Reaching New Heights With ALOFT

After completing Hurtin’ Up My Heart, I knew I was on my way …

Having managed to produce a professional sounding track with Hurtin’ Up My Heart, I was ready to push forward and finish more record-quality songs. It wasn’t a conscious move, but in the end I was glad that the next song I finished showcased a very different side of my writing and playing.

Aloft is based on one of the first chord progressions I ever wrote, way back in the 80’s. What really moved me to finally record it was when I learned how to program the built in drums on my Korg D3200 studio workstation. When I found this Brazilian Percussion kit and started messing around with it, I just found myself jamming the Aloft chord progression over it and I was off and running.

Writing the bass track for this was a blast too. I love putting together a creative, unusual bass line that adds a whole new dimension to a composition, and I think that happened here. Once I recorded the leads (which was such a blast), the last thing that bought it all together was working with StudioPros.com to have one of their pros record a flute track.

I’ll never forget when I first listened to the completed track, and then listened again, and again and again! I wish I knew who played the flute because I would really like the thank them (StudioPros players are faceless and nameless, for various reasons, but they are very talented, real deal studio professionals).

I’m really proud of this track. I’ll remember when my wife Christine first listened to it and pronounced it “Amazing!” I have to agree – this is a real highlight of my musical undertakings so far. I look forward to producing more tracks of this quality in the future, but this song is always going to be a beautiful, soaring, slowly building moment in time that I can relive over and over each time I hear it. I hope it moves you too.

The video is a simple one, consisting of pictures of birds in flight that I assembled using the ‘timeline’ style tool Vuvox, which is now no longer available on the Internet (image sources are all identified in the video).

 

Bringing in the Pros and Hurtin’ Up My Heart

Hurtin’ Up My Heart was a watershed moment for me. With the backing of LA studio professionals on drums and bass, and a strong chorus that featured Christine joining me on backing vocals again I had, after years of learning and upping my game, produced a professional sounding rock song! Cranking this baby up in my car, when that break comes in the middle with the trade off between voice and guitar and the drums and bass pounding underneath slightly reminiscent of a Van Halen tune (to my ears at least) … wow, I just get a tear in my eye.

The song is sort of a middle-aged version of the “teen angst” songs that have been standard rock and roll fodder for decades. When having a family gets challenging and you just want to go hide in your basement and play a bluesy rock song, you can find yourself thinking, “This day is never gonna end … and when she stops, just gonna start up again!“. Which feels a bit similar to being a teenager trapped in your house with no where to go, being bored and frustrated and just wanting to do as you please. This in turn reminded me of various incidents from my youth, and it all kind melded together into the lyrics in the song.

Had a ton of fun making this video too, using a bunch of cool tech tools. The coolest part is where my son Ian makes me rise up out of the iPad, and then later I’m jamming on the moon (with the help of Adobe After Effects)!

Hurtin’ Up My Heart turned out to be the first song I completed that ultimately made the cut for Keeping The Dream Alive.

 

My Blue Eyed Girl (and Continuous Improvement)

So, the years rolled by, and our third child was born – a daughter! My little girl Jordan was the inspiration for the song I am sharing here.

In 2007 we were in the fortunate position of being able to build an extension on our house, and in the process I built a studio in what used to be our garage. After a decade on hiatus from recording, I was back in action! I bought a Korg D3200 recording console and got busy.

The key to getting to the point where the recordings I was making would become professional quality was continuous improvement – a mantra I try to live by. With the new recording equipment and a dedicated space for working, I was off to a good start, but there was plenty more to learn. A coworker helped me get smarter about mics and I bought a good quality Shure Condenser mic.

The next big step was to try professional mixing, which was now more affordable than ever thanks to evolving Internet technology and the advent of services like StudioPros.com – a full service professional recording studio that was online! For very affordable prices, musicians can get instrument tracks, professional mixing and mastering, and other services, transferring files digitally as needed. This was pretty amazing – a decade prior it took a lot of money and a lot of time to do what you could now do in practically no time from the comfort of your home for a few hundred bucks.

