I’ve been in this weird place in life right now where things are moving at light speed forward and days are busy and full, and also where, with my music, I am working countless hours and making seemingly no progress at all.

That happens. I wonder, I really do, if it is me procrastinating subconsciously on wrapping up new albums. It really is a scary thing… once you’re done it’s like… ok: does you likey? what should I work on now?

My thing is mixing. Mixing is when you put all the instruments together at a reasonable volume AND you somehow make it exciting AND you make it sound good on ALL stereos/headphones/cars. It’s not an easy feat and amazingly talented people make a living just doing that end of things. Paying a professional is a little pricey for me though, sadly. So sadly.

I would love nothing more than to take these tracks and send them off to someone to mix and master for me if for no other reason that tragically I get really really sick of these songs by the time I release an album. It’s not that they aren’t good songs, it’s that if they are I wouldn’t know.

Hearing them literally hundreds of times takes the excitement of what’s around the corner out of it. And I think that that is music’s big shazam, surprise, like comedy. Even if you’ve heard OK Computer 673 times, there’s a pretty good chance that you forgot how the tone of that guitar just makes sense for that solo, even though it shouldn’t. Something like that. Or is Caravan before or after Into The Mystic. Etc.

So today though it’s back to the grindstone. Honestly it would be a lot easier to mix my own material if I weren’t so addicted to bass. I listen to a lot of heavy low end music, not at all the more acoustic music I’m mixing. I cannot get enough bass. But too much bass drowns out the high end and it all sounds like mud.

I’ve been guilty of this bass addiction with pretty much every album I’ve ever released. This time I think I might try the recommended balance of things. That’s ok. It’s like following a recipe instead of (my preferred) throwing whatever you have in the kitchen together “artfully”. Recipe seems boring but could be the most amazing. Regardless it probably won’t be a disappointment. Intuitive kitchen-ing? Yeah. That can fail miserably.

I do not subscribe to this belief for songwriting though. No no no. The kitchen of songwriting (for me, don’t mind/care what others do) is not a place for cookbooks. Never ever. Maybe that’s why I’m so well known!

Yeah, I mean, the formula for big pop songs really works. But I just can’t help but feel that it is… not my thing to follow a song formula. And that’s a specific take on the process. The whole songwriter genre is a relatively new thing, but I do believe in it. That one person’s take on creating something is worth the tunneling required to follow/get there.

Well. There you have it.

So here’s the plan:

Finish mixing

Give you some pieces of the album along the way the next few months

Tour and see you and play



The first best thought when finishing an album (or two) is that revelation that a big project was indeed taken on and finished.

It takes a while. A lot of hours. I mean, you can do an album project in 2 weeks or 2 years. It could be the same music. It could be the same end product more or less. There is no end to the tinkering that can be done. The layering, the “perfecting”.

It’s like any big project. Starts as an idea, takes its mutations, many different hangups, lots of different things to learn, and then, finally, after that final push it becomes a reality. It’s important to remember the process.

When you record and mix your own stuff, it’s a bit different than handing it over to an engineer to finish off.

That’s where a good amount of critical feedback is good, from yourself mainly. I am stubborn, but that’s not why I don’t like to hear about the flaws until after I’m done. I do get feedback though, and lots of good ideas from friends. But as far as the “artistic” influence, I try to stay true to my instincts. On the other hand, sometimes your ears can’t hear it anymore. I’ve had a huge amount of feedback from my girlfriend and good friends and family on these albums. Volumes too loud or not loud enough, ideas on how to introduce a new part of the song, inspiration for the concept… sometimes I just needed someone to listen to it so I could watch their face during certain parts of songs.

Redwood Summer and Juneaurevoir came about as a concept. They both were about getting down to my more straight forward roots musically. Do what comes naturally, don’t over think it. Why haven’t I recorded an all cello instrumental album yet? I mean, it’s fun, it’s rewarding, and it can be enjoyed by a huge spectrum of people. And with the rootsy sound of Redwood Summer, it harkens back to my earliest albums: no self-censorship, no attempts at adhering to a certain sound per se, just songs straight up.

In retrospect Redwood Summer is very pop oriented, in the sense that most of the songs have a traditional verse chorus verse chorus bridge chorus format. I always thought that would sound formulaic, and it is formulaic, but you can’t tell, that’s not what I listen for anyways. All my favorite popular music has that going on, and, yes, it’s trite, it’s been done before, but it sounds good.

