I'm raising money to record a new album of all original songs in Muscle Shoals, Alabama with some of the most talented musicians I've ever heard!
This album will be recorded very differently from my debut album, Million Miles
While Million Miles was more about "documenting" those songs I'd written, I'm approaching this album thinking more about its overall listenability. That's partly why I was called to Muscle Shoals - all those countless full length hit records that were recorded there. Even in that intimidating space that had made so much history, I felt comfortable and inspired. Bob Dylan recorded in this room. So did Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bob Seger, Dr. Hook, The Commodores, Etta James, Melissa Etheridge, Steve Winwood, and who knows who else. When I first went to Muscle Shoals, everyone there referred to recording albums as "cutting." They said things like, "We'd love for you to cut here!" It sounded so old school, "cutting" an album. I love it.
Lineup of awesome musicians:
Here's a list of songs we'll be cutting:
Deal With the Devil
Hell or Harlan
Hell or Harlan (Solo/Reprise)
The Dirge of the Edward L. Ryerson (The Last)
Sally (an ode to Porter and Mitch)
I am Not to Blame
The Copper Queen
Well, it's been five crazy years since we recorded my debut LP, Million Miles. At the time of recording I was still a merchant marine, working on iron ore ships in the Great Lakes. We hit the studio early in the spring, when I was pretty sure I wouldn't be called away to work, but the underlying fear was always there. We lucked out.
I left the ships to release the album at a couple shows around the country. It was born into a storm of chaos in Texas and a blizzard in Kentucky. Those who were there remember.
As the savings from the ships withered away, I was dumped, evicted, and diagnosed with cancer. Homeless and contemplating the possibility that it might be the beginning of the end, I took a bucket list motorcycle trip across the Mohave Desert. I just wanted some free time to clear my head and figure out what I was going to do next. I wanted to go back to the tiny town on the side of the steep mountain in Arizona where I'd found some peace years before - back to the town of Jerome.
I only planned to stay for a couple days before heading back to Austin and getting started on whatever plan I came up with during the ride. Turns out when you're homeless, sick, broke, and heartbroken, it's hard to plan past an open door and a spare bed. So I stayed in Jerome.
And with nothing else to do, I played a lot of music.
I sold all my CDs I'd had printed. I think that means the album went aluminum. I sold all the tee shirts. I put all the miles on the van and bought another one. I wrote new songs. They were better. I learned more about the songwriting craft. I learned about playing the songs to random strangers every night. I learned about diving in headfirst and having the music be the real focus in life with less and less distractions. Every night after the gigs were over, I didn't want to go out and celebrate anymore. I wanted to go home and play guitar. So I did. And I wrote. Like this song, for example:
Studio time - $3,000 ... We found a beautiful, historic studio in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.
Mixing - $1,200 ... Once we record all those sounds, half the task is to get them all dialed in so they blend together just right.
Mastering - $1,000 ... Intricate details that are done after the mixing. Just got an email that Brian Gardner "would be happy to" master the album. He's mastered everyone from the Beach Boys, to Snoop Dogg, to Rev. Horton Heat, to Michael Jackson, and countless others. He will cost a bit more than I have budgeted.
Musicians - $2,500 ... The best are expensive, and for good reason.
Pressing CDs - $1,500 ... Just making CDs. They call it "pressing" in the industry because that's how they make vinyl records which is what everyone did back in the day so the term stuck.
Merchandise - $1,300 ... Tee shirts! I sold all of the old ones and people loved them so let's do some more! My team & I are also working on some surprise merch and some new designs, yet to be announced.
Publicity - $6,500 ... This is where the largest single portion of the funds will go. Hiring a publicist is how you really get the music out there - it's how you get written up in magazines and online blogs (which is what everyone looks at when they consider booking you for a big show, or when records labels are potentially interested, or when people see you are coming to town but they don't know who you are), it's also how you get played on the radio. More on this below in "risks and challenges."
