Here is the deeper story behind the project, and more music from Wyoming Territory:
About a year ago, I had the great good fortune to be invited to be a composer in residence at the Ucross Foundation in Wyoming, for a whole month. I went there without specific goals but prepared to respond intuitively and artistically to the incredible landscape of the west.
I remember walking into that studio at Ucross for the first time not knowing what to expect, having never been to an artist residency before. I also remember, how I flopped on the couch after my host left me to settle in, inhaling a deep breath of high altitude air and then exhaling in an enormous sigh of relief and gratitude. Some part of me was suddenly grounded and at home in this new place, and as I sat down at the beautiful grand piano, I began to find a melody and words rolling out of my heart in strong waves of creative vitality.
"The Lost Track" from Wyoming Territory
I took home with me, after the month was over, about 8 songs, written and recorded with differing levels of production, to the extent that my limited road tools allowed. My traveling gear included a small Pro Tools recording rig, with new drum software on board for me to experiment with, along with my two favorite acoustic guitars, a 1956 Martin D-18 and a model K Froggy Bottom, a Creston electric and eventually a new Weber mandola that was shipped to me at Ucross from their plant in Montana. Above all, my voice came along and was the biggest asset to all my endeavors, as it stood ready to convey the words of my stories. But not without considerable struggle, as I will continue to explain.
"Redwing" from Wyoming Territory
I’m not sure how many people outside my circle of close friends know about my vocal problems, but this seems like an appropriate place to mention it. In the last decade I seem to have lost much of my singing voice from what I knew it to be in my younger years. This has been a source of extreme frustration and humiliation to me, as my career has been gaining steam and everything else in my life lining up to support an active performing career. With the loss of much of my vocal power, I’ve had to limit my performing and follow other avenues to pursue the life of a songwriter. Studio work has helped me keep my voice active but within an environment where I can focus without fear of judgment around my loss of vocal control. This project has served to give me confidence in my work and helped me set new goals musically and spiritually, in keeping with the diminishment of my vocal palette.
"Forgiveness" from Wyoming Territory
The winter/spring following my stay at Ucross were exceptionally busy for me, working with and producing client projects at my recording studio (Pepperbox Studio) while simultaneously continuing my estate gardening jobs in Central VT. By the time fall of 2012 rolled around, I had still not gotten back to the material developed in Wyoming, and I became ever more determined to do so.
I finished 4 more songs that had been left undone that seemed to fall thematically in line with the Wyoming sessions. Next I began to play my guitars like crazy, overdubbing parts on both acoustic and electric, along with bass, piano and harmony vocals. Then I engaged the talents of close musical associates Jeff Berlin, Patrick Ross, and Bow Thayer, who I know and sometimes perform with in a band called The Holy Plow. I also hired Mark Spencer of Brooklyn, NY to lay down some great electric lead guitar parts. This all involved a bunch of arranging, and I was the recording engineer for all of it. Additionally and finally, I mixed the CD - a grueling task, but a rewarding one. For those of you who don’t know that mixing is, its when all the different parts get put together and made to sound sonically balanced and polished, and brought up to professional standards, from a technical stand-point.
"Jeffrey Lee" from Wyoming Territory
When you pre-buy the music I’ve created for this new solo CD so long in the making, you help pay for the mastering (done expertly by Oscar Zambrano in NYC), and for the production of the physical CD, (done at Discmakers in New Jersey), including full color artwork and a booklet of my original lyrics and photos. I have not padded these costs at all nor paid myself for any of my engineering work – obviously!
I appreciate all of us who stay engaged with creating high quality, organic music, who are willing to try new things and insist on and support recordings that maintain local/personal control of original intellectual and artistic content. We should feel great about this. We're not spewing out canned muzak - and every time we go out on a limb in our home studios, the world becomes a little kinder, a little more accessible and a lot more compassionate.
Risks and challenges
The creative energy that gave birth to this project is the driving force that will see it to completion. The biggest challenge for any musician today is how to get paid for the work we do at a level that will allow us to continue. My biggest push after this year of productive producing will be to expand my networks, and figure out how to increase royalty payments for myself and my clients. I will tackle anything worthwhile to my heart and soul, but finding and forging the right connections to bring my music to a larger audience is the biggest hurdle I face.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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