So I spent over two years making an album I’m releasing this coming week with my band Buckeye Knoll. It’s called People and Place. I just wanted to take a moment and recap some of the elements that make this album different, significant and special in ways that may or may not make it to a Bio on our website, a press piece, an album review or a myspace/facebook bulletin. Think of this as a chance to get a unique inside look or window into the world of this album from behind the curtain.
This album started in the summer of 2007 in the same old barn I’d played and performed in my entire life. This barn is called the White Barn and it’s an 1800’s carriage house on the ranch where I great up. I was home on the ranch in St. Helena for the summer immediately after graduating from college when I first started writing some of these songs. I brought my little home studio set up into the top floor of the creaky old barn and set things up. For some reason, I brought every instrument I owned or had around me up in the barn with me. I think I had 5 acoustic guitars with me, countless shakers and who knows what else. I wrote and demoed many tracks including two that would make the final cut for this album. One of those tracks was called “Song that Never Died”. Over time it morphed to become the album track, “Keep You Close To Me”. Here’s the original demo from that first White Barn Session where I’m just freaking out alone on a new song, adding all kinds of wacky instruments to try and find the songs sound. Song that Never Died (DEMO) After you check this song out, check it out at the Buckeye Knoll Bandcamp page to hear how it turned out on the final version of People and Place. Crazy.
I’m going to skip around a bit in terms of chronological order to this story as the pieces pop into my head. About mid-summer 2007 I found out I got into this graduate program in Environmental Education I’d applied late to earlier that summer. As it turned out if I wanted to attend the program I had to leave in 5 weeks. “Shit,” I thought, “why not strike while the irons hot?” So I packed up my belongings and set out to start school…again. This program was different though and it would heavily shape the music I was making or the inspiration to write and record an album. This program called the Audubon Expedition Institute was different from normal school because instead of a 4 walled classroom or campus we traveled the entire time, each semester through a different Bioregion of Northern America in an old school bus. “Kind of crazy?” I thought. “Here I go.”
So for the next year and a half (the last semester I spent traveling and working all over the great Bay Area), I went traveling through different regions of the US with anywhere between 15-20 other students and faculty studying intensely and intimately the people and places who lived wherever we went. We looked at environmental issues of course, but also historical, cultural, spiritual, political, personal and all kinds of other issues. The three Bioregions I traveled and lived in where the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest and the Atlantic Coast. These places were the backdrop to the songs that began to take shape over the course of that year and a half traveling.
We slept outside every night in wilderness areas, urban areas, campgrounds, fields, and backyards. We backpacked into all kinds of crazy beautiful wilderness areas, forests, deserts, mountains, you name it. I brought my acoustic guitar with me everywhere and a little digital voice recorder to capture song ideas. I filled journal after journal with lyrics amassing quite the list of demos.
My best friend Cian Riordan engineered the record, first in New York in May of 2008, then at the White Barn in St. Helena in December of 2008 and finally in Santa Cruz in December of 2009. We mastered the record down in LA in January with the very talented Matt Radosevich at Barefoot Studios (WOW!).
This album came together with the help of over 18 of my friends who played various instruments on the record. They came to NY, St. Helena and Santa Cruz and they all did it for free because they believed in the music. I’m extremely honored to have made a record with so many talented folks.
Thanks for reading, check out People and Place, for watching one of the videos we made, for commenting, for passing on a Buckeye Knoll link to someone you think would dig it and for taking a listen. I hope you enjoy some of the stories behind this album as much as the album itself.
Come celebrate with us as we release People and Place with a Bay Area Mini Tour this coming week (click date for more info).
April 22nd Santa Cruz April 23rd Oakland April 24th St. Helena
And finally a little promo video with beautiful sunrise shots of the actual Buckeye Knoll in the Napa Valley.
ps. Congrats to Picture Atlantic on the Release of their new EP on April 24th at the Bottom of the Hill w/Bird by Bird and Please Don’t Fight. If we didn’t have one our album release show that night at the White Barn in St. Helena w/Sean Hayes I’d be there in a second. Way to go guys!