Sunday Phlegm in January

Sometimes things happen and you are caught off guard.  Sometimes this causes stupid things to come out of your mouth.  And sometimes you have to do something about it. And sometimes you know that even though what you said was accurate and most probably true, you really didn’t mean for those particular words to tumble out of your head, in that particular order, at that exact time, with so much venom. And even though, deep inside of you, you are really glad you said it, and you really really, really meant it, you have to admit:

you were caught off guard and probably should have swallowed instead of spit.

So, my Sunday fans, what is the lesson here? Well, Forrest said it best…shit happens. We repair what we can, let go of what we can’t, and try a little bit harder next time to take a breath before we unleash our demons inside.

The same is true in the recording studio. On the one hand, I strive for authenticity, that moment of pure, unabashed, creative, car crash inspiration that will take you to a place you have never been before. A place I might visit in a dream…but you know, that’s just not really how it works for me. When I’m behind the microphone,  if I let my mind go I usually just end up in another song, in another key, coming in on an upbeat when I should be coming in on the downbeat…in short, I get lost, it sounds like shit and I have to do it again.

Sometimes I find myself in the middle of a take and next thing I know I’m thinking of my second grade teacher, Miss Moriarty, who, one day while I was going through her purse looking for lunch money,  discovered  she smoked Marlboro reds.  She, who quit mid school year to marry a Blue Angle pilot…she was probably with child.  I was thinking how much more I preferred her to her substitute, Miss Saroyan. Miss Saroyan was from the South. For a second grader born in San Francisco, the accents I associated with the South bared no resemblance to her sorrowful, unfamiliar tonal cadences that hung in the air long after her mouth had closed.  But there you go.

No, when I’m staring down a microphone I must focus. I must think. There is absolutely no room for accidental authenticity. My authenticity comes from knowing where I am at every moment while the “tape is rolling.” 100% in the moment. No accidents. For someone with attention deficit challenges this is no small task.  Just ask Miss Moriarty. Rummaging through her handbag was just the tip of the iceberg.

Understand, being so focused doesn’t mean I’m any less authentic or spontaneous…knowing where I am in the middle of a  “tapes rolling”, allows me to take those car crash leaps because I know just where I need to land to pick up the chorus, allow the guitar solo space, make room for a fabulous drum roll or cymbal crash…when I’m keyed in to the song every thing falls into place. Sometimes you get so keyed in you can’t hear the part you are actually playing…it’s so in the grove it disappears  into the song.  This of course creates another problem. All of sudden you have this sinking feeling that the part you are playing so brilliantly isn’t there? So you stop what you are doing mid stream and scream to your producer or engineer, “what the fuck! Are you recording this?”  And in that same nanosecond you know instinctively that yes, we are rolling, and yes, what you were playing really was  brilliant, yes, you were playing in the zone, and now, you have to do it all over again.  What ever you had is gone. You have to do something about it…and you do, and you will, play it again, and again, because sometimes, things happen, and you are caught off guard.

Sometimes things happen and you are caught off guard. In the recording studio, on the bus or subway, at your local…doesn’t matter where…when it does, stop…just stop. Listen to your words as they begin to muster in your brain readying for the charge. Then, look up, look down, look ahead, look inside of yourself, and remember…there are no accidents. Authenticity and spontaneity are not accidental…they require work, planning and honesty.

Enjoy this Sunday fans…Winter has taken a hike…we should too…



More Sunday Phlemg

Just realized that the reason my ‘tropical’ plants in the yard look close to death is that we have not had any water this Winter. Not used to turning on the hose in January. Let’s hope it’s not too late…everyone tells me not to worry because plants are resilient. Not sure if I believe it though…let’s just say that at some point resiliency may not be enough. But I digress…

Recording going well. Back in the studio Monday and Wednesday with boy genius Michale Rosen, producer and engineer extraordinaire! I should be practicing with the drums and click tracks instead of writing this questionable blog but truth be known, I really hate to practice. Of course I tell everyone I practice all the time…I suspect Michael knows I don’t practice much but he uses my lack of preparedness to ‘rearrange’ my songs, and, he is usually right, so why bother practicing? Of course if  I did practice I would have a better idea of where my music should be going, be more adamant about how right I am, and how dare a producer try and change my work , after all, I am the artist…and then we would most likely argue,  I would get this reputation for being impossible to work with and, well who really has the time for that? I don’t. I have to practice.

When I say I don’t practice I don’t mean I don’t play my guitar. I do. I just don’t like sitting with headphones on, alone, counting down 1 -2 -3 – 4 to a click track, drums (that are incredible by the way thank you Michael Urbano) a really bad vocal ‘scratch’ track, buried way down low in the mix so I can barley hear it, and play everything perfectly over and over again. It’s boring. To those who have never spent any time in a recording studio, believe me when I say it ain’t glamorous. There are lot’s of ways to record your music… it might look like this. You start with the whole band in the studio, everybody rehearsed and refreshed, excited,  usually separated in little cubicles so the different instruments don’t leak into each other…you want to be able keep the them separate so you can mix them all together once everything is recorded…then, you can go back and overdub stuff, guitar solo, add vocal tracks, then you mix the stuff and you have a record/CD. Now I know there are you musicians out there already shaking your heads and screaming at your screen NO! What a moron! That’s not how you do it! Please note: I said, “this is how it might look”. You can also get everyone in the same room and record the thing live, which is fun, and live! which if I had a real band I would have done it…like this…1 – 2 – 3 – 4 GO! Done. Minimum overdubs…no labored mixing sessions adding all this fluff…no layering of all these tracks…but not this time around. Nope. This is a track by track, add guitar, add more guitar, add a little sugar, add bass, add vocal tracks type of recording experience…and that’s why I am practicing alone, to a click track (and kick ass drum tracks) doing my part, in preparation for tomorrow.  At least I should be. For those who don’t know what a click track is, think recorded metronome playing in your ear while everything else is going on. It’s so you play in time.  Some musicians have this innate, natural, rhythmic ability…no one has actually come out and said it to my face but this may not be one of my strengths.

But, I don’t have a band this time around…got some great studio folks making the songs sound good, make that sound great…my old time friend and former band member Eddie Rawlings laying down some sweet, sweet guitar tracks…but now it’s my turn. And I should be practicing to that click track, I should be prepared, and I will be, but just not right now.

Not right now…I have to water my dieing plants, then pick up doggie treats that have dried in the sun instead of dissolving into the ground with the Winter rain, that hasn’t come, then I’m sure that load of laundry tumbling in the dryer is dry by now, and although I don’t believe in ironing I do think it’s important to fold straight away from the dryer, then there are those pork chops that I probably ought to marinate because they’ve been in the fridge an awfully long time and need a strong dose of vinegar, would hate to kill my dinner guests, then there’s the potatoes for roasting that need to be picked through and cleaned…

And I just realized, the water out back is still running. Got to go shut that off. Then I really out to start practicing. Yes, practice, right after I…

Have a wonderful Sunday fans.

An oh, please feel free to leave a comment in the comment section. And be honest,  you can “keep it real”, it’s really ok. I get to approve all comments so there’s no harm speaking your mind.  I have the power of delete!