Hello friends! I'm Michael Daves, a bluegrass singer and guitarist based in Brooklyn, NY. In addition to performing solo, I've had the opportunity to work with some great musicians in the bluegrass world like Tony Trischka (and Steve Martin!), Bryan Sutton, Noam Pikelny, and Chris Eldridge. My most recent record was Sleep With One Eye Open (2011, Nonesuch Records), a duo album with Chris Thile (we were nominated for a Grammy!). I have also played in some pretty out-there rock bands (they were not always well received!).
It's about time for me to make a solo album. I'm going for two. And here's the kicker: both albums will have the same track listing. Same songs, in the same order.
One will feature the traditional bluegrass interpretation, recorded live to tape, played by a serious bluegrass band in a seriously resonant space. The idea is to produce it as a "recorded event", commemorating bluegrass done bluegrass-style, performed to the best of our capacity. The other covers the same material, but could not be more distinct stylistically, as it will include drums and electric bass, and will focus on a raw, experimental take on the bluegrass and old-time songbook. The contrast between the two will be a tribute to the enduring relevance and adaptability of the tradition we all love.
The first one is going to be a straight-ahead bluegrass record featuring some of the most talented musicians performing today. Noam Pikelny (banjo) is a member of the Punch Brothers and recently won IBMA's awards for both Banjo Player of the Year and Album of the Year. And they're right about that; he's really good at playing the banjo. Sarah Jarosz (mandolin) is known for her singing and songwriting and has several Grammy nominations to show for it. She also happens to be a great straight-ahead mandolin player. Brittany Haas (fiddle) performs with both Crooked Still and Haas/Kowert/Tice. Uniquely, she is really good with both old-time and bluegrass styles. Mike Bub (bass) came to prominence in the '90s with the Del McCoury band. He is the bluegrass bass player.
We'll be recording live to analog tape in an amazing-sounding 19th-century church hall here in Brooklyn. The material we'll be doing largely draws from old-time and "pre-bluegrass" sources. We will be avoiding digital monkeying and much of the hoo-ha that characterizes most modern recording experiences to preserve the honesty of the performances and the ambience we're looking to capture. If you've got a great space, a primo slate of musicians, and minimal, old-school recording techniques then you've got all you need to produce pure, uncut bluegrass.
The other album draws from my musical interests outside of bluegrass. I grew up in a bluegrass household but have always had rock bands. After I moved to NYC in 2003 I formed The Buzz Buzz Tabernacle, an electric trio with a rock drummer and banjo/violin played by someone completely unfamiliar with traditional music. I didn't come away from the Buzz Buzz Tabernacle with a lot of new fans but I did take away a sense of the elasticity and expansiveness of the bluegrass repertoire. The next step was to start accompanying my solo material with drums - kick drum with one foot and a broken hi hat with the other. I wasn't gunning for a one-man-band gimmick, and trying to avoid that while being literally one man doing the work of a band was unwieldy. Adding electric bass really tied the room together, adding scope to the sound and grounding my voice when I get a little caterwaul-y.
This album will be a sort-of stripped-down version of a rock album that's not really acoustic but is kind of close to it if you squint. I'll be playing drums and guitar and there will be electric bass, etc. Here I want to use the bluegrass canon not as a vehicle to carry on the tradition but as a wireframe to hang some new ideas and thoughts upon. I'm viewing these not as bluegrass songs, or as some sort of genre piece, but as musical fodder to be reworked.
Why Two Albums?
Because it'll be fun to hear it both ways! It'll be exciting and I'm looking forward to the puzzle of putting together two albums that each stand on their own but have this shared lineage. I love the bluegrass tradition, I work within the bluegrass tradition, I live that tradition. I really like the idea of approaching this material both the way people (including myself) expect to hear it done, as well as trying to clear away all of those expectations and see what happens when you approach that material afresh.
