Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Truth

So after posting all these ridiculous videos, I've been paranoid that you guys think that all we're doing is goofing around.

The answer is, it's not all we're doing. There's a fair bit of laughter (more, in fact, during this record than any other one besides Slugs and Bugs with Goodgame), but it's usually the psychological release after several hours of intense concentration. Or, several minutes. Or seconds. My first record was a sort of nightmare, in some ways.

Gabe Scott and I were nervous, starstruck by the players we were working with, mere babes in the woods, and the studio cats were seasoned, tough-skinned, and a little cocky in some instances. It was crushing to Gabe and I to be made to feel so untalented and uncool by comparison during the making of our own record. The engineer, an amazing guy named Gary Paczosa, kept assuring us, "It's not supposed to be like this." Good ol' Ken Lewis was another voice of reason amidst the tension.

We survived, and the record turned out better than I would've dreamed, lousy studio vibe or no. With Clear to Venus the vibe got even better, though I was still so green and nerve-wracked. Love and Thunder was the first record I made after my pal Gabe Scott moved on to other things, and I had just started traveling with the indibnible Ben Shive who was even greener than I was at the time. It was the first record of songs that hadn't much been played live, all the guitar parts tried and true, with Gabe. But Steve Hindalong and Derri Daugherty were gentle souls to work with, and they nurtured those songs into a record that once again turned out to be far better than I would've hoped, thanks also to Ben's great contribution.

It was such a relief when Gabe called to say (jokingly) that he was a little bummed that his favorite record of mine was the one he played the least on. I remember that record being made in the bitter cold of winter, and it mirrored some parts of my heart at the time. There was a somber sense of purpose and care with that one, and I think you can hear it when you listen.

Then came Behold the Lamb, which was produced by Ben and Andrew Osenga. We were all three young guys (I was the oldest, which was weird), making a more complex, grand record than we'd yet made, and there was a lot of learning happening. The three of us made a few mistakes production-wise that we grew from, and had a great time making that album with the greater community of Square Pegs (though we didn't know it yet). I remember it being another great experience in the studio, though it took a lot of work and since I had just been dropped from the label the finances were frightening at times.

The Far Country sounds to me like Ben and I finally hit our stride. Ben had produced several more projects in the meantime and I had a clear sense of what I wanted the songs to sound like. Gullahorn had just started traveling with us and his guitar parts were well thought-out and were written into many of the songs from their inception. Osenga had also traveled with us a fair bit and was familiar with the songs and the sound that I wanted.

The kids' record with Goodgame was a singular experience. We produced it ourselves, recorded the whole thing in days, laughed until we cried at the silliness of what we were doing, and ended up with a project we're both proud of. It's hard to compare the rest of these records with that one, mainly because the pressure was off. I got to experience the goofy fun of music probably for the first time since leading songs at church camp fifteen years ago.

Somewhere along the road I changed from the skinny kid who was horrified to speak his mind in the studio to the less-skinny man who learned, with much help from his compadres, to bring an album into the world.

That doesn't mean I'm a producer. Ben's a producer. The guy's full of ideas, and they're usually great. He knows music, knows his gifting, and is invaluable in the studio. Gullahorn is a great player with a musical sensiblity that I'm amazed by. They both hear things that I'm oblivious to, usually having to do with the minutiae of timing, and they can talk about musical ideas and execute them within minutes. I'm the guy that writes (or co-writes) the songs. That doesn't call for much in the studio other than playing my guitar parts, singing the songs, and engineering when I can.

What's so delightful about making this record is that there's little question what our roles are. We've done this before. It's not a well-oiled machine, exactly, but at least it runs. It gives us the freedom to make the record without the stress of worrying about hurting one another's feelings, without wasting time with pretense. We've been traveling together for years now, and our musical tastes, though not always the same (Ben likes Wilco, Gully grew up on country), complement one another.

On top of all that, we're Christians. We all believe what these songs are saying, believe that God gave music a particular power that can bear his truth right down into the deeps of the heart, where resurrection begins. All the laughter is born out of that common joy that comes from the work of your hands building up the Kingdom.

It's also because guys, when they're in a studio together for weeks at a time, act like buffoons.


Chris said...

It's also because guys, when they're in a studio together for weeks at a time, act like buffoons.

Heck, guys, when they're together for not very long at all, often act like buffoons. But ya gotta have fun sometime. And the camaraderie you guys share shows through on each album. Awesome.

eiszoe said...

Good post. Adds another dimension to all that's been said so far. But, you didn't speak about your experience with "Walk". I know you don't like to talk about that one but, I'd love to hear what that process was like (including how you got yourself into a studio in the first place), and what you learned from it. Please?!! :)

Mattie said...

I remember buying "Carried Along" and loving it. Then came "Venus," and I thought: "this guy is awesome! It's even better than the first!" Then I thought there was no way you could top "Love and Thunder," but I heard "Behold the Lamb" and wept like a school girl. I finally got to see you live on one of the Christmas tours, and was blown away. Every album gets better, Andy. We've seen you grow and grow and grow, and it's an awesome thing to see! I can not wait to hear the new record, even if is recorded by a bunch of buffoons.

lyndsayslaten said...

ap, thanks so much for your words. they're encouraging, as usual, which is amazing that someone reminiscing about records made can bring encouragement to others. i'm really glad you guys do what you do. :)

Jock said...

I love the blog and the clips. They are fantastic! I keep returning to watch the things over and over, especially the one of "The Good Confession". That Song is going to be awesome. I can't wait for the new record. All of you guys have brought many smiles to my face. Your music makes me feel like I can fly. Keep it up!

A.S. Peterson said...

Weench proliferates.