Grayson asked me to help produce his latest record, called ‘Colors.’ Grayson is a great song writer and really knows what he wants his songs to sound like. We did some scratch tracks here at The Stickhouse, then he took the sessions and flew to Nashville to track our friend Jesse Lendzion on drums, then to LA for guitars with T.J. Hill, and then back here to track final vocals and some violin with Trent Smith. In the meantime, Tyler Chester was laying down some bass tracks somewhere on the road.
I’m proud of the work we did, and proud of the artist that Grayson has become over the years I’ve known him. He was in high school when I met him almost 10 years ago. We had just moved from LA to Meadow Vista, and I mixed a few songs for one of his earliest bands.
Also, that cover art was done by this girl I really like.
Christmas often comes pretty early to the studio, as artists that intend to release Christmas records need them finished by early fall to be ready for the season. This year, I did one with Jesse Peterson. The EP itself has an acoustic vibe, but once we finished with the title song that he wrote, I felt the need to have some fun and remix it.
So, what’s better than a Christmas tune with a dubstep drop?
Busy in the studio right now. Current projects include a Christmas EP for Jesse Peterson, mixing for Daniel Radmacher and Pam Rozell, preparing to record an EP with Grayson Kessenich, and doing pre-production for a new artist from Florida.
Here’s Jesse playing some banjo in the tracking room.
I produced a record for Trent last year called Greater Joy. It’s always easy, fun, and inspiring to work with Trent. Tons of talent backed by even more skill make him an ideal artist to record.
Greater Joy received a 5 Star review in Worship Leader Magazine, and “Glorious” was featured on a SongDISCovery disc that makes it’s way to around 20,000 worship leaders across the country.
I’m a little behind on News posts, so I’m going to cover both of the records I got to make with Ryan and Lily Jones… otherwise known as Colorfair.
Their full-length, full production record is called “Leviathan.” Check it out on iTunes.
We also made a really fun, sorta stripped down acoustic vibe Christmas EP. I’m really proud of some of the arrangements we came up with on this one. Check it out on iTunes.
I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with a good friend on a new EP. He’s a talented multi-instrumentalist, excellent song-writer and great vocalist. Working with him is always a pleasure musically, creatively, and technically. He decided to take a turn from more pop-rock based worship music towards a more “indie” singer-songwriter genre, and thus went from Trent Smith to way more indie-sounding “TC Sargeant.”
Grayson Kessenich was in the studio last week to record his latest single. We tracked and mixed it all in once day and had a great time doing it. I’m in there on some keys and Steinway. Check him out!
I was fortunate to be asked to produce a Christmas record for a band I’ve worked with for many years now, Enfield. As often happens, we needed to put it together in a hurry, because you know, Christmas doesn’t wait for anyone! HA!
We tracked drums, bass, guitars, piano, B3, Rhodes, and some vocals the first week at Scott Frankfort‘s great studio in Woodland Hills. Then I brought the tracks back to The Stickhouse, did a little editing and string arranging, and then went back down to track electric guitars for a couple days, then a morning for string quartet, and then the rest of the week laying down all of John and Lisa’s vocals. Whew! Then back to The Stickhouse for mixing, mixes to The Mastering Lab for the final polish, and we’re done!
I really enjoy working with Enfield. Quality musicianship, quality people, opportunities for creativity as a producer and musician, and a lot of fun.
I managed to not take any good photos of the sessions this time, so you’re stuck with one of an epic lunch at the LobstaTruck John, Lisa and I had one day during vocal tracking, and one of the little toy piano that made it’s way onto one of the songs while I was mixing at The Stickhouse.
I recently had the chance to produce a 5 song EP for The Music Room, a really cool local band (from Lincoln, CA) made up of Aimee Bellanca and her brother, Dane Johnson. We were on a tight budget and short time schedule, and knocked the majority of the five tunes out in one week.
Drums and a couple vocals by Dane, Acoustic guitar and vocals by Aimee, bass and electric guitar by Jesse Wright, and I helped out here and there with some keys, and accordion (a beautiful antique instrument that was Dane and Aimee’s grandfather’s!).
