Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Glory Days

Gullahorn and Ben were both out of commission for the last two days, so no recording happened. I did, however, comp the vocals for "Windows in the World" and "All You'll Ever Need", from the comfort of my own home.

There's this little device called an Mbox that was one of the most justifiable musical purchases I've ever made. It cost me $400 about five years ago (I think), and allows ProTools to run on my iMac. All you really need is a microphone and/or a guitar cable and you can record and edit whatever you can think up. The possibilities are endless, and the excuses are eliminated.

When I was a kid, I saved for months to buy a TASCAM four track recorder. I remember buying it used from this music store in Gainesville with money I had made stocking shelves at the local grocer. Finally I had the means to record everything that was bumping around in my head. Those first weeks I spent in musical gloryland, reading the manual and learning the subtleties of multi-track recording, playing "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" and Skynyrd's "Simple Man", then trying to sing them, making tapes to force upon my friends on the drive to and from school.

My senior year, my buddy Wade's grandpa died and left him an old single-wide trailer out in a field. Wade managed to talk his dad into letting him stay out there some of the time, and we turned that old trailer into a studio and rehearsal space for our non-band. It could not, in the furthest reaches of your imagination, have been more redneck than it was. It was sweltering, dead roaches lay about on their backs, the weeds were waist high and crept up on the perimeter of the trailer like confederate soldiers, and my trusty TASCAM sat on a water stained bureau in the corner, daring me to make good music with it. I did not. I most certainly did not.

I would drive straight to Wade's trailer after school and goof around with his electric guitar, my acoustic, the bass that we hijacked from Trey, studiously avoiding whatever homework I was supposed to be doing and mumbling to myself quite often about how much fun I was having. My crowning achievement, my grand experiment, was learning all the parts to the Garth Brooks song "The Dance" and recording them on the TASCAM. I played the drums (which beggars belief), the bass, the pretty, sad piano part, the acoustic guitar. And then, to my embarrassment even as I was doing it, I sang it: "The-uh-uh-uh-uh dayance..." I have often wondered what happened to that tape, and have in equal parts wished I could find it and hoped that it is forever lost.

When I think about that kid I was in high school, I imagine how blown my mind would've been to have had the nearly limitless possibilities of ProTools at my fingertips. I would never have slept. I think about that old TASCAM almost every time I work with my little Mbox and my computer, and marvel that some fifteen years later I'm still tinkering around with tracks and sounds and songs, though I'm thankfully beyond covering Garth (that song is still a guilty pleasure of mine).

The only bad thing about those limitless possibilities is that, as I said, I'm out of excuses. In the old days I'd complain that if only I had more tracks or better equipment, then I'd make some music. Now I have the cool, simple little program, and I seldom do anything with it. Sure, it comes in handy when I'm making a record, because I can bring the hard drive home, plug it in, and edit away. But the rest of the time, the Mbox gathers dust. I'm not a multi-track recording genius. I'm not oozing with musical ideas the way I might've thought I was when I lacked the means of expressing them. Music comes either after much struggle or like the crack of a whip, and it comes without all the bells and whistles of computer programs or nice guitars. You're sitting at the piano and the Idea descends. The Idea doesn't trouble itself with what you don't have, but what you do. The tools at hand are part of the final form, however much it changes between the points of creation and completion.

When I was in high school, I loved the TASCAM. I am now more thrilled at the thought of an empty page in my composition book, or a quiet night while the family sleeps during which the creation process embraces me rather than spurns. First I find the song, or the song allows itself to be found, then months--sometimes years--later, I blow the dust from the Mbox and give the song as much love as possible, to give it a fighting chance to be loved by those who will hear it.

Tomorrow we're starting up at Gully's house again, and I can't wait.


Listening to: David Wilcox - Guitar Shopping
via FoxyTunes


eiszoe said...

Man, you're right. No excuses. I myself am running out of them. I want it to be easy and always inspired, but it's work, and I revel in laziness and passivity. I did pull my Mbox2 out of the closet today, so it's a little closer to being plugged back in. :) Can you imagine what that Garth Brooks tape would go for on Ebay? My version of that was a multi-track version of "The Dark SIde" by Eddie and The Cruisers. I thought I was so cool on that keyboard intro.

Wine & Design said...

Some of your struggles in the realm of music sound familiar--and your reminiscing causes me to smile at my own memories. The creative process can be a grand mystery sometimes, can't it? I'm so thankful that God has granted his creatures the ability to create. Thanks for sharing.


lyndsayslaten said...

beautiful ramblings. thanks for sharing.

now if only chris could find the time to learn how to use his mbox...*sigh* wanna come teach him?!

Andrew Peterson said...

Eddie and the Cruisers!

I loved that movie when I was a kid, and the soundtrack is great. There's a song on the sequel called "Going to New York City" that I learned and played over and over again in my bedroom at night.

I might need to rent that one and see if it holds up after 15 years...

chart said...

Alright, so you opened up the geek door and I'm stepping through. What flavor of Pro Tools do you use to make the CD (i.e., MPowered, LE, HD, etc.)? Do you use just your M-Audio 410 interface to record everything except the bass and drums? Also, when your recording the guitar parts are the 2 mics setup as stereo (i.e., one being left channel and the other right) and then do they get recorded as one track within Pro Tools?

tony said...

Who would have know that Garth Brooks played such a vital role in BOTH Captain Peterson and Captain Gullahorn?

Gully told me that he learned to play geetar on one of Garth's old guitars.

This is weird. Sort of like 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon only without the Kevin. And the Bacon.

greg said...

I've never told anyone this but I too had a tascam 4 track. The first thing I ever did with it was to record myself singing all four parts of boyz 2 men's "It's so hard to say goodbye to yesterday". It was awful. Then I let a friend borrow it. He sent it back with a tape of elton john's "your song" with random goat sound effects scattered throughout. I have no idea why.

I'm enjoying reading the blog andy. I'll be in Nashville Friday recording with osenga. Maybe we'll see you at Baja.

- greg adkins