Friday, December 28, 2007


Hey's been a while. Hey, holidays take their toll. The blog was one of the things that has suffered (along with my diet).

Anyway, we went to Greenville and I performed at the Seacoast Christmas Eve service. It was great to be back and hanging out with my old band mates. We did several Christmas songs that were fun, plus we did Mercy Me's song "God With Us" was a little surreal singing a song that was the 2nd to last album produced by the guy producing me...a little weird.

So, got to hang out with friends and Sarah's family, plus Sarah and I went to see 2 movies with my brother on Christmas day after the family get together. I won't say which ones because in the past it has started an outrage...but just know...both movies were very good. One was very funny and one was bloody. Your only hints.

We got back last night and today I got adjusted at the chiropractor and also got a massage. So, I'm a little looser, though my chiropractor says that he notices some work that needs to be done, so once insurance kicks in, I'm gonna get some work done.

Then in the afternoon, Phil called and asked me to come and write. He has to turn in some songs this next week to figure out the rest of his record, so we listened to a few songs I had worked on and decided to start afresh. He had a lyric idea and we quickly jumped on it and within a couple of hours (mixed with goofing off, hanging out with Chloe & Mikelah, and listening to each other's songs) we had the song completed.

After we finished, Phil asked for my opinion on some songs that he's been pitched. So, we listened through large portions of about 15 songs. I told him which ones I thought were great and which ones I thought were just good (I mean, at this point everything he's being pitched is really good...but some are just better than others). Let me assure you, people, after hearing 3 of the 4 songs Phil's recorded already and now the majority of what else he's recording (including the song we wrote, hopefully)...Phil's record is going to KILLAH! All Killah no Fillah! Seriously, he has some really, really great stuff and I would like to hold my prediction (since my predictions on other season 6-ers haven't turned out as right as I thought) that Phil will be the best selling New Country Artist of 2008...he will be the Bucky Covington of this season...well, except he sings a lot better and he doesn't have a twin brother or a mullet-tail.

I also had the chance to hear 2 new songs that Chris Rich has been working on. And I should say that I think they're the best stuff that I have ever heard from Rich...they're just little home demos (like the stuff I did at home), but the songs are there and they are great. So, look for some cool stuff from the Richness.

Seriously, no matter what the sales say...Season 6 had more overall talent (I.e., more than just singers) than any Idol season yet. I promise you. I lie not.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Studio Blog 9 (December 17-19, 2007)

Okay, so again these three days were pretty boring. So I combined them. Plus I haven't had time to sit down and write a blog till now. I'm wasted tired so this will probably be somewhat short, too. Sorry...I promise to expand these at some point...but I think you'll get the point of what happened for the last 3 days.

Sunday night, Sarah and I had Mitch and his fiancee Suzanna over for dinner and a movie...well, we went out to eat and then came to our place to watch a movie. It was tons of fun. But we stayed up late talking life and strategy and stuff, and I got to bed later than I really wanted to.

So, after a not-too-long sleep, I woke up and got ready. Sarah started her job Monday morning, so it was nice to have her up at the same time. We took our shakes and nutritional stuff and she headed off to work. I worked a little more on a songwriting demo for my publishing deal and then took a shower, got dressed and headed off to pick up Ash...then it was to Brown's studio. I was 10 minutes late, and Brown showed up 10 minutes after that...which is funny since it's his house studio...but he was out running errands.

Steve Bishir, the engineer, however was there. I walked into the dead room and found 5 microphones set up. He went into the control room and I immediately started trying out sounds. To make a very long story short...we spent the next 7 hours (minus an hour for lunch) trying to find which microphone would be the best one for me, as well as which effects chain would be the best. I literally sang the first verse of "Running Back" 200 times. We tried 10 different microphones, plus countless effects chain combinations. I was about to go out of my freaking mind. But, hey, Brown is the biggest producer in the Christian music industry and he is known for bringing the best out of vocalist.

Finally, about 6pm we started tracking vocals. We worked for about 3 hours on the vocal for "Running Back" and got everything except for the last chorus. Brown is very old school in the way that he produces vocals. Most producers now-a-days have the singer sing through the song 3-5 times, depending on how well they do. Then the producer in post-production makes the vocals sound pristine and tune them up. Brown will go 2-4 lines at a time and have the singer sing them till they are perfect. He will do a comp, but prefers to get a performance of a whole verse or a whole pre-chorus or chorus for continuity. Everyone warned me I would want to kill him before it was over...and though it didn't get that far, I certainly had to work for every line I got him to "print".

Ash has worked with tons of producers during his time filming Hanson and other bands and he said he'd never seen a producer do what Brown does...get a perfect performance filled with emotion. Hey, these last two days are the best singing I've ever heard myself do, so I believe in the method.

