Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Look at 2013

According to my last blog post date, this was quite a busy year!

Jeremy Messersmith returned to the Library with Producer, Andy Thompson to record his newest album, "Heart Murmurs" set to be released on February 4th on Glassnote Records (Mumford and Sons, Phoenix, Chvrches). Jeremy also came in as a guest vocalist on the next two albums I will be mentioning as well...

John Mark Nelson wanted to take a new approach to recording his new record. Instead of tracking everything himself in his basement with a single microphone, he came to the Library and asked me to co-produce. The album is set to be released in the spring of 2014.

Greycoats released our full album "World of Tomorrow" in January of 2013 and have had several videos released and featured on various news websites and blogs.

Jourdan Myers is a talented young artist who came to the Library with hopes of finding her artistic self on her newest release. "Ruin Me With Love" is also slated to be released this spring.

The Minnesota Beatle Project, though sadly in it's last year, had two songs from the Library; Greycoats did our version of Nowhere Man and 2013 Grammy Award winning group The Okee Dokee Bros. came in and tracked "Mother Nature's Son" along with Jake Armerding on mandolin and fiddle and myself on upright bass.

Personally, I have a real love for improvised music. Whether it is jazz, ambient, avant-garde or some mixture of them all. My long-time band Put Down the Muffin decided, after an eight-year hiatus, to get back into the studio to finish an album we started years ago. To be released in the spring/early summer. A new project that happened seemingly out of nowhere is a group called Mass and is comprised of Steve Good (drummer for Sara Bareilles), Jasper Nephew (electric guitarist for Owl City) and myself on bass, Fender Rhodes, samples and turntable. In two days we captured a full album of mostly improvised music. It has been sitting in the wings just waiting to be mixed. Whenever it is released this year, we will all be very excited.

This year also marks two new faces to the Library. Brendan Jensen is my newest assistant and local producer/engineer Levi Stugelmeyer has moved out of his studio "Cat Mansion" and into the Library, a room more affectionately known as "The Reading Room." 

Here are some other folks who chose to record at the Library this year…

Ashleigh Still
Tides of Winter
Jonathan Rundman
Sarah Monson
Spirit Garage
Trish Bruxvoort Colligan
Jason Harms Quartet
The Poor Nobody's
Josh Cleveland
Cold Fusion Sax Quartet
Sara Groves
Derek Harlow
Melody Olson
Tyler Tholl
Russ Young
Brian Bates

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Look at 2012

2012 was a great year at the Library. It marked the first complete year in operation with zero debt. The build-out loan was paid off and all the gear has been purchased and paid in full ever since. The Library introduced a new, young face in Troy Groenke, who started off as more of an intern and has blossomed into a full fledged assistant/co-engineer. The addition of Troy to the studio has expanded our hours of operation greatly, allowing us to churn out more great sounding records than we were ever capable of before.

Greycoats released an EP titled Helicline, featuring four songs from the upcoming album; World of Tomorrow, which will be released on January 26th, 2013. Both the EP and full album were recorded at the Library and produced by Jeremy Ylvisaker (Andrew Bird, Alpha Consumer, Guitar Party) and myself (Matt Patrick).

The Brighton, with their followup to their self-titled album, released A Wild Hunger. This time we took some educated risks and allowed Ben's romantic, tenor voice to be accompanied by a slightly more aggressive and artistic backdrop. We enlisted Jake Hanson (Halloween Alaska, All Eyes) to add his signature electric guitar sound to the rest of us; (Zach Miller, Aaron Fabbrini, Matt Patrick, Lyndsay Peterson, Kip Jones) who have been playing with The Brighton since the first release.

Rachel Kurtz and I have wanted to record together for a very long time and finally made it happen this year with her album; Broken and Lowdown. Steve Goold (Owl City), Aaron Fabbrini (Sara Groves, The Brighton), Tyler Burkum (Mat Kearney, Missy Higgins, Leagues) and I all played on it but also enlisted folks like Tommy Barbarella (Prince) and Chris Koza (Rogue Valley) to bring their offering to this modern-Motown sounding album.

Vicky Emerson recorded her much anticipated followup to Long Ride, which she recorded with me in 2009. For this album; Dust & Echoes we enlisted JT Bates (The Pines, Alpha Consumer) to play drums (Steve Goold, who played on Long Ride had just been snapped up by Owl City for an international tour). Long Ride was a rich, acoustic, close sounding album and Dust and Echoes found it's richness in lush verbs and more distant and electric sounds.

