The Devil On a Tricycle EP Listening Companion

Well, it's official. The Devil On a Tricycle EP is out, and it's a weight off my chest to have overcome my plentiful personal inadequacies long enough to release something new.
Now I just have to figure out how to get more people can hear it. :)

I just wanted to share a few notes about these 5 songs, as I feel like they each have a little story to go along with them as I let them fly directly out of my recording cave and into your ear-holes.

Another Fine Mess (Feat. Davy Knowles)

What a privilege it was to work with guest guitarist Davy Knowles on this song. Pardon my French, but he punched the proverbial musical balls right off of this song with his playing, didn't he?
(....is that French?)
Anyway, I've been a big fan of Davy's music for a few years now, so this was really exciting for me. I originally decided to send him 3 songs to choose from... I had two demos already, and I freaked out and decided to write an entirely new song with his playing in mind for the 3rd. This was that 3rd song. I have to be honest; This was the most stressed I've ever been while recording/mixing/mastering a song, to the point that I probably could have released an entire album of all the alternate versions of this song. I don't fret quite so much when it's all me, but I just wanted to make sure I made Davy sound good. In the end, of course I ended up choosing one of the earliest versions I mixed and I wasted countless hours worrying about something that is pretty much impossible (ie: making Davy sound "Bad").
This guy from the Isle of Man has obviously got a knack for manipulating six strings in any way he so chooses, but he's also just as good a singer and songwriter as he is a guitar virtuoso. He's got a new album coming out and he'll be on tour soon, so be sure to check him out and show your support for good old fashioned natural talent.


Devil On a Tricycle

I'm embarrassed by how much time I spent recording a bicycle bell to get just the right one for this song.
This guitar part had floated around my head without direction for quite a while, when one early morning I was violently shaken from my blissful slumber by the sound of a bicycle bell from hell.
Was it really that loud? Did it really make the ground shake? I can't say for sure what anyone else heard that day.
All I can tell you is that I believe a proper scientific study would show without a doubt that there is a direct correlation between the amount of frosty adult beverages consumed the night before to the perceived volume and seismic impact of a bicycle bell outside your window in the wee hours of the next morning. 
It sounds like a cliche', but it really was one of those songs that kind of came to me in a dream. I remember trying to sleep in spite of a vicious splitting headache, and this kid was relentless with that freakin' bell. I woke up with a smirk because I had conjured up a visual in my half-asleep haze... that only Satan himself could be riding around in circles outside my window on the tricycle that was making that unholy racket. I got up, went directly to my recording cave, and what came out is what you hear.
(If anyone wants to investigate my hypothesis further, I'll gladly approve the use of this song as evidence in a scientific study.)


Tread (Feat. Adam Berzowski)

Oh, Sweet Adam Berzowski. He doesn't know this, but I think I've been referring to him exclusively as "Sweet Adam Berzowski" every time I tell someone about our collaboration on this song lately. He's a sweet human being without a doubt, but more to the point it's because every time I hear him play anything on the keys I'm like "sweet!!".
(It's got a ring to it, and I couldn't stop after I said it once. Hopefully he doesn't hate me when it catches on and it's all anyone calls him. :) )
Adam and I met through a blog I wrote a while back expressing my undying love for the bygone blues-rock band American Standard, which Adam was in along with singer Corey Sterling and Strat master Chris Aaron (who I just learned passed away last week at the ridiculously young age of 44. RIP Chris, as of last week the world is missing a true talent and there's one more star over the Midwestern sky inspiring young guitarists).
So there are several things I wanted to get out of my system about this song;
- I rarely say things like this, but I was really happy with my guitar solo on this song. I'm admittedly never striving to be a virtuoso, if anything I tend to embrace simplicity in my playing. I wish I could just close my eyes and convey an emotion directly through my guitar without thinking about it, like some of my favorite guitar heroes did. But that's generally not me. I get too lost in my own head, over-analyzing things while I'm doing them. This guitar solo, however short and simple, was one of those precious rare times for me that I felt I was on the right track. I can plan out a guitar solo and play way over my normal technical capacity any day if I just practice it for a while... but this one? I didn't know what I was going to play, I hit record, and naturally conveyed the somewhat cranky and sassy emotion I was feeling.
- This is the first time I've ever tried to play the harmonica "for real", and I decided I was going to record a harmonica solo. It's nothing fancy, but I'm glad I stepped out of my comfort zone and once again, I felt like I conveyed the feeling I was looking for.
- It gets a bit overshadowed by everything else, but I was super proud of my background vocals in the chorus. When you listen to the song it's two separate harmony levels of "Ooooh"'s behind the "Well you can walk just where you damn well please" vocal. There are like 6 or 8 of me as back-up singers, and I just had fun experimenting with harmonies.
- And then, I'll wrap it up by going back to Sweet Adam Berzowski. He was in a great blues-rock band a while back and this happens to be a blues-rock sort of song, but Adam is one of those guys who can play anything. I feel like if I had told him that I wanted him to incorporate a Paganini-inspired composition or an obscure 70's funk vibe, he would have delivered it on a silver platter. But what he did here is exactly what I was talking about striving to do with my own parts, and that was deliver the sentiment of the song musically...  only with much more virtuosity than I could play on any instrument.   
- Oh, and keep an ear out for my blood-curdling scream of "NOOO" at the end of the song. I was too self conscious to put it up front in the mix, but if you hear it faintly it means I didn't blow out my vocal chords on that yelling for no reason. :D


