Making Rock Music at Battletapes

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I’ve been working with Jeremy Ferguson of BattleTapes for almost ten years but hadn’t had the pleasure of actually recording in his studio until two weeks ago when I was in Nashville.

In 2004, Todd K and I still had our home studio setup we called Southern Engineering. It was a digital 8 track and a handful of mics and preamps. Our ace in the hole at the time was Todd’s house which had a huge two-story open living room where we didn’t have to try to get good drum sounds.

I’d quit The Carter Administration three years earlier but had been making “Christmas Singles” with Todd and Ryan each year. I also recorded Crazy From The Heat with Slack and The Carters made Pony Up there.

In 2004, we recorded another Christmas Single — the best Christmas Single. I’d written it in my attic apartment in Sylvan Park and gotten together with Todd to learn the songs. We laid down the drums to a drum machine click track while I played guitar along. Then we added my acoustic guitar and asked Ryan and Andy to make their magic. Todd added an amazing dueling piano/marimba solo to the song “Angie.” Andy later told us he didn’t remember recording his basslines.

I took the entire digital 8 track to Jeremy who moved the recordings into ProTools to mix. He also mastered it. Over the past year, Jeremy has mixed and mastered three singles for me. But two weeks ago was the first I’d gotten to record with him.

Jeremy just built out his new studio room. We were only the second full band to record in it. It’s amazingly well-constructed. More than just a garage with sound baffles and rugs, this is a proper studio. The care taken in putting it together really shows.

Jeremy works fast and we work fast. We ran through “Ewa” several times to work on the arrangement. Ryan’s bassline pulled the simple guitar riff in new directions and Todd’s drums steadied the wobbly rhythm. We would lay down a take or two and go listen but we pretty quickly knew what we wanted to hear.

“Stay Together For The Dog” took longer to get down despite the fact that we’d played it together before and Todd and I had even recorded it. It just took more takes to nail the dynamics of it. Still, we had both songs tracked in about two hours. I added a secord guitar to the chorus of “Stay Together” composed by Todd. He then added a Rhodes piano to “Ewa” which made the riff even cooler.

Then I sang — despite a motherfucker of a sore throat — into a ribbon mic that Patsy Cline supposedly used. I’ve gotten accustomed to recording in my home setup where I’ll work on vocals over and over, playing the melody on guitar so I can feel and memorize the notes.

We were under the gun at BattleTapes. Todd was running on nearly zero food or sleep that day and it was getting close to midnight. My throat was feeling worse and worse. Todd pointed out that in my demo of “Ewa” I was hitting an off note repeatedly and I had to sing it right in the studio.

We did punch-ins on all the problematic lines. Then feeling more confident, I said, “lemme do all the choruses again to nail it.” When I did, Todd came in the headphones and said, “everything else was worse but the last line was good. Jeremy fixed it.” He’d just punched in those last lines with the other punched-in takes. I’d prefer not to work piecemeal like that but it was amazing to sit in the control room and see how quickly Jeremy could assemble one track from several takes.

I had mixes from Jeremy the very next day in time to play them for Todd and Ryan before I left Nashville. He sent me the masters last Monday and I had the finished product on Bandcamp Thursday.

I hope you’ll download and enjoy.

And on…

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