I enjoyed going for a simple, up close and personal acoustic sound that helped to really highlight the great songs Aimee and Dane had written. You can hear them on Reverbnation.
I’ve only got a few copies of the CD left, so get them while you can. You could say they’re a very limited edition at this point. HA!
If you’d like a CD, click the Buy Now button, send me $12 (plus $2 for shipping) and I’ll get it in the mail right away. If you’re buying multiple copies as gifts, you only need to pay for shipping once.
Trent Smith is a worship leader from Paradise, CA. He’s a talented songwriter, vocalist and violinist. I had the opportunity to work with him on his last record as the mixer, and lately, I’ve been co-producing and recording some individual songs with him. A while back we recorded a couple of Christmas oriented tunes, one of which is going to be showing up on next month’s SongDISCovery disc included in Worship Leader Magazine. It’s called “Emmanuel,” and is already available on iTunes and CDBaby. The other tune is called “Messiah Has Come.” Both will be great for this year’s Christmas worship setlists.
This week, we recorded his vocals and did a mix for a great new tune called “Shout.” As you might guess from the title it’s not too laid back. Big guitars, big drums, big vocals. Look for it soon.
This week I’m in Lancaster, PA teaching some classes at the National Worship Leader Conference put on by Worship Leader Magazine, who I also happen to write a little column for. (Check out Worship ER next time you see an issue.) In each issue of the magazine, which goes out to roughly 20,000 worship leaders across the country is a CD with new music called Song DISCovery. And, I had the opportunity to produce 2 of the songs on this months disc. “Crown Him With Many Crowns” by Enfield on the Resolved Music Vol. 1 CD, and “He Is the King” by Derek Blevins (sung by Tim Nienhuis).
Lily and Ryan Jones started work on an EP for their band, Five Hunderd Reeds today. Well, we actually did one tune last year that turned out quite nicely, but then we all got sidetracked by life. You can hear it on their freshly created myspace spot. We’re planning to do 5 tunes altogether, and after today, have pre-production fleshed out on two new ones, and hopefully will do the other two tomorrow. Lily has a beautiful voice, similar to Brooke Fraser or Sara Barreilles.
For today’s pre-production session, I set up my little tracking room with a small drum kit, stereo acoustic guitar mics, and the Neumann U89 for vocals, all hot and ready to record so that as inspiration struck, we were ready to go. It worked very nicely, but it makes for a tight fit in that room.
That’s Hugo, their puppy in the cage.
For you gear-heads:
On Friday I’m headed down to Palm Springs to attend the Resolved Conference. After producing Enfield’s first “resource” CD, it’ll be exciting to see how the songs work in the context they were designed for, which is congregational singing. I’m sure it’ll be eye-opening and very helpful if I’m asked to help with a record again next spring.
I’ve been to plenty of conferences for worship leaders, usually as a clinician, but this is something entirely different. Enfield is the only band that plays all weekend, and there aren’t any “breakout classes,” just a number of different preachers doing their thing. The conference isn’t at all about the music, but the music Enfield will play will have a dramatic effect on the tone and feel of the conference.
And of course, Palm Springs in the summer is, well, hot.
The new www.briansteckler.com is up and running! Check it out! Leave a comment! Hire me to produce your record!
A few years ago I was fortunate to be able to produce a record for some young guys who had just gotten the gig as the junior high band at Hume Lake Christian Camps. Chasing Cadence was their name, and the bass player and drummer were Ryan Fogelsong and David Zimmer. Turns out these guys would go on to be part of a band called Enfield, who’s main gig would be playing all the worship sets at this big conference held every year in Palm Springs called Resolved.
David and Ryan were kind enough to talk John Martin (lead singer for Enfield and Director of Music and Media for the conference) into hiring me to produce their first record as a band. We had a great time recording “O For That Day.”
