Once Steve Forney was on board and we had moved into the new house, writing the lyrics began. This was a painfully slow process for me. I had written several bits, here and there, while living in Pittsburgh and traveling around a little bit, but those words were written when there was no music; just an idea.
I had the eleven songs, musically. I had the concept. I had a stack of previously written "lyrics" sitting on my desk. I also had the music in the order I wanted to hear it. So, I started with what became Track 01 - The Starlite. In about a week I had the lyric written. I would go back to it often, but I was happy with what I had and then went to Track 02 - When You Let Go. This was the first song where I relied heavily on some of those previously written lyric ideas. This was also a nod to the original idea of the album back in 2020. From Track 02 I continued writing, in order, the entire album in five and a half weeks. For the first time I was happy with what I'd written. Of course I went back and did some rewriting and some editing, but for the most part, the songs were ready.
Trouble was... I wasn't prepared to sing them. At. All.
I'd been working very quietly over the past year-plus and when I was writing the lyrics, I'd sing the lyric with the music, but I wasn't singing full voice. I was whispering and not even realizing I was doing this. This habit had formed through using headphones to record everything and not wanting to be a distraction to my wife or our neighbors. I thought I was ready to go into The Studios at Linden Oaks with Steve and knock out these vocals one after the other. No sweat.
I was wrong. However, I learned a very important lesson - once more - about preparation and taking time to make sure things are how you want them to be.
I wasn't giving the vocal parts any attention whatsoever. I do not consider myself a singer and honestly, I don't like my voice that much, but you have to get over yourself and get to work. In early June of '22, I went into the studio and shit the bed in a big way. Steve, Claire and I spent some time discussing what needed to happen in order for the vocal parts to be done and done well. Steve was amazing with suggesting I record the vocals at home and live with them, rehearse them, work them out fully and then send those files to him for mixing. This was great advice and a reminder of how long it had been since I sang.
I bought some equipment in order to record vocals at home. I had a small studio space already set up in the upstairs of the new house. So, I set up a small vocal area and began recording vocals. Through the process of not looking at the clock or the calendar, I was able to settle into a nice routine of recording the vocals and working out background parts (that I had NOT heard in my head before). A lot of it just happened and after a couple hiccups the tracks were being recorded and sent off to Steve for final mixing. In the end there were 143 vocal tracks. That's a lot of singing. What's kind of interesting is that I recorded ALL of the songs twice.
The first run through with the vocals was good, but I noticed a weird slapjack reverb in the room. It was fine. Steve never said the tracks were not usable, but I didn't like hearing that much of the room in the vocal performance. I then adjusted the recording room and added acoustic treatments to the walls. It completely dampened the slapjack and as I started recording all of then songs again, left us with very clean vocal tracks to work with. This was great!
What I will remember most about putting the final touches on this album are the things that were happening around myself and Claire during the whole time. The moving. The living in a small apartment for nearly a year. Moving again into the house. Dealing with house stuff like putting in a lawn and some landscaping. And also taking care of Claire who had not one, but two surgeries on her right foot. Two surgeries were never in the plan. Her year, for the most part, was spent on crutches or sitting with her foot elevated. That all began in March and the second go 'round was in early June. She's just now going to physical therapy on a regular basis (and doing very, very well - fingers still crossed). A large part of my year was taking care of our business and doing my best to take care of Claire. The music mattered, clearly, but it wasn't always in the top five things-to-do from one day to the next.
But I finished it. We finished it. Claire, Steve and myself. We finished it.
I hope if you take the time to listen - here on this site, streaming, or wherever - that you enjoy it. I've put a lot of me into this one. A lot of time spent has produced something that hope resonates for awhile.
One other thing before I go.
In some ways I do see this album as a sequel of sorts to 1995's Home. I am not sure why. There's something about Which Way to The Starlite that feels a lot like the Home album to me. The songs. The thoughts. The making of it. Even my voice (which, gratefully, hasn't changed). But back then, in '95, I didn't have a lot of the experiences I was trying to write about. Also, I might have been caught up in the appearance of things (I had that hair, after all) just a little bit. In any event, I feel these albums are interesting when listened to - back to back.
Anyway, I tend to believe we all have our own Starlite up ahead.
I hope your trip there is a fine one!
Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening.