainwreck Riders, and The Chop, among others. You can download the podcast here, or on iTunes.

Thanks to Christian and Ben for including my track!

You Have Been Pandoracized

1 Apr

pandoraI am a huge fan of Pandora radio.  I’ve been aware of them since they existed only as the Music Genome Project – a lot of guys I met when I first moved out here worked there, coding music.  It sounded like a cool gig – listen to new bands and break down each song by 150 or so categories, and get paid to do it!

After they created Pandora and plugged in the Genome Project, things started really  taking off.  I’d say it was when their iPhone app was released that they really hit the tipping point – now everyone knows about them!

Just like I did with the Squaretape EP, I sent them a copy of The Exited Door right when I was finished.  Today, I went on over to see if it had been uploaded, and it had, so I promptly loaded up Kirk Hamilton Radio. Amazing.

Here’s the coolest part – it’s possible to look at the Music Genome Project’s coding for each song, and you guys, it is simultaneously awesome, hilarious, and a little bit terrifying. There’s nothing quite like seeing your song, one that you spent days conceptualizing, writing, and arranging, broken down into unflinchingly accurate one- or two-word bullet points.

Take “The First Time.” As I wrote the song, I was like, “Well, I want to put in some piano, focus on vocal duets, and have the first half of the tune be acoustic, then go electric…”

Well, according to Pandora…

The First Time:
acoustic rhythm piano
varying tempo and time signatures
a busy horn section
melodic horn lines
a clear focus on recording studio production
major key tonality
melodic songwriting
paired vocal harmony
mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation
electric guitar riffs
slide/pedal steel guitars
vocal duets

Ha! So clinical, so accurate! Apparently there are 100 more categories, as well.

Continue reading

Full-Court Press

24 Mar

So, yeah, I haven’t been posting that much this past week.  Here’s why:

img_0557

Spreading the word is, unfortunately, using up all of my words, and I’ve none left for Murfins.  I should be back to writing bad poetry, semi-creepy lists of things I admire about people, and a bunch of mea culpas about Lost, Resident Evil 5, and Dollhouse, shortly.  Time to lick some stamps.

The Exited Door

18 Feb

cover-art-squareAfter over a year of recording and rehearsing, writing and ranting, working and waiting, my first-ever solo album, “The Exited Door,” is finished and in-hand.  What’s more, as of today it’s available for purchase online!  In honor of that, I thought I’d devote a post to sharing links to all things Exited Doorian.  If you’ve enjoyed my blog or liked reading about the album, please pick up a copy!  It is an entirely self-funded project (look ma, no financial backers or label!) – I made the entire album with my hands and the scant contents of my bank account.  Your support really matters and is very appreciated.

Ways to Buy the Record:

1) The best way is to order the disc online from CDBaby. I love CDBaby, and they love me – the disc is a steal at $11.95, and the physical item is the way to go, not only because it includes all the lyrics, but because it contains all of the wonderful artwork that accompanies the record.

2) Download it from iTunes. The easiest and most familiar way to go. Though you won’t get a copy of the artwork if you do this, you can download it for free as a PDF from my website.

3) Download it from DigStation. Another good way to go – I’m not sure what the deal is with the downloads at CDBaby, but I know that when you download my album from DigStation, I get 100% of the income.  iTunes gives about .67 on the dollar, so that’s a huge improvement.  Plus, you get a downloadable PDF of all of the album art and lyrics, so it’s really the next-best thing to buying a CD.

Links, Etc:

If you’d like to keep track of the latest happenings with the record, as well as keep up to date on live performances, I keep my personal website and my myspace page very current.

I had a really good time writing the blog series about the creation of the album, and have organized the posts below:

  • Part one covered the album’s initial conception; this is the “why” behind the disc.
  • Part two discussed the initial writing process; this was probably the most exciting time in the album’s creation, when it felt like anything was possible.
  • Part three detailed writing the lyrics and creating the initial demos of the record.  This was also a fun project, and was a really fun time of the year (April/May of 2008).
  • Part four got all technical and stuff about the recording process; getting the rhythm section, strings, and horns recorded was a big logistical challenge that was fun to tackle.
  • Part five went inot detail about the final recording sessions – woodwinds, vocals, guitars, percussion – and the initial organization and mixing of the record.
  • Part six covers the mixing and mastering process; in other words, how we wrangled the audio from raw to finished.
  • Part seven discussed the album artwork and design, and the process of organizing the wonderful artists who contributed original artwork to the project.

Contributing Musicians/Artists:

A lot of amazing musicians played on The Exited Door.  Below, I’ve posted links to their various websites and projects.