Deb Carlson and I share a deep devotion for the music of Emmylou Harris. After showing her my favorite Emmylou albums (Wrecking Ball, Red Dirt Girl and Stumble into Grace) she agreed that we should head that direction production-wise. Deb has a beautifully classic-folk voice, which is accompanied on her new album Tresses of Green, with acoustic and electronic elements. With the help of Zach Miller, Aaron Fabbrini, Troy Groenke and Tyler Burkum, I believe we made a really beautiful CD for a beautiful songwriter.

Soul Rumination is a band that was formed out of another band called Dizzy. They were what we call in the business a "jobber" band. Mark, the main songwriter for SR called me and asked if I would like to help him transition from playing a couple 2+ hour sets per night (mainly to diners, drinkers and dancers) to being more of an artistic expression where they would play a 45 minute set of all original music at local clubs. Mark and I co-wrote a bunch of these tunes and formed this band into a fusion of gypsy-soul with hints of americana and Motown.

Here are some other fine folks who have been through the studio in 2012...
Brynn Andre (2012 Christmas EP)
Black Blondie (new album forthcoming)
Jake Armerding (mixes for a songwriters version of a CSA)
Sara Groves (vocals for a 2012 Christmas compilation)
Matt Dooley (full album)
Julia Douglass (EP)
Sarah Kallies (single)
Hope Community Church - Hope Hymns volume 1 (full album)
Angi Putney (new album forthcoming)
Jeremy Sanoski (mixing)
Saint Anyway (new album forthcoming)
Staci Frenes (bedtracks for full album)
Alex Masters (tracking)
Jonathan Jerez (tracking)
Ponyboy (EP)
Jason Gray (overdubs for 2012 Christmas release)
Michele Denise Michaels (full album)
Anthony Cox
MN Adult and Teen Challenge (full album)
Elgin Foster - The Pluralistic Society - mixing and various tracking

I was also excited to be playing electric guitar with John Mark Nelson at First Avenue for the Minnesota Beatles Project. John Mark Nelson and I will be producing his next record here at the Library, which will be released in 2013.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Where it all began...

I really enjoy giving tours of the Library, especially to those who have never stepped foot in a recording studio. One of the most common questions I get from people is; “So, how long have you been recording?” I used to begin by saying that I got my first four-track cassette recorder in high school, but I have since realized that my start was much earlier than that.

My parents inherited a piano when I was 5 or 6 years old and I remember the first time my mom sat down to play some songs she learned when she was a child. I also remember being stunned that my mother was able to keep such a skill hidden from me for my whole life. I thought playing an instrument was only something professionals do, so watching my own mother playing piano for the first time, may very well have been the moment that started me down the path of being a full-time musician. Just about every day I sat at that old piano and played for hours and hours on end, figuring out that; these three notes together sounded “happy” (major triad) and these three notes together sounded “sad” (minor triad). Being too young to take lessons, I certainly didn’t know how to read music, so I just made up my own parts and songs. It was thrilling.

A couple years later I received my first boom-box, a personal stereo system that had built in speakers, a tape deck and built in stereo microphones. I loved recording myself on that thing. I loved hearing the playback of the funny voices I would talk and sing in. I also really loved recording my piano songs and even started playing along with them, often times figuring out a vocal harmony or secondary piano part to what was coming from the speakers. One day I had an astonishing revelation; I borrowed my sister’s boom-box to play back a song that I had just recorded. Simultaneously, I hit record on my own, which allowed me to play and sing along with what I had just recorded. There were several attempts to rewind that tape to play and record a third and fourth part, however the tape degradation was just terrible, causing the first part I had recorded to get lost in a sea of tape hiss and background noise. I had no idea, but at the age of 8 years old I was actually doing multi-track recording!

Never underestimate the power of a young, impressionable mind. I believe this path was laid out for me long before I really knew what it even was.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Make it work...

I had a conversation with a client recently where I likened certain aspects of my job as a record producer to a designer on the reality tv show Project Runway. If you haven't seen the show, I actually recommend it. Thousands of clothing designers audition to be on the show but only the best 15 or so make it. They are given several challenges to design an outfit with very little money, very little time and often times ridiculous materials. Oh, and they need to wow a panel of judges who are very well known in the fashion world.

At the end of the show, the designers are whittled down to the top three. Those three are given $8000 and about four months to create a collection, which best showcases what they are able to do and say as a fashion designer, and present it during New York City's fashion week. It is an interesting insight into the creative world and whether you are into fashion or not, the show is fascinating.