Anyway, I left Browns and went and hung out with Chris Rich and Josh Hoge, which I already wrote about, and got to bed too late once again.

Tuesday, I woke up, got dressed and headed off to work. I got a little bit of extra sleep because we didn't start till 11am Tuesday. So, that was nice. I had let Ash drive my car home Monday night so he picked me up this time and it was off to Brown's.

We jumped right back into "Running Back" and reworked a little of the 2nd pre-chorus and finished the last chorus. Then, we decided to throw a quick comp together of "Running Back" because my label's owner and President were coming in to hang out for the day and hear all the music.

About 1pm, Steve, the president of my label, McQ (Mike McQuarry), the owner of my label, Mitch and Mike Blanton showed up for lunch. Brown had never met my label guys, and wanted to make an impression, so he hired a cook to make an incredible, healthy meal. With my diet, I can eat just about anything I want for my one meal per day...but it's always better to eat healthy, obviously. So, when Brown hired the cook, he made sure she made grilled chicken for me, as well as a full wheat pasta and a salad with low-fat ceaser dressing. Needless to say, the meal was awesome and a good use of 500 calories.

We spent way too long hanging out at the table and talking and jawing and just having a great time fellowshipping then we headed up to get to work.

The Brash guys haven't heard any music yet. When we worked on the deal, they just trusted me to make a great record. Thankfully, I have the right people around me who have made sure that my instincts were right....I mean it doesn't get much better than Blanton Harrel as management and Brown producing. Anyway, they hadn't heard any music yet, so I was apprehensive that they like everything.

We started off with "Running Back" and they loved it. Then, we gave them "Empty Me". Their immediate reaction was incredible. We all discussed and decided that "Empty Me" would, barring some miracle on another song, be the first single. It's the story song about all that is going on.

We listened to the roughs for "Potential", "Pleased" and "Something Beautiful" next. They loved them all...though they did give little pointers here and there. Then we listened to "In a Moment", "Know" and "Cry Tonight". After "Know", we had a somewhat heated discussion (not in a bad way...just with people really passionate about their points of view) about what should be the first single. A couple of guys were thinking maybe we go straight to mainstream radio with "Know". I fought for the side (along with a couple of others) of establishing me as a CCM artist first, then, if it's right, taking songs like "Know" to the mainstream.

We already have a hook up with one of the biggest tv music supervisors for shows that are great about breaking new music, and we have some interest for the use of some songs, so if that works out it'll be great. Also, a song is being considered for a theme song for a major tv series that is established already, so if that works out...well, it'll be huge. So, there are mainstream opportunities being worked on at the label and elsewhere, but we all came to an agreement that the first focus was going to be establishing myself as a Christian artist.

Once we finished listening to rough mixes, I then let them hear the fake string version of "Loaded Gun" letting them hear an idea of where it'll be with real strings.

And the label is officially excited. And that makes me even more exciting.

They left around 4:30pm and it was back to work.

I spent the next 5 hours giving a perfect performance of "Empty Me". Seriously, I can't wait for you guys to hear it. It is honestly the best recorded vocal I have ever done. Brown evoked a performance from me that was, was something I was proud of in the end. I can't wait for you to hear it.

I then headed home.

This morning I had an early morning for my photo shoot. Not much to say about that except we got some cool shots. Full makeup. Full wardrobe (I got to keep $500 worth of clothes, so that was cool). Full lights. Full everything. We did studio shots and location shots. It was tiring. But we got a lot of great shots.

Monday, December 17, 2007


Chris Rich gave me an unexpected phone call today to let me know he was in town and wanting to hang out, if possible. I was in the studio working on vocals (more on that later), so when I wrapped up, I drove home and got Sarah and we went and met Chris and Josh Hoge at a Mexican Restaurant.

It was great to catch up...we've sent several texts back and forth, but it's hard to catch up in that medium. We just talked about what was going on in our lives and with our careers...I obviously can't give details, but he's doing really, really great! It was really fun to just hang out for a coupla hours.

Josh Hoge is the guy who's been on tour with Elliot Yamin for the last several months and also wrote "Know My Name" for Blake (which happens to be my favorite song on the album...well, that and "End of the World"), so it was great to get to know him a little bit. He's a super nice guy who is doing things very similar to how I'm doing it (except more on the mainstream side). I have a feeling you're gonna be hearing his name a ton in the next few months and years...he's really talented.

Also, Phil is doing great! He's going to be stopping by the studio tomorrow to hang out while I do some vocals. He and I are going to be writing some songs together next week after Christmas to get on his record...apparently, he talked me up to his label, which was incredibly kind, and his label wants to hear some country songs! Here's hoping I can deliver with Phil, so I don't make him look bad for recommending me.

Like I said...some of my best friends have come from this AI experience.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Studio Blog 8 (12-13-07 & 12-14-07)

The last two days have been a little bit boring, to be perfectly honest. Not a ton to write about, so I decided to combine them into one.

