Home > Uncategorized > Dupont Back Porch notes…

Dupont Back Porch notes…

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“Dupont Back Porches” is available now

NOTES – Yea….so this happened. I’m not sure Bret had any idea what he was getting himself into.

We knew each other. We’d played a few shows together. I was a huge fan of his band “The Badlees” since the early 90s. (“Riversongs” was the second CD I ever bought). I think he’s a brilliant songwriter. After a recent show I said…..”hey man….we should make a record together”. Bret, ever the gentleman, said “yea man, that’d be cool.” Probably figured I was just making small talk. I wasn’t. I suck at small talk.

So I called him a few weeks later and reminded him that he said “yea man…that’d be cool”. In case he forgot. Then I said….”ok, when can we start?” He said something like…”um….er….well Monday is free…” I said…..”see you then” and then hung up before he could say “um…who is this again?”

So that Monday night saw me almost killing myself on that ridiculous roundabout off route 81 on my way to his studio in Dupont (I’ll never get used to that roundabout….ever, and I still have no idea how to get to the airport…it tells you “turn here” and then says “do not enter”….I still think somebody is fucking with us for a TV show or something). I had my guitar and case crammed with half completed lyric sheets and less than half completed melodies. I felt totally prepared because this is how I make all my records. It’s not normal but then neither am I.

The studio is small and dark and narrow and walled off from the world by a door thicker than a bank vault. It felt like I was walking into an Edgar Allan Poe short story down there. Bret, as usual, dressed head to toe in black, including the frames of his glasses. Deep voiced and elegantly mannered. We sat down and talked for 2 hours. About the world. About our kids (we both have 2 daughters around the same age). About music. About film. He had war stories. I had some too. We’re the same age. We’ve covered a lot of the same ground over the years. We were becoming friends.

It was getting late. I hadn’t even taken my guitar out of its case. Finally I said….”well…let’s try one.” He said….”ok, what do you wanna do?” I said…”I have no idea.” His look said….”well this is gonna be interesting…”

That first night we eventually cut 2 tracks I think.  I needed a bridge for “If I Could See Right Through You” and Bret came up with something that I added some lyrics to. And we were off. Cut it live with 2 guitars in one take (the problem with multiple takes is that it never sounds like it’s the first take again, because it isn’t. Profound? Maybe not but it is so…). I asked Bret to sing every other verse even though he didn’t know the melody, nor had any time to digest how the hell I could cram all those lyrics into a I-IV-V progression. He was learning that I liked to work fast….and that the word “rehearsal” to me meant tuning the guitar and counting 1-2-3. I think we did “Got To Be the Change” too. I heard the playback and said “we sound like a demented Simon and Garfunkel”. He said…”well…that’s kinda cool”. It was. Done.

And so we were off. First takes almost exclusively, unless one of Bret’s dogs invaded the studio or something equally catastrophic happened. If the bum note sounded like it fit, we let it go. If the chair squeaked, I’d say “that sounds cool…turn that part up.” Bret would layer on mandolin tracks or add what he called “singer-songwriter piano”. I wanted some harp but forgot mine…and didn’t want to slobber into his harmonicas, so Bret did the duty. Neither one of us gave a shit who did what. We were just looking for a certain sound. I gave him completed lyrics to “Orphan Train” and “Music in the Mud” and he cut what he assumed were just demos one night after I left. I heard them the next session and said…”perfect”. He said…”what?” I said…”in “Orphan Train” can you just add a harp solo that sounds like Springsteen’s “The River” and he said….”um…sure” and 30 seconds later he’d done so. I heard him sing the bridge in “Music In the Mud” and we both smiled at the same time. I said “you ever gonna do it better?” and he said “nope”. So. Done. Making music is easy when you work with Bret Alexander.

I can’t say the same thing about making music with me, because….well….there’s the phrasing thing.

I’m used to playing solo acoustic. So if I’m singing a song with a repeated chorus, I might sing it with different phrasing each time. Just because I can and because I get bored easy. That’s all well and good when you’re singing by yourself, but when you ask somebody to add a harmony vocal to the inconsistent warbling you just recorded, well, let’s just say that Bret’s hair was jet black when we started and now it contains stray gray.

His efforts on “Oh Mary” and “That Ring It Don’t Fit Your Finger Anymore” were herculean. By the final track we cut…”Dupont Back Porches”, he simply threw up his hands and said “singing harmony with you is like trying to catch a greased pig”. I pondered this and replied…”can’t argue with that.” And so by mutual consent there’s no doubled voices on that chorus.

So the record is done. It’s not perfect. I hear all sorts of things that aren’t supposed to be there. Or at least…..things that weren’t intended to be there. Deep breaths. My bracelet jangling against the guitar sound hole. I can hear myself searching for ways to end songs. Flubbed chords. Late arrivals. Dropped picks. Ragged timing. In short, all of the things that make live music live. If we tried to record the songs again, they might sound better, but they wouldn’t be better. Musical eggheads will know what I’m talking about.

I was talking with Bret last night and he mentioned something he’s always wanted to try. Writing AND recording an entire record (10 songs at least) in a single day. Now, let me remind you that I once wrote and recorded a song every week for 5 years running. Over 250 songs. So it’s not like I’m not fucking crazy too. But this? An entire record in a DAY? Absolute creative lunacy.

My response? Ain’t it obvious?

“When do we start?”

Sláinte.

–tf 3/31/2016

Get your copy of “Dupont Back Porches” here.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. April 4, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    Listened to the album. Like the laid back feel. Sounds like you guys had fun doing it. Also think it’s interesting what you did to “If You See Right Through Me…”. From your rootsy demo, to my blues rock version I recorded a few years back, I was interested to see where you would take this. You made it a rockabilly song! Love it.

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