I have found that it is in both of these realms; the small budget, time crunch, "Make it work" projects and in the larger budget, extended focus, "Make it great" projects that I relate to. For most of the episodes on project runway, each designer is given a direction, 30 minutes to sketch an idea, a small amount of money, and 24 hours to complete their garment. With each runway show I am amazed how some of these designers were able to actually showcase a design that is beautiful, functional and fashionable, given the time constraints. Of course, the entire time they are creating their works, they are undoubtedly thinking to themselves; "This doesn't fairly represent me! I am able to do so much more, given the opportunity." Which is precisely what they are working towards as they avoid elimination, getting through some of these ridiculous challenges.

There are many, many cases where people come into my studio with very small budgets, very little time and in most cases, have never been through the recording process at all. Hence, the similarity to one of the Project Runway challenges. I think to myself; "What can I do to really send something out of here that is impressive, regardless of the limitations." It is then with a ghastly amount of focus and speed that we make our way towards the short-lived end of these challenges. I find that I am usually satisfied, as this musical "garment" gets sent out. At times it has the right kind of beauty, function and fashion, leaving me with a wowed sense of accomplishment and surprise that; "I actually pulled this one off!" More often than not, I still see the unfinished edges, crooked hems, and internal knowledge that, "given the time constraints, I had to use glue instead of thread." I am often left with the thoughts of wishing I had added that final finishing touch...

On the other side of things, there are the people who come to me with a budget that allows me to really showcase what I am able to do. Oddly enough, those budgets and time constraints aren't that far off from those on the tv show as they prepare for fashion week! In those months, I am able to carefully craft a collection of audio that I am confident in and that definitely has my personal stamp on it.

I find that the biggest difference with regards to what I do, is that the general public is not along for the ride for every step of the way. In my world, each project says; "Produced and mixed by Matt Patrick at the Library recording studio," but (albeit appropriate) doesn't mention anywhere, the budget or total time to completion. Therefore, my work is being critiqued by the masses, regardless of the constraints.

So here we have two different approaches to recording projects; five months of working terribly hard, creating on a more thoughtful and masterful level for my clients, with the ability to really showcase my production aesthetic (not unlike the collections shown at Bryant Park during fashion week), sitting on the proverbial shelf right next to the bands that come in last minute, with little-to-no experience, a "Go, go, go!" and "Make it work!" mentality and a mere two days to track and mix a full EP worth of material.

Either way, in either circumstance, I give it my all so that I may send something down the runway that I can be proud of (or at least pleasantly surprised by!).

Friday, August 6, 2010

The New Standards (and more...)

I know what it is like, you have a bookmark folder full of blogs that you like to read. But there is this one individual who seems to have slowed... to... a... stop. Well, I am no longer that guy. Honestly, the only reason for such a long hiatus is simply because the Library has never been busier.

Annie Fitzgerald's album, "In Good Time" was mastered in July, I have worked on several mixes for Jonathan Rundman, am just getting going on mixes for a band called "A Thousand Falls," I have been deep into the tracking for a southern rock/country project for Chris Harms and an EP for Erin Kate. Another artist you will soon see me blogging about is Heatherlyn. We are rounding the corner to the last set of tunes for preproduction before heading into tracking.

I also had the distinct privilege of capturing the bed tracks for the forth-coming album by the New Standards. This is what I will focus on for this post.

Directly across the hall from the Library is the rehearsal space of Dave Salmela and John Munson. Dave plays piano for the Twilight Hours and also helps create and perform the music for Electric Arc Radio. John Munson has been a member of a couple of Minneapolis bands with critical acclaim; Trip Shakespeare and Semisonic. These days John is playing upright bass for the band The New Standards with another Minneapolis music icon, Chan Poling of the Suburbs on piano and Steve Roehm a virtuosic vibraphone player (who also plays drums for the Twilight Hours).

We had talked a couple months ago about what it might look like to have them record at the Library. John has a Steinway baby grand piano across the hall in their space and I had mentioned that it wouldn't be terribly difficult to run several long microphone cables and headphone extension all the way across the hall so that Chan could play in there. It worked out great as there was absolutely no cross-instrument bleed into the piano mic's, which is often the case. We tracked the upright bass in my piano/organ room and put the vibraphone out in the big room, that is until another local heavy-hitter, Ken Chastain, arrived to play drums. The vibraphone moved into the vocal booth and the drums took the main room for a small handful of tunes.

Three days later a full album of bedtracks were tracked. They are finishing up the rest on their own but am delighted to have played such a significant role in the making of this album.