Ryan came up to the Stickhouse and we hashed out some arrangements, finished writing a few tunes and put down some demos that we’d use to build the final sessions. Down to LA to cut basics at Clear Lake Audio, guitars with Tim Nienhuis in Fountain Valley and live strings as well. John and his talented wife Lisa came up to the Stickhouse to cut the vocals and we had our first project in the can.
Fast forward a couple years, and Enfield is ready for their third record (they hired their super talented close friend Scott Frankfort to produce their sophomore effort), and John and the team running the Resolved conference have decided that it’s time to change the focus of the recording to be a resource for other worship teams and churches. I was hired to help them arrange and record a bunch of cool hymn arrangements that they’ve used at the conference in the past as well as some new ones they’ll be introducing this year.
So, it was off to LA to cut basics, this time at Scott’s killer studio. He’s build a great sounding little live room at his house. John hired LA Drum Doctors to tune and dial the kit as well as bring in a great snare drum and cymbals. Add a rack of Neve pres and a great engineer and you have great drum sounds. Dairus Fong, the engineer for the project is another friend of the band’s, and has an extensive resume as well as developing an exciting iPhone app. It sure was fun to only have to be the producer, and not having to worry about the mic setups or gain staging or pushing the buttons like I usually do.
Then add a little bass and acoustic guitar, and call basics week done.
Next up was another week down in LA to record string quartet and electric guitar. So, in the mean time that meant that I needed to write a bunch of string charts. 12 songs, 12 string charts.
Writing for strings is a lot of fun when you know that some ridiculously good players are going to take the notes I put on the page and make them sound “right.” Samples can be cool, but the real thing is always going to be the real thing because of the humans playing those wooden boxes. (I heard them in the break room talking about playing on big time movie and tv scores.) So we recorded strings for 12 tunes in 9 hours at Scott’s place. I sat in the booth with the players to wave my arms around a little and help them with interpretation as needed. Fun and exhausting!
We cut electric guitar at a studio in North Hollywood that shall remain nameless, as it wasn’t such the great place. But, the guitar playing was phenomenal. Nick Brown played through a Fractal Audio Axe-FX Ultra box that was feeding a couple of speakers in the live room, which we miced with 57s. Great sounds! It’s very impressive what that box can model… anything from amps you know and love to those same amps with dying tubes or broken knobs. And with any bit of gear, the guy playing the notes has a lot more to do with the great sound than the computer chips, wires and speaker cones.
Next I took all the sessions back up to the Stickhouse to start in on the mix process. We hadn’t cut the vocals yet, but time was going to be tight so I needed to get started. Of course, with great players and great sounds like Darius got mixing is pretty easy. It’s mostly about creating a nice balance instead of trying to correct recording issues or editing mediocre performances. Then John and Lisa came up and knocked out the vocals in a couple days, and then it was time to wrap things up. Another week or two of mixing, and then I grabbed the hard drive and headed back to LA for a couple days going through everything with John, Ryan and Darius at Scott’s place, and then printing the final masters. We ran the mixes through Scott’s excellent output chain, and printed the finals at 192K. Every little bit helps right?
The final step is mastering, and we drove the mixes up to Ojai, CA to master with Robert Hadley at the famous Mastering Lab. The “real deal” mastering is some sort of Dark Side of the Force power, and Robert is one of the best. The mixes were pretty good before, but after his magic…
The album hasn’t made it to iTunes yet, but in the mean time here’s one cut from the record.
Needless to say, I love working with this band. They really understand the process of making a record, and appreciate what it is that I can bring to a project. There is no hint of “too many cooks in the kitchen” with this group. They know and understand their roles, and each serves the greater good willingly and to the best of their ability. Creativity flows, but doesn’t bog down the process of getting it done on time.
I’m really excited to be going to the Resolved Conference in a couple weeks. Hanging with the gang, hearing them lead a big group of enthusiastic worshippers and soaking up some solid preaching will be a nice cap to a great project.
….. on my new site. Obviously.
This was just after we finished printing the final mixes. Whew!
I’ve known Damian for a few years. We met not long after I moved up to Northern California from Los Angeles. I’ve helped Damian on some of his older projects with mixing and keyboards and whatnot. Since then, the church that I go to has hired him as the Worship Leader. What better way to introduce him to the church and the worship community at large than by doing a record?!