Small Town Bird

Small Town Bird was an adventure of a song to finish. I originally started the approach to this song as an ode to being from a small town myself, at the suggestion of a friend. At some point I started to feel like I was infringing on John Mellencamp territory with my cheesy singer/songwriter prose, so I scrapped what I was doing. Things really came together when I started over and was able to take the "me" out of the equation, writing the song as a narrative about someone else.
As far as a "behind the scenes" glimpse to my process in recording this song, I can tell you that I don't know WHAT I was thinking when I did that slide guitar part (that's what I started with). It's not so much what I played, but it's that I invented my own spontaneous open tuning and never tuned it to any proper pitch. I just grabbed my old crappy $25 "Kingston" brand pawnshop guitar (the same one I played on "A Frayed Knot" on the album Faceplant) out of the corner and twisted the tuning pegs until I like the noise, and recorded.
A week later I went back in with my PRS and vomited in my mouth a little while I had to detune it to match whatever the hell I had done. It was months and months going back and forth with the different parts on this song, and in the end I'm glad I picked a direction and stuck with it.
If you listen out for it, you'll also hear one of the "signatures" of my strategically sloppy recording habits on all the songs on this EP. It's a spontaneous vocal exclamation of "Hoo!" coming from the background. I wanted all of these songs to have a "live" feel, and I intentionally broke one of the cardinal guidelines of recording nerds- I almost always had an extra microphone picking up room noise while recording other parts. My experimentation with this really came from my appreciation for the sound of the old classic blues and rockabilly recordings of Chess Records in Chicago and Sun Studio in Memphis. Nowadays in a big professional recording studio they have a "live room" to start with, but everything usually gets re-done with isolation as the priority. Back in the day at Chess or Sun Studio, it was a room full of guys in a room being recorded, and I think it's part of the reason why those old recordings have so much character. If you could magnify the sounds on a Muddy Waters recording session, you might hear Willie Dixon cough in the background, or Little Walter take a swig of whiskey and clear his throat between harmonica fireworks, and there's just sort of a "vibe" to knowing that for me.
Some of the modern alternative folk sounding artists have been capturing this sort of sound lately as well (The Lumineers come to mind), and I wanted to see if I could apply it to my own wacky one-man-band recording setting.
My hope is that someone somewhere in a small, dank, dark smoke-filled bar is listening to this song as I type.


Rise

This song has a very personal history for me. I wrote and recorded that original guitar part so long ago that I didn't even have a computer to record it on (I was still using my trusty old Boss BR-1180 Hard Disk Recorder). It was inspired by the old hill country blues Junior Kimbrough sort of guitar vibe that guys like Dan Auerbach, Gary Clark Jr. Luther Dickinson and Hozier cite as an influence. Not long after I moved to Durham North Carolina six or seven years ago, I wrote the vocals and recorded the rough combination of ideas on that same old piece of stand-alone recording gear.
In a very literal sense, the song was written about my wanting to overcome the adversity of feeling so tired, so worn out, and so fatigued all the time. I felt that I had been missing out on being "present" in my life because of my inability to deal with simple issues that everyone deals with. I mean, we all get tired. We all get worn down. Everyone is fatigued. And I don't have kids so I don't have half the responsibilities of other people... "I wish I could go back in time and punch myself right square in the groin for not being able to buck up and get over it."
I considered myself an inherently strong-willed and prolifically stubborn person, and yet I was filled with utter self-loathing about the fact that I didn't seem capable of dealing with normal life as well as everyone else.

Long story short... I wrote this song before I was diagnosed with narcolepsy (No, it doesn't mean just "tired", and no... Deuce Bigelow wasn't a documentary ;) ).
In retrospect, it's amazing what can become normal for us if we let it. It's only been about 6 months now since the official diagnosis, but I was so happy to finally have a name to apply to the "villain". But... that doesn't mean I can play the role of a victim and stop trying to be the hero in my story. Not only do I want to continue to persevere through all the issues I was having, now I know that it was OK for the issues to exist in the first place. Now I know that it's not "normal" for me to have to put up with it, so that means my stubbornness and pig-headed nature isn't wasted if I can overcome the adversity enough to get close to a "normal" standard by societal standards.
The last musical part I crafted (just over the last few weeks) was the entire "dreamy" bridge part after the 2:10-ish minute mark, and I pulled out all the stops in my eccentric production tendencies. Alarm clocks, grandfather clocks, metronomes, strategically scattered nickels and dimes, ping pong balls, and ice cubes splashing into a glass can all be heard in the background if you can tune your ears into the specific sounds. This song has taken on a whole new meaning for me over the last few months, and it will always be a special marker. Sort of a permanent monument that overlaps two very distinct chapters of my life.

I'd like to say a sincere Thank You to everyone who has been checking out the music and supporting my passion. A guy who HAS to wash his hands six times a day doesn't have much to show for it. I feel like I HAVE to make music, and I'm lucky enough to have people out there who want me to share it with them.

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