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Within These Walls (2008)
This little mini album was the first release I ever put out. Recorded in the spring and summer of 2008, It was always intended to become a full length album and a year later a few of these songs did end up making it onto my full length debut 'With Hindsight'
The only reason I chose to release these songs as mini album at the time was so that I could have have something to show people while playing shows over the summer. During the summer of 2008 I spent some time in Nashville where I was able to meet many like minded songwriters, journalists and other industry people and I knew that I needed some kind of EP to hand out / shop around. I had just turned 18 and I wanted to start making a name for myself as a singer songwriter.
Not much came of the Nashville experience but I was able to meet some interesting people and play some shows in and around Music Row. I was also allowed to tour some famous old recording studios and meet lots of record label people which was pretty cool. All my networking got me was a tiny write up in a 2008 issue of American Songwriter which still remains the only time my name has appeared in a popular magazine.
I had such lofty goals and ambitions when I released this mini album and although things did not go the way I had hoped they would, I am still very happy to be making music and if I could go back I don't think I would change a thing. After all, my love for music it's not as much based around achieving goals as it is based on a love for the process of making it and the journey that the process takes you on.
The guitar playing is amateur and some of the lyrics are kind of cringe but hey, it's my first ever release and I recorded it when I was 17 years old. And although the whole thing is pretty juvenile, it's still important to me to preserve this one because it's ground zero for me as a songwriter and I want to be 100% honest about where I started. Humble beginnings...
With Hindsight (2009)
This is the first full length album that I ever made. I started recording these songs in the spring of 2008. My good friend Nick Falco, who was the vocal coach that I had been working with closely since the age of 13, had recommended that I record my new songs with his roommate Marc Bert who was a very talented recording engineer and with whom he shared an apartment in Rolling Meadows.
I agreed, and after meeting Marc we quickly became friends. We spent many long nights recording these acoustic songs in his bedroom. He had a good selection of mics and really knew how to get a great guitar and vocal sound. I recorded all the guitars in his bedroom with him sitting off to the right of me at his mixing desk with his headphones on watching the wave forms closely on the PC monitor. Once I finished a guitar track I'd quickly then go record the vocals in a tiny closet by the bathroom surrounded by shirts, jackets and dresses and I loved every minute of it. I really sang my ass off in that clothing closet.
After recording the first few tracks with Marc and putting together what would become the mini album Within These Walls in 2008, we were able to get a feel for each other and a sense of how we both liked to work. We then really got into a strong groove and were able to generate a vast wealth of material. Ultimately we recorded about 30 plus tracks and chose these 12 from that batch. The other 18 were interesting exercises in songwriting and recording but for one reason or another just didn't make the cut.. You know how it goes when you're starting out.
This was the first time I had the opportunity to work with a talented engineer that was equally as passionate about music as I was. Marc & Nick both taught me so much and I am forever grateful to them for giving me a way to realize my vision. I was a teenager at the time & was very naive to the wider world of music but I didn't care. I was making my music my way and that was all that mattered.
I thought that there would be more colors in outer space.. (2010)
This 6 song EP is a condensed version of an album I started making in 2009. Right around the time that I moved to Chicago I was writing many songs on the piano for the first time. I was aware that my skills with the instrument were very low but it was quite exciting trying to write songs on a new instrument.
The original album had 15 tracks in total. However, upon its completion in early 2010, I did not release it online due to a complete loss of confidence. The harsh fact that I ultimately realized is that the majority of the songs on the album were just not very good. And that was no fault of Marc, who once again recorded mixed and mastered the album. A lot of the time I think he was sort of humoring my weird ideas and experiments, even if he thought some of them were a little half baked. I'm very grateful that Marc always encouraged me to try any idea that popped into my head, no matter how unorthodox or outright ridiculous it may have sounded to him at the time. He was a great mentor and guiding force.
Despite losing confidence in the original 15 track version, I did come to realize that there were a few gems buried in the muck and after many years of letting these songs collect dust I have decided to cut out all the fat and re-release it as a 6 song EP. Although the songs are far from great, I feel that they deserve to be released because they are a starting point for something and I don't need to feel ashamed of where I started as a songwriter. All the songs that remain are the ones worth keeping. At least I think so anyway.
This album also marks the last time Marc Bert and I would work together. Looking back on my early solo period, I really see now how much of a godsend Marc was for me. Working with him on my first three releases was so much fun and he taught me so much about the art of recording music. By the time we started making this one, we were getting a lot more ambitious about how and where we recorded. The first two releases were all done in the bedroom of the small apartment he shared with Nick Falco. But this time around he took his mobile equipment to a bunch of different locations, my favorite of which being the nave of a big Methodist church in Mt. Prospect, Illinois where we recorded drums and a beautiful Steinway grand piano.
I love the sound of all the tracks Marc and I recorded together in these early solo years. They all have such a loose feeling to them while still sounding very clean with just the right balance of polish and rawness. I didn't know that this would be the last time I would work with Marc but I was also starting to use Garageband around this time after buying my first MacBook and I suppose Marc could see that I was beginning to become more interested on recording more on my own. I was still just 19 and had so much to learn and I think Marc wanted me to get out there and figure it out for myself.
It was the end of one era and the dawn of a new one. The first decade of the new millennium was over and the 2010s would see me abandon making music under my name and form the collective You Me & The People which eventually would evolve into Nature's Neighbor. But now that so much time has gone by, I really look back on my solo era with a lot of fondness and even a hint of pride. I'm glad that I can preserve this first era of my musical life instead of sweeping it under the rug. To me, it feels like the prologue to an epic story. These three solo releases are where it all started and I had no idea about the amazing musical journey I was about to embark upon in the years to come.
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