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Kyle's studio diary pt. 3 

The album is one day closer to completion. Things that didn't sound like much are now starting to sound like actual songs!

Yesterday's recording session began with lead vocals. Leah tackled "I Want to Give (My Love to You)" first. It's probably the poppiest song of the bunch, but it has a couple curveballs. I think we were able to capture some good dynamics in the vocal performance.

We followed that with the new tune, "Above the Rain." Again, this is a brand new song that we've never actually played from start to finish as a whole band, so my rough demo is the only guide we had. Dave Buss appeared halfway through the session and remarked that it was nice to finally hear someone other than me sing that song. I agree with him completely! Leah really hit her stride in the dramatic ending. 
 

Landon working his magic at the board, me having fun in a swivel chair


After recording vocals for "Greenblood," we found ourselves behind schedule. With only 90 minutes remaining, Jamie and I made the call to get the rhythm section to attempt "Running with the Fire." It's a pretty ambitious challenge, but we figured we'd be better off using the full 90 minutes to get one song than picking an easier song and ending up with 15 minutes of useless leftover time at the end of the night. That one came down to the wire. The session was hurried and a bit stressful, but I think we managed to get everything we needed. I feel OK about it right now. Time will tell.

It wouldn't be a true recording session without some of that pressure. We have 5 songs yet to record today. Fortunately, we'll get to focus on getting full rhythm section takes for the majority of the evening. No set up required, just plug in and play. It's a time crunch, but worrying about it won't help anything. As Jamie reminded me, we now have the most difficult material under our belt. All we can do give each song our best and see where we end up.

Onward!

Kyle's studio diary pt. 2 

Day One of recording is in the books! I'm too wired to sleep just yet, so here's a blog entry for your amusement.

Things went very well! We had 6 hours booked, and we used every minute. It probably took us an hour or an hour and a half to get everything set up and ready to go for our first take of a song. That is very fast actually. We credit our engineer, Landon Arkens, with having as much as he could set up and ready to go when we walked in. It helps that we've worked with him before on three separate occasions. 

Present at this session were Jamie, Joey B, Peter, Ben Ferris (on bass), and myself. Ben has played with us before, and Jeff is finishing up a tour with Harmonious Wail. So Ben agreed to play a few songs for the session before Jeff returns tomorrow. One of the realities of playing in a 9-piece band made up of professional, working musicians is that you have to be flexible with personnel. The Big Payback has an extended family of musicians that we rely upon for gigs as well as studio dates. It means we get to work with a broad range of talented people, which is not a bad situation at all. Ben did a top notch job on some tough material tonight, keeping a bouncy forward energy while locking in tightly with Joey B. Thanks, Ben!

Jamie was there to play some throwaway trombone tracks as cues, but his actual parts will be recorded with the rest of the horn section in September. He also acted as producer, cheerleader, and pizza orderman. The rhythm section all sat in one room (amps in separate rooms) and played each take together. We try to get as much of a "live band" feel as we can in recording sessions. Things are overdubbed usually because of logistics or studio isolation issues. Rhythm section in one chunk, horns in one chunk, vocals either separately or with rhythm section, then a few scattered solos and overdubs. 

We had 3 songs on the docket for tonight, and we managed to knock them all out. One of them is brand new to us. We've never played it live, and it's one of the more complicated pieces I've written for the group. As expected, it took the most time to record. We had to break it down and build it back up section by section, but it didn't take us too long to get it figured out and put together into one whole.

I'm really looking forward to hearing how this particular song ends up. I'm a little nervous actually. I've demoed the piece with MIDI instruments and my own guide vocals, but that's the only time I've actually heard it from start to finish. I guess it's always a leap of faith to write music for a big band like this. You never know how your weird ideas are going to translate. But if tonight is any indication, this new one might be a keeper. The song is called "Above the Rain." 

Ok, that's all for now. Day Two lies ahead of us!

 

Kyle's studio diary pt. 1 

Hi there,

Kyle here. The Big Payback enters Blast House Studios today to begin work on our second album! I'm trying to keep something like a studio diary as we go, so keep checking this blog.

I started today feeling pretty prepared for the sessions. Definitely more prepared than last time. I'm sure there's still plenty of time for things to go wrong, but right now it seems like we have a chance at some smooth sailing. I got my guitars all re-strung and prettied up, and I've made sure every other piece of gear is working properly. I've been practicing the songs, working on sounds, programming pedals, deciding on tempos, and generally just immersing myself in the tunes.
 

I'm even pulling out this old guy for the wacky pitch bending part in 'Greenblood'


The songs on the album this time around are all mine, with the exception of one cover tune that I arranged. The first of the original songs, "Friday Night Phase," was completed over 5 years ago. I actually remember finishing it up while we were recording Overture. It's been very interesting going over the songs I've written for the band in the last 5 years. They almost play out like a diary, and my life has had some twists and turns and ups and downs. The moods and subject materials comprise a very mixed bag. 

I'm really excited to get started on this project. I love being in the studio- it feels like my most natural habitat. Even when the hours start stretching longer and longer at the end of a session, I usually seem to have a good time.

