Ride What You Can't Change
"In my travels I have observed that history is not decided by the challenges of the times, but by how challenge is confronted - this album is my response to a challenging time in my own life & is dedicated to anyone at such a crossroads in their own..." I suspect that almost everyone working in America has been affected by today's trying times... certainly my own life has been no exception. In short, with my own back to the wall, I one day realized that for all the ways 'life' had come between me & my music in the past, 'life' is what now propels me headlong into it... in the absence of other opportunities, I came to appreciate how blessed I am to be a musician. I began writing songs for this record shortly after the audible crash of the economy in early 2009 - recognizing that the challenges compelling me to move forward with my music are by no means unique to me, my aim was to create timely stories & songs that would hopefully resonate with others, and perhaps offer some perspective or strength. The American West has long served as a story-telling canvas for portraying humanity at it's most raw & elemental... long, solitary, meditative drives spent traversing desolate landscapes are what inspired the backdrops for many of my songs. The idea to bring jazz to my arrangements stemmed from a sincere desire to take a first-hand & more in-depth approach to presenting my narratives than I thought would be possible by just relying on the conventions of any one genre... although Country/Americana & Jazz may seem like strange bedfellows at first blush, in reality they are both genuine American forms of music, and are both quite adept at portraying the American experience... while my collaborators did each seem a bit disorientated at first, in almost no time & without exception they quickly keyed into such commonalities & made the music real! In hindsight, and with my album now finished & in-hand, making 'Ride What You Can't Change' may seem like an obvious venture for me to pursue, but in actuality it's undertaking represented a large shift in my life. I have been involved with music for a long time... most recently I was a member of 'Operation Aloha' alongside members of Gomez, Phantom Planet, & Maroon 5, and my earliest collaborators included opera singer Heather Dials, producer Ryan Freeland, and Jewel... but 'Ride What You Can't Change' is essentially my debut solo album, it was made on shoe-string & a prayer, and at the onset even it's mere completion was far from assured. * 'There once was a man who did not believe in God... when asked why, he explained: because every day I pray to God that I will win the lottery, and it has never happened... just then, the clouds parted, a ray of sunlight beamed down, and a heavenly voice bellowed: Hey pal, do me a favor: buy a ticket!' For me the story of how 'Ride What You Can't Change' got made was a first-hand lesson in personal vision & hard work being met with divine good luck & goodwill. The first piece of the puzzle to fall in place was piano player, Isha Love. Even though this is essentially my debut album, I am blessed to be a member of a wonderful network of musicians, and so reaching out to those around me was the first step I took towards finding my collaborators... but then one night, almost on a whim, I decided to place a "Musicians-Wanted" post on Craig's List, and Isha was among those who responded. I knew instantly that she was the right person for this project... to my ear, Isha has a signature style of playing that is less about the notes she plays & more about the spaces between them, which perfectly fit my notions of what jazz might bring to my music. It was Isha who then recruited Dale Black on upright bass, and Eric Valentine(!) on drums. I first met producer, Willie Wisely, several years ago when we were neighbors in Laurel Canyon... one morning I went out on the dirt road where I lived, and I saw this lanky wild-haired guy, ambling up the drive wearing a blue bath robe, with a baby strapped to his chest, carrying a leash attached to a black Pomeranian in one hand, and shovel in the other... and I thought to myself: I want to be friends with that guy! It turns out that Willie is a very accomplished singer-songwriter, and so when I finished writing all the songs for my record, I contacted him to solicit feedback for my new work... when we finally got together & he heard the music, Willie not only offered much encouragement, but he also expressed an interest in being a part of the project, and such is how he came on board as it's producer. Given the character-driven nature of the lyrics I write, bringing together different voices was a part of my concept for this record since it's conception. Tomasina Abate is one of my absolute favorite singers... I love the way she can come across as both innocent & worldly at the same time... I met her more than a decade ago when we were both doing our obligatory stint on the open mic circuit as LA music-scene newbies, and we have remained friends ever since. The songs she sings on my album were literally conceived with her voice in mind. Actually, I have found that channeling the voices of other singers can be a very useful writing tool... one of the many miracles that took place while making this record, was that I got all of the actual singers I heard in my head while writing 'American Vesper' to sing on the final track! Cedric Berry & I went to high school