I am writing because it’s been a while. I am listening to Bon Iver, hanging in Georgia for a week before we leave for Singapore to play the Mosaic Music Festival. I know, it’s a little crazy, but I think well worth the flight over there. We’ll meet other bands and see a place we’ve never seen. It’s one of those early spring days when you feel the itch, but you know winter’s not done. It feels pretty peaceful after the last crazy week of IG activity. Two of my dogs are passed out on the office floor, after a two-hour hike in the woods.
Okay, you get the picture, right?
I wanna tell you about the new IG cd that’s coming out oh so soon, and some of what we’ve been up to in the past year. We started our arrangement process for our new songs about a year ago. I think our first practice was the last week of March 08. Oh wait, let me back up a couple months. We were on a miserable tour in February 08, the audiences were great, but we weren’t. We kept getting sick, our bus got stuck in a snowstorm, shows were canceled right and left, and generally we were just tired and not sure how to get to the next place. I remember I was sitting backstage in Memphis and we were trying to figure out if we could play the show. Emily had lost her voice and I was getting sick too. We got a call from our manager that Hollywood Records was dropping us. Well, for me, everything just started looking up. I did a happy dance and somehow we made it home in one piece and just carried on.
We had songs; we had practice time and recording time tentatively slotted into our calendar. Producer, Mitchell Froom called and said he didn’t care if we were on a label or not, he was still in, and it looked like we were on our way to making another record. The questions were just logistical at that point. The band and Southern Tracks recording studio gave us deals, and once again the community came through with flying colors to help us out.
So we started our work, arranging songs at Emily’s or my house for about a month. Mitchell came into Atlanta, then Bassist Clare Kenny showed up, and we worked with them for a week at our houses. As we worked on our arrangements, Mitchell not only produced, but also became the keyboard player for our little band. At this point, we carted our stuff over to Southern Tracks and set up to record. We had four days with Matt Chamberlain on drums to cut the basic tracks for ten songs. My personal goal was to get my lead vocals done too, cause I wanted to save time and have a really live emotional presence on the record. In IG recording sessions, my energy shows up better if I am strumming away on the guitar and playing with the band at the same time I am singing. The studio felt great and we finished all the tracks in three weeks.
Mitchell Froom, me, and Clare Kenny at Southern Tracks
Drummer – Matt Chamberlain, Mitchell and Claire
Clare and Emily
Mitchell had an idea to release a double cd by doing one record with the band, and then going back to our acoustic arrangements and recording all the songs live for an acoustic cd. We gave ourselves three days to record the acoustic record and it was contingent upon actually getting the band recordings done in time. We got pretty lucky and were working our tails off, so the time was available.
We set up a bunch of microphones and started in on the acoustic recordings. Before each song, we reviewed the arrangement and tweaked it here and there. Most of them stayed pretty true to what Emily and I came up with before the band entered the picture, but we did change a few things. It was a lot harder than I expected it to be. I think Emily thought it was pretty easy, but I felt extra nervous because the songs were so naked. There’s nothing like a good microphone to amplify your mistakes. We did multiple passes of each song until we got it right as a complete take. The only guest for the acoustic sessions was Alison Brown, helping us out on guitar and banjo. I love the way the acoustic sessions turned out. We also added one extra track, a simple little song called Salty South.
Alison Brown and Amy making funny faces after recording… whew!
Without a label to worry about, we took our time setting up the infrastructure to release this cd. It is truly an independent release on our own label, IG Recordings, distributed by another proud independent, Vanguard.
We have the best of both worlds and couldn’t be happier about the whole picture.
I love Emily’s songs on this record. They are sad and uplifting at the same time. When I first started practicing the arrangements by myself, I was down at a beach cottage in Florida. The waves were crashing away, the sunsets were punctual, and nature was really doing her thing. Thing is, I couldn’t get through a song without crying my eyes out, which made it kind of hard to learn, but also made it clear this was a moving batch of songs that would resonate and mean something to all of us. If anything ties our songs together on this record, it’s probably something about reflection. I guess that’s what most art is about, but to me this cd feels less declarative and more reflective, if that makes sense. Musically, I felt great making this record and just going down the path with Mitchell at the lead. I trust him, he fascinates me, and my songs are always better after he gets a hold of them.