Here are some photos from the session...
Steve Roehm on the vibraphone

John Munson on upright bass

Ken Chastain on drums and percussion

cables running from the Library across the hall into the New Standards rehearsal space...

through the corridor...

and connected to the mics picking up the Steinway piano played by Chan Poling

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Marc Broussard and Jason Gray

I have had a few distractions this month from Annie Fitzgerald's album, which I will be getting back on track with soon. Quick mix projects, one-time tracking dates, etc. Some of them are small but mighty, like these two... Atlantic recording artist, Marc Broussard is in the mixing stage of his upcoming record. There was one song that needed some more guitar work done before going to mix and they asked my good friend Tyler Burkum, who regularly plays with Mat Kearney, to play on it. Tyler and I spent a day working on the guitar tracks for a song called "Our Big Mistake," which has the potential for being a first single for the album. I sincerely hope for more of this kind of work in the future. Centricity recording artist, Jason Gray also came in for a few days to track a couple Christmas songs for a compilation album featuring the artists on Centricity, obviously set to release at the end of the year. We tracked an original Christmas song he wrote called "Love Has a Name" and came up with our own rendition of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" Work involving record labels is interesting because I will have been done with my part of it 6-8 months before it is released as "new" to the public.

Annie Fitzgerald's project will also be in the mixing stage soon. Next up is local Twin Cities artist, Erin Kate.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Annie Fitzgerald

Last year I produced a record for Vicky Emerson, who is originally from the Twin Cities but now lives in New York City. After Vicky's record was released another Minnesota/Big Apple transplant named Annie Fitzgerald heard it, met Vicky and asked where she recorded it. With only a recommendation under her arm, Annie came to Minneapolis to see the studio and meet with me. It seemed to be a really good fit for both of us and we began scheduling out the album.

What made Annie different than many of my clients was her understanding that it all begins with the song. Songs that are not very well written can be aided by good production, however it is still, at the core a bad song (of course, music is subjective and what is bad to one might be great to another) however, you can take a great song and have bad production and it is still great. Have you ever stopped to wonder why that is? Here is a great example; Iron and Wine released an EP titled The Sea and the Rhythm and a full album called The Creek Drank the Cradle and from a purely sonic viewpoint they sound terrible. However, the songs and performances transcend the production to the point that you would want them no other way. The bad sounds somehow became great. Let me pause and say that there are countless hours of recorded music out there with this quality of recording that haven't had that same reaction. This is due to the levels of song-writing, performance and the overall skill in the musicians. There is a pretty good chance no one said, "Hey, that sounds really rough and cool, like Iron and Wine." They probably just blamed their bad listening experience on the awful production, but in reality it is really just a bad performance of songs that are at the start, really not very good. So again I say, the song and performance of that song is what has the ability to transcend the production. Great production can certainly aid a not-so-great song. A great song with bad production is still pretty cool! What I hope for in my world is the combination of a great song with great production.

Annie came in with a clear understanding of this. You know when you pull up to the car wash and you need to make a decision as to which car wash you want? Just a simple quick soap and rinse? Or a more in depth cleanse. Well, Annie wanted to pull out of the stall with a shiny, clean, freshly waxed automobile. Full service for me means that we sit down and pour ourselves into every single line, melody and chord choice at the start. This way, we can move into recording the bed tracks with a sense of clarity and unequivocal direction. Where I normally spend two or three days on preproduction, we spent nearly two weeks. I wish I had the luxury of doing this with all of my clients. I actually wish there was a button on the way in that helped define what they want. Simple wash or a full cleanse, rinse and wax.

After the songs were set we scheduled the band to come in. We used a couple of the musicians that were on Vicky's record. Steve Goold on drums and Tyler Burkum on electric and acoustic guitars. Annie brought her own bassist from NYC, Pete O'Neill, who is an accomplished player in his own right. It was great to have him on board! Everyone agreed that the sessions seemed fairly effortless for all three days.

Overall, this album has a nice blend of Annie's greatest influences; Patty Griffin, Ray LaMontagne, Shawn Colvin and Damien Rice with just a hint of Ani Difranco thrown in for good measure. She finished all her vocals before heading back to New York. At the moment, I am adding my own pieces to it, Hammond organ, Wurlitzer electric piano and other unique instrumentation. Next up will be my dear friend, Ashley Ewing playing piano and then I will begin arranging some string parts. The album as a whole should be done in May.

Stay tuned for the fall release of Annie Fitzgerald's "A Thousand Tiny Lakes"