Oh, I am also going into this session armed with video cameras! Well, Elizabeth will take care of most of the filming. But on the days that she can't be there (like today), I'll get a chance to try out my own budding skills as a documentarian. Ok, "budding skills" might be a stretch, but I do know how to turn the camera on and how to zoom in. That's gotta count for something!

Stay tuned for more!
Kyle

 

The artist behind "Audrianna" 

I've finally met the artist who inspired me to write "Audrianna!"

Those of you who have seen one of my solo shows have probably heard the story of the song that was based on a painting I saw at Art Fair on the Square. In a blog post I wrote last year, I had this to say about it:
 
"One painting immediately drew my eye. It depicted several children flying through the sky on a magic carpet. One girl stood bravely at the "bow" of the carpet, apparently navigating through the ethereal landscape. The image stuck in my mind, and inspired my new song's protagonist a few days later. If I would have known the painting would spark a song, I would have remembered the artist's name. As it is, I have only my memory of the image. Thank you, anonymous collaborator!"

Well, Elizabeth and I went back to the Art Fair on the Square this year with the hope of finding this person. Not every artist comes back every year, and we were starting to lose hope after our initial sweep of the exhibits. But when we were about to give up, we came across a booth with a familiar style. We were in luck! 

It turns out that "anonymous collaborator" is actually Sarah Kaufman, a wonderfully talented painter from Nashville, Tennessee. We asked her about the painting in question. It had been sold to some lucky soul, but it was printed in a children's book Sarah had recently published. 
That's it on the left page. The children are actually on a flying leaf, but my memory had turned it into a magic carpet. 

As if it wasn't enough to inspire a song, Sarah generously gave me a copy of her children's book, The Circus. I will treasure it! She has several images up on her website here. I recommend you check it out.

Thanks for the inspiration and the book, Sarah! I'll keep an eye out for you at future art fairs.

Kyle
 

7-7-15 

Hey all,

I've been up to all kinds of trouble lately! After a busy weekend of gigs and complicated logistics, I'm sitting down to catch my breath and give you some updates.

The new Telecaster performed admirably at both the Driveway Thriftdwellers' show at Summerfest and the opening set of The Big Payback's show up north*. The guitar is awesome in so many ways. It plays well and has a great tone that can cut through anything, but it's the little things I really notice for some reason. It stays in tune no matter how much I bend strings. The volume knob is smooth and doesn't crackle, so I can actually do volume swells. Both pickups have equal output. 

I still prefer the warmer sound of my PRS for most Big Payback songs, but the Tele is going to be a workhorse for the Thriftdwellers and future solo ventures. Behold its glory:

In other news, I am busy working on my first commissioned piece of music. I am writing a song to be performed by the Madison College Big Band for Diabetes Awareness Day in November. It will feature a singer with big band accompaniment, and the lyrics will deal with diabetes awareness, prevention, and management. Those are some pretty specific requirements, so I'm giving myself plenty of time to work on it. I've never done this kind of thing before, and I shudder to think of putting it off until the last minute. I have about 3 months until the final draft is due, and I'm working on it bit by bit whenever I get a chance.

I also continue to add to my acoustic solo repertoire. My plan is to stockpile material until I feel I have a full album's worth. I plan on booking some gigs pretty soon. I have also been getting a couple conversations going with other musicians about collaborating on my solo material. We'll see where this ends up!

In the jazz world, I'll be playing the usual Five Points gig tonight as well as a gig with Charlie Painter and Friends at Merchant this Thursday. We're adding Chick Corea's "Spain" for tonight, and it's kicking my ass so far. I'll take another stab at it before the show.

Alright, that's all I got for now. I'll catch you further on down the trail.

Kyle

*"Up north" is a geographical term used by Wisconsinites. We think of everything north of us as one place.

Upcoming Gigs

Date Event Location
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Capitol City Band @ Rennebohm Park Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI
The Civil Engineers @ Harmony Bar Harmony Bar and Grill, Madison, WI Harmony Bar and Grill, Madison, WI
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Capitol City Band @ Rennebohm Park Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI
Driveway Thriftdwellers @ Homegrown Music Fest Regner Park, West Bend, WI Regner Park, West Bend, WI
Driveway Thriftdwellers @ Lunchtime Live Madison Capitol Square, Madison, WI Madison Capitol Square, Madison, WI
Driveway Thriftdwellers @ Live from the Park Waunakee Village Park, Waunakee, WI Village Park, Waunakee, WI
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Capitol City Band @ Rennebohm Park Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Glow Doubt @ High Noon Saloon High Noon Saloon, Madison, WI High Noon Saloon, Madison, WI
Capitol City Band @ Rennebohm Park Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI
Capitol City Band @ Rennebohm Park Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Capitol City Band @ Rennebohm Park Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Capitol City Band @ Rennebohm Park Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI
Five Points Jazz Collective The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin The Mason Lounge, Madison, Wisconsin
Capitol City Band @ Rennebohm Park Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI Rennebohm Park, Madison, WI