Guitar overdubs are slow and painstaking. Every note has to be perfectly in place. With bass and drums, if something is slightly off, you can go in and move things around. Guitar is a little bit tougher, so everything has to be perfect. I always felt bad because when I'm at home, it can take an hour to get a guitar part right. Then I see pro studio guys take an hour and it makes me feel kinda good...or at least that I'm doing better.

I already told you about George. George has been great all week long, getting the right sounds.

Thursday, we did more of the same. We had 3 songs left for electric overdubs, so we hit it hard...we really wanted to get the songs done so we could start vocals on Friday, after we did some acoustic gutars. So, we started with "Running Back". The rhythm part, we decided should be a little more brit-rock, so we used the Orange Tiny Terror. It sounded pretty freaking great. The part I played was more of a Switchfoot kind of rhythm part, basically downstroke-upstroke in 16ths, while the chord changes happen on off-beats...for those non-musicians, basically that means very syncopated. We started that one and in a couple of takes on each section, nailed that part. Then I doubled the part. Then I tripled the last chorus to give it some extra "umph". I even surprised myself, actually...since I'm supposedly so bad at rhythm I guess I kind of buy into it sometimes. But I/we found my "rhythmic difficulties" untrue in this situation.

We finished that part around lunch time and broke for lunch. Thursday, Sarah stopped by, as well as Mindy, Ash's wife, and thier kids. Debbie, Brown's wife, made a great chicken ceaser salad to help me stick with my diet, which was very kind. Steve Bishir and George and the rest enjoyed it, believe me, but I was thankful they were able to help me. At lunch we took some time to relax and watched part of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"...what a great movie. Such great dialogue. The Coen Brothers are great.

After lunch we went up and worked on "In a Moment", which came really easy. I've played that song so many times that it just kind of comes natural. This new arrangement has such an incredible build to it. It starts off with a slow build and when you get to that last chorus, it is just absolutely huge.

Once again, I nailed the part pretty quickly, then doubled the part.

Then, it was on to the last song: "Cry Tonight". We decided what I needed to play and I pretty quickly got that one down. Seriously, I don't know if it's just the surroundings, but from a rhythmic standpoint, I was on this week. So, that was encouraging...I was scared of taking hours and hours to do electrics. In fact, Brown, thinking that I would have rhythmic difficulties had hired George to be there for a full 3 days for electrics plus a day for acoustics, so we got done a full day early!

After we finished "Cry Tonight" we listened through everything to make sure we had what we needed, then I headed home to get some sleep.

The next day, I showed back up to the studio and the electric guitar equipment was all gone. We immediately got to work on acoustics.

This stuff doesn't really need a bunch of acoustic stuff to carry the rhythm...but Brown really wanted to put some acoustic stuff in the songs for flourishes and just something different sonically.

Ash didn't come in on Friday because it was kind of the same thing we'd done...same studio, same people, etc. So it wasn't quite as fun without him there.

We started off with "Empty Me", which definitely needed an acoustic part. We layered the acoustic guitars, using my Taylor and a 1960 Gibson B-25. My Taylor has a bright and airy sound while the B-25 has a deeper, darker sound. "Empty Me" went pretty quickly and we broke for lunch.

My diet for yesterday was basically a fast, so they went and got great-smelling Mexican food...I was pissed! I wanted to ask someone for something so bad, but held firm. No cheating for me. So, I went back to the control room and ate my 1 oz of cashews and two celery stalks.

After lunch, we listened and decided to add a part to "Cry Tonight". I wrote a really great acoustic part but realized pretty quickly that I just wasn't a good enough guitar player to pull it off in the couple of hours we had before Brown had to leave. So, I taught George the part and he went in and recorded it. It took him 2 and a half hours to get it. So, thank God I didn't try...George is one of the best guitar players in town, so I'm sure it would've taken me twice as long. Anyway, he recorded 3 passes. The first one was with my Taylor which we did stereo. Then we used his B-25 as a mono track. Then he used a 1961 J-45 (the acoustics the Beatles played) to record another mono track. Altogether, they sound great.

As soon as he finished that, Brown headed off, and left us to lock up. We headed out soon after and I went home for some much needed R&R.

However, Mitch invited Sarah and I to go to see TobyMac, Aaron Shust, Superchick and several other bands on the Winter Wonderslam tour. Aaron is on the same label as me and with the same management, so I thought it'd be great to meet him. So I went home, hung out for a little bit and headed off for the show. We got to meet Aaron and hung out with Mitch for a while. These Nashville shows are a veritable churning pot of who's who of CCM, so I met quite a few really cool, influental people backstage. Aaron's show was only 4 songs, but it was really great. I was impressed. Mitch left after Aaron's set, but Sarah and I stuck around for part of Toby's set. Wow. I've seen Toby before and he blew me away, and he didn't disappoint this time. Seriously, the best performer in CCM, easily. He just jumps around stage and his band are all energetic and incredible. You need to see Toby sometime, even if you don't like his music.

