Well, once again I find myself staring over the stormy sea, as I do from time to time. Not metaphorically you understand, but actually standing, shivering my balls off, staring over the freezing cold, bloody sea…..just before you think I’m getting all deep and ‘sensitive singer songwritery’ (a cool new word).
I’ve actually found myself a moment where I can breathe and reflect on the last year, it’s been absolutely mental, really it has! Where do I start? I made a record, I moved back to Scotland, I finished said record after heading back to California and I interspersed all that with lots of travel, gigs, life and trying my best to be a good Dad and Husband.
Ok, let’s back up a wee bit shall we? April 2013 saw myself and Grammy award winning Engineer Alan Sanderson……………you do know he won a Grammy right? Have I not displayed that enough online? Well, it’s good for us all and he’s a good friend, so, I’m rightly mighty proud of him. Anyway I digress, myself, Alan and a band consisting of Brazilian guitarist Pedro Talarico, Larry Grano and Rick Nash unpacked our gear, beer and cheer into Analog Chew studio in Santee. It’s actually the old Strate sound studio where some of Doricana was recorded (Good for something, Into my garden & Peace in my mind) back in 2008 (I certainly took my time with that bastard)!
Myself, Alan and Pedro had actually started working on the pre production of the album back in the January where I basically presented the songs to Pedro (in his tiny bedsit 5 minutes after meeting him), we sat down and played them, most were born with their boots on but we ended up ‘tweaking’ some, and some more than others. Did I also mention that at this point I couldn’t even go for a pint/shit/lunch/dental appointment *delete as appropriate* without San Diego superstar film maker Craig Rian training his camera on me! We’ve had some journey, however that’s a whole other blog, pint, conversation…..quite possibly a DVD……if you get my drift!!!?
Anyhow, these early sessions really set the tone for the whole record and as always, my good friend Craig Rian was there to capture the whole thing. I think it’s been an incredibly great learning process for Craig as he’s now filmed the recording of an album almost from start to finish. I say almost because, before the pre production there is the ‘magic’, the writing of the song and as people know, songwriters are usually quite aloof and unrevealing of the whole writing thing…..well, I certainly am, it still surprises me that I can actually write songs, but we’re away to launch release number 4 (2 albums, 2 EP’s), so I should probably be a little less surprised these days!
During these pre production sessions we demo’d about 18 songs, my intention was always to have just the 10 songs on this new record (The Never Ending Pageant in case you hadn’t heard) but I turned up with an 11th song at the 11th hour and quite frankly, it was just too good not to put on the record. I say that because you never know when you’ll do it again, if at all.
The funny thing is, I always say that after I release a record…….’…never again, I am done, I am fulfilled creatively…’, blah, blah, bloody blah…I wish, but it’s like a drug to me, it goes away for a bit then I slowly write a few songs here and there and then BOOM it comes hammering back at me, gnawing and clawing at me, sometimes I actually try not to write songs because I know if I end up writing a good one I’ll be like aaaargh, I’ve got to record that just in case I get hit by a bus tomorrow (superb Scottish optimism at it’s finest).
Getting back to these 18 songs we demo’d, where did they all go? Well, we dropped some because they were a little too bluesy, they were good songs all the same and ended up being pretty decent demo’s, but it didn’t fit with the direction the main songs were taking the album. I’ll get back to the bluesy ones at some point (I woke up this morning derum duh dum with a whisky in my hand derum duh dum ………anyone?).
Some of the other ones just didn’t quite work, they may have had great choruses or a great lyric or good energy but they just lacked that little bit of spark or magic that was needed for it to be worth our while pursuing it. This level of QC, I’m lead to believe isn’t common place in the indie artist field! Actually, we had one song which everyone thought was going to be the ‘hit’ but fat boy here just couldn’t quite hit the chorus, t’was a little too high and the verse t’was a little too low……sigh, I’ve since rewritten half of it and may well look at it again in the future on a cold and stormy night! The problem initially lay at the fact I had written it for a rather talented singer friend of mine by the name of Terry McDermott, you may have heard of him? The Voice? Season 3? Scottish?
