It's been a very long haul, but the music is finally finished! Brad Blackwood in Memphis did a great job of mastering the songs, and I'm very pleased with how they came out. What is mastering? This is when the sonic elements of a recording are balanced to make them sound great no matter the format: radio, mp3's, streaming, etc.
It's very rewarding to try and express something that transcends words and then have it all work out - in spite of not knowing how it will all come together! Honestly, I had no idea how some of the songs would sound outside of my general arrangement. I usually decided on what instruments I wanted - "Shaman" has dobro and banjo for instance - and then cut the players loose. It's a great thing to see the creativity of others magically come together to produce a palette I can use to paint a picture. Usually they would give me two or three takes, and by taking the best elements of each version, I could edit their performances into one great take.
I was lucky to have two recordings nearly finished with the previous band I was in, Stratton 13 ( that's Kyle and J. C. from S 13 above). We got most of the tracks for "Everything Is You" and "The Eastbound Road" before the band broke up, but the organ had to be replaced on Eastbound (one of the stereo tracks was missing!), and Mike Flanders later added a beautiful acoustic part on EIY. I was then able to sing the lead and background vocals on both.
"The Worst Best Thing" was the only other tune that I had tracks for. The band had created a demo recording of Worst Best that had some great guitar work by J. C. Carman and B3 organ by Eric Mirowitz, but the drums and other elements were compromised by the fact that we'd recorded all in one room, and the bass guitar bled into the drum mics, for example. I took the existing lead guitar and B3 tracks into "The Sanctuary" recording studio and re-recorded the drums. Steve Cirkvencic then added rhythm electric, and Caleb Flanders played the bass part - both remotely. I was able to keep a few background vocals by Eric and Kyle Moon, but I filled out the remaining harmony parts with a few of my own as well as the lead vocal. It might be the weirdest method of recording a song in history, but I'm very happy with the result.
That left six songs to start from scratch. More on those later!