Solo Album Session 3 at SugarHill Studios: Nick Gaitan, Marshall West

from left: Marshall West, Nick Gaitan, me, Chris Longwood

On November 20th, I was back in Studio A for another recording session at SugarHill, but this time with company.   Nick Gaitan of The Umbrella Man and touring bassist for Billy Joe Shaver came in to record upright bass and Marshall West of our band Runaway Sun laid down the drums.  Chris went all out, we had an array of microphones all over the room for the drums, which should make for some really fun options during the mixing process.  The upright bass was cut in the control room, and I had a front row seat. 

The original plan was to record the drums and bass together over my pre-recorded guitar and vocal parts.  This worked for some of the songs, but songs like Film Noir and All the Whales in the Ocean lacked the energy i was going for (my previous takes were not tight enough on guitar), so we ended up starting over.  Marshall played along with me, then Nick tracked over our take, and the result was a much tighter feel.  It’s never fun to hear the playback and realize you have to start from scratch to get it right, but once again, you have to be honest with yourself in the studio.  If it doesn’t sound right, it isn’t. 

I can’t say enough good things about Chris, Nick, and Marshall.  These guys know what every kind of song needs, they love kicking around ideas and take direction well. 

The way I like to work:   

1)Give the session player (or bandmate) an idea of the feel you’re going for

2)Let the session player do their thing

3)Critique what they did – “I like this, less here, more there, take that note out, try something like this.”  Everyone was involved in this part.

4)Next take

5)Listen back, Critique again.

n)Sounds great, next song.

What typically happens is that the session player will play something that blows me away and/or triggers a cooler, more complete idea for the song on the first take than what I originally had in mind.  I try to think of instruments in the most basic way they could complement a song, and then the nuances are left up to the player.  If they say they can get a better take or want to try it again, we do it again.    

This was the most exciting recording session yet for the solo album, because I got to hear drums and bass together on some of these songs for the very first time, and the four of us shared a really benevolent energy toward crafting the tracks.  A large part of this was the Thanksgiving dinner SugarHill had going on that day, which made for one hell of a lunch break.

Check out Nick Gaitan’s band, The Umbrella Man:

and Marshall West’s drumming with Runaway Sun:

SugarHill Studios:




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