The making of Short Stories was a labor of love that took almost the better part of my musical career to record. It's not that I couldn't or didn't want to; it's more a case of life happening, and as a result, Short Stories is a collection of songs that speaks to my life experiences.
Photos by Rhonda Lane
Some years ago, back in 1988, I started the process of negotiating my first contract with Sony/ Columbia Records. That was an exciting time for me. I would finally be able to record my music and fulfill a dream I've had since picking up the instrument. I've always wanted to record my music and tour playing it all over the world. Part of that dream came true, and some of it did not. The music I submitted to the record company was accepted, but it was pushed to the rear and songs that they suggested were brought to the forefront. These were songs that I did not write nor would they have been choices of songs that I felt represented who I was as an artist. This was the start of a huge learning curve and lesson I was about to learn the hard way. I came away from that whole experience thinking that if you didn't fit a certain mold you were going to have a rough time in the music business.
Fast forward to present day, I have to say that it's taken me this long to make the kind of record I've always wanted. Short Stories is that record. It basically came out of necessity in a way. The universe has a way of letting you know what course you should take. Whether it's a rough path or not, if you take it, you will get to where you need to be and grow in the process. That was definitely the case with this project. I got tired of putting my livelihood in the hands of someone else. I got tired of playing music that did nothing for me as a player other than collecting a paycheck. While getting a paycheck is necessary to pay the bills, sometimes focusing solely on money takes your focus away from what you are really meant to do and what's important to you. I've always wanted to be the best player I could be. That was not happening in the musical environment I'd spent so many years working in.
I've written a few songs over the last few years, but never had the outlet to play them. There were also some tunes I'd written and performed years years ago, but knew at some point I would want to revisit them. It became clear that the time had come. Approaching the songs with more life experiences and growth as a player and writer under my belt was something I was looking forward to. I started recording keeping in mind that this was the first time I've actually been the one in charge of what I want people to hear. The goal wasn't about selling a ton of cd's. It was all about needing to get this music out of me. I wanted people to hear what I had to say. I wanted people to hear the real me. I'd spent so many years playing behind and supporting others; helping to make their voices heard.
This was the time for me to express myself; this project was for me. So I started the recording process by programming scratch drums as a guide. Then I'd add a bass track. I used to play drums and bass when I was a youngster, and although I no longer play those instruments, I still "hear" those instruments. Then I started adding keyboards. I'm certainly not a keyboard player, but I can figure out what I'm hearing in my head and many of these songs I'd already written charts for so that helped as well.
After recording all the basic parts, I added melodies and lines that doubled what I would be playing on guitar. All of this was a learning experience for me. I'd never recorded a cd using my music software. For the musicians out there, I use Logic Pro X and their software instruments such as fretless bass, acoustic pianos, Rhodes, and other synths. I really took my time recording these parts because I knew I couldn't afford to pay anyone to play all the keyboard and bass parts on all the songs. I had a very tight budget and therefore had to be very selective in how the money would be used. The small budget pushed me to be more organized, thoughtful, and creative with the process. It became a blessing in disguise.
Once I had all the tracks recorded I flew out to Los Angeles, my old home, to record real drums. Chris Coleman was my first and only choice. Chris and I had done a few David Sanborn gigs together, and I fell in love with his playing and his vibe. We took two days to record his drums, and he did an incredible job. He took the music to yet another level, which made it more fun and more of a challenge for me to play my parts. After getting the drums recorded I sent two songs to my friend, Ingrid Jensen, to play trumpet. I met Ingrid when she was playing in Terri Lyne Carrington's Mosaic Project band. When I heard her play I was blown away! I love trumpet and I knew that she would add so much and be a perfect addition to this project. She played on "628 Woodland....and travels beyond" and "In With The Out Crowd." She killed them both. I also had the opportunity to have two of my friends and esteemed musicians, Ron Reinhardt play an organ solo on "Two Kids" and Nate Phillips play bass on "Will D." They both went above and beyond my expectations.
Now it was time to record my guitar. This was the scary part for me. I'd spent all this time and creative energy playing all these other parts that I worried I had nothing left to actually play my guitar parts. I took a few days away from it to get myself centered and focused on the task before me. I set up my amp in my studio closet and put a Shure 57 mic on it and started recording. Once I got started it was so much fun! I was finally playing what I wanted to play and how I wanted to play it. I wasn't thinking whether or not something was "radio friendly" because I really didn't care. I didn't want to feel any restrictions on the creative process at all. I must say, there were many times while recording this music when I felt as though I was just a conduit for what was coming through me. The more I played the more I started hearing different things. I'd ask myself on a few occasions " Where did that come from!" I guess that's the reward for following your heart and opening yourself up to different possibilities and ways of seeing and hearing things. That's something I wish more musicians would do. Take chances. Let people hear your true voice even if it's different. We have a tendency to play it safe and many times that leads to mediocrity. Music should not be that way....ever! Music is a gift and should be treated that way.
My hope is that when you listen to “Short Stories” it will give you the same joy I experienced while putting it all together. Like I said, it was truly a labor of love that could not have been done until now.
Peace 2 U......