Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Radio, Part II

Today I met with Jason Samuel, general manager of the Globe in Goshen, IN (which was, by the way recently honored as the IBS member station of the year). An inside look at how radio works has me rethinking my strategy in this area -- the market is glutted with new music, so much that radio stations are throwing away piles of cds weekly. I don't really want to add to the waste, but I do want to get this music out more widely than I have before.

I'm looking for and thinking about creative, less wasteful, ways to do that.

Thank You, Radio and a Report on the Kickstarter Campaign (which is over)

The Kickstarter campaign ended well and will allow us to get the record out. We doubled our minimum which was great, and a lot of people gave to the project, and made significant contributions.

We're looking at doing a radio campaign, which wasn't in our original budget, so if you missed the chance to support the record but want to help out, track me down or leave a comment and I'll let you know how you could help out.

Thanks again to everyone who gave expert advice, encouragement, skilled labor, money and prayer during the first phase of this record. I wouldn't have made it anywhere with this project alone -- and while that's always true, it's been much more the case this time than with most of the records I've done. It's partly because the scale is much bigger, partly because I have less energy, time and partly, I think, because this project is a watershed -- lots of tributaries are pouring into larger streams and rivers and we'll see what it looks like when it hits the sea.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

"Watershed " cut from the Watershed Record

Grant and I met yesterday to make final decisions on the album. We cut one song, ironically the title track, Watershed. We were questioning it since the beginning, but after getting feedback from a number of people we decided to not put it on the album. It will be available as an outtake.

We gave the "almost final mix" to 15 or 20 people with some questions to help us make decisions (favorite songs, least favorite, other comments). Besides deciding to cut one song, we also changed the title of a song from "What the Sun Shows" to "Into the Wilderness" -- a great suggestion from Paul Householder which gets at the heart of the song (and album) better.

"I'll Never," "Carbon Blanket" and "Timepiece" were the favorites so far, with "Stars & Oceans" following closely behind, although that was also several peoples' least favorite. Other least favorites were "When the Enemies Close In" and "I'll Never." Wile taste varied, the feedback was consistent enough to really help us make decisions, and hopefully, a better album.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Guitar Solos and Parachutes

I am wary of guitar solos. Maybe because I grew up through grunge. Maybe because there are a lot of technical players who aren't bringing something fresh to the art. So I went in thinking there would not be guitar solos on the Watershed Project.

And while there aren't really much of what you'd call traditional guitar leads happening here, we ended up giving Chris some space on the record to try stuff within and he pushed the boundaries of the key and timing in such a way that the leads are interesting and energizing -- he's a good enough player to push the edges and still land squarely where and when he needs to (as opposed to some other players, myself included, who can sometimes get the plane off the ground but their landings are spotty, often requiring the use of parachutes and other methods of escape).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Light bright enough to hurt your eyes

Yesterday was quite a day. Chris Freeman drove over three hours to come play guitar on the record -- got there before noon. This was the only day that worked for him. Grant (the producer), however, got called in to jury duty the same day so we didn't know if or when he'd be available. We're on a tight schedule with tour coming up, and Chris was going to play on most of the songs, and was essential on half of them, so this mattered.

Grant got dismissed from the jury around noon (yippee!)and we started tracking guitars. It was amazing. Chris worked almost 12 hours (a couple breaks) and then drove the three hours home after midnight. He was an animal. He was a machine. I'll post a video at some point.

The tracks are, in my opinion, stunning. Serious energy and a precision and level of excellence to his playing that took the record up a level but still fit in with the ragged, raw, all-out feel of the record.

So the day felt like a series of miracles (and I'm only telling a few here). If this album becomes something of value to people, it will be partly because of the musicians who not only invested the fruit of years of playing and practice, but also time, sleep, energy, money and heart into it.

I can't wait to see how people react to these songs. It feels like something is happening with them (and this whole project) that is beyond us which people may pick up on. I hope so.

We're hoping to finalize the order and final set list for the record this weekend
(the big question is whether all 12 songs make it or we cut one or two). I'd like to get the record designed and sent off to be replicated by early next month, so that we can have a cd release sometime in May.

I thought I'd post a shot I took from the plane coming back from California -- the way the light was in these clouds was stunning, surprising, glorious, strange and bright enough to hurt a bit, but you just had to keep looking back, it was so beautiful. That's a bit what yesterday was like at Electric Angel Studios.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Today We Go Live

Today at 2:07pm the Watershed Project goes live on Kickstarter. Thanks so much to everyone who has given to it. It's been a lot of fun. If you want to support it now that the deadline is past, you'll have to track me down yourself -- the easy route is over! Now it's time to finish the record, get the books together, plan the tour and get the art and music out that all those people helped make possible.

Chris the guitar guru is driving down from Detroit to record his parts today but Grant (the producer) got called to jury duty. We're hoping he's not there long so we can finish up the guitar parts before he has to drive back to Michigan!

Got a bit of time with some friends from Asia today who are in the states going back to school. We were out talking and grabbing a bite to eat and drink and I heard a number of songs in a row from power trios (bands with bass, drums and guitars for you non music nerds). Man, I'm excited about playing some of this music. Got a call as well from a guy in Alaska -- there's a chance I might get to do some concerts up there. If so it will be 7 years since I did that. I can think of few places I'd rather play a concert during the summer (and few I'd rather NOT play in the winter).

