Track-by-Track: Sunnin' Myself on a Cold, Cold Day

Let's take a close look at track #7, "Sunnin' Myself on a Cold, Cold Day"

This tune started out when I was taking a look at the old bluegrass standard "Bile Them Cabbage Down." I took the chord progression (which is a pretty standard one), added some 7th notes to blues it up a bit, and slowed the tempo down.

The lyrics came together after a big re-write. I had the complete song written out before I came up with the chord progression, so once I had the chords, I had to switch up the entire song. I was imagining a bright shiny day in the middle of winter, (perhaps because it was the middle of crazy hot July) and (as the title implies) the warm sun shining through a porch window.

I wanted the song to sound like it was recorded on a front porch, like it was happening spontaneously. So I recorded the main acoustic rhythm guitar and vocals together with just one microphone. The mic was a ways away from me and set pretty wide open so it would capture some of the room sound as well. I was extremely happy with the sound of that track.

After that, I tried my hand at the solo sections, but I couldn't get the feel I wanted for the solos. Perhaps it has something to do with my limited soloing ability. Perhaps. So I knew I would have to do some outsourcing on the song.

I enlisted the help of my father-in-law's good friend Tom. As an experienced guitar soloist, I knew he could come up with some great stuff to add to the track. After discussing it, we agreed we'd try a high-tech, internet-enabled, Garageband track swap.

I emailed the song to Tom so he could import the track into Garageband and do his solo over it. Then he exported his solo track by itself and emailed me that file. I put it into my original Garageband project, adjusted the levels, and Bang! Awesome solo track.

I like the tune a lot, and I'm especially proud of the e-collaboration that allowed it to happen.

Check it out here on YouTube!


Track-by-Track: Until I'm Through

Alright, here we go!

The second track (in chronological order) is "Until I'm Through"

Musically, the track was heavily influenced by the amount of Vampire Weekend I was listening to over the summer, which was quite a bit.

It's the "fullest" sounding song off the album, having a bass and drum track, as well as an electric overdub. And while some may say it doesn't "fit" the style of a mostly acoustic album, I say "Pshaw!" Instead, I see it as a peak or summit as Track #5, with the acoustic music on either side as leading up and away from it.

I was still in the "simple chords" phase I was in for "Days to Begin," so the verse is pretty simple, with more focus on the funkiness. I like the "riff-y-ness" of the chorus. It's rare for me to do a riff, and I think it turned out nice. A wah-wah electric lead adds to the funkiness, methinks.

Lyrically, I'm not sure what I was thinking about. A love that hasn't had a chance to come full circle? A wronged person who wants to forget but can't? No idea. I did flip the chorus lines around in the recording, I think the focus on the "until I'm through" line (in the chorus and in the title) tries to keep it from focusing on the "love" stuff. Keep that mushy stuff at bay!

I had a solo recorded with the same wah used in the chorus, but I'm terrible at soloing electrically, so I chopped it out. I think the song is better overall without it.

The drums are a Garageband loop during the verse, and then the chorus is just me using the old "Keyboard Typing" to play a bass drum, midi-style.

The acoustic guitar is the Hummingbird mic'd acoustically. Bass is my Geddy Lee Jazz plugged in directly to my Tascam pre-amp with minimal effects. The electric is my Epiphone LP Gold-top plugged directly in as well, with the Garagband auto-wah effect. Maybe a phaser?

Overall, I like this one. I wish I had the time/means to record the drums myself, but I guess that gives me a way to expand in the future. I'm thinking my next batch of songs may lean more this way, at least in arrangement. More full band kinda stuff. Electric.

Anyways, check out the tune here on Youtube: Until I'm Through


Track-by-Track: Days to Begin

I promised to blog about each track individually, and here's the first. I figured I'd write about each track in chronological order, rather than album order.

The first song recorded was "Days to Begin," and I scanned in my notebook where I wrote the lyrics:

The idea for the music side of the track came from my good friend Pete Hemberger. He had sent me an email about how we should try to record songs that were "simple and clean" and used "C, F, and G."

I took his advice quite literally. Those are the only 3 chords in the song.

For the lyrics, I wanted to play around with the idea of setting out on the task of recording a song. (You could see this as a lyrical homage to "25 or 6 to 4," that is, a song about writing a song.) I had set a goal of writing one song every day this summer. That goal quickly fell through, but at the time of these lyrics, I had that idea in my head.