All backers of the project will receive exclusive, behind-the-scenes content including photos and videos from the recording sessions. Watch it all come together! I am excited to offer a variety of rewards for our backers (see the full list in the right hand column). Here are some highlights:
At the $60 level you'll receive both albums (signed CDs and digital download of both albums plus bonus tracks) plus a limited-edition (of 75) screen printed poster (11" x 17") celebrating my weekly residency at the Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan. It's a beautiful poster by Silo Design and I'm honored to be commemorated in this way.
At the $90 level you'll receive all of the music plus a limited-edition (of 30, numbered and signed by the artist) art print of Jessi Carter's image of me created for this campaign. It's a striking picture and suitable for framing. 12" x 18"
-SOLD OUT- At the $100 level you'll receive all of the music plus a copy of the Chris Thile & Michael Daves 7" vinyl release on Third Man Records (produced by Jack White), signed by Chris and Michael.
At the $100 level you'll receive all of the music plus a copy of the Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe vinyl LP (2013, Compass Records), signed by Noam. This recently won the IBMA Album of the Year Award and features Noam and Mike Bub, both of who will be playing on my bluegrass record. It's awesome!
At the $125 level you will receive an original woodburned art piece (small size) produced by Jessi Carter for the www.michaeldaves.com website. Send a message to indicate which one you would like, to confirm availability. Images #1-4 are 3.5" x 9" x 0.25" and #5-10 are 2.5" x 12" x 0.25"; woodburning on poplar, some with feathers and/or rhinestones
At the $250 level you will receive an original woodburned art piece (medium size) produced by Jessi Carter for the www.michaeldaves.com website. Send a message to indicate which one you would like, to confirm availability. Piece #1 (bird nest) is 11.25" x 9" x 0.75"; Piece # 2 (snake) is 5.75" x 7.25" x 0.75"; Pieces #3 (portrait) is 7.25" x 8.25" x 0.75". Woodburning on poplar with feathers, rhinestones, and/or glitter.
At the $500 level you will receive an original woodburned art piece (large size) produced by Jessi Carter in conjunction with the www.michaeldaves.com website. Send a message to indicate which one you would like, to confirm availability. Piece #1 (dragonfly) is 11.25" x 13.75" x 0.75" (woodburning on poplar with ink & watercolor on rice paper and feathers); Piece # 2 (owl) is 11.25" x 13.75" x 0.75" (woodburning on poplar with ink).
At the $650 level you will receive a brand-new Kentucky KM-250 mandolin courtesy of Elderly Instruments, SIGNED by ALL of the musicians who play on both albums. Plus you will get an 8x10 photo of the musicians at the bluegrass session with the mandolin. Plus both CDs signed by Michael and the Deluxe Edition digital download (both albums plus exclusive bonus tracks). The KM-250 is one of the best-sounding mandolins available for under $1000 and will be expertly set-up by Elderly, one of America's finest and most reputable acoustic instrument dealers.
At the $1200 level you will receive this original artwork by Jessi Carter, produced for this campaign. It will be 24" x 36" framed. Ink and watercolor on rice paper.
At the $1600 level you will receive this original artwork by Jessi Carter, produced for this campaign. It will be 32" x 40" framed. Ink and watercolor on rice paper.
The funds raised in this campaign will all go to producing two great-sounding records with an expected release in May, 2015. Costs include analog tape stock, recording engineer fees, musician's fees, mixing, mastering, album art and graphic design, manufacturing the CDs, digital download costs, and Kickstarter fees.
Gary Hustwit, Bradley Klein, Old First Reformed Church of Park Slope, Brooklyn for use of their wonderful upper hall for recording, all of the amazing musicians who have agreed to be a part of the project, and my family for all of your love and support! Huge thanks!
Risks and challenges
For the bluegrass album I have commitments from all of the musicians and the recording space reserved for three days in December. But it is winter in New York and there's always a chance that someone gets sick or stuck in travel, in which case I'd have to either replace personnel or delay the sessions.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)