Welcome to the second installment of Behind the tracks. In part I I recounted the story of how I met Jesse Zimmerman, the inspiration for Gone But Not Forgotten. In part II I would like to tell you about the origin of The Beginning and Going Home.
Back in the mid 2000’s I was working as a bassist on cruise ships. In those days the main theater was not utilized very much so us musicians used to go in there to practice. One persons’s practice session quickly turned into a jam session as more of us showed up. During one of the jams I had an idea for a chord progression, but the drummer was feeling the phrase in a different way than I did. We stopped so I could try to explain to him where I wanted the phrase to start, but I was’t able to explain it in a way that he could feel it. He said to me, “Dude, write a melody for the progression that shows me how you want it.” So that’s exactly what I did. The result you hear is The Beginning.
I was so inspired by my results with The Beginning that I wrote another song right away. By this point I had been out on ships for a while and was beginning to feel a bit homesick. Going Home represented the excitement and relief you feel when you are finally returning home after a long journey.
Both of these songs were recorded live on the ship. Of course, there are no recording studios on ships. The theater proved to be a good spot to record, but during the day it was sometimes occupied by bingo, dance classes, or meetings. In addition to that, every time the ship set sail the engines vibrated the entire theater and made a lot of noise. As you can imagine this is not exactly conducive to recording. The only time we could have several hours to ourselves with no interruptions and no noise was late at night on Wednesdays. The engine noise didn’t start until we set sail around 3:30 a.m.
On top of that I had to round up the musicians after their normal gig which meant heading them off before they could get sucked into the bar.
“Hey we are recording tonight, remember?”
“Uh, oh yeah, uh, I’ll be there after I have a couple of drinks.”
Good thing those six packs of Coronas were so cheap on the ship. They made excellent bait to get my thirsty brethren back on the stage where I needed them. That meant we got into the theater around midnight. Setting up, positioning mics, and setting levels took about an hour so we actually pressed record around 1 a.m. That gave us about 2-2.5 hours to really get into the groove and get some good takes. Keep in mind that at this point I only had two mics to work with so if someone made a mistake or the bass was too loud (very likely, haha) there were no overdubs. We simply went back and played the whole song again as a band. If we couldn’t get good takes we would have to wait until next Wednesday. I remember getting to bed that night around 5 in the morning.
Luckily for me the musicians were excellent and we recorded 2-3 takes of each song and the last one of each was just about perfect. I have to give credit to Kuba Kujawa on guitar, Emmet VanEtten on drums, and T.A. Williams on keyboards. Not only did these guys learn my songs in about ten minutes flat, but they listened to each other intently, played sensitively when called for and rocked full out when it was time to rock out. Perhaps it’s overly self-deprecating, but apart from writing them, I just played the bass on these two tunes.
So that is the story of the late night recording session in the middle of the ocean that gave me two of the best performances I have ever recorded. I wish I could go back and record 20 more songs like that. But lightning never strikes twice. I am lucky to have captured all that we did.
Credit Image: https://unsplash.com/@bobburk3