And there's the last 2 days.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The equipment

Hey, I thought for the guitar lovers out there, I'd post some of the equipment I got to use as George Cocchini as the "Tone Chaperone". Basically, George brought over a bunch of stuff for me to use. And it is awesome. I probably got to play on about $50,000 worth of equipment.

'65 Fender Jaguar
'60 Fender Jazzmaster
'75 Fender Telecaster Deluxe
'67 Blonde Fender Telecaster
'63 Brown Fender Telecaster
'61 Gibson ES330
'64 Gibson SG Junio
'05 Gibson SG Heritage
'98 Gibson Les Paul Historic (w/ vintage PAF pickups)
'97 Rickenbacker 6 string

'60 Vox AC30
'97 Matchless HC30
'60 Fender Super Amp
Orange Tiny Terror
Bogner Ecstacy 101

'69 Marshall 4x12
'61 Blonde Vox 2x12

I thought I'd also add in my equipment. I don't have a bunch of vintage gear, but I have had the opportunity to get a lot of really great stuff that I can't wait to play out on the road.

Michael Kelly Country Gentleman
Michael Kelly Jazz Guitar
Tradition Les Paul
Fender Stratocaster HSS
Fender Telecaster
Fender Telecaster Deluxe
Fender Jagmaster
Gibson Les Paul
Hagner Supersonic

Taylor 614ce Special
Takemine EF 350SMBSC

Fender Jazz Bass

Peavey Classic 30
Fender Blues Junior
Fender '59 Bassman Reissue
Fender Deluxe
Crate 15-watt
Gallen-Krueger 30-watt tube amp

Gallen-Krueger 8x12
Fender Supersonic 2x12
Airline 2x12

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Studio Blog 7 (12-12-07)

Today was kind of different. I woke up early and went to pick up Ash and headed back to the house where I had a meeting with the stylist who is doing the styling for my photo shoot for the album, which I am doing next week. She came by the house and just looked through all my clothes to figure out what we have and what we need. Thankfully, Idol did give me some really cool clothes, so we just decided that we needed a few things.

After that, I went to get a massage. I have been having some serious pain in my back, and have been really needing a chiropractor, but haven't had the time or the chance to get to one. Today, Sarah called at the last minute and got me an appointment with the massage therapist close by...I only got 20 minutes with her but it was well worth it, plus I set up an appointment for Friday. Anyway, the 20 minutes was great.

Then it was over to Brown's house/studio at about noon.

Today was really cool because Brown brought in a guy named George Cocchini who is a legendary guitar player in Nashville. He's actually the guy who wrote and played on dcTalk's "Colored People" (in fact tonight, he showed me how to play that guitar part, which is pretty surreal to learn an influential guitar riff from the person who made it up - weird). Anyway, Brown brings George in to be the "Tone Chaperone". Basically, he brings in a bevy of vintage amps, pedals and extremely expensive, vintage guitars that I play. It's great...the work gets done by George and I just get to tuning, no lugging stuff in and out. It's a great concept.

We got the amps set up and the speakers set up with mics on them and once we figured out the right alignment of speaker/speaker cables/amps/etc. then we got to work (this actually took about an hour and a half to get set up). We decided to start on "Know". I got to doing my rhythm parts and was actually in the pocket. As we all know, I have "rhythmic difficulties" so I was pleasantly surprised that I was in the pocket. I actually only took about 45 minutes to lay down my rhythm parts and we all were excited.

A lot of talking and joking around goes on with these guys because they have all worked so much together. As we finished up "Know", Brown thought it might be cool to add a couple of rhythm parts on the riff during the breakdown and on the outro. We added a really high pitched kind of distortion that cut through the mix really well. Then we did a deeper sounding distortion in drop D tuning. Put all together, it sounded great. Then George suggested putting a jangly part at the end of each phrase, so we pulled out an old Rickenbacker 6-string and laid down a nice little section, basically 1 bar at a time. Anyway, you probably won't even notice when we get to the mix, but all of it give a sonic texture.

As we were finishing up all that, Steve Jones, the president of my label stopped by with Mitch. We hung out for a little bit. Steve was in town for a sales conference for Word Distribution, which is the company that my label is distributed through. They invited me to come and perform a couple of songs and to get the sales team on board with the project and get them excited about it as soon as possible.

We got there and Steve got up and told the story of how we had gotten hooked up with each other and then introduced Brown who got up and spoke for a few minutes, basically conveying his excitement about being on the project, saying very kind things about me and the music...and then he introduced me. I went up to the stage and took a seat, cracked a joke and went into the first song, "Pleased". It went well, I think. Then I gave my testimony about coming to the decision to make a CCM record and then sang "Empty Me". I think it went over really, really well. Like I said, I think this might be our big song for this record.

