Picking up where I left off...
Recording continued, daily, from April '20 to February '21. One hundred and twenty-three songs were completed. It was all music; no words, no vocals. Things slowed a bit because Claire and I had made the decision to move back to western New York. Not only were we moving back, we were building a house. Oh, and the pandemic was raging. Why not add to the pile?
So, we packed up the townhouse. Got our things out of storage and headed back to western New York. We wound up working and living in a small apartment while the house was being built. We were now faced with a significant chunk of 2021 being spent within the walls of a not-quite-so 900 square foot apartment...on the ground floor...beneath a few people who were less than great to live near let alone below. We made the best of it. Claire had the living area as her office and I took the smaller of the two bedrooms for mine.
I began to whittle down from 123 songs to around 30 for, what was then called When You Let Go. It took me two months to decide the direction of the album and one night, over tacos, I had asked Claire to sit with me in that small bedroom and listen to a selection of songs I thought went well together.
Over the course of our living in an apartment that simply wasn't great for either us, we took a lot of weekend day trips around New York State. During these drives we'd talk about pretty much everything and anything. A topic of laughter for us was the apartment itself and we started to notice other places and towns with similar apartment buildings that actually looked a lot like old motels or motor lodges you'd see in vintage photos from people's travels. There were moments where I started to wonder if, for some, the plan all along was to wind up in one of these places; if that was the goal.
For me, ever since I was a kid, the phrase "THE STARLITE" represented a goal or a destination and was, in all honesty, sarcastic. Whatever the end-goal might be it carried hefty significance to those who had their sights set on something.
As Claire and I listened that evening after dinner, I started hearing what I believed could be a concept of the American Dream. I envisioned the truth in that sentiment and the glorification of it. Within about an hour, the eleven songs - music only still - had been chosen for what went from When You Let Go, a story of personal growth, to Which Way to THE STARLITE, a story of destinations unknown and dreams.
When this lightning bolt hit, I felt both elated and very sad. The idea of When You Let Go, the love letter to my wife, was evolving. Yet, at the same time, I felt like I was letting Claire down. Claire however, did not feel this way at all. Supportive beyond belief, Claire simply encouraged me to continue with what was clearly driving me in a new direction.
Once that direction was set in stone, the artwork process began. It's just how my creative process works sometimes. I knew I had a monumental task ahead of me with writing lyrics for ten of those eleven songs (one was a cover), but the visual aspects of THE STARLITE project were already flooding my imagination. So I started piecing together the concept of a CD package.
For the most part, the entire design for the CD release was roughed out pretty quickly. By the time we were ready to close on the house and move once again, the artwork was done. I then shifted back to the music and realized that I wanted another person's input on this project. In my mind, there was only one person for that job; someone I'd worked with decades previously. The trouble was that I had no idea whether or not that person as still in Rochester, NY or not. So, I dug into the local studio scene and found Engineer Steve Forney running The Studios at Linden Oaks.
I sent an email in hopes that he'd remember me, number one, and two - could we meet?
Steve and I re-connected on November 19th. It was almost as if no time had passed since our last working together in 1995 on the Home album project. I asked if he'd be interested in recording vocals, mixing and mastering the album and he said, "Yes." That was a great moment for me. It's not that I couldn't have done everything myself, it's just that I felt this music in particular deserved another set of capable ears and experience. That's really simplifying what Steve's involvement actually meant and means to me. For nearly thirty years I've always asked the question, "What would Steve do?" when doing my own recording and mixing and finishing. Very quietly, Steve has gone about working on great things and giving artists incredible sounds with expertise and feel.
I was lucky enough to work with him on three projects in the late eighties and early nineties and I was incredibly happy to know that we'd be working together again.
Part III soon...