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March, 2010

"I Wanted to Fly: After-play"

by Webmaster

I was talking with my friend and song cowriter B. J. Suter the other day. We'd just had the honor of listening to Jerry Mills play "State Line Cafe" on his radio show, "Rocky Mountain Bluegrass," on KOLT 100.7 FM out of Cheyenne. B. J. and I co-wrote that song. She played guitar and sang the lead vocal. I played bass and Founders: Bands, Singers, Songwriters, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Places to Hear Acoustic Music, Locations, Venues, Clubs, Festivals, Business and Services Supporting Acoustic Music, Music Stores, Musical Instruments, Music Teachers Ernie Martinez played mandolin.

Afterward, we talked about the various mistakes and errors that we know are on the CD, I Wanted to Fly. It seems no matter how hard we tried and how much time we spent in the studio, the results aren't perfect.

My dear friend Bob Cooke said he'd listened to my CD with a really critical ear and all he found wrong was my pronuciation of "cafe" on "Maybe This Time." I assured him that there were more mistakes than that on the CD. I related this incident to B. J. We were delighted that Bob only found one mistake.

"It is the imperfections that make music interesting." — Butch Hause

I heard an anecdote about a famous rock'n'roll song. During the recording, a cat knocked over a lamp in the studio and the crash is on the recording. It's not a musical sound and it's not in tempo. The band and its producer chose to keep that take because the quality of the performances outweighed the extraneous noise. Some bands that perform the song attempt to recreate the crash. "I Saw Her Again" by the Mamas and Papas has a blooper in it. They started singing too soon after an instrumental turn around, stopped, and then sang where they intended. They chose to leave the false start in the released recording.

Peter Schwimmer is a brilliant musician. I asked him to play a mandolin solo on "Maybe This Time." Since Peter lives in Portland OR, he emailed me the track he recorded and we added it to the song in the studio. It took me 4 years to complete my CD, so at least two years went by before Peter heard the final version of that song. He didn't hear the other songs on the CD until I sent him the finished product. He sent me this email:

I received the CD, and listened to most of it (but want to listen to it more). It is really very good! I like the variety of songs, and the way that the songs feature different singers and instrumentation. Very nice!

I did notice (too late for this pressing) that I have a "funky" #9 on top of a major 3rd - root on top double stop (played over the IV chord) inadvertently sounding with one of my fills at around the 1:55 time on the tune "Maybe This Time" and again at 2:01. If you ever re-press the CD, I've fixed the blooper and have enclosed an Mp3 of the edited fills. I also have 24 bit and 16 bit files of the track in case you ever need them. Of course the #9 could be one of those things "we fight about" (a little dissonance in the mix).

Say "hi" to Ernie for me (tell him great job - good playing and singing too, and producing of course). Thanks again for the CD. Good work!

I asked B. J. and Founders: Bands, Singers, Songwriters, Solo Performers, Sidemen, Instrumentalists, Performers, Entertainers, Musicians, Places to Hear Acoustic Music, Locations, Venues, Clubs, Festivals, Business and Services Supporting Acoustic Music, Music Stores, Musical Instruments, Music Teachers Ernie if they'd heard any wrong notes on Peter's mandolin track. They assured me that they heard nothing wrong. I certainly didn't hear anything wrong.

Early in the process, B. J. was unhappy with one of the instrumental leads on one of our cowritten songs, but she quickly decided it was "charming." It stopped bothering her. I no longer hear most of the things that I know are wrong. I decided B. J. and Butch are right: some of the imperfections not only make it interesting, they make it charming.

"Well, we can be really meticulous. I think it’s possible to be meticulous and also have spontaneous elements of the recording. We weave in as many mistakes as we can, ‘cause they’re charming. But are we aware that they’re there, and did we turn them up in the mix? Yes." — Britt Daniel, quoted by Tom Thornton in "Spoon: The Power of Transference, " American Songwriter March / April 2010

Turn mistakes up in the mix? Well, come to think of it, we did that with a few musical and vocal phrases on the CD. If it sounded hesitant, and we decided to keep it, we turned it up to make it sound deliberate.

I think recording is like buying a new pair of shoes. You try them out in the store and they feel good, so you buy them. Then you take them home and wear them for a prolonged period of time. Sometimes they fit. Sometimes they rub and make sore spots. Well, recording is like that. It sounds good in the studio. So, you take it home and listen to it on various other players. Sometimes something in the recording rubs a sore spot, so you go back into the studio to fix it, if you can.

And, at some point, you ask yourself, how much more time and money are you willing to put into a project to get everthing "perfect."

"[Being a musician] is a road, not a destination. The word p. e. r. f. e. c. t. is a transitive verb, not an adjective." — Dan Crary

I can make a list of things that I know are wrong on the CD. With the exception of one note I sang on one song, none of them create sore spots when I listen. I've come to think of the other imperfections as interesting and charming.

Thanks for visiting AcousticByLines.

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