together, and Ronny Cox & I have randomly crossed paths many times over the years through the course of our both working in music & film. I first heard Jim Kweskin as a teenager... he does a rendition of the traditional song 'Buffalo Skinners' that appeared on a Woody Guthrie tribute album I owned back in high school... this single recording, perhaps more than any other, completely informed my approach to guitar playing for the way it sonically illustrates the landscape being sung about (...not unlike how Duke Ellington plays 'Caravan') ...and so this recording is also in essence what led me to consider bringing jazz into my music - prior to making this record I did not know Jim, but I figured it couldn't hurt to try & track him down & at least ask him if he might consider working with me... having him then accept my invitation will always remain a highlight of musical life! The last remaining major piece of the puzzle to come together was engineer Justin Gariano. An assumption I made when I committed to working with Willie Wisely, was that he may have contacts with studios or engineers who might be able to work on my album for what I could afford... but alas such proved not to be the case. With nothing to loose, I put up another post on Craig's List hoping to find a studio with a grand piano & an engineer for what I had to spend... which in this city full of studios generated exactly one response. When I first met Justin, he more-or-less matched my expectations: a young guy, with a lot of enthusiasm & a good relationship with an affordable studio that met our needs. It was not until we began recording, that I came to realize just how lucky I was to have Justin accept me as a client... namely, he is extremely good at what he does & had everyone sounding wonderful right out of the gate... also, it was Justin who insisted we take the time to make my record 'right' and not merely the record I could afford, and he volunteered his own studio & valuable time to bridge this divide. Throughout the process of our working together, Justin & I became genuine friends... because he is such a humble guy, it was only through anecdotes that I gradually came to grasp the A-List caliber of Justin's typical clientele. All things considered, one night over dinner I asked Justin why he took me on: he told me that he was combing Craig's List for a piece of gear he needed when he saw my listing, and he reached out to me simply because the idea of combining country & jazz appealed to him. Rounding out the picture, it was Justin who called in Eliza James to play violin on 'Start Over in Ohio' - after we tracked the song, we all felt it still needed something extra, and such was Justin's solution. Justin also put in place John Vestman for mastering duties, who turned out to be the perfect man for the job. As pleased as I am at being able to share my music, I am equally enthused about presenting what each of my collaborators brings to the picture! ** The Collaborators: Piano: Isha Love? Isha Love holds a degree in music from Berklee College of Music in Boston - in addition to her session work, she is also an adept composer & arranger. Bass: Dale Black? Since arriving in town a few short years ago from Wichita, Kansas, The Dale Black Quintet has quickly become a mainstay of LA's jazz scene. Drums: Eric Valentine? Eric's credits & accomplishments are literally too overwhelming to paraphrase... he is truly a musician's musician who raises the bar for anyone he works with... presently he seems most focused on working as Jonathan Butler's Music Director & drummer. Additional Vocals: Tomasina Abate? Tomasina Abate's rock band 'Tomasina' is a mainstay at Disneyland's Tomorrowland Terrace - she also regularly appears in various stage productions for Disney as well as many others. Guest Violin: Eliza James? Eliza James is a prolific session violinist - currently she is the violin soloist in Burt Bacharach's orchestra. Guest Vocals: Ronny Cox? Ronny Cox is a veteran actor who has starred in everything from Desperate Housewives to Star Trek, but perhaps he is best known for his breakout role in 'Deliverance' & his part in the iconic dueling-banjos scene. When he is not acting Ronny tours the world as a first-rate singer-songwriter. Guest Vocals: Cedric Berry ? Cedric Berry has been a performing member of LA Opera for more than fifteen years; he is also the Program Coordinator for USC's Film & Television Production Division. Guest Vocals & Banjo: Jim Kweskin?Jim Kweskin gained fame & notoriety in the 1960s with The Jim Kweskin Jug Band - after a long hiatus, he has in recent years returned to music with new albums and a regular concert schedule, often appearing with fellow jug band member Geoff Muldaur. Producer: Willie Wisely? Willie Wisely is an accomplished singer-songwriter with fifteen albums to his credit. In addition to his own work, he has also produced albums for Andy Dick amongst many others. Engineering / Mixing / Additional Production: Justin Gariano? Justin Gariano has worked with artists ranging from Alicia Keyes & Paul McCartney, to Maroon 5 & Gnarls Barkley. He is also an excellent guitarist & songwriter in his own right. Mastering: John Vestman? John Vestman is the pioneer of a mastering technique that utilizes separations for each instrument instead of traditional stereo files... The result is a very spacious & ambient sound that can be heard on many of the tracks on: 'Ride What You Can't Change'