My Blue Eyed Girl was inspired by the joyous wonder of my little girl, and the hope that her future would be as bright as the twinkle in her eye! This was the first song that I used StudioPros for – I had them mix the track. I’ve never been thrilled with the vocals on this track and the instrumentation could be improved on, but the mix sounded pretty good … I was definitely getting closer to a more professional sound. My wife sings backup on this with me. My favorite part of this song is the video. I had a lot of fun using a variety of digital tools, and the cool photo effects available at Photofunia.com, to make it.

Next … Bringing in the Pros and Hurtin’ Up My Heart

And Then There Were Three (Kids, That is!)

No sooner had I taken a stab at (what was then) the brave new world of computer based recording and self-production when along came our second child, and the battle for free time to play and record was more or less lost, at least for a while.

Time Flies

I often tell the story of how I had purchased a dual deck tape recorder in the mid 90’s, and how I had an almost Rip Van Winkle-esque moment years later, realizing how much I had gotten totally sidetracked by life. One day in 2004 or so I found myself staring at the tape deck and wondering what the heck was on the tape sitting in the once-new but now long ignored machine. I fired it up and was listening to the song idea I had apparently been working on the last time I used it, when suddenly I hear (in the background on the recording) a baby crying followed by my voice saying “I’m coming!”. That’s when I recalled the night I made that recording – it was the night after Dylan was born, 7 years prior in 1997! Christine and our newborn son had stayed in the hospital overnight and Ian (then 2 years old) and I had come home. I could hardly believe that seven years had gone by – I could almost hear the wooosshh! – and I hadn’t touched my recording equipment once in all that time.

Over the years while the kids were really young, I still played a bit and wrote from time to time. Having to play my acoustic guitar pretty quietly while the kids slept had the gradual effect of leading me to appreciate “folky” singer-songwriters more than I had when I was younger. As the first decade of the new century rolled on, I soon became of fan of Bob Dylan (hated him when I was a young prog-snob) and other musicians I never would have thought twice about as a teenager, including Jewel, Jack Johnson, and other similar mellow song smiths.

And Still I Wait …

So while the years rolled on I kept playing but had totally stopped recording. I was glad to have Pass It On to listen to from time to time and looked forward to improving on it when the time was right. One song on that record that that I still appreciate is “And Still I Wait …”. As with all the other songs on this collection, it was still a very amateur recording, but the song itself had some promise. Years later, I had some fun making this video by playing the song on my computer and using Camtasia to record those cool Windows Media Player visuals that were popular in older versions of Windows.

Next … Fast Forward to 2011 and my first professionally mixed song, “My Blue Eyed Girl

Introducing … The Sizzling Mice Kwartet and “Pass It On”

Way back in 1986 – 1987, I was a student at SUNY New Paltz, where I met guitarist Peter Forsythe, artist Christopher Walker, and bassist Warren ___? (I can’t remember his last name). We jammed a bit, goofing around and never getting too serious, but it was fun. I nicknamed the pseudo-band “The Sizzling Mice Quartet” (or ‘Kwartet’ when we felt like it), as a fun twist on one of my favorite home town local bands, Rat Race Choir. Chris made an album-sized drawing to go along with imagined band. I wish I still had the original artwork, but I don’t know what happened to it. What I do have is a black and white reduced photocopy. Here’s a scan of it. Click on it to see it larger – it’s a pretty cool detailed drawing!

K Walsh and the Sizzling Mice Quartet pic

Pass It On

Years later, in the mid 90’s, I started using one of the first hard disk recording systems – SAW (Software Audio Workshop) and recorded more original music. This was also when burnable CD drives first came out. I had access to one of these at The Mearl Corporation where I worked, but I had found a new gig and was leaving and decided to rush and burn a bunch of copies of a collection of music. And so “Pass It On” by K. Walsh & the Sizzling Mice Kwartet was born! I used Christopher’s artwork as a cover for my totally self-produced recording (the CDs were even burned and labelled by me). Of course, I was the Kwartet in this purely solo effort.