Lindsay Garfield sings with the alt-folk group Or, The Whale – they are great, see them live!

Dan Apczynski writes for Acoustic Guitar Magazine and is the lead singer of The Cut Loose.

Dan Nervo leads The Cut Loose along with Dan A. – they rule.

Kenji Shinagawa played mandolin, and is an amazing guitarist who lives in NYC.

Brian Fox is a writer for Bass Player Magazine and also plays bass with The Estate. His amazing ex-band Pseudopod just might do some shows soon, too!

Scott Foster teaches with me at Urban and plays all over the Bay Area.

Brian Switzer plays trumpet with Native Elements, among other groups.

Alex Kelly is an amazing cellist, and has done some pretty rad things things.  He plays all over the place.

Joel Behrman played trombone; he is an amazing trumpet player, as well.

Daniel Fabricant played upright bass; his group The Nice Guy Trio is really good stuff.

Khamara Pettus is a fabulous actor and performs regularly around the SF Bay Area.

Fil Lorenz contributed wonderful Bari sax playing, and leads two groups – his Soul-Tet and his larger Jazz Orchestra.

Samantha Fisher did the album design and layout, and is truly amazing.

Michael Romanowski mastered the record, and I can’t recommend his services enough.  He works at Coast Recorders, and is one of the heads of the audiophile record lable The Tape Project.

bird-jpg

The Exited Door – One Year, One Album (Part 7)

9 Feb

At the start of 2009 I finished work on my first solo album, titled “The Exited Door.” It is a collection of thirteen original songs, and it features just about every Bay Area musician I know.  It has been, to embrace the cliche, a labor of love – I began work on the record at the start of 2008, and spent most of the year shepherding the disc from conception to completion. I am immensely pleased with the finished product.

This is the seventh and final part in a seven-part blog series detailing the various phases of its creation. Part one covers the initial conception, part two is on the writing and scoring of the music. Part three details the creation of the album demos, and part four is about the large recording sessions we did throughout the summer. Part five covers the final recording sessions and the initial mixing process, and part six details the final mixing and mastering processes.

The record is now available at CDBaby.com, as well as for download from iTunes and Digstation. Tracks from the disc are streaming on my myspace page.

Part Seven: Artwork, Photos, and Design

door7

Assembling the artwork and finalizing the design on the album was by far the easiest part of production.  With the tunes written, recorded, edited, and mastered, the only thing left to do was to put together the art and the layout and send the thing off to Discmakers.

river-of-dreams-album-cover1

Yeah, I know.

I’d had a pretty good idea of what I wanted with the design from the get-go; I knew I wanted some sort of portrait-like illustration for the cover, and my initial thought was that it would be something like Billy Joel’s “River of Dreams” album cover.  Which is kind of hilarious, in retrospect.  That might be the least-cool album cover in existence.  I didn’t know it at the time, but it was actually drawn by Christie Brinkley when she was married to him, so it’s this total non-art kind of thing, with tons of watercolors and drawings, and it’s kinda sorta… lame.  But at the end of 2007, after putting down “cool” for a while and trying to come up with something more real, it was at least in the neighborhood of where I wanted the cover to be.

It didn’t take me long to figure out where to go to find an artist to commission to do the work. I know plenty of artists around San Francisco, but didn’t really know any of their work that well, and just tracking down an artist friend didn’t seem like the way to go, for whatever reason.  Right at the outset, however, when I thought about how much production and recording work I’d be doing at school, as well as how many students I’d be getting to help out musically, I realized (in a bit of a forehead-slapping moment of clarity) that I should get an Urban student to do the cover art!

Continue reading

The Exited Door – One Year, One Album (Part 6)

5 Feb

At the start of 2009 I finished work on my first solo album, titled “The Exited Door.” It is a collection of thirteen original songs, and it features just about every Bay Area musician I know.  It has been, to embrace the cliche, a labor of love – I began work on the record at the start of 2008, and spent most of the year shepherding the disc from conception to completion. I am immensely pleased with the finished product.

This is the sixth in a seven-part blog series detailing the various phases of its creation. Part one covers the initial conception, part two is on the writing and scoring of the music. Part three details the creation of the album demos, and part four is about the large recording sessions we did throughout the summer. Part five covers the final recording sessions and the initial mixing process, and part seven is about the artwork, photos, and design.

The record is now available at CDBaby.com, as well as for download from iTunes and Digstation. Tracks from the disc are streaming on my myspace page.