In retrospect Juneaurevoir could be more ‘perfect’. I have been nice and open to the different tones and sounds. I didn’t use much in terms of effects, but I had thought I would use no effects whatsoever, like a recording of chamber music. I don’t have written versions of the songs even. Someday I’ll do that. This is the first in what I hope is a long string of cello albums.

Anyways, after mixing for 80+ hours the past couple weeks after work, I am struck by how big every ‘little’ project is.

But getting it done feels amazing. It makes it all worth it. I’m just waiting for a call and then they get mastered, and then I don’t get (have) to work on them any more…!

You can pre-order them now. They’ll be at itunes in September, and CDs will be available 9/9/9.

Thanks for stopping by!

Spent the weekend sorting out dramas in my world and also putting the final touches on the new Cello album JUNEAUREVOIR.

Mixing cello can be pretty rough. It’s so full of bass, obviously, but the more you pull back on that bass, the more tinny the high ends seem.

Also, it’s one of those instruments you just want to cover with the frosting of reverb. But I’ve found that it is very very easy to go overboard on cello reverb. It has its own resonance which gets lost the more stacks of reverb you throw down.

As far as dramas of my life go? Well, let’s just say that plans, even when huge and pivotal, the big boulders of plans, can slip out of place and wreak havoc. More to come on that later.

If your are interested in how I record the cello (ie you are a recording nerd like me), read on!

I’m sure some people have figured this out, and that nicer microphones can make it sound great. I have figured my own “method” out on this last album. It is simple, not profound, and is as follows:

I take my nicer mic, an Audio Technica that is powered, a fairly small condenser mic, it looks sort of like this. It’s not that one. Anyways, it has a full bodied sound and also picks up the “icy” part of the cello, those highs where the bow moves across the string. I put that in front, facing the bridge, about six inches from it, straight on, or as much as possible.

I don’t believe in mic’ing the f-hole. Too many fluctuations in tone and none of that bow sound action. I happen to like the bow sounds, even on “perfect” classical recordings. Or, I should say, especially on “perfect” classical recordings. My favorite recording of the Bach Suites is Pablo Casals’ very early recordings of them. One take, wax cylinder, lots of imperfections, no retakes, lots of real natural beauty. Perfect and authentic sounding to me. You can really hear the bow moving across the string. I like it.

And then, and this is odd, but it works, I decided that it is ok to record with a pickup if the pickup picks up some tones that a mic just can’t. So I used my Shadow Nanoflex Cello Pickup and recorded the two, mic and pickup, together. The blend of the tones allows for a more full tone. I tend to roll off the low end on the Audio Technica, and also to roll off the high end of the pickup. Low end of the mic is full of hum, high end of the pickup is full of hiss. But they compliment each other nicely.

So what you end up with is like, if you had your ear right up against the cello PLUS you have a prime spot seated in front of the cello. I like the blend of the two.

Aaron Ross & The Heirs Of Mystery

I’ve been working with Aaron Ross & Cody Feiler for the past 9 months, first recording an album, then playing lots of shows from Portland to the Bay Area.

Last night Dana from Station To Station put the final touches mastering the album we began recording last labor day weekend.

I’m happy to say it sounds great, and we’re looking forward to getting it out into the world. We’ll have some copies available at our CD Release/Benefit for St. Joe’s on April 24th.

Spring is opening up around here and this strange hanging winter will be passed. That’s good! It’s been productive though, I will admit.

I’ve been mixing the tracks on “Redwood Summer” that have drums. Make the kick drum big, make the cellos up front. Make the guitars ring out. Make the voice sound alright.

I like the initial results I’ve been getting from some very rudimentary but helpful tips (rolling off the low end of instruments that don’t carry low end, for example). It’s never been my forte, mixing. Unfortunately it is possibly the most important part of the process. Good albums just FEEL right. That’s mixing. And mastering. I hope I can afford to master these!

The good news is is that the instrument set I’m using for all these is similar. So, in most cases, once I find a cello “sound” that feels right, I can apply it to all these albums.

Also I’m shying away from effects. Maybe here and there, I’ve always loved some weird aspect in the sound, but, I’m finally beginning to appreciate the sound of the room it was recorded in, as opposed to “gothic cathedral” reverb setting.

I’ll post a remix here soon, so that you can hear what is happening…

Thanks for stopping by!