Marigolds: The Bangkok Sessions
In September of 2009, exactly a year ago, my wife Louise and I sold our cars, put our belongings in storage, packed our bags, and moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Bangkok, Thailand. Louise had just graduated from law school in Berkeley that spring, but instead of starting her position that fall, her law firm offered her an amazing proposition: half of her first years salary, in a lump sum payment, to take the year off and to do whatever she likes, with a position waiting for her here in San Francisco in the fall of 2010. I had grown up in Bangkok for five years as a kid, and had always dreamed of returning to live there. Louise found a position assisting a renewable energy fund with their legal matters in Bangkok, and I had a vague notion of recording an album over the course of the year. We were off... We moved to Bangkok, found a furnished apartment, put together a budget for the year, and also drafted a rough itinerary. We would spend four months in Bangkok, working/volunteering, then two months traveling in Burma and Bali. We would then return for another four months in Bangkok working , then wrap up our year with a two month trip through the Himalayas. Now I just had to figure out how I was going to make this album come together. The only contact I had to the Thai music industry was to a major Thai pop singer who had dated my brother for several years but then married a Thai mafioso and was forbidden to communicate with my brother or our family. Pursuing that avenue wasn't going to be an option. In the fall, I wrote songs and became reacquainted with my childhood stomping grounds. By January 2010, the songs were ready, but I still hadn't recorded anything. I spent February in Bali, met with a studio owner and some traditional Balinese musicians, but the sound didn't come together as I had hoped, and I decided that I was going to hold off until we returned to Bangkok in March. In March, I decided to attempt recording some home demos on Garageband for the first time. There were protests going on in Bangkok, and a sense of growing civil unrest. I spent a day recording a cover of Tracy Chapman's classic, Talkin' Bout a Revolution, and the demo that emerged had a very sparse yet distinctive sound to it. As the next two weeks went by, I went through all of my new material and recorded versions using the Garageband setting. The sound that emerged from these sessions became the base for the new album. But I still needed an engineer/producer. A twist of fate brought me and an elementary school friend back in touch with one another. After telling him about my need for a studio and sound engineer/producer, he felt strongly that I should meet his friend Jay. A few weeks later I found myself at a swanky dance club in Bangkok meeting Jay and talking...well, yelling really....about the kinds of music we were into. I was shocked to meet a Thai producer who was familiar with the influences I was discussing (Bon Iver, The National), so we agreed to meet at his home studio, listen to the demos, and to and discuss the potential of working together. After visiting the studio and mutually feeling a sense that this would be a good fit, . As the weeks unfolded, I slowly got to know Jay. He seemed really busy all of the time, but always bright and warm and ready to work. His studio was at his family's home, and his mother would cook and bring us coffee and basically spoil us rotten. As I got to know Jay better, and as I began telling friends about who I was working with, I slowly began to realize that Jay was actually a major Thai celebrity and movie star with two films being released during the time we were working together. He'd also been previously signed with Columbia records, toured with Nelly Furtado, Justin Timberlake, and Dave Gahan (of Depeche Mode). Most importantly though, Jay had a really humble demeanor and a passion for sound recording. The entire recording process went incredibly smoothly, with the entire tracking done over the course of 17 days from April to June of 2010. We actually wound up using some of the vocal effect settings from Garageband to recreate the sound that I'd put together at home on Garageband. We also added percussion, wrote string arrangements, and some upright bass on one of the tracks. Other than that, it was just a matter of re-tracking what I had recorded at home. When it came time to mix and master, I decided to get really experimental...I contacted Charlie Wilson of Sonic Zen Records in Berkeley, California. The two of us wound up mixing and mastering the album via Skype video, where one of us would invariably pulling an all-nighter due to the time difference. Again, the process went really smoothly though, and we wrapped up the album in a couple of weeks. I can't wait to share this new collection of recordings with all of you. It's the first recording of the three of mine that I feel really represents the kind of sound I've always been looking for. I hope that you all enjoy the songs as much as I've enjoyed making this record.