I'm a big fan of puns and the "dazed" vs. "days" in the lyrics vs. title I thought was very apt. I was extremely dazed by the idea of writing a song a day, and it took me literally days to begin the process of writing songs.

I quickly did realize that I had "overfill[ed] [my] cup" in song writing, but, like the song says, I kept "going on."

On the recording side of things, the song was a strange process. I initially recorded the guitar and vocals at the same time, with the acoustic being recorded with the built-in pick-up and the vocals through a separate mic. The vocals sound whispered because 1) I think it fits the feel of the song, and 2) I recorded this one really late at night while Emma was sleeping.

I went back recently and re-recorded the guitar track. I wasn't as pleased with the initial one when I went back and listened to it closely. Of course, Garageband (have I mentioned that it's the greatest piece of software ever created?) made this easy to do.

The outro guitar melody was just the acoustic recorded through the pick-up with a slight phaser effect on it. Nothin' fancy.

So now that you know way more than you ever wanted to about the song, check it out at the link below (I've posted all the tunes on YouTube to facilitate a better listening experience):


The Album is Done

After a long summer of recording, I've got a 9 song album finished.


I will blog about each song individually soon enough, but for now, you can listen to the songs on the player to your right.

Also, enjoy the album art here.



Production has finished on the Kubb set started oh so long ago at Emma's birthday party. As you can see from the picture above, it turned out pretty sweet! Clearly a Grain Belt Kubb set is a unique thing. I believe I may have the only one in existence.

I am lucky enough to have connections (i.e. "King Jimmy") into the Schell brewery, so I was able to procure actual neck labels from Premium and Nordeast bottles. No drinking and peeling for me here!

Production started the day before Emma's 30th birthday. We wanted to be able to play for the party, so production stopped at the green/red and white paint. Recently, production restarted as various accent stripe colors were explored. I tried various yellows, but settled on the metallic gold. I think it matches the labels quite nicely.

Stripes were painted, then labels adhered. A couple coats of clear coat finished them off.

The king, of course, got a moustache in honor the "The King of Grain Belt", Jim Hautman. His guidance, advice, and materials were greatly appreciated throughout production.

Now all that's left is to play! It's a shame these things are gonna get the hell beat out of them!

I have more pics of the production here. Check 'em out!


A Boon to Rivers Everywhere!

Just yesterday I recorded a new tune. I was sitting by the computer playing guitar (as I can be found many many hours of the day) and I started strumming a particular chord... Something clicked and I jotted down some lyrics about the recent flooding in my hometown of Webster City, Iowa.

A couple of overdubs later and voila! A new tune!

This one I did through YouTube, even though it's just the audio. I put a picture of the flooding over the whole song. I'm liking YouTube as it's easier to upload, does so in higher quality, and is easier to link to.

Enjoy the new tune, Boone River Blues, here!


Shared-Walking Implement Blues: (Co-Cane Blues)

I have a new video! On Friday morning I woke up around 8, had a cup of coffee, and then said to myself, "I need to record something today." I've also been wanting to try out the video capabilities of my new iPhone 4. So I combined those two endeavors into one larger endeavor.

I chose Old Crow Medicine Show's version of "Cocaine Habit Blues" as the song to record. I'm not sure how it came about. I must have been listening to it recently.

I rigged up a phone-holder-dealie using a Gorillapod Tripod (which, by the way, is a worthwhile investment for anyone who has a camera) and a mic stand. Check out the pics of my camera rig here. I was fairly impressed with myself for figuring it out.

So I recorded video of the guitar, banjo, drum, and solo tracks. Then I went back and did a take lip syncing to the vocals (much to the dismay of Emma, she does not like my lip syncing, and I apologize to her) - Then I put all the video into Final Cut Pro, matched it up with the audio that I mixed together in Garageband, and chopped it all together.

I think it turned out pretty good. Not too shabby for a couple hours of work on a Friday morning!

Enjoy the video here! It's on Youtube (so I could share it in HD). I'm in the big time now. Leave a comment on the Youtube page!

Disclaimer: I, in no way, shape or form, advocate the taking, selling, distributing, whiffing, taking a whiff, smelling, or advocating of cocaine... Unless it's the 1880s and you want a soft drink.


