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Recording, and A Little Shameless Self-Promotion

Posted by Adam Kiesling on Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Well, I just wrapped up work on my first EP, I Wish I Was a Lizard in the Spring, which consists of 9 old-time tunes and songs. I recorded it at Dakota Dave Hull's Arabica studio, and most of the tunes were recorded live using one mic.

Dave had recorded Tim Eriksen's "Every Sound Below", which happens to be one of my favorite modern old-time recordings, a few years ago using the single mic technique. I really liked the sonic qualities of that record, and I wanted to try and capture a little bit of the same feeling.

It's interesting to try and get a good balance between voice and instrument when recording with one mic. I have a pretty strong voice, and tend to be a fairly quiet guitar player, so it took a little bit of adaptation on my part--mostly by trying to sing a little softer.

Maybe a little bit of history:  I had previously worked with Dave on my friend (and fantastic fiddler!) Meghan Dudle's record, "You Are Always in My Dreams" (I had suggested Dave's studio to Meghan because of the sound of Tim's record). I ended up playing quite a bit of guitar and banjo, and kind of enjoyed working with Mr. Hull. I started working on my own recording with Dave, and learned a lot as I went. I also started to feel a little more at ease in the studio. I still don't think I play as well at the studio as I do sitting on my couch in the living room, but it's getting there.

I've been working on that recording (tentatively titled "Unclouded Day") for the past 18 months. I didn't really have anything planned out in terms of what tunes or songs I wanted to record. I'd go in, record something, and end up working up a different arrangement of the song and re-doing it completely. Other times, the arrangement would kind of present itself. It really helps that the studio is in the basement of Dave's house, so there were a lot of one and two hour sessions where we'd work on one tune. If I had had to book a four or eight hour block of time, I would've really needed to have all my ducks in a row.

For some of the songs, we would track the voice separately. That in itself requires a different mindset; I'd have to sing the song in my head when recording the guitar part and also hope that I ended up with the correct number of verses. I also had some friends come in to add some fiddle, bass, Hawaiian guitar and banjo. Dave also added his baritone National to the mix on one or two tunes. I would say that I'm about 80% of the way there...I need to re-work a couple of lyrics, add some banjo to a couple of songs, and get a bass on a couple of tracks as well.

Anyways, I have a few gigs coming up where it'd be nice to have SOMETHING to sell. I had hoped to have "Unclouded Day" all wrapped up, but there were some time constraints and fiscal concerns, and I didn't feel like rushing it. I thought about it for a bit, and hit upon the idea of recording a solo EP--nothing fancy, just me, myself and a guitar or banjo, recording some of the songs and tunes that I might play at a live performance.

I ran the idea by Dave, and we looked at the calendar and decided that it could possibly work. We wouldn't have to do a lot of mixing on it since we were just using one mic, and since we were going to keep it to eight or nine tunes, we wouldn't have to spend all that much time in the studio. I had a couple of weeks to finalize some arrangements or work up some new songs, and into the studio I went. For the most part it went pretty I said above, I was getting more comfortable, and it was kind of fun to mess around with different takes, take some different approaches, and see what we liked. All in all, I think I spent a total of 8 - 10 hours in the studio for the EP.

While all this was going on, I designed the cover. I ended up using an illustration from Charles Livingston Bull of an iguana (I found it at the Library of Congress). A co-worker of mine was kind enough to help make sure that all the files were formatted correctly.

I just sent off all the files to the printer, and if everything goes right, I should have some physical copies in my hands two days before one of the gigs.

You can take a listen to it at the following link:

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