USA Travel Blog #6

Studio Chronicles: Crafting Music with Legends

Tuning Up and Taking Off: Pre-Production Days

Dallas, here we are! Before the exciting days of recording, we had a call with the incredible producer, Joel Raif. He’s the audio engineer behind the latest Shane Smith & the Saints’ singles, and he’s just the coolest guy to work with. We discussed the project, and I sent him my phone-recorded demos and a video of me jamming with Josh Morningstar. Our aim was to create an acoustic-focused release, emphasizing vocals and acoustic guitars.

We also had ideas for additional instruments like bass and pedal steel. Joel had a network of talented musicians, and he already had two in mind for the new songs. When he dropped their names, I was amazed and excited. Would these incredible musicians really play on my songs? Absolutely! I’ll share more about them later. After the quick video call, we were pumped and ready to hit the studio!

On the pre-production day, we finally entered the Modern Electric studio in Dallas, where many of my musical idols had recorded their magic. Joel gave us a tour, and we experimented with different guitars to find the perfect fit for the songs and set up the microphones. We played some rough demo material so Joel could prepare for the upcoming days. The studio was stocked with fantastic guitars, from Gretsches and Martins to Gibsons.

One guitar that caught my eye was the Harmony Sovereign, an old and affordable gem that played and sounded incredible. Its sparkling sound would be a great addition to my home studio. I still have notifications set up for when one of these old guitars would become available on Reverb, the online marketplace for musical instruments.

There was also a Gretsch guitar in Nashville tuning, the same one Paul Cauthen recently played. I recognized it from one of his studio pictures, and it felt amazing to play the same guitar for my new music.

After the studio preparations, we were all set for the first day of recording.

Strings and Surprises: Studio Day #1

Photo by Rico DeLeon

Studio day #1 began with a relaxed atmosphere. We focused on recording the guitars for the two songs and welcomed photographer Rico DeLeon to document the process. The songs featured three acoustic guitars, which required different playing styles. We explored various strumming techniques to give the songs a percussive feel.

Working with Joel taught me valuable insights into making my vocals more dynamic. I’ve always considered myself more of a songwriter than a singer, and improving my vocal skills was eye-opening.

We recorded the basic vocals, laying the groundwork for Scott and Nik from The Texas Gentlemen, who were scheduled to join us the next day to record lead guitar and bass. It was an unbelievable experience. After receiving tips from Joel and recording harmonies provided by Robin Godtschalk, we wrapped up the long day.

After day 1, we took a break to prepare for the next studio day with Scott and Nik. But the day had a remarkable surprise in store for us. Josh Morningstar happened to be in town, opening for Brent Cobb that same night. Despite our tiredness, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to watch him perform. After all, he’s been one of my biggest inspirations and he played a significant role in writing my new songs.

Josh put on an incredible performance, filled with surprises. He was joined by his wife, his son, and even Cody Jinks for one song. It was an unforgettable night, and it added a special touch to an already incredible day.

Jamming with Legends: Studio Day #2

Studio day #2 was a significant day. We arrived at Modern Electric Studio to witness Scott and Nik from The Texas Gentlemen recording their magic under Joel’s guidance. Their talent and down-to-earth personalities were a pleasure to witness. We had insightful discussions about the song’s direction, their roles, and the incredible tracks they laid down.

Following this recording session, we took a brief break before tackling the final vocal recordings. Despite my initial self-consciousness about my vocals, Joel’s guidance helped me record vocal lines I could be proud of. Robin added the final harmonies, and we wrapped it all up.

This entire journey, from writing the songs in the Netherlands to recording them in a studio I’d admired for so long, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I met incredible people, now friends, and the songs are currently being mixed and mastered by Joel in Dallas. We’re even considering releasing them as limited edition vinyl singles in early 2024.

A shoutout to everyone I met along the way, and thank you, dear readers, for following my journey. As I continue my adventures, I’ll be sharing my travel stories on Polar Steps and through my newsletter. Don’t forget to subscribe to stay up to date!