Videos - $2,000 ... All you kids watch these days are those darn videos! Seriously, videos are once again becoming an increasingly more important means to reach new audiences. Some big shot managers are even advising their clients to forgo recording albums and spend the money on nice videos instead. I'm not quite ready to make such a drastic move, but videos are very important and I'm seriously lacking in that department.
5% to Kickstarter - $1,000 ... Kickstarter takes 5% for their troubles.
If we go over the goal
Vinyl Records - The biggest thing I'd love to do if we go over the mark is a pressing of vinyl records. I love vinyl, I've always wanted to have my own. Vinyl records are very expensive to press so we'd need an extra $3,000 to do that.
New Tires! - All this touring is rough on the van, particularly on the tires! The SS Miss Thomas Rae Williams is in growing need of new shoes.
Risks and challenges
ALL OR NOTHING! - If we don't reach our goal, we don't get a penny! We can go OVER the mark and there's already a plan in place for the funds if that happens (see above).
Asking for money is challenging and humbling in itself. Making the campaign "all or nothing" raises a whole new level of concerns. I chose this platform because it statistically has the highest success rate and I REALLY want to make this album! Even if that means taking a bigger risk.
How long will it take to release & why? So once we're done playing the songs in the studio, then we need to MIX the album. Mixing can be very time consuming and painstaking. Think of mixing as going over every single note in the album. Is the pitch just right? Is the tone of the pitch just right? Is the timing of the tone of the pitch just right? Please note, "just right" does NOT mean "perfect" as in robotic-sounding - I hate that! "Just right" means beautiful or ugly or whatever is being conveyed in that particular minute detail.
Honestly, I love mixing. That's where we decide which instrument comes into the song at which point. For example, we recorded a guitar playing along between the lyrics but we realize it works better if it doesn't come in until the second verse to give the song a feeling of growth and build. Also, when do vocal harmonies come in, how loud do they come in, etc. Sorry, I could talk about mixing for days!
After that, the album goes to mastering. That's where a second party goes over the mix. The easiest way I can explain mastering is that mastering is where the album gets its volume and overall steady flow between all the songs.
Next is where the publicist comes in. Publicists have connections to get the album reviewed by magazines, online blogs, and played on radio stations. The idea behind going in this order is that if the album gets good reviews, radio play, etc, then there is a hype around it by the time it's released to the general public. This generally equates to larger audience turnouts, higher album sales, etc. If you recorded an album and just started selling it immediately, there's nothing for the industry to get involved in or excited about. As overplayed as it might sound, "what's new, what's fresh, what's hot, etc" is still an enormous part of entertainment. This takes some time, usually at least a few months. Publicists need to get the album out to these sources before it's released so that magazines have a story to tell, for example. If someone writes an article on an album that everyone has already heard, then it isn't news.
Please note...publicity is also an enormous risk. While it costs money for the publicists to get thoroughly familiar with the album, write press releases and send it all to the correct sources, there is NO guarantee those sources will like the material. I am committed to finding a publicist that I believe is enthusiastic about the album. This may take lots of time and energy on my part. There are many big names in the world of publicists and many who will take your money regardless of their opinion of the music - it's my job to weed through them and find someone I am confident will go to bat for us.
I love vinyl records. Hands down, it's my favorite way to listen to recorded music. I like the warmth of the overall sound and the way I can always hear the rhythm section a little clearer and there always seems to be a more honest sense of emotion in the vocals. I love the experience of listening to vinyl - since there's only a few songs per side, you have to get up and flip the record and that always forces me to listen a little closer and to be more involved in experiencing the music. I've always wanted my own music pressed to vinyl, that's a big life-goal of mine. It somehow seems more permanent, more legitimate. Also more expensive. If we go $3,000 over the goal, we'll have enough to press a run of vinyl! It would also quell the demands of my audiophile fans who have grown angry at my lack of vinyl.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (33 days)