I was in the studio all day cutting a track for the upcoming tribute album to the late great Ted Hawkins. There is no place I would rather be then the studio. Today it was a crack commando unit backing up the singer of the Turnpike Troubadours, Evan Felker. We knew the song we were going to do, and the key, but aside from that the arrangement was born in the studio. It was pretty old school in that for basic tracks we just jammed until something sounded right, with Kevin Russell, who is producing, guiding our ship when we would get too far out. It also never hurts to have an engineer like Stuart Sullivan running the technical side of things. It was a good mix of thought and feeling today. Never allowing the conscious mind to get in the way, but just enough thought so that the song ebbed and flowed in just the right way.
I like to do my homework before recording. I like to know the chord changes so I’m not learning the song on the spot and wasting other people’s time. I like to have a couple ideas stockpiled in my back pocket in case things hit a rut. However, I am always happy to go another direction and land somewhere unexpected. A song is like a frame. There are certain boundaries that it dictates. However, in that frame there are a lot of different ways that you can color it. It is good to have a place to start from, but to not be afraid to throw everything out the window as new ideas present themselves.
When I am doing a session where I am just the bass player, I try to listen to the other musicians and be complimentary to what is going on. I try to find that balance between giving someone what they want and making sure what I do is unique and interesting in some way. I never want to take the focus off what is most important in the song, yet I don’t want to just deliver meat and potatoes, unless that is what is called for. Sometimes you will find that the stock thing is what works, but I usually feel that arrangements are helped when everyone is adding a little bit of their personality to them. The way that session players in places like Nashville play is just atrocious to me. They may be technically amazing, but there is no soul. I’d literally rather hear an electronic dance record by someone that knows how to make them than that shit.
So that’s what I did today, and what I’m thinking about. I’m about to dive back into Ken Burns’s Civil War series. Now for something completely different…