The Pieces of Smalltown
01/30/2019 09:44 PM
After a lot of living and working on the music until I felt like this album was just right, I am pleased to say that the pieces of smalltown is finished, in hand and ready to be heard.
A brief history of this album's release date:
Wallace Green was originally working on a third album entitled Superstar and we never released it. We had done a few demo tracks for Superstar and it was my first introduction to digital recording (both of our previous albums had been recorded to old school reel to reel tape). I fell in love with digital recording immediately and knew that's where I wanted to take my sound. I was never really happy with the sound from recording to tape. It's good when you spend a ton of money on it, but when you can't, it's hard to get a really good sound.
As many of you know, pieces of smalltown was originally slated for my next release after Wallace Green disbanned. It was going to be my first solo release, focusing on a more personal writing style.
I was originally planning for a release date of Summer 2003.
Here's what happened…
In the summer of 2003, I met a young lady named Ashlee. I was smitten from the beginning. She was smart, beautiful, and an amazing singer. We started dating and then we got married. She supported me starting another side project I had called "Pladd Dot Music". In 2003, I had just stopped teaching out of my apartment and started renting a space in downtown Statesboro for our lessons. Ashlee and I built our first house in 2005 and I was the contractor. It took the better part of my year to manage both projects.
Since I had decided at that point that digital recording was the only way to go, it was clear to me that I needed to own my own studio to get the sounds that I wanted. I knew that I wouldn't have enough time any other way.
So after we finished the house, we designed the upstairs to be used as a studio with a control room and master studio room.
It was great.
Except I didn't know how to engineer music.
Shortly after that, Mary Hannah Riggins reminded me of a promise that I made to her in high school. I told her that if she ever wanted to release an album, I would do it for her. So in 2005 Pladd Dot Records released Damsel in Distress-a-Lot. It was a perfect way for me to begin the learning process of engineering. I didn't have to always be "behind the guitar". This time, I was behind the console—or screen as it were.
Side note - Pladd Dot Music also ventured out on its own that same year. We started renting our own standalone location in downtown Statesboro. We remodeled it and the Pladd Dot brand was now a thing.
Unfortunately, my mom also died that same year. She never got to see what Pladd Dot was all about.
After the release of Mary Hannah's album, I began working on pre-production tracks for pieces. I was still green when it came to engineering. I was pleased with her sound, but engineering your own music is different. You have this sound in your head and you're trying to match what you hear in your head with what you don't really know how to do on the other end of the console. It was very frustrating.
Then I got another request for a project. Kathy Bradley asked me to do a recording of spoken word and Pladd Dot Records produced our second album, Dispatches from Sandhill in 2007.
I must've lost my mind in 2009. It was clear to me that the needs of our students totally outweighed my own and I finished publishing my guitar book Lessons for Life (and guitar). There were also over 50 tracks on that album (which gave me even more practice behind the console).
Then a lot of our friends starting having kids and people kept asking Ashlee to release a lullaby album. So we also released a lullaby album in 2009. It was the first time I had to secure publishing rights for anything because Ashlee and I used a few Beatles songs on the album as well as songs by other writers. Of course I played on every track and she wanted to put two of my originals (quilt, and sunflowers) on her album.
Another side note - she sings "quilt" better than I ever will.
A little backstory here…. Steve Chester had been wanting me to do a project with him and I turned him down for over three years because I simply didn't have the time. I guess 2009 was the year he finally broke me. Thus, we released the chester project in 2009. It was a good project with Brandy Harvey fronting the lead vocals. I filled in on lead guitar.
Shortly after that, we bought our current location at 38 North Main Street and the growth was staggering. In just a few short years, I went from teaching out of my apartment to owning a three story building downtown that was now consuming all of my time.
But there was something really cool about this building.
It had a MASSIVE four room recording studio.
We moved all of our recording gear from home to Pladd Dot and I thought it would be much easier to get work done "at work" instead of at home.
I was wrong.
Everybody else wanted to use the studio. In 2010 the Averitt Center approached us about recording Michael Braz's album, love in a new key. We did it and it turned out really well. He ended up recording one of my songs "Idle Tears" and it was a great cut. Of course, with a musician like Michael Braz, what's not to like? Mary Hannah was the engineer on this album and she began running the studio.
I also published my new book, away in a manger - 12 christmas classics for easy guitar that same year.
I followed up in 2011 with another book - Halloween Night - 13 songs that go bump in the night.
I also began tracking pieces of smalltown in 2011. The first track recorded was "Christmas Nineteen Eighty Six". It sounded great and I was finally ready to engineer my own album.
Then in 2012 we launched 3 new divisions of Pladd Dot Music. Our Band and Orchestra division, Devilcat Amplifiers, and CMG Guitars. We bought a factory and began manufacturing guitars and amps right in Statesboro. Needless to say, these new endeavors took 100% of my time—and then some.
I could honestly write books about the following six years, but instead I wrote a better album. I took the life lessons that I learned from marriage, love, and pushing myself beyond my limits to write the music on pieces of smalltown.
When I finally brought the band in to do tracking in September of 2013, I hit a wall. A hard one.
Matt, Ryan, and I went in for the first band session and the music wasn't coming together. At all.
Matt and Ryan are two of the best musicians that I know but they didn't really understand the direction of this album at first. I had been so used to recording with Larry and Brian that I didn't realize I was relying on them to read my mind.
I called Brian up in December of 2013 to track the bass line to "I'll go there with You". It came together perfectly.
Honestly, I was in tears when he was recording behind me in the control room. It was the first time I had ever realized just how much his musicianship meant to me over the years.
I also realized that I'm the world's worst music editor. I won't put tempo markings, crescendos, or technique markings in dang near anything that I write. I just write it and then remember how I want it done. Heck, I won't even finish song structure half the time. I'll write the verses and chorus and expect the band to know how I want it put together. With Brian and Larry, I could do that. We grew up playing together, learned together, and knew each other's strengths and weaknesses. We knew how to work around each other.
After I understood that, I began to discuss edits with the band and the direction I was thinking.
Then it started working.
Again, I'm not going to write a book about what was happening in my life (at least not right now), but it's all on the album. Matt, Brian, Ashlee and Ryan do a fantastic job on it and I was even able to work with several of our former students.
So yes. It has taken me a while to finish this album.
In the last 13 years, I have married the love of my life, lost two parents to cancer, recorded and produced 6 albums, wrote 3 books, started a business, moved the business three times, built two houses, started a manufacturing company, and even found time to manage legal threats by Gibson and Guitar Center (I won, by the way).
It's taken me a while—but I'm proud of it. I'm finally happy with this album and I hope that you can find the time to listen to it. Truly listen to it. Sit down, put on some good headphones and listen to it. Hear all the cracks in my voice, the pain in my lyrics, and the soul of my guitar.
It's in there.
And it's the best I can do.
Over the last few years, people would stop me and ask "how the album was coming". I was always grateful that they cared enough to ask or were interested. But it was always a bittersweet question because I didn't have a good answer.
Now I do.
Not only can you buy it in true physical form, but in the coming weeks you'll be able to stream it on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon Music, or wherever you can listen to music.
But do me one favor—just listen to it.
And I hope you like it.