Pass It On as an overall recording effort left plenty to be desired (I still had a lot to learn!), but there are some good songs on it. The cut “Forest Rain” was a solid composition and I still get compliments on it to this day. I recall sticking the mic out the window to capture the sound of the thunderstorm that starts that song. My son Dylan and I jam on that one pretty often and I look forward to re-recording it song for my first full length record.

Another song that generated a fair amount of interest is the title song Pass It On. The blues-jazz instrumental was based on an idea I derived from the work of famous jazz guitarist Joe Pass. I made this video to accompany it years later and people seem to have enjoyed it as it is just shy of 10,000 views as I write this:

Next … And Then There Were Three (Kids, That is!)

 

My Very First Self Produced Original Song – Antigua (come to de Islands …)

So, let’s start at the beginning. Isn’t it fun to remember first steps? Whether they be literal – like your child’s first steps, or figurative, like the first time you cooked a delicious dish that later became a family favorite. I remember well the first song I ever recorded on my own (of course, it helps to still have a copy of the end result!).

In 1993 I recorded my very first self-produced recording, in the little apartment that my wife Christine and I lived in, in Peekskill, NY. The song was written on our honeymoon (okay … one guess which tropical island we selected for our romantic getaway?). It was a couple of years later, after I had purchased my first 4 track recording deck, that I recorded and built upon the basic idea that I had developed while staring out at the azure ocean in 1991. My beautiful bride was at my side and we were in a tropical paradise when I first plucked the medody that would become the basis of this tune!

Since my very first experience with recording music, I’ve been enamored with the process … adding creative new layers to an underlying melodic structure to create a new musical “being” that becomes so much more than the sum of its parts. It’s not unlike adding layers of flavor to a something you are cooking … a soup, a lasagna, a chili … each can take on a new personality with the addition of new elements (yeah, I like food analogies almost as much as like food!). I imagine sculpting and painting must also be similarly enthralling for those who dabble in them, yet still music is uniquely its own experience.

With the recording of this song, I particularly recall having to put my little Fender “Mustang” amp in the closet in the bedroom to mic and record my electric guitar, so I didn’t disturb the neighbors! The end result of this first effort lacks in recording quality, and while it may not be particularly brilliant end product, it is sweet and pleasing in its own right, and I like to think it showed promise (that I hope I have since exceeded!).

Next … Introducing … The Sizzling Mice Kwartet and “Pass It On”.

Let’s Go Baby! Time to get my Music on!

Well folks – here we are! After decades of plinkin’ and a-pluckin’ and caterwauling down in my basement and in my car as I drove to work … at long last I’m just about ready to unleash my music on the world. My first professionally recorded collection of original music is a 5 song EP titled “Keeping the Dream Alive” (yeah, Ed … I can’t help but think of you every time I say, hear, or write it!).

KDA is mastered and ready to be delivered to CD Baby for manufacturing and for digital distribution as soon as my son Dylan and I complete the back cover and CD label design (the front cover is ready to roll, much thanks to friend Glenn Cotler, artist extraordinaire!).

I’ve put up this web site to start documenting my work “for the ages” (nyuk, nyuk) and to provide access and promotion. I’m going to share some of the story behind the journey that got me here. Naturally, as I finish new material, I’ll be sharing that here too (and some day in the next few weeks I’ll announce the availability of Keeping the Dream Alive!). I hope friends, family, and other fans will enjoy the stories and find pleasure in the music.

Over time I look forward to this site being a place to share my music, to hopefully hear from some of you, and maybe even do cool things like webcast live performances!

Here’s the cover of the new record (click the image for a higher res look!).

KDA Front Cover

Please click through to My Very First Self Produced Original Song – Antigua (come to de Islands …) to read more!