In October 2014, I parted from my previous long-term project 61 North. After eight years of writing in the classic structure of a four-piece, guitar based blues-rock band, I’m now enjoying the process of exploring some new textures, colors and sounds. It took this trip for me to check in on that process; what it has been and how it needs to change in order to continue to produce better music.
On October 26th I packed up my Jeep Cherokee with an armful of firewood, my five guitars, Sommatone amplifier and some recording gear and headed up to a small town near Cambridge in upstate New York. It was a luxury to be able to leave Philadelphia without a defined time to come back knowing that my mission was to dig out some music and just to slow down.
Timing was incredible. It seemed like the foliage was peaking in beauty and deepening every mile I made on my way up 95. I went back to listening to some of my favorite albums front to back on the ride. I started with Jeff Buckley’s Grace, and noticed a lot more strings than I had ever before when listening this time. The way they are tucked in and almost hidden in most songs helps the chords swell and recede and really gives the record depth. I ended the ride with Sting’s Ten Summoner’s Tales. I love the production on this. Every time Fields of Gold hits for me I’m in that landscape. The melodic guitar playing is great and the whole album just has a vibe.
Every day on the farm I woke up around 8:00am and made some coffee or Yerba Mate tea and a big breakfast. Then I would sit down to write. After coming up with a few musical ideas I would go for a long hike and shoot a little photography in the woods. I would pick a direction and walk that way with nothing but a compass to bring me back. It was a thrill to be alone and off of the grid. As I moved over the ridge there were pockets of Birch trees on the east side which were beautiful to approach. On the west side there was another thicket of trees, but this time Evergreens that splintered the sunlight and created a completely different feeling.
I wrote about one song a day, starting with a seed of an idea in morning – some phrase or music that seemed strong. After the hike I would spend the rest of the day working through the music that had been born earlier and follow that idea until I formed a full song. The act of fully completing each idea created a great momentum and though they were not all keepers, started me on a whole new writing process. After the song was formed I would record it into the night in the mobile studio I set up. Beside breaks to grab firewood or cook a meal it was 10 hours of music a day.
I’m grateful for having that time and hope you’ll join me on the journey.