A Song (or 2) Is Born…. (pt 1)

Newton, MA

(PS – Free treat at the bottom of the page…)

January 23 – been thinking that some of you might want to have some idea of what it’s like to be in a recording studio. Technically, so would I. However, we’ve been able to work out a pretty cool set up that allows us to record almost as if we were in a real studio. The challenges that everything’s a little spit, bubblegum, and bailing wire. Also, 2016-01-22 17.31.36there are no professionals, so we tend to learn by screwing it up. Today, we’re back in the studio working on all there is to say – a song that got written about six months ago, and that we laid down for the first time about two months ago. It never really found it’s voice, so it sat in the shed for a while.

After listening to the tracking for way too long, I decided it was time to bring it out and actually find the right voice. Spent a lot of time yesterday and really all last week finding the right guitar sound – which I did, but then the guitar broke. Literally. A simple little electronic thing – a switch, but enough that actually put us off for a couple of days.

Anyway, all of that is fixed now. Spent about an hour to an hour and and half recording the basic guitar lines, and then completely redoing the vocal. And by redoing the vocal what I mean is completely hashing it for the first hour, and then finding it for the last half hour.

It’s really hard work. It’s also a little frustrating when you know exactly the sound you want in your head, but you can’t quite get there. That can be any combination of factors – not the right sound, not being able to quite pull it off as a player or a vocalist yourself… All of those things. However for as frustrating it is, it’s also really, really rewarding, and incredibly joyful when you can sit back and listen to it at the end of the day, and recognize what you’ve been able to get down on tape.

We’re gonna put this to the iPod for a day or two, live with it, and see if it actually sounds like the song sounds in my head.

January 24 – Took a look at the amplifier this morning and realized that I used the wrong microphone to record yesterday. These things do happen, and are in excellent excuse to yell at oneself for a couple of minutes.

After such self-flagellation comes the incredibly liberating experience of figuring out the right way of doing it, putting it to a new track, and seeing which one is better. (So, we have a fairly rich guitar track for this song.)

Tonight, I’m going to try and put a rough mix together, mainly so I can listen to it in the car a few dozen times. This tends to be the best way for me to understand what’s working and what is not. It will also help me figure out where the vocal harmonies need to go, and may also even give me a theme or melody for the guitar fills.  It’s an interesting process. I usually find myself whistling what the fills ought to be.

The other thing I will do tonight is work out the drum parts. This usually takes some time (Since I’m not a drummer and I need to work from loops). I know where the beat accents need to go, and I know how the drums should be carrying the song. However when I record the basic tracks, I’m working from a very sparse drum track that just repeats. This song has had that basic track for too long now. It needs to go, so that’s job one tonight.

Here’s an interesting thing – I went ahead and stripped out all of the tracks that I’m not using. So mostly it’s just guitar and bass. The thing that’s interesting about it is it’s gotten incredibly fresh sound that’s reminiscent of some wall of sound 1960s stuff.  That may very well be the sound of the song. It works well.

January 25 – Well, so much for that. Sometimes a first mix brings out all of the excitement of “oh my god, this is excellent!  It really DOES work.”

And sometimes not.

There are a couple of things about this song that ware making it different from2016-01-23 13.53.11 HDR what I usually do. The first is that the song is more of a singer-songwriter thing. There is a song from the last album – Edge of the World – that also falls into this category. I’m used to doing more the full all out rock song, and it takes a little bit of a shift of mindset to get into this. So, there’s that.

The other is – now that I can hear the full lyric – it doesn’t work. So I’ve spent a little bit of time today completely rewriting the first and second verses. Everything else stays the same, but clearly tomorrow will have to go back and do another set of vocal takes.

January 26 – vocal retakes are done.

January 27 – …which is good, because I seem to be coming down with a cold.

Just like anything else we do, making music is a human thing. And, being human, it falls prey to everyday events sometimes – like getting sick.  On reflection, this may also have contributed to my feeling a little down about the song over the past day… or not.  Still, not having much of a voice at the moment (or, it may be argued, ever) this sounds like a good time to focus on drums, which I’ll try to do tonight.  May also try to get the guide tracking reco2016-01-24 20.44.46rded for another song in the pipeline – “Not Sleeping”.

January 28 – yep, the cold is in full swing now, so vocals are pretty much out of the question. The good news is that I found exactly the right drum sound for “All There is to Say”.

Also got a chance to lay down the tracking for “Not sleeping”. This is going to be an interesting song, and a hell of a lot of fun. It just moves! I started things off by setting up a microphone right on the acoustic guitar another one further back in the room, setting up a click track in the headphones, setting the lyrics in front of me, and just doing it straight through in one take. The funny thing is I didn’t quite have all of the song structure before I started playing.  But, every single one of the sections and transitions was there when I got to it. Sometimes a song just wants to write itself!

I’m going to cut this here for now (getting a little long, you see). Rest assured that the song(s) is(are) coming along, and that there will more to this story soon!

