Monday, January 31, 2011

Jesus and the Police

Part of what made playing music in Wylie today such a gift to me personally was that I've been dreaming of playing in a trio for a while now. This gave me a taste of what is possible again and raised my hopes. Like listening to some of the early live recordings of the Police did. There's something I love about the raw simplicity of a bass - drums - guitar trio.

Which raises the question, if the Police represented the Trinity which would be which? I'm guessing the Father would be the one with the original vision. If I remember correctly this is also the rythm that is behind everything else and in some ways holds it all together. I'm guessing the voice/mouthpeice and simple anchor might be Jesus. Which leaves the guitar player as the Holy Spirit -- coming and going like the wind (sometimes light sometimes driving), reminding you of what the voice has said.

Playing as a Trio

I led worship at a big church in Wylie TX today. Played two new songs I wrote, a hymn, a song that was new church circles in the 80s and an Elvis tune. My band was me, a brilliant funk/jazz bass player and a very good drummer.

Three things:
1. I was nervous because compared to these guys I'm very sloppy as a guitar player. In a three peice setting this can't be hidden.
2. I was nervous because I didn't know if this group of songs would work well for this group of people -- I'd say audience, but in this context the congregation is actually a group of participants not an audience, and my job is not just to make music but to help people connect with God. A couple days earlier I heard that one leader saw the song list and thought it was a very strange group of songs.

So I asked the leaders of the organization for feedback on the songs I planned to play and they suggested I add something people knew so I added the 80s worship tune. I contemplated other changes but finally went with the rest of the set as it was. The sound didn't work well during rehearsal (I had no mic most of the time). But the band was insane. In a good way.

So we played the songs and that thing happened -- that thing I dream about when I think about having a band...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Playing leads loudly -- more thoughts from recording day two

Jordan and Kelly pushed me yesterday to play this one lead part really loud and hard, rather than tentatively (like usual). This was really good for me, and while the end result is slightly messy, it has a lot of energy. This too is good training for next month.

And it's not like this is just training -- I'm really honored to be part of creating the first Surge On Smith record and touring with it this spring. The songs are good and the motivation behind it (raising awareness re human trafficking) is really good. Because we're headed towards sabbatical we're holding the future lightly, but this is the sort of thing I'd like to continue to support and be part of in the future. Our road is heading into a wilderness though, and I don't know where it will come out. Scary sometimes but mostly exciting since we have such a competent -- and mysterious -- Guide.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Recording Day Two

Being in the studio with Surge On Smith is getting me really excited about returning to the studio next month to record my record. I'm getting a kickstarter account set up so people can help fund it -- Justin Clemons is helping me with the video for that -- so things are moving ahead!

We got most of three songs recorded yesterday (day 2). It was a long day (I fell asleep during the recording of a soothingly beautiful guitar track), but it was a LOT of progress. What struck me most about working with this producer/engineer Jordan Critz (he's an artist in his own right and has recorded bands like Green River Ordinance) is that he's been great at being flexible and creative and yet moving things forward. He's also good at hearing the whole song rather than just one aspect of it. A lot of his work has been pop oriented, and think that's had the positive effect of developing an ear for simplicity, melody and hook. He's played guitar, glockenspiel, organ, bass, slide and tambourine on the project -- so far.

It's been a little intimidating to work with him -- bringing up my own insecurities. but conversations and prayer have helped. It's never fun to see your own doubts, defensiveness, worries and jeolousy. It's always good to admit it and find help, so that's good.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Surge On Smith recording day one

Started at around 11 today after frost on the windows and a few other unexpected details slowed our path to the studio. Good studio. Good producer/engineer. This was Kelly's first time in the studio, and it's been a few years for me. Plus this guy has worked with a lot of signed acts so he was in a different league than some of my earlier experiences. I was kind of intimidated -- and I'm not even singing lead (which is where you really feel it).

Got two songs mostly done. They sound very good. Think T Bone Burnett production vibe stripped down a bit (translation for non music nerds -- kind of a folky, simple but interesting sound). We hit a snag halfway through the second song. I was wondering if we were going to have to start over or do something drastic to it, but a couple prayers and ten minutes later it was working. Really did kind of feel like divine assistance. Very thankful.

Also very tired and we have another full day in the studio tomorrow. I appreciate your interest and support in these endeavors. It's good to be recording again, seeing songs come to life that I hope people will enjoy and be encouraged and challenged by in the months and years to come.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


This week I'll be in the studio helping Surge On Smith record their first record. I co-wrote all the songs with singer-songwriter Kelly Clemons and am excited about getting this project finished so people can hear it. We're starting plans for a joint tour this spring -- Jonathan Reuel and Surge On Smith.

After a few days in the studio with Kelly I have a break (to catch up on my other work) and then I hope to be back in the studio recording my own project towards the end of February, if everything goes as planned.

Had two moments today while working on the music where(as U2 says) God walked in the room.