Jenny Lewis’ The Voyager

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I am a musician, which by and large means that I don’t often pay for music (because I don’t have much money). But I will purchase Jenny Lewis’ new record, The Voyager. Here’s why. Continue reading

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EPIPHANY SCHOOL

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I’ve kept this Young Mothers recording a bit of a secret for a long while now, and it just felt right to release it into the world today. Give it a listen.

EPIPHANY SCHOOL happened very naturally, very easily, and very quickly. I was out of work and living off savings, watching a lot of Battlestar Galactica and drinking a lot of Evan Williams. I’d just spent more money than I should have making a big, fancy record and moving to the city, only to find myself several months later, letting that record linger on the shelf, not working, not going out, hardly speaking to other people. It was ugly. I had five days left in town before going back to Arizona for the holidays, and I didn’t want to show up as low as I felt then. I’d written five songs since I’d moved, and the mission, or at least the opportunity for a mission, seemed clear. Five days, five songs. I’d wake up in the morning and apply for as many jobs as I could, then spend each night recording each song. That was good.

Let me tell you a little about the songs. Continue reading

Happy Birthday, Harry Nilsson

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J.P. Woodbury reminded me that today is Harry Nilsson’s birthday, which got me searching for a video of one of my favorite, deep-cut Nilsson recordings, the stark and haunting “Campo de Encino”. It’s the second to last track on the Rhino reissue of Son of Schmilsson, and, much to my surprise, a Jimmy Webb composition. That makes sense, of course- the two were great friends. Webb’s remembrances of a few of Harry’s wilder antics (a qualifier that really says something) are the highlights of the bonus features on the Who Is Harry Nilsson and Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him? DVD. Nonetheless, it was a shock to me when I youtubed “harry nilsson campo  de encino” and found only Jimmy Webb and Judy Collins videos. If the description of the Jimmy Webb video below can be believed (???), Webb wrote the song after Nilsson teased him for having never written anything funny. I know Webb and his song must have made Nilsson laugh, but the little part of me that really feels like I know Harry Nilsson would put a $100 on him getting a bigger laugh out of just how unfunny he managed to make Webb’s song.

And that’s why we miss him.

On The Making of Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey

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From Wikipedia:
‘The vocals on the album were always live after rehearsing each song five or six times, according to saxophonist and flautist “Boots” Houston, who further commented that when Morrison and the band went into the studio: ‘we would then just play a whole set straight through without repeating anything. We would have played maybe twenty songs and Van would go back and cut out the songs he didn’t want. The only time we’d go back would be to overdub backing vocals or horns.’ Ted Templeman remarked that he had to go through three engineers during the recording of the album, due to Morrison’s “ability as a musician, arranger and producer”: ‘When he’s got something together, he wants to put it down right away with no overdubbing … I’ve had to change engineers who couldn’t keep up with him.’

Holy shit. Watching a bunch of Yacht Rock episodes made me want to investigate Ted Templeman, a man who produced artists including The Doobie Brothers, Little Feat, Van Halen, Michael McDonald… and Van Morrison. Here’s a particularly compelling live version of track one, side one of Tupelo Honey.

Just a first-take kinda guy… otherwise known as an inspiration.

The End of the Roadie

“Live music was once so unregulated, he says, that roadies coming home from 1970s American tours “would stuff dollars into [speaker] cabinets so they didn’t have to declare them”. Now, techs are tax-registered sole traders whose jobs have been transformed by technology. “It’s not just stringing guitars now. It’s all about programming and knowing how to …” He mimes tapping at a computer keyboard. Moreover, the younger techs are more health conscious – “They go running and swimming,” Nowell says bemusedly – and some are even women.”

The Guardian ran a kind of interesting piece about the modern touring production industry. Read the full thing here.

A Song For Me

I felt a little ignorant for neglecting Gram Parsons’ work until recently, but I was promptly rewarded when I finally sat down with his solo catalogue. “A Song For You” is clearly a standout. Take a listen.

I think it’s kind of crazy that I listened to this song for weeks on end and never realized that it’s one chord progression the entire, and one I’m particularly fixated on at that. This song’s essentially I- ii- IV-I, with the little IV-V-IV tag at the end. Of all the progressions I adore, this is probably the one I’ve “written” the most times, all of them in A major. I think (at least today) that the best of those tunes is a currently “unreleased” track called “Gravity”. This is it’s world premier.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve taken from working with The Shondes is that I have a lot to learn about vocal harmonies. I’ve had some extra time on my hands lately, so I decided to live out my passion for this song, this progression, and all harmony by recording a cover of “A Song For You”. I’m a little proud of it, so I’d like to share it here. If you can bare a little more A-major in your life…

I’m Tracking Maude


I’m an A/V assistant  with Music First Productions, and this Friday I’ll be recording one of my coworker’s bands, Maude. Fingers crossed we’ll get to borrow some MFP mics for the sessions.

We’re packing up some of my gear, some of my buddy’s gear, and talking it over to their rehearsal space to track three songs as live as possible, excluding vocals. I’d say “of course”, but my understanding is that, in the early Elvis Costello recordings, Nick Lowe insisted on Declan performing his vocal live with the band, P.A./monitors and all, so there’s always a higher standard.

I’m very excited for the session, particularly because lately I’ve been feeling chafed by my inability to track live drums and amplified electric instruments whenever the hell I want, a luxury I enjoyed for the past decade in Arizona.

It’s been particularly bothersome recently because I fear I might have fallen into a deep, dark hole that I may not be able to dig myself out of. I started demoing a song a few weeks ago, and the programmed drums are starting to grow on me.  I pulled up an a sample of an acoustic kit from Native Instruments and performed the part with a few digits on my Akai midi keyboard, and now I’m starting to really feel like they might be realistic enough to carry the recording, which is a seriously confusing emotional-acoustic experience for a guy addicted to the sound of natural tape compression and distortion. Anyway, I’ll be tracking some live music by the end of the week, and that’s enough for me.

Here’s a pretty rough demo of that tune, complete with the programmed drums that are vexing/exciting me so. Generous ears are appreciated.

The Shondes + Against Me! Winter Tour (Photos Galore)

Dear Internet,

Hi, it’s Zach. Sorry I haven’t checked in in a while, but I’ve been kind of busy. Highlights have included working a gig for Drake, hanging out with Solange and her band while I mic’ed them all up, producing and performing on the new Keith Cooper record out of the Soul Shop in Boston, MA, and producing my first hour of PRI distributed radio for Afropop Worldwide. The second half of 2013 was nuts, and I’ll cover that in a forthcoming post…

But the big thing right now is my current gig playing guitar for The Shondes on their winter tour with Against Me!. It’s a real trip playing such big, beautiful venues, watching Against Me! own the stage every night, hanging out with Inge Johansson (who’s playing bass for AM! on this tour, and played with The (International) Noise Conspiracy, holy shit), and sidekicking for such talented stage-performers as Louisa and Eli of The Shondes.

Photos after the jump.  Continue reading

South Africa Today

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The episode of Afropop Worldwide that I produced with Morgan Greenstreet went live today. This is the culmination of my trip to Los Angeles earlier this month to cover the South African Arts Festival. Major thanks to Leigh Ann Hahn from Grand Performances for all her help, Grand Performances for putting on the festival, Morgan Greenstreet for his help and impeccable taste, and Mike Jones from Studio 44 for his editing expertise. The episode airs in the Tri-State area on 91.5 at 11pm Saturday night, and noon and 11pm on Monday.

Up next, heading to Vassar tomorrow morning to work a concert for Solange. Life is cool.