When I look over my calendar for this last year leading up to this point and the release of Poseidon and the Bitter Bug, I see that it was so very full. After recording, Emily and I kept touring for a while and played new songs to get a feel for them and have a good time. I geared up to release my own solo record that I finished in the midst of starting the IG arrangement / recording sessions. That release happened in August 08 andI
hit the road for a few months during the Fall/Winter. It’s really been the most musical time of my life and it’s felt great.
Last month, I had a chance to fly to Minneapolis to check in on the Honor the Earth office. That trip was well worth it. We had a catch up meeting about recent board discussions, current grants, and upcoming project ideas.
I felt a little out of the loop from being on the solo tours for a few months and really not having time for anything but driving and playing. It was great to be with the super mighty activist of HTE. Things are gonna be exciting, because now with Obama in office, we can really roll up our sleeves and get something done. This is not the time to shrink; this is the time to be brave, strong, and inspired to build a new paradigm of sustainability. Honor The Earth wants to be right there in the middle of the march for
change. We will be keeping you updated because we’re forming plans for some really cool events this year.
Honor the Earth staff with me L-R: Luke, Faye, Winona, Amy, Nellis, Tom
Amy and Winona in HTE office
Amy, Winona, Faye at HTE office
Now Emily and I have started the promo wheels turning for our new release. We’ve been doing cool little radio shows for audiences of listeners. It feels good to get out and see folks again, and play the songs in small spaces.
We also just got off the Cayamo Cruise- a big boat floating away in the Caribbean with a stellar collection of songwriters. We could only stay for three days, a total bummer, and now we know we need to do the whole cruise.
We played 4 shows and had a bunch of awesome guests. Brandi Carlile and her band sat in with us every night.
We had Mindy Smith and David Ryan Harris play a couple guest spots during our shows. Kathleen Edwards blew me away by playing a rocking violin on Galileo. Danielle Howle came by and sang “Let It Ring”. Shawn Mullins sang Kid Fears, and Vienna Teng joined us and everybody else on stage for a rousing rendition of Closer to Fine. I saw a very profound show played by Shawn Colvin. It felt like I was in another world. She had the whole room mesmerized. The boat, as a venue is cool, it’s like everyone becomes a little community and we can leave the world behind a bit. At first I was worried about the “leaving the world behind” bit and the floating around in an oversize hotel with food bars and bathing suits, but it’s quite a luxury and I feel lucky we got to do it. It’s such an amazing array of musical talent that it’s quite humbling and inspiring.
Our visit to KFOG, San Francisco, CA
Our visit to KFOG, San Francisco, CA
Our visit to KBCO, Boulder, CO
Our visit to KBCO, Boulder, CO
Playing Emily’s new song "What Are You Like" at The Soiled Dove for KBCO listeners
Practicing with Julie Wolf and Brandi Carlile on the boat
Gathering in the dressing room with Brandi, Danielle, Tim, Shawn and Julie
Making new friends!
Playing on the Lido Deck with Brandi Carlile
Emily and Brandi give us a special performance of their rarely heard song, "Let It Go"
The skinny is:
*Release Date Poseidon and The Bitter Bug – March 24, but I am sure there are pre-order situations.
*Tour dates will be posted as we confirm them. We’ll be touring with Julie Wolf on keyboards and accordian, with a whole new exciting group of openers, including Lucy Roche, Jennifer O’Connor, Gregory Allan Isakov, Shawn Mullins, and more. At some point, we might bring a band out… at any rate we have an exciting year ahead of us.
*Favorite Emily song – "Digging For Your Dream"
*Favorite Amy song – "Sugar Tongue"
*Current book – The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
*Current food – Panang Tofu Curry
*Current CDs – That Sea The Gambler by Gregory Alan Isakov
*Current Sport – Galaga
*Current Dessert – DQ Snickers Blizzard