Studio Guinea Pig

Here's a glimpse into a day in the life of a musician and stay-home-Dad. This Monday was a great and fun day, with much zipping around, thanks to beautiful Dawn who bailed out of work for a few hours to allow my musical opportunity.

After 5 hours of sleep following Sunday's show at the 400 Bar, I got up, got Paavo and Svea fed, dressed, and in the car, and we picked up Dawn from work. She accompanied us over to St. Paul were I had a 9:45AM studio appointment. Dawn pushed the kids around the Capital City for an hour while I recorded a song at McNally Smith School of Music. My friend and super-mix-master Scott Malchow teaches a studio engineering course at the college, and he needed a musical guinea pig for a engineering lab. I showed up with a song, Scott booked a session drummer (nice playing, Jeff!), and the students learned how to mic the drum kit, work the board, and run the session. Here's a photo from my view in the isolation room...I played Scott's lovely Wurlitzer and sang a scratch vocal, and you can see the window into the control booth where the students listened. Scott was at the board with the students and he played bass. The drummer was in a different room. We did a few passes at the song to figure out our arrangement, and after two real takes we got a keeper. The song we did was one I wrote WAAAY back in 1993 called "I thought you were mine." Over the years I had tried it a zillion different ways, demoed it multiple times, and even re-wrote the whole thing with my cousin Bruce using different lyrics and music. BUT, I went back to my original idea (always a wise move, I have learned) and turned the song over to Scott to be the producer. I had overthought the song so much over the years that I really needed Scott to decide what to do with it. The result was awesome, and much more rocking than I had expected. It's one of the rare songs I've recorded where my foundational instrument is NOT guitar, and the vintage Wurly electric piano was a perfect sonic cornerstone. I told Scott and the students that I was trying to channel Michael McDonald and Daryl Hall...and gol' darn it, it actually did turn out to have some '70s white-soul potential. I'm gonna come back in in July and sing the real lead vocals, and hopefully some super tight John Oats "oooohs" and "ahhs." Stay tuned!

After the morning session I drove Dawn back to work so she could participate in a conference call, and I pushed Paavo and Svea around downtown Minneapolis in the double stroller. I love being downtown and in the skyways during lunchtime....thousands of interesting folks bustling around. On the corner of Hennepin and 4th St I looked up to see something I'd never noticed before in all my hundreds of times at this intersection. Check out the yellow letters on the building..."Forgive Yourself." A strange and lovely message for everybody downtown each day.

In the early afternoon we picked up Dawn yet again, and I dropped the family off at home so I could zip back to St. Paul for another studio appointment. I did the same situation with Scott's afternoon class, and we tracked a totally different song. This time I played acoustic guitar and we recorded a song I wrote in the late-90s (intended for inclusion on the Sound Theology album) called "I Don't Need This Rock & Roll." Like the previous tune, this was a song that I had overthought so much that I no longer had any clue what was good or not. So Scott put on his producer hat and expertly directed the process. We ended up with a nice heavy Americana-ish stomp tune that Scott plans to steer towards an arrangement not unlike The Band's "Up on Cripple Creek." I'm really excited to see how this turns out. Scott was half-seriously talking about adding jaw harp and wah-wah-Clavichord, just like The Band. Go for it, man. My brain is shot, when it comes to this tune. Take it away, Levon Helm.

After a great day spent behind the studio glass with headphones on, I cruised home with Dave Edmunds on the Vue stereo, and got home at 6PM. Picked up Paavo and 8 minutes (yes, only 8 minutes) later we were swimming in Lake Harriet in South Minneapolis. This is one of the many many reasons I love living here. Feel like swimming in a clean beautiful lake in the middle of a major city? Drive 8 minutes from home and hit the beach. Minneapolis rules. The water was cold, but I eventually got totally under, and after a few moments it's just perfectly refreshing.

Speaking of refreshing, I'll leave you with a picture of Svea's bath from later that evening. After a challenging month of May, I'm pleased to say that Summer has roared in with much creative fulfillment, beautiful weather, and family fun. To quote one of Paavo's favorite songs by The Eels, "Hey man, now you're really living."


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