We decided that it should be something accessible to our congregation, and it should include some songs they already know as well as some new stuff we’d like to teach them. So, we included newer songs by Chris Tomlin, Evan Wickham, Paul Baloche/Brenton Brown and a couple that Damian and I wrote or arranged.
Sonically, we decided to try and get away from the current “modern worship” sound you hear on Christian radio and on a lot of popular CDs. Where we ended up might be called quirky, organic, acoustic, unusual, sparse and up-close. I mean, there’s a trombone on “Cannons” and banjo on “Sing, Sing, Sing.” Yes, I played that banjo part, but Pro Tools helped me out a little.
I recorded, mixed and mastered the whole project here at The Stickhouse. Players included Larry Schiavone (playing his great old Leedy kit and a snare drum from the 1920’s!), Jesse Lendzion and myself on drums, Larry Tagg and Jeremy Mauel on bass (Jeremy played upright on a few tunes too), Damian, myself, and Peter Burton on acoustic guitar, and Damian and Levi Nunnink on a little bit of electric guitar. Damian played trombone and jingle bells, and I filled in pretty much everything else, from keys and piano, to loops, djembe, tamborine, and whatever else we threw on. The vocals are Damian and our friend Grayson Kessenich, with a couple bits from me.
A few fun production notes: Check out “Redeemer”… I laid an acoustic on my knees, tuned it to an open chord, then beat on the strings with a drum stick and used a glass slide to change the chords. Damian found the old guitar you hear on “Cannons” and “Glorious” underneath a home remodeling project he and his Dad were doing a while back. We think it’s an old cheap Mexican made nylon string. The guitar sound on “Face to Face” is my Baden A-Style with this funky Japanese practice mute stuck under the strings near the bridge.
I enjoyed the sonic palette we chose, and had fun coming up with crazy thing to try while still keeping the focus on the songs and One the songs are about and for! Fun record to produce!
Larry shows us his 1920s Ludwig snare drum. Now that’s vintage!
We used it on the Paul Baloche/Brenton Brown song “Glorious” on Damian Horne’s project. Read about it here!
I’d never made a record of my own. Sneaking up on 20 years of making music professionally, and it’s always been for other artists. Summer was shaping up to be a little slow, so with June’s encouragement, it was time for a Christmas record. But, what sort of style am I going to do? I’ve been asked to produce everything from classical to heavy metal and if left to my own devices, it’d probably end up as some kind of funk-pop groove record. That’s probably not going to fly if I actually want to sell some records, so I thought, what would my Mom like, but my musician friends still think was hip. Well, I did graduate with a piano performace degree, so maybe a piano record would be the way to go. And, we’d recently inherited a cool old 1948 Steinway ‘M’ grand piano. June calls the piano “Hensley,” named for her Great Uncle Hensley Johnson who owned it for many years.
But who needs another record of Christmas tunes arranged for solo piano? And besides, that’s not really my forte anyway. So, I decided to see how it would work to build some tracks and grooves out of sounds I created by banging on the lid, knocking on the case, scraping the strings, and whatever else I could come up with. Turns out, thumping the open lid of a piano makes a pretty decent kick drum, and a knuckle on the keyboard cover makes a great knock for a snare sound. Layer it all up, add the traditional melody, and we have some pretty cool “new” instrumental versions of classics from the sacred Christmas song cannon. The unfortunate thing is that it’s really hard to play these arrangements live. I can’t very well be banging on the lid, strumming the strings and playing the actual melody all at the same time. And as we all know, the key to selling records is playing live shows. Hmmm.
So, to get the word out, I went on local TV, local radio, had a CD release party, got a nice review in Worship Leader Magazine, and even sold a bunch in our great local cafe, Cafe Vista.
Update for 2010: Well, I’ve still got a few copies of the CD left. So if you’re interested, you can click the link and use Paypal to send me $12 (plus $2 for shipping) and I’ll get it in the mail to you right away!