After we got done, many of the sales reps took pics with me and encouraged me that they thought "Empty Me" was a big hit. That's encouraging because it is these guy's jobs. So, I left that feeling very encouraged and good about our chances of breaking in the CCM market. If you have sales guys behind you, you have a great chance of getting great retail space. So, "schmoozing" is a good thing.

We got back to the studio and worked on "Empty Me" (oddly enough) and laid down some really great sounding big guitar parts that filled out the choruses. Seriously, when it hits that chorus, it just feels huge. I can't wait for you to hear it. Stuff is sounding big and huge and Brown is just doing an incredible job of making things sound really, really great.

I should finish guitar parts tomorrow and start vocals on Friday. It's a good possibility I could be done with my parts of the recording with Brown by next week. I'm step closer to you guys hearing some music.

By the way...someone asked if it was possible for me to post the new recordings...unfortunately I can't put out the actual produced tracks until the record comes out just for copyright issues. Well, we may put some stuff up on myspace a month or so before the album comes out, but before then, it's not possible. But with that said, I'm counting down the days to you hearing this music.

Studio Blog 6 (12-11-07)

We got to the studio once again bright and early...10am comes early when you had a 13 hour day the day before. We immediately got to work on "In a Moment". Last night we had gotten the loop and acoustic guitars done for "In a Moment", so we had what we needed to do piano, drums, bass and guitars. Because we had the basic outline for the song already mapped out, and because this song is more along the lines of the AC stuff that these guys normally play, the song went really, really quickly. By noon we had the song done, including punching in everything that wasn't quite right the first time around.

On "In a Moment", we ended up actually keeping a lot of the piano parts that we had on the original, but it's more as a lead part on top of the rhythm, as opposed to THE rhythm part, so it feels similar but not the same as the HPF album's version. The drum part that Dan played was incredible...the real churny part on the bridge sounds so much better with "real drums"...the HPF album was all real drum parts, but we programmed them all to make them sound better. Having "real drums" adds so much harmonically to the part.

Mitch came in from the beginning which is always great...he and I have become really great friends, which is incredible and, I think, rare. After we finished with "In a Moment" we went to lunch at a local Irish Pub. We had eaten there once last week and once again it was incredible...I got chicken this time around though (last time I got a prime rib sandwich).

We went back to work and started on "Cry Tonight". Cry is staying pretty much the same, so we played the demo and immediately got to work. Brown noticed there was a similarity in the notes used in Know and Cry Tonight, so we had Jerry change his basic part on the intro. That was really the only serious change we made. We began work on that song and within another couple of hours we had the track done. Jimmy Lee did some bass parts after the fact, but by 4pm, we had the track done.

And we moved on to the last song for the tracking session: "Empty Me". More and more, as I've performed the song out, we feel like this song has the makings of being a big single for us...obviously you never know how something will work at radio, but people have really, really been reacting to the song, so that is always encouraging.

We began working on the track and took some time to decide on which tempo to go at. The demo was at 70bpm and we tried it at 71 & 72, but ultimately came back to the tempo that we had on the demo Clint and I did a few weeks ago. As soon as we got the tempo set up, the song started to really come together, all the way up to chill bump levels.

As we got to work, Blair and Brown had the idea to make the verses (which start on a minor chord) a little more haunting. So, Blair made the piano part a (and I hate to say this) little more Evanescense-esque. But it worked, really well. And now when you get to the chorus, it just explodes. It really sounds great.

We finished up around 9pm and I headed another studio day tomorrow.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Studio Blog 5 (12-10-07)


Well, my weekend from Hades is now over. I'm wasted and still fighting off the sickness...but I'm in the studio with the killer bands of killer bands right now, so I can't complain.

Today, I have Dan Needham on drums (a first call session drummer who's played on a plethora of really big CCM albums), Jimmy Lee Sloas (who has played bass on albums ranging from Point of Grace to Megadeth and produced Downhere's 2nd album), Jerry McPherson (amazing guitar player who was in one version of White Heart, if you guys ever liked them, and has literally played on hundreds of big records) and Blair Masters (a keyboard guru who has played on and programmed for tons of stuff that you would recognize), I pretty much have the masters in the studio right now.

My brother Jon is here with me, so that's kinda cool. He took off 2 days of work to come up...he went to Pensacola with Ash and me yesterday, too. I'll have a post about that trip, but it was great and interesting at the same time.

On to the session today.

I got to the studio a little late because I wasn't feeling well and when I got in, everyone was set up and ready to rock and roll. They had listened to the demo of "Running Back" and Brown had decided to start with that, and we immediately went to rocking.

