The Exited Door

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.

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

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

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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.

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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 7)”

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

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 for download at Digstation.com, and tracks from the disc are streaming on my myspace page.
Part Six: Mixing, Editing, and Mastering
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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 6)”

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

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

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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 5)”

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

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

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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

Continue reading “The Exited Door – One Year, One Album (Part 4)”

The Exited Door – One Year, One Album (Part 3)

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 third 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 four is about the large recording sessions we did throughout the summer, 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 Three: Lyrics and Demos

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After finishing the initial writing and scoring process for the majority of the material for The Exited Door, the next step was making a demo of the album.  I was bringing together an unprecedented number of musicians (for me, anyway), so my goal, in order to ensure that everything went smoothly, was to make it as easy on all of the musicians as possible.  That meant having a really clear idea of what we wanted to record well before we entered the recording studio, and having recordings and charts for everyone to learn beforehand.

Continue reading “The Exited Door – One Year, One Album (Part 3)”

The Exited Door – One Year, One Album (Part 2)

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 second in a seven-part blog series detailing the various phases of its creation. Part one covers the album’s initial conception. 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 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 Two: Writing The Music

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As I prepared to write the music for “The Exited Door,” I realized that I’d never actually sat down and written an extended, self-contained group of songs before.  I’d written tons of songs over the past five years, but always one or two at a time, and never with the intention of putting them all together into an album.  I knew I’d need a different approach to writing the music for this album.

Continue reading “The Exited Door – One Year, One Album (Part 2)”