session log: dan may at morningstar studios, part one

so after three records and an EP, i was finally gonna get to be a principle player on a dan may record. his last full length, the long road home, had been (in my opinion and my opinion only) a pretty scattered record, from a stylistic viewpoint…which, for dan, isn’t much of a leap because i honestly believe that when he sits down to write that even he doesn’t know what’s going to come out. there’s a strong underlying pop sensibility that informs most of dans’ material, whether it comes out as a folk ditty or a torch song. for him, it’s both a blessing and a curse in some senses…but it’s worked for him.

for that record, i went in initially and cut acoustic guitars with the rhythm section and then went back in later for a couple of overdubs, again on acoustic guitar…and that was it. that was the sum total of my participation in that record. while it was a bit of a bone of contention at the time, i get what dan was trying to do…i think that, on some level, he had an elevated sense of expectations where that album was concerned, and he went fishing for the best he could get on every level. that meant, for him, using studio musicians to cut the record. he had essentially put himself in the hands of his producer and was, possibly, a little more prone to suggestion than i think he’s been in the time since. if anything came out of that record, i think it’s been a stronger sense of confidence in dan’s own vision of who he is and who he wants to be. and he definitely made it known to me that he’d expected me to be a lot more involved in this record than the last one. we had co-written a handful of the songs for the record, including some of the ones that i felt were the strongest (down the road and crossover among them), and i certainly feel up to the task. i’ve been looking forward to this for a while now.

for this record, dan elected to use the same studio and producer/engineer (glenn barrat of morningstar studios), but was a little more adamant about a lot of the decisions surrounding the project – starting with the choice of players for the record. i think he was a lot more vocal about the choice of material for the record, too, based on the songs that ultimately ended up floating to the surface.

the first session was the core players from the band – myself, anthony newett, keith giosa, mike kurman and rob schnell. dan brought in two songs…”the bough will break” and “paradise”…to work on for this particular session. they were both somewhat similar, in terms of lyrical content – but the first was a little more somber than the second from an aural perspective. from the moment we started running the song in the studio, it just didn’t seem like it was getting its legs underneath it.

we ended up getting a basic put down for it, but it never saw the light of day after that night.

the next song, “paradise”, fared better…it’s a minor-key mid-tempo song reminiscent of chris issak at times, and everyone seemed to latch onto it with a little more veracity than the prior song (although, i have to say, i still think the other tune will see the light of day at some point).

here’s a clip of rob schnell tightening up the drum track:

after we’d laid down the initial basics, anthony plugged his strat into the house fender twin and put a vibrato-laden solo down that, to me, really made the song. when he’s on, he’s such a great player…i do love working with him.

there were a couple other songs that we’d laid out for the next session, including gabriel and crossover…those will be next weeks’ work, though.

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