Skylines and the Horizon: 2017, part 1

After the Watauga sessions, I spent the intervening six years playing along with the recordings I was able to finish. I practiced the songs, gained confidence in the parts, and knew I’d be ready when the time came. The real challenge would be vocals, but that’s always going to be and will continue to be a challenge for me.

JD, his brother, and I planned to take a week’s vacation in August of 2017 to work on six of their songs along with five of mine (I was on the fence about keeping “Goodbye” from the 2010/2011 recordings) and we’d finish up whatever we needed to at my house afterwards. After all, singing, even when pushing, isn’t nearly as loud as a 15 watt tube amp cranked to the edge of breakup. Amps get loud, but voices…well, not so much.

I figured we’d work on my songs in between recording theirs or as they needed time to work the remaining parts out that still needed writing. After all, I’d spent so much time practicing my songs, I’d be able to get things done quickly. You know what they say about the road to hell, right?

I don’t remember the specific order that we worked on the songs. There was a lot of rum and whiskey involved in the recording process.

I asked my dad if we could use their house since he and his wife worked and had to drive over from Dallas. The setup of the primary living space of their house isn’t ideal to recording. It’s wide open without too much to act as diffusion of sound waves. The floor of the living room area is carpeted and contained an L-shaped sectional, but the rest of dining area and den is hard tile. We were going to be fighting the room. Looking back, it was, in my opinion, a fight we’d lose.

Over the course of the weekend leading up to recording, I moved stuff into my dad’s house and took over their den and dining table. Fortunately, I have a separate computer for recording, so moving my recording setup over didn’t leave me high and dry during the evening. I set up the tower, interface, studio monitors, and put my 24″ LED monitor on the interface. Ideally, a two monitor setup would have been fantastic, but when you don’t have your own space to record, beggars can’t be choosers.

My Egnater Tweaker head and cab went in the living room. I decided to try and work with the room and set the amp cab up on an amp stand. It projected out and, coupled with the vaulted ceilings, I hoped it would cut down on some of the natural reverb we were going to be getting. When we were done, the amp would get moved over to the fireplace mantle, so there wasn’t as much consistency about where the amp was positioned as I’d have preferred.

Mic wise, I’d read that some people had good luck with using the Shure SM7b as both a vocal and guitar mic, so we used that. I set up my trusty Sterling Audio ST55 about two feet away to pick up another sound. We ran a mic cable into the living room and plugged it up into a Cloudlifter CL-1 for when we had to record vocals.

For guitars, we had my Fender Telecaster, PRS SC245 Ted McCarty, and a PRS SE Custom 24 (2017 model with the script logo). That PRS SE CU24 ended up leaving my possession and led me down a journey of five more guitars before I’d end up settling on the Gibson Midtown Standard I have now.

For basses, we had the heavily modified Squier P/J bass I’d used in 2011 and a Peavey Focus P-bass copy.

My pedal board has changed significantly since, but we used the following chain: Zvex Distortron > OCD v4 > Danelectro Cool Cat Fuzz v1 (a Frantone Peach Fuzz copy) > a pair of Eventide H9s

The plan was to work on one song at a time, do all of the instruments, write parts as needed, and record vocals before moving on.

Plans are wonderful things. We stuck to the one song at a time plan, but everything else was played by ear. I’ll get more into that next time.

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