We've taken several takes of everyone jamming on the song and it sounds really, really great. As with everything else, it has taken a step up from the demos. As a side note: I say that demos are crappy, but they really are pretty good for demos...but they are demos. Stuff will change from the demos because the demos are me playing everything and I am limited in my programming AND playing abilities. So, when you get incredible musicians taking my ideas and making them way way better, things start to change a little bit to a lot.

We're working on making sure everything is perfect with "Running Back" and then it's on to lunch and "Know".


Well, after lunch we started working on "Know". The band got in and started rocking pretty quickly. They listened to the song twice and worked out specific drum patterns and guitar sounds and then went to work.

One thing about these guys is that it's obvious they've all worked together a good bit so they know each other really well...lots of joking around, lots of stories, lots of joint stories...all of this adds up, though, to a lot of not recording. So, "Know" took for-freaking-ever to lay down. Plus, this band works a little differently than the other studio bands worked. Jimmy, the bass player likes to wait till everything is down, then go in and record his part. So, once the Dan and Jerry got their parts (through several overdubs and punching), then Jimmy would go and do his it just took longer.

Brown was very kind to my production of the HPF album and very little is changing about the 4 songs from that record (3 that he is doing). "Know" is basically the exact same as the HPF recording, except it will simply sound better than the recording we did on $500 worth of equipment. The arrangement and feel are the same and the players just took mine and Adam's parts and made them better. So, it sounds incredible.

I couldn't be happier with how "Know" is sounding.

After we finished with "Know", Jerry, Blair and Jimmy were able to leave because we were done with them for the day. Dan stuck around for a while to work out a drum loop for "In A Moment". He laid down a nice little loop (after several tries that Brown and I didn't think quite worked) and then he headed out. Brown gave Stephen Leiweke a call to come and lay down soem acoustic, and we ordered pizza while waiting. Stephen got in and set up and after dinner we got to work.

When I originally wrote "In a Moment", I actually wrote the song for Phil. The HPF album was completely done, I thought, when I went to Hollywood week and Phil and I hit it off as roommates during Hollywood week, and I offered to write some songs for him. I wrote him 3 songs..."In a Moment" was 1 of them. I recorded the demo for the song (the track that ended up on the HPF album minus Adam's lead guitar and the strings) and was going to send it to Phil. Adam came over and started working on some mixes and saw the file for "In A Moment" and immediately asked what it was for...I told him and he replied that I would be stupid to give up that song. I let several people listen and they all agreed that I couldn't give that song to anyone. Because of the restrictions with Idol, I didn't feel like I should do any more recording, so we kept that arrangement, even though I really would've done another arrangement for the record than what we did.

So, all that to say: Phil didn't get the song and now that we're re-recording the song, we're doing a little bit of a different arrangement. Instead of piano based, the song is going to be acoustic and loop based...think more "I Could Not Ask For More" kind of feel, but more rocking. If that makes sense.

Anyway, Stephen is recording acoustic guitar part #2 right now. It's almost 10pm. I'm wasted. Should be done in an hour or so. Hopefully I'll be in bed by midnight. Then it's back here tomorrow bright and early.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Studio Blog 4 (12-5-07)


I woke up and headed off to the studio. I am tired...this week has been packed with a lot of stuff. 3 long recording sessions in a week, plus a show, plus pre-production. Then tonight I leave for Greenville, SC for a show tomorrow morning for the Meyer's Cancer center, and then tomorrow night I'm getting with Don to work on string arrangements and to hang out a little bit. Friday we're then waking up early and heading off from Greenville to Chatanooga, TN to sing for my cousin's wedding. Then, after the morning wedding, Sarah and I are driving back to Nashville, and at 7pm a private plane is picking, Sarah, Ash and I up at a local airstrip and we are all flying to Pensacola for me to play a solo acoustic show for Marcus Pointe Baptist Church in Pensacola that just worked out at the last minute. Then Monday & Tuesday of next week, I have 2 more tracking sessions at the same place I've been at for these 2 sessions. So, it's 8 days of craziness.

But it's good craziness.

Anyway, I picked up Ash and we headed off to the studio. We got there around 10 and immediately started to load stuff from my hard drive to the session tracks. We are working on "I'm Clean", "Love Is Raining Down" and "Waiting For You" with Will Owsley producing, and Will likes a lot of the pre-production stuff I have in the demos, so we just imported some of the synth and keyboard stuff into these sessions. As soon as I walked in the door, we quickly took care of that.

Right as we were starting on the first song, my manager, Mitch came in to hang out for a while. Mitch and I have gotten to be great friends, so it's always nice to have him around. He was playing skippy at work to come hang out and listen for a while.

