Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Serenity Gardens (03.26.18)

Another good time at Serenity Gardens. All photos by Kat.

Realization of the moment: I'm still over a year out from turning 50, but apparently I'm an old man already... or at least I am based on how my back feels and how I'm moving so far today. Seriously, it's been three days since the March For Our Lives event in which I participated on Saturday March 24, but waking up today I'm still moving like someone who is, well, old. And then, it struck me: perhaps I am. Old, that is. Getting out of bed this morning after a lovely night's sleep, I'm pretty sure the sensation was similar to that of getting 50 knives jabbed into my lower back and hips, and why? Because I marched for a couple of miles holding a sign and then stood for an hour or so while listening to speeches at a rally?

I almost just launched into a litany of telling you all the things I used to be able to do that included running, surfing, skiing, skating and so on, but let's just skip that and accept that fact that at a certain point in a human's life, it takes longer to recover from physical effort. Besides, none of that stuff stopped me from doing my show last night at Serenity Gardens in Second Life... though there was a moment while grabbing and putting on my guitar and wincing in pain that I questioned my ability to rock in my usual manner.

I needn't have worried. The show went very well, perhaps with an assist from some ibuprofen I'd consumed beforehand. Perhaps it also was a good show because I've been pretty immersed in music lately, having just wrapped up the single I created along with my friend and fellow singer-songwriter Jon Larson. The song, "Beacon", is now in the hands of Spencer Crewe, the super-talented Canadian mixing engineer who also mixed the They Stole My Crayon album. he's already working on the mix, so it won't be very long before we can release it, and I'm excited about it.

How To Record a Song From Different Locations
We live in an amazing world, technologically-speaking. Jon Larson lives in Sacramento, some 400 miles north of me. Spencer lives in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, over 4,000 miles from here and so far east that they have their own weird time zone that's a half hour earlier than Eastern Time. Jon and I had the relative luxury of being in the same physical space when we wrote the basic chord progression for "Beacon"; we were both on vacation in Arizona in February, but for the month since then we've been far apart.

Here's how it works. I took the chords we wrote and, in my little home studio, recorded a basic rhythm track that included drums, bass, guitar, and some keyboards. Then, I sent those audio files over to Jon, who started putting down ideas for a vocal melody. The files are simply WAV files that can be imported into any computer-based audio software, so even though Jon and I use different tools to record, the standardization of the files allows them to be compatible in our respective systems.

At that point, there's little difference between us being hundreds of miles away versus being in the same room. We'd use Facebook Messenger to discuss our various ideas and to coordinate what our next steps were. Every so often, we'd bounce down a rough mix to get an idea of how the song was progressing overall, and share that with each other as well. Could the same process happen back in the days of recording to tape? Sure, absolutely. But it would involve sending actual tapes back and forth, and hoping that our tape recorders were properly aligned and all that. The digital world is certainly better from a viewpoint of convenience, and both Jon and I are competent and experienced musicians who can record ourselves fairly well.

"Beacon" will be available for streaming, download, and purchase sometime soon. All proceeds for the song's sales are being donated to a charity for gun law reform and assisting victims of gun violence.

Anyway, once we determined that we'd captured all we wanted to record, I prepared the final files (we call them stems) of our recorded tracks... drums, percussion, acoustic and electric guitars, bass, several layers of keyboards and synthesizers, and of course vocals, making sure they all sounded as good as possible but stripping them of any effects. That's because they were headed up to Canada, where Spencer would be handling the mix. When delivering stems for mixing, you want to leave the mixing engineer room to do his or her creative work, which involves setting the levels of each sound source, adding effects so the instruments and vocals all sound like they're in a similar space, and much more. Mixing is as much an art as a science, and we're glad Spencer was willing to join the Claxton & Larson team, helping out a cause that he supports as much as Jon and I do.

So that's how it's done. For me, the process of constructing a song like that is always exciting as it comes together, and I am in high anticipation mode at the moment to see what Spencer will do with the tracks we've delivered to him.

The Show
Back on topic. After finishing whining about my muscle pains, I did indeed strap on the Takamine and did my show at Serenity Gardens, and I'm very glad I did; it was a really good one. Perhaps due to my current immersion in social activism, I picked a set list that included songs which referenced that topic. My audience at SL shows spans a wide range of ages and tastes. While it would be easy for me to take the safer path and only play older songs that were familiar to most everyone, I almost always choose to add some more underground indie music to my set. I think it's a good thing for people to expand their awareness of the huge amount of great music there is out there.

Speaking of people, we had a terrific crowd last night. It's not the size of the crowd, as I've said before; it's the quality. While we did have a good amount of people there, I was even more appreciative that they seemed to be really into the songs I was doing, and that's what makes for a great show for me.

Serenity Gardens set list...
Lost Cause (Beck)
Airport Bar (Martin Courtney)
De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da (The Police)
All Lives, You Say? (Wilco)
Pigs on the Wing - Parts 1/2 (Pink Floyd)
For What It’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield)
Carey (Joni Mitchell)
Hand In My Pocket (Alanis Morissette)
Carry Me Ohio (Sun Kil Moon)
Space Oddity (David Bowie)
Pretty Pimpin (Kurt Vile)
Dusty Rhodes (Lotus Plaza)

Gigantic thanks to all who cam to my show last night, with super duper special thanks to the following people who supported it!
Asimia Heron, CharlieMack Resident, Trouble Streeter, Misty McConach, Scout Zsun, IPA63 Resident, not4gods Resident, go2smoky Resident, Augy Barbosa, Asimia Heron, Alex Zelin, Kat Claxton, Christine Haiku, TheaDee Resident, Aurelie Chenaux, my lovely manager Maali Beck, and the great team at Serenity Gardens, Tilly Rose and Ilsa Wilde.

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