Have a great weekend – Oh, and that little “free treat?” We just made “Pleased to Meet You” and “Closeout” free for download at Soundcloud for the weekend. Go and help yourselves!

Cold Winter, Bright Future

(Free download of The Things We Wish We Were. Thanks so much for coming along for the ride)

Newton, MA

Boy, what a weird couple weeks it’s been. Everything from losing Bowie and Glenn Frey, to the real doldrums of the winter. In short, not the brightest of times.

Of course on the plus side, it’s only 30 days or so until pitchers and catchers show up for spring training, and that means warmer weather is not that far off.

Until that time, we stay warm, and in our case we try and make a little music.

On that note, it occurs to me we really never talked about how this band came to be. And, first, it’s probably good to clarify what I mean by “we” and “this band.”

Steeling Time is by and large me (Chris Steele) working by myself. However that doesn’t mean that this is a complete solo project.  I’ve had the great privilege of playing with a lot of great musicians over the years, including but not limited to the band that I was part of her many years – Tunnel 18.  Some of the same people that were part of that band – as well as Wellcurbs, and a couple of other bands have all contributed ideas, or at least been really incredible sounding boards on the work I’ve been doing.

A few very good friends have been along for the ride, too.  Pushing for each new song, telling me what works, what really says something, and what’s perhaps a little too clever for it’s own good….

It’s also not to say that it will always be a solo project. I’m desperately interested in getting a full band together. Music on a disk and blasting from the speakers is great, but music in front of an audience is something special. And I think it doesn’t get completely real until that crowd is there.

In the meantime though, I can’t tell you how thankful I am for all of you who have been listening so far, and I wanted to give you a little present. Up on Soundcloud right now is a free download of one of the songs off of the first album (Time & Motion). The Things We Wish We Were is a great song about dreams and making them come true. It’s also a little bit about the fear and excitement that comes when you’re just about to make something special happen. It’s my wish that it does. And I hope that maybe it inspires you to find your dream too.

Thanks so much, and we look forward to talking to you again soon.

Music Matters

Newton, MA

(Find downloadable tracks from Time & Motion here, and all of the new Robbing the Cradle tunes here!)

Thank you so much for clicking through to the blog, and I hope you’re enjoying both what I’m writing here as well as the music our little band is putting out.

It’s been a little while since I put a blog post up, but I wanted to take this particular mom2016-01-06 22.53.26ent to thank you all for listening, and for joining us on this ride. The simple fact that you’re reading this and listening to us means that you must share something of the love that we have for music and what it has meant in our lives.

For me, all this starts about the age of six or seven, listening with friends to the Steve Miller band on an old LP player, pretending that we were playing along.  This then quickly proceeded to using my own money to buy my first LP records with incredible artwork.  Starting with Styx and Kiss, the Cars and then moving on to Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, Pink Floyd, Yes, and eventually Rush.  I listened to everything I could; I listened hard and read everything, and then dreamed…

These bands took the care to put themselves into not just their songs, but into entire albums.  These albums oozed human effort, warts and all.  They weren’t pristine, they weren’t perfect, but they were real expressions of the human heart animg368d mind bringing forth the soul in a way where you paid full and rapt attention.  And these albums were things you had to wait for, because they were being written and crafted in such away (and without the crutches of digital alteration and correction) that there’s real care, and real human performance.

The great thing is is that some of this magic has continued. Bands like Nirvana and Kyuss, and then Porcupine Tree, NIN, Dream Theater, Queens of the Stone Age and Foo Fighters keep putting out great album oriented concepts.  Collections of songs that don’t just advertise for 3 minutes, but instead take you on a journey.

It’s really hard to explain to anyone below the age of 30 what that feeling is like. That spending that seven dollars to get that collection of 10 or a dozen songs that you would then sit there and listen to over and over again. And importantly, these were albums – collections of songs that hung together and told the story, or at least told the story of where that band was at a particular point in time. They were snapshots of life put to music. Dreams in motion.DSC01551a

We are trying to carry-on in that same tradition. Writing songs that stand on their own and tell a story, but which also hold together as a total album.  Collections where you can put the disc in (and maybe eventually put the LP on) and lose yourself in a story or a mood for a half hour or an hour.

Time and Motion does that. What we’re putting together for Robbing the Cradle will do that.  Already have the basics of the songs set up, and we’ll make the collection available in bits as we have it. We will also put a few downloadables up on Bandcamp when we think they’re ready.

But… please reach out to us and let us know what you think! Let us know what you like, and what you’d like to hear more of.  Also let us know about the music that’s made a difference in your life! It’s a grand journey, life. Let us know what your soundtrack sound like!

And… Maybe you could share our music with others like us. People who want to hear real songs laying out stories of life and love and really loud guitars. You know, the good stuff!

(PS – the photos above? Yeah, that’s me, Chris – main songwriter and curator of the blog. One photo from age 16 and one from December….)