Jim Bogios, the drummer for Counting Crows now (and he's played with Sheryl Crow for years, as well as Dixie Chicks and several other major bands), and I hung out for a while as Will got stuff hooked up and ready. Seriously, Counting Crows has been one of my favorite bands for a long time (at one point they were all I listened to) and Adam Duritz has long been a songwriting hero of mine, so to have the drummer that Adam picked for his band playing on my record is an honor and extremely awesome! And on top of all that, Jim Bogios is just a cool, laid back cat who's just a great hang.

Will had lost a bunch of stuff because his Mac crashed so he hadn't had a chance to work out his bass parts, so we decided that today would be just a Jim Bogios day.

The first song we started on was "I'm Clean". We took a couple of minutes to make sure the sound were great and then Jim started to playing. After the first take, we had what we needed. For safety's sake, we took one more take, but when we comped the two takes together, we used the first take and something like 2 bars from the second take. Amazing.

Session players in Nashville are incredible players, but for the most part they are very safe's really hard to talk a session player into just rocking out, which is good...for the most part you want session players to not detract from singer/songwriter they are playing for. Jim, though, can do that, but comes from a band situation where he's able to show off a little more, which was exactly what I was looking for. He came in and just ROCKED the FREAK OUT!!! So much energy and so in the pocket. I'm in love with Jim Bogios's drumming.

After we finished with "I'm Clean" we immediately went into "Love Is Raining Down". As we were taking the first pass through the song, a rack mount broke on Jim's drum set, so we took an early lunch. Mitch, Steve (the engineer), Ash and I walked down to an Irish pub for lunch while Jim and Will ran off to Fork's Drum closet to grab something to fix the drum set.

We ate and and ran back to the studio. Soon after we got back, Jim and Will got back and we immediately started tracking. For the loops we decided to create live loops with Jim playing, but do some wacked out EQ and compression to make it sound distorted and loopy. So, we decided to break up the drums and "loops". We first took 2 takes of drums and had all that we needed. Once again, Jim nailed it like crazy. Then we took 2 takes of the "loops" after Steve had changed a bunch of settings and now we're comping those together to make a track.


We started working on "Waiting For You" about 30 minutes and we have what we need. Simply incredible. Jim Bogios went in and nailed an extremely complex drum part in 1 take. I seriously have never worked with a drummer as freakishly great as Jim. We're just listening and comping and then I'm going home. Shortest studio day yet. Amazing.

I can't wait for you guys to hear this.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Studio Blog 3 (12-4-07)

I woke up early again today and went and worked out. I drove home, took a shower and jumped in the car to go pick up Ash. I got Ash and we headed off, getting Stephen's a few minutes after 11. Stephen was listening to "Pleased" when we got there, trying to figure out what else it needed. After a few listens we figured out it just needs some guitar parts done by Stephen later on. These 2 days of overdubs are specifically for trying to get as much stuff from me as possible, so Stephen's stuff will have to wait, if possible. So, we moved on to "Something Beautiful".

"Something Beautiful" took a really great still has an 80's vibe, but instead of 80's pop, it's more like 80's pop/rock. The little synth intro is gone and replaced by a big guitar/bass riff. It's real punchy and cool.

Today, we sat down and started off with Stephen laying down a rhythm part. I would normally play it but the part is a little more complex than usual, and after a couple of tries, we decided that Stephen should go ahead and lay down the part just for time's sake. He went to work and after a few takes, he had the part. I sat down at the keyboard and laid down a nice little piano part. As soon as I figured out the part, I laid down the part and then we added some effects to it to mess it up a little. We changed the piano sample from a grand piano to an upright piano...for those who don't know: grand piano would sound a more like 70's & 80's Elton John...upright sounds like John Lennon's "Imagine" or some Coldplay stuff. The upright sounds a little dirtier. After we figured out the sample, we put a distortion on the piano, which made it a little more dirty. Then we added an echo delay, which finished up the "messing up" of the sound.

I then moved on to a synth part. Stephen just got this new program called MiniMonsta. It's a synth based program that samples all the great Moog sound from the 70's and 80's. It has a ton of presets to start with and like 20 knobs that you can then turn to change the synthesis and the way the sound is produced. It has filters and knobs just like a regular Moog, so you can really get great, great synth sounds that other programs I've messed with have failed to recreate.

I started off laying down a synth part on the verses. The part was just a simple one part melody that was contrapuntal to the verse melody and I moved on to the pre-chorus part, which was an arpeggiated melody that fit really nicely under the melody. We listened to it a few times and really felt we loved the synth part and Stephen added a really, really simple melody on the chorus underneath the vocal melody.

Stephen then went to work on another big rhythm guitar part. He laid that one down a little slower because it was vital for this specific part to be exact. It's a little crunchy chunky part he did with a strat through an old 70's Marshall head that kind of had that Police "Every Breath You Take" vibe to it on the verses. On the choruses, he did an octave part that kind of added some movement in the choruses. It was really cool.