Part Six: Mixing, Editing, and Mastering

door6

It was December.  The music had been written, the charts laid out; the musicians had learned the parts and been recorded, the voice-overs were complete.  The singers and I had learned, tweaked, and re-learned the parts, and the tunes had morphed from abstract ideas into actual recordings.  This was the home stretch – time to wrestle these tracks into a finished album.

I’ve already discussed how much easier it is to mix things when all of the tracks are recorded and accounted for – the drums can be EQed to leave space for the bass, the vocals and the horns can be put where they need to be in order not to clash, etc. But there’s another aspect to it as well – when I have an incomplete session, it’s tough to get in the mindset required to make things sound finished; all of the ingredients aren’t yet in the stew, so it’s tough to begin to add seasoning.

Once all of the tracks are recorded though, for better or for worse, I know what I’ve got to work with, so it’s much easier to begin to chop up the audio and make it fit into the sound of the tune.  Which, once the tracks were finished, was exactly what I got started doing.

Continue reading

The Exited Door – One Year, One Album (Part 5)

29 Jan

At the start of 2009 I finished work on my first solo album, titled “The Exited Door.” It is a collection of thirteen original songs, and it features just about every Bay Area musician I know.  It has been, to embrace the cliche, a labor of love – I began work on the record at the start of 2008, and spent most of the year shepherding the disc from conception to completion. I am immensely pleased with the finished product.

This is the fifth in a seven-part blog series detailing the various phases of its creation. Part one covers the initial conception, part two is on the writing and scoring of the music. Part three details the creation of the album demos, and part four is about the large recording sessions we did throughout the summer. Part six covers mixing, editing and mastering the tracks, and part seven is about the artwork, photos, and design.

The record is now available at CDBaby.com, as well as for download from iTunes and Digstation. Tracks from the disc are streaming on my myspace page.

Part Five: Final Recording Sessions and Initial Mixing

door5

As the tracks started to reach their final state in terms of content, it grew a lot easier for me to mix them.  I’m just not able to mix things separately – I have no way of knowing if the sound that I get on, say, the drums alone will sound good once the bass, guitars, and vocals are added, so it just wasn’t possible to tackle the mixing until everything had been recorded.

It was quite a process, and was the most challenging part of the album’s creation. The transition from demo to full recording required me to put down my preconceptions of the songs at every turn. One of the dangers of making complete recorded demos of tunes is that it’s pretty easy to get used to the demo – to the mistakes, the odd mixes, and lackluster instrument sounds – to the point that it can be jarring to mix in real instruments played by real humans.  Since the sampled instruments and the real musicians were in utterly different universes, both in terms of mix and groove, I held off attempting any mixing until I had everything in place.

Continue reading

The Exited Door – One Year, One Album (Part 4)

24 Jan

At the start of 2009 I finished work on my first solo album, titled “The Exited Door.” It is a collection of thirteen original songs, and it features just about every Bay Area musician I know.  It has been, to embrace the cliche, a labor of love – I began work on the record at the start of 2008, and spent most of the year shepherding the disc from conception to completion. I am immensely pleased with the finished product.

This is the fourth in a seven-part blog series detailing the various phases of its Part one covers the album’s initial conception. Part two is on the writing and scoring of the music. Part three details the creation of the album demos, and Part five covers the final recording sessions and the initial mixing process, and part six covers mixing, editing and mastering the tracks. Part seven is about the artwork, photos, and design.

The record is now available at CDBaby.com, as well as for download from iTunes and Digstation. Tracks from the disc are streaming on my myspace page.

Part Four: Recording the Musicians

door4

With the demos complete, the music scored, and the parts written, it was time to head into the studio and record the actual musicians. Since I had sent demos and charts out to everyone already, my plan from the outset had been to do modular recording sessions, breaking things up to make it easy to schedule time with each musician or group.  The Urban School has a very cool Pro Tools HD system and Control | 24 board, along with a nice big main room and an isolation booth.  Knowing that I wouldn’t be able to run the sessions entirely on my own, particularly when I was playing (on the horn session), I enlisted the help of two student engineers at Urban, Sam Tygiel (who is also a brilliant young flutist, guitarist, and songwriter), and the always-professional, low-key Daniel Moattar.

The great thing about demoing in Pro Tools is that it makes it possible to take the demos you’ve created and really easily replace tracks one-at-a-time through several sessions, until you’ve got a whole new recording. In other words, the demos act as templates for the finished product.

The plan was to record the musicians over the following sessions:

  • Drums
  • Electric Bass
  • Acoustic Bass
  • Piano and Keyboards
  • Strings
  • Horns
  • Guitars
  • Auxiliary Sessions (Woodwinds, Marimba, Clapping, Percussion)
  • Final Vocal Takes

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