New Git-Box and Recording!

I have a new guitar!

Check out pics of it here!

It's a 2003 Gibson Hummingbird. It's awesome. It's clearly way too nice of a guitar for little old me, but I'll keep it for the rest of my life. It's got a pickup built in, and sweet vintage looks. I got it at Willie's American Guitars, with a great big amount of help from Pete (Hemberger). We checked out a lot of different guitars, some newer, some really old. We left, we came back. We told the guy, "Get the jokester selling the thing on the horn," and "I'll walk right now," and gave Stephan a hat trick.

I even recorded a new song with it! I did a cover of Shawn Smith's "Wrapped in My Memory," which may be the awesomest song about missing a friend that exists. The original was all piano, but I figured out the chords and did an acoustic guitar version with it.

I used the built in pickup for the guitar sound, I think it sounds really good for just only the internal pickup! It has very minimal EQ or effects on it.

Also a shout-out to Emma for helping produce the vocal tracks. She is an awesome set of second ears!

Check out the song on the player to your right!


Wild Weekend!

Check it out!

I was driving home, and "Wild Weekend" by NRBQ was on the stereo, and I said to myself, "That sounds like a fairly simple chord progression, I bet I could figure it out."

So I got home, pulled out the ol' acoustic, fired up the Information Superhighway, found the lyrics, listened to the song, figured out the chords, and then hit the record button on my iSight camera!

So enjoy the Video One Take here!


One Take Coming Back!

Today I felt like reviving an old standby!

I used my iPhone to record a One Take version of My Morning Jacket's "I'm Amazed"...

I also happened to capture the video of it in iMovie with the new iMac's built-in iSight camera, so I figured I'd sync the two up and make a video out of it!

FWIW, that's a Summit Maibock that makes an appearance early in the video, and notice how much more smoothly I play that opening lick afterwards... :P

Enjoy the video here!


Filming Day in Secondbedroomville!

With the recent addition of our ridiculously awesome iMac:

I decided it was time to get back to some higher-level computer-doings... One of which is video editing. So the other night I shot some video of myself recording a cover of John Prine's "Wedding Day in Funeralville."

I recorded video with both the built-in iSight camera and a regular DV camcorder for both the guitar track and the vocal track. I imported the video into the iMac and edited it in Final Cut Express. Just wanted to get the feel for it again. Synced up the audio with the video and chopped all 4 video tracks together to form a semblance of the whole, if you will.

The song was recorded in Garageband per usual, it was just also recorded by the iSight at the same time.

Check out the video here!


Wreck of the Ol' 97!

My latest recording is a new experiment I have been working on for a while. It's something I'm pretty damn proud of to tell the truth, both for the sentimental factor and the technical know-how and prowess it took to pull it off!

I took a reel-to-reel recording of my grandfather's bluegrass combo playing the ol' standard "Wreck of the Ol' 97", captured it, digitized it, brought it up to speed, and cleaned it up.

Then I chopped it, arranged and rearranged it (this was the painstaking part), and added a second acoustic guitar, vocals, and solo. Then I mixed it all together!

So the end result is my first chance to play and record with my late grandfather. Sadly, I never got the chance to jam with him on the banjo and myself on the guitar. The combination of my delayed entry into the guitar world and my grandfather's declining dexterity didn't allow us the chance to play together.

With this recording however, I get a bit of a hint at what it might have sounded like. :)

You can hear Wendell (my grandfather) introducing the song as "A little bit of the Wreck of the '97 in the key of G" - It features my grandfather's banjo, as well as (who I assume is) Chet and Danny Stubbs on flat-top guitar and fiddle. I added an additional flat-top guitar track, as well as vocals and an electric lead.

Enjoy on the player to your right!


Paranoid Android

My latest recording is a cover of the Avett Brothers tune, "Paranoia in B Flat Major."

It's a great song and one of my favorites from them. It also features the banjo, so that's always a plus.

The recording was done in two sessions, one with recording a scratch acoustic guitar, main vocals, and backing vocals... This was back in October.

Then today I added the banjo, a better acoustic guitar track, and some minor overdubs...

I think the end result is pretty good! Just don't listen to Emma's backing vocals too closely, as she gets embarrassed easily...

If the Avetts stumble upon this, it was all a coincidence...

Enjoy on the player to your right!