I then got an idea to double the bass part on the verses with a synth bass. We got this really great 80's-sounding synth bass with a great filter sound (you can hear it opening up and down). On top of the real bass it gave it this really cool Maroon 5 or 80's pop/rock sound.

As we finished that up, Stephen went to work on some more guitar parts. Sarah stopped by and she stayed for a little bit while we worked. While we working I uploaded a bunch of photos from the first day of studio work on myspace. I also played some Tiger Wood's Golf on PSP.

I had to leave a little early because I had a show tonight. One of the larger booking agents in town also has a sports side of things. They were having a banquet tonight to celebrate a piece of their side of things where they put on Faith Nights at sporting events. They were meeting with well-to-do people to contribute to their idea, as they just moved from a 'for-profit" to a non-profit. They wanted to give the meeting the feel of a Faith night, so they had music and a testimony from a Christian pro athlete. I was the music.

I sang 3 songs and it went really, really well. And now I'm back at home and I'm going to bed early. I work out again tomorrow morning and then it's off to the big studio again for my tracking session with Will Owsley. Tomorrow is really cool...Jim Bogios, the drummer for Sheryl Crow for several years and now the drummer for Counting Crows (which is of course one of my favorite bands) is flying in from San Fransisco to play on these 3 songs! I am pumped!!!

Anyway, today was a great day. We got a lot done.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Studio Blog 2 (12-3-07)


I woke up this morning bright and early and went and worked out with my trainer. We worked hard for our hour and then it was home to shower up quickly. As soon as I got dressed, I packed up the rest of my guitars and loaded them into my SUV, along with 3 amps and then it was off to pick up Ash at 10:30. I got him and his equipment and it was up 65N to Stephen's studio.

We got to the house a little after 11am and proceeded to unload all of my stuff. Loading and unloading is the bane of my musician's existence. One day, down the road, I will hire many men to carry my stuff in, but for now Stephen and Ash's help will have to do. Soon after we got unloaded, Steve Bishir, the main engineer for the record came by and brought an expensive mic for us to use on guitars...he also helped make sure that the "sounds" were just right. Stephen is a pro, so of course everything was great, but hoops must be jumped through for the main engineer. After he was satisfied with sounds, Steve headed off to have a day off and Stephen and I got to work, with Ash filming as we went along.

We set up and decided to work on "Pleased". We started off with me doing rhythm electric guitars. I sat down and started working with my Tradition Les Paul and Stephen decided that we needed to give it some love, so we took it down to his workshop and he worked on setting the guitar up. Once that was finished, we began working on guitars and, to be honest, for some reason I was struggling.

The thing I'm realizing quickly that a label record has to be even more perfectly precise than an indie record has to. We are taking pains to make sure everything is perfect. I would lay down a guitar part and 1 note would be off and we'd do the whole thing again....incredibly frustrating. But you know once I finally got the entire song 3 hours later, it was worth the work because it sounded awesome.

Brown showed up right before lunch, as I was finishing up the 1st part. He gave his approval on what was happening, and then, after I'd finished, we all went to lunch at a Greek restaurant not too far from Stephen's place. It was fantastic. I got a small meal, so I was able to eat great food but watched how much I ate, so I felt good about it.

After lunch, Brown headed off and left Stephen and I to our devices. I doubled my guitar part with another guitar and different tone and that went a lot quicker. 30 minutes later, we had the doubled guitar part and it was on to listening and fleshing out extra parts.

We listened through trying to figure out what was needed. We do know we need bgv's and maybe strings. Stephen will do some lead guitar work later on, but for now, we just decided we needed some synthy stuff to make it feel different than your normal pop/rock song on the radio. So we added one part to the verses and the end of the bridge, and then for the last hour or so have been working on the lead parts on the intro and turn-arounds.

Everything is sounding great.

Around 6pm, we moved on from "Pleased" feeling like we had everything we needed with the exception of some guitar parts that Stephen will do later. We moved onto "Potential". The new arrangement of this one doesn't leave a lot of space for tons of guitars, since it's a little more ethereal, so we tried to figure out what else it needed. We messed around with some synthy stuff and then decided to go ahead and record 1 guitar part. I pulled out my telecaster and ran it through Stephen's old AC30 Super Reverb, which sounds incredible. I tuned my guitar down to drop D and laid down a little distorted part that sounded kinda cool (in the mix, you'll probably barely be able to hear it, but it'll be there).

After we finished that guitar part, we worked on some keyboard stuff. I wrote a little line that I played at first in Reason and then we transferred it over to a Pro Tools program called Velvet, which is a sample-based program that sounds exactly like old electric pianos (Rhodes, Wurlies, etc.). It added a little counterpoint to the vocal, which was what the verses needed.

After we'd listened to see if anything else was needed, we closed up shop for the night and I headed home. Can't wait for you guys to hear everything.