Sorry this is so long -- got to go back and read my writing target post.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cutting Songs from the Record

We're so close to done with this record now. I've been listening over the tracks, waiting for those last guitars to be added and thinking about possibly cutting a song or two. I'd rather have a great album with ten songs than a good album with 12 songs. We've put so much time and energy and heart and attention into this, really thinking about it as an album not just a collection of songs, that it will be worth being brutal to make it great. We're going to get some feedback from different listeners to help us decide whether to cut songs or not.

Think of us this week as we wrap up.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

What am I trying to do here

Exploring the space between garage rock and folk.
Skimming stones across the surface of the sublime, and hoping to regularly


Is there a way to move between the sun-soaked, ice-sharp ache and beauty of story, epic love and sorrow


the grit and rumble, stutter-start scratch
muscle-stretch push which is the daily struggle towards


Friday, March 18, 2011

First Listen

If you look to the right of this post there is a little music player that has four songs on it -- 2 from my upcoming Watershed record, and two from Surge on Smith's upcoming record (which I co-wrote songs, played guitar and sang some background vocals on).


Thursday, March 17, 2011

In the Basement

Here are few photos from the basement of the building I've been recording in. Electric Angel studios operates out of the Goshen Theater which is an old, interesting building. In picture: Nate (Drums), Grant (producer, engineer), Toby (bass). The wall has multiple-decades-old show posters on it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

6 Days Left

We're less than a week away from the end of the fundraising phase of the Watershed Project. We passed the bare minimum budget a while ago, just recently hit our second landmark, and now we're just under $1500 away from a solid, workable budget. So if you're wanting to pledge to this project but haven't yet, you've got until March 22.

The record will come out in May thanks to the 27 backers who got behind it so far and the generous work of the musicians, producers and artists involved.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Watershed Art

We boxed up all the art (over 120 pieces that together make up the massive Watershed painting) and shipped them east before we left California. Now we're looking for the right place to install it. It's got to be the right place -- high ceilings, good lighting. We're looking at galleries and churches around Goshen, Indiana. We could also transport it to Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina or Texas if the right place opened up. If you have ideas, leave a comment. We're dreaming about setting it up for a show or two on the tour if it works out, so it won't be available for a more permanent installation until June or July.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Guitars, Divine Alchemy w/o Timetables

Today it was finally my turn to actually record something as opposed to help the other musicians create and shape their parts. It was humbling and frustrating. My guitar teacher told me today that there's some things that I can do better than him in my playing -- something to do with barely controlled chaos. Which is good for the songs that need that (about half of them on this record). The other half need someone to play simple parts steadily and I can't do it. Very frustrating. Great news is we have another guitarist working on this record with me who can do about anything, and who is incredibly precise.

After all these years of making music it's not much easier to see my own weaknesses and inadequacies -- and no less amazing to feel and sense something beautiful happening in the midst of them. How does that work? Why is it still feel so vulnerable? I give the little piece I have to give, as incomplete and flawed as it is, leaning into this hope for some kind of divine alchemy, that I've experienced enough times to know it's worth the risk, but also knowing that you never know how or where or when love will show up and turn your little gift left on the altar to gold. There's not printed timetables for this stuff.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Transition & Rest

Two themes run through the songs and art of the Watershed Project -- transition and rest. After a couple of days away from recording (spent w/ Christa hanging out/packing up/moving out of CA) I realize that a. we're definitely in the middle of a large transition, one of the largest we've been through, and b. I haven't been doing so well with the rest part.

Over the last few years Christa and I have developed some helpful patterns of rest -- taking a day off each week, trying to do a retreat periodically, etc. Since I started recording I haven't done my normal weekly days off. Hmmm...

This is me seeing the irony/hypocrisy in that and turning/getting excited about living out the themes of the record while I'm making it... :)

Friday, March 4, 2011

California Breather

I'm in California with Christa. It's amazing to be able to step out of the apartment and walk without a coat, hat, gloves, etc. This is not Detroit! It took a while to get there (left Detroit at 6am) but I woke up at one point when the plane was flying over the south rim of the Grand Canyon, and snapped this shot.

We're in CA packing up now. The art looks amazing! 15 feet is longer than I imagined. It fills the room. I thought I'd post a picture of that too, for those of you who have been following it's evolution from 50+ blank canvases to this! We're doing official photos of it for the book tomorrow.

Lyric Excerpt

I've seen you mine what I couldn't even find
Out of my head
You take your time drawing water for your wine
Out of my head
I've been a slave bowing to the fear
Here in my head
Love take this cup, fill it over, bring it up
Out of my head

- from Out of My Head (J.Reuel 2011)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Watershed Set List Revised

We finished recording drums today! If we were making a main dish it just got spicier. Thank you chef Nate. Now we have a short break (in which I get to see Christa for the first time in weeks and catch up on other work) before recording bass, guitars and vocals. I wrote a song a couple days into recording drums and it made it on to the album -- surprise -- and a few songs got booted. Here's the current track list.

Carbon Blanket
Sun Show
The Everything Change
Stars & Oceans
Name Me
When the Enemies Close In
The Way You Are
Out of My Head
I'll Never
Where Nothing Stays the Same