Anyway, fast forward to…….or in fact………hold the press, I seemed to have gone off on some sort of ‘Billy Conellyesque’ ramblings, I hate when I do that but I can’t help it, I tend to write as I speak…….. when I can in fact be arsed doing one of these blogs. Where were we?? Ah, right, April 2013, Me. Alan. Heading into Analog Chew. Santee. California. Bunch of songs. Band……right?
Over the course of the next week, we proceeded to record the basic tracks for the album, usually doing two a day. The following week we added overdubs of acoustic guitars, vocals, harmonies, keys, strings etc. The guys involved in the overdubbing that weren’t involved in the initial basic tracks were the brilliant Dave Curtis on keys, the amazing Rick Schmidt on Lap steel / dobro and the beautiful and wonderfully talented singer Taylin Rae on harmonies!
Everyone involved pretty quickly realised we were making something quite special here. I know we all say that and ‘yeah man, we’re making the most amazing piece of music ever known to manfuckingkind’, much bumping of chests, cracking of whisky bottles and popping of champagne corks later and you realise it’s pretty much the same ol’ shit!
Anyhow, I’ve already recorded one fairly well received album (Doricana, you heard of it? right?) and I can tell you, it wasn’t the same feeling making that as making ‘Pageant’, there was an emotional connection that we all felt, maybe it’s because everyone knew I was heading back to Scotland, maybe the planets aligned, maybe everything just came together for a reason because we’ve been working towards it for 7 years and used Doricana as a test run (sorry if you really like that record…..I do too), maybe we got lucky or maybe just maybe every single one of us in that room has just got better and better and we peaked at the right time? No, ach, who knows, I’m not here to assess, I’m just the guy that writes the songs!
So, a little later in the year, myself and my family moved back to Scotland. I don’t know if you have moved house before? I’ve moved house 37 times, yep, 37 bloody times, I’m actually 37 years old…in my fairly pish mathematics that works out at 1 move every year. So, as you can imagine, I hate moving house and if you’ve moved house, you’ll know it’s a jumbo pain in the arse, especially if you have to move to another continent!! So, myself, the bairn, the wife and the cat, all moved back to Scotland. Where we spent the next few months getting settled, working, living, growing older and basically setting ourself up for the next chapter of our life.
However, at the back of mind this record was tugging and nagging at me ‘…come on Colin, you really need to finish me off, you’ll never be as good as Bob Dylan if you’ve got a bunch of half assed finished recordings and demo’s from Alan Sandersons front room…’, damn those nagging voices!
So, come the turn of the year (January 2014) and after a great recording session up in Nairn, Scotland with MOD Gold medal winning Gaelic singer Margaret Stewart and world renowned engineer Ken Allardyce (Supertramp, Fleetwood Mac, Celine Dion), I pulled the trigger and we booked the wonderful Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco to mix and master my new record ‘The Never Ending Pageant’. I’ve got ‘previous’ with this studio, 11 of the 13 songs from Doricana were actually mixed on this wonderful old Neve desk. You’ve got to love analog…..no, analogue….no, analog…whatever.
I knew this desk was wonderful but I also knew that this studio is WHAM BAM right in the middle of the Tenderloin district which quite frankly is the big yellow boil on the arse of San Francisco. The stench of shit, piss and god knows what else is prevalent and the daily walk to the corner store is a journey unto itself…..in fact, by the end of the week I was actually out busking for the good folks, junkies, crack whores and drug dealing gangsters of the place. Man that was great fun, didn’t get any tips! Stingy buggers!
Myself, Craig Rian, Alan Sanderson and Pedro Talarico were all involved in the mix / master session, Craig filmed all the important, interesting bits. The rest of the time we just chest bumped, cracked bottles of whisky, popped champagne and proclaimed this to be the most amazing piece of music known to #ManFuckingKindYeBas!!!
Haha, naturally I jest….. well, time will tell! I honestly don’t know when it will be released, I’m hoping for Spring but I want to make sure we don’t make an arse of it like we did with Doricana (long story, full of clichés and the usual crap, maybe buy me a pint sometime?).
Till then, I will enjoy the silence in my head and the lack of self created pressure on my part to make another record…….well, till next time!