About this project
SECOND STRETCH GOAL $35,000 - HOLY SMOKES! Let's send this thing out in a blaze of glory!
My first "album" came out on cassette in 1996 (I believe it was the planet's last cassette-only release). Since then I've put out six regular old CDs, not to mention EPs and little weirdo projects and side band stuff…played thousands of shows all over the USA and Europe…written, I don't know, a couple hundred songs?…played as a sideman on more than 50 of my friends' records, and been lucky enough to spend most of my time among my favorite category of people in the world, i.e., musicians and all the other people who love music enough to follow it around.
Now I have lucky Number Seven ready to leave home and make its way in the cold hard world. This album is a little different for me because it comes after a longer break than usual; it's been six years since my last album of original songs came out (although my record of CARS covers happened in the meantime). Six years is the equivalent of about an eon and a half in music biz years, and it's gonna take a little extra push to get things rolling again.
The making of BLOOD TEST started with a call to my friend Anders Parker. As you may know, he's a great songwriter who's put out a number of records under his own name as well as with Varnaline, Gob Iron, and New Multitudes. Although Anders and I have known each other for a while, we'd never really played music together before. But these songs seemed to want a lot of attention to space and dynamics, and I've always admired the way AP wields those elements in his own music. So, I called him up and asked if he would be into the idea of helping me find my way into a record which was still pretty amorphous in my mind, and he intrepidly said Sure.
Speaking of the songs. In 2008, two months after I released my album Shotgun Singer, I had a baby and for the next year and a half I neither slept through a night nor wrote one single song (amazing how those two things seem to be related). Once REM sleep re-entered my life, songs started showing up again too. The first one that came after that drought was 92nd St and that's on the record, along with a few others I've played on stage a bunch…Homeless, My Ohio, Bees. But the last couple years have been busy, writing-wise, and some of these tunes are quite new. A good half of them have never really been heard by anyone. Exciting? Scary? Yes.
Anyway when Anders had agreed to produce this thing with me I asked him to hire the band. This was a hard decision to make, since I already know so many great musicians I'm always looking for a chance to play with. But, it seemed like a good time for a brand new cast of characters, so I took the leap of faith and Anders rewarded it by bringing two really stellar players/humans into my world. Konrad Meissner plays drums with Brandi Carlile and the Silos, and he drove the bus with authority and delivered impassioned inspirational speeches when we needed them most. Mark Spencer plays a lot of things with a lot of people such as Laura Cantrell and Son Volt - on this record he played bass, organ, piano, pedal steel, electric guitar, 12-string, and vibes, and didn't even break a sweat, although he did require a fairly steady supply of espresso malt balls.
We cut the tracks at Brooklyn Recording with engineer Andy Taub, right next door to the NYC neighborhood I grew up in. I got coffee at my favorite deli from high school every morning before walking to the studio. It felt exactly like home.
After making a couple records in a row with casts of thousands, I was curious what it would be like to keep the personnel to a minimum. So Messrs. Parker, Meissner, and Spencer and I covered all the instruments and vocal parts among the four of us. I did briefly consider changing my name to Delmhorster out of solidarity, but the red tape seemed a little daunting.
I'm lucky to have a great label, Signature Sounds, run by people who trust me enough to give me a chunk of money and say Go make an album. Okay, it maybe doesn't 100% cover the making of the music, but for these purposes we'll call it close enough. BUT: getting the songs recorded, mixed, and mastered is just the first part of the process. There's always a point at the end of making a record, when you're almost done, and things are sounding and feeling great, and you listen back to it together and have a proud little moment, and then someone says "Man, I hope people hear this record." And then there's this long moment of silence while everyone has their own private reality check and remembers what the world outside the studio is like. You imagine the record heading out into the world like a little tiny hobo, with its thumb out and a bandana on a stick, standing on the shoulder of a sixteen-lane superhighway with semis roaring past at 90mph, and lots of big cars the drivers of which are on the phone and texting and eating a sandwich and smoking an e-cigarette and watching youtube and changing their shoes and handing their kid a sippy cup and flipping the radio station all at once…yeah. A cold shudder goes through the room and everybody needs to go have a drink or a malt ball or something.
If we raise this money, Kickstarter and Amazon will take their 5% each, and the rest will go towards finishing and promoting the album. Does $25,000 seem like a lot of money to you? It does to me too. If you added up what I paid for all six cars I've owned in my life, you'd still have a long ways to go before you hit that number. But I chose that goal because it will only-just cover doing a basic good job in these areas:
If by some miracle we exceed the goal, there is lots of room to do those things better, for longer, and in more parts of the world. But we'll talk about that bridge if we come to it.
I'm extra lucky, because I have a lovely batch of listeners that have come with me along my winding musical journey - maybe you're one of them - and I'm proud and a little amazed to have been able to support myself as a musician for over 15 years. I've built my career up the old-fashioned way: because someone came to a show, and bought a record, and then sent it to their cousin who's a DJ, or put a song on a mixtape, or dragged a friend or two to the next show. It's the slow road, and I'd take it over the interstate every time. But I think this is a really cool record, and I think there are more people out there who would enjoy having these songs in their life if they knew about them. So I'm putting a little extra attention this time around into trying to widen my circles and connect the music with new folks.
If you've supported my career in the past by buying a record or coming to a show, I'm grateful. Shit, I'm grateful if you read this far down the page! I'm thrilled if you feel moved to get on board and support this album. And if you want to do more to help things along, the very best way to do it is to spread the word to all your righteous music-loving friends. You can share the campaign via Facebook, Twitter, and/or on any of the other various social media that I have so far managed to remain oblivious to. You could even mention it to someone verbally, like in a conversation...if that's not too old-school.
Thanks everybody. I am beyond excited to get this music out there into the world!
Risks and challenges
The challenge of releasing any form of artistic endeavor into this crazy world, well...it's probably obvious. Pretty much every musician I know has a story about the friend or family member who says, "You know, you should think about going on Letterman...that might be a real boost to your career." In reality, the amount of effort, sweat, and tears it takes to get an album review in the East Bumbleville weekly paper - let alone getting a band on Letterman! - is truly difficult to imagine until you've seen it in action. For a record to get any kind of notice you need at least two of the following:
A. Good Music
B. A Lot of Talented, Motivated, Creative, and Usually-Underpaid People Working Insanely Hard
C. Blind Luck
I've done what I can about the first part, and the last one is kind of out of our hands. This Kickstarter campaign is about B, and the better we do here, the more Talented and Motivated People we can have Working Insanely Hard on the record's behalf for longer...maybe they don't even have to be underpaid for once!
There is always...ALWAYS...the chance that we all go to all of this effort to no discernible effect. This is part of why musicians have as many Issues as we do. But let's try it! I believe in this album and I think people would love it if they met it. With your help we can get out there and make some introductions.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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