(Last Stop Records)
When I went into the studio to record "Traveling Songs", I told the engineer that if we came out with a recording of just me and my guitar, that would be fine. I was looking to put together a sparse recording of my new songs, and I wasn't hearing a lot of drums and other stuff on the album. This is a bit dicey politically when one has a 4 piece band ready to go and excited to do an album, but I think it all worked out in the end. One other unique thing about this album is I recorded most of my parts of the songs live - I played my guitar and sang at the same time, much as I would do when playing a solo show. I did this to preserve the 'live' pacing of the songs that can get lost when one tracks all the parts. Here's some notes on the particular songs.
This is the first song that I've recorded that I don't play any guitar... I first recorded this song as I did most of the others - I played it on my guitar and sang at the same time and all that, and then we added some lead guitar and some piano. It seemed to me that the song was getting too cluttered with all those bits going on, and once we dropped out my parts, it felt real good. So we just dumped my guitar and re-recorded my vocals. I'm not too sure what this song is about - guy misses his girlfriend or something. Looks for her in crowds. I'm sure a therapist could explain it all better than I can.
This is one of those songs that took me a long time to write. Some songs come quite quickly, and it's very exciting when that happens - the ol' bolt of lightning. Ahh, but as we all know, lighting is unpredictable, and so sometimes when a song needs to get out, it takes a bit of work. This is your run of the mill guy/alcoholic girlfriend song, but when I wrote it, I actually wrote it from the girl's point of view. I liked how John Prine did "Angel From Montgomery", and I wanted to try my hand at writing from the other point of view. (So it's actually your run of the mill girl/alcoholic boyfriend song). Either way works I think. One of my band members pointed out that I might be subconsciously be fearing marriage in that Willow Bay can easily be transposed to "will obey", which is a common part of most marriage vows. I told him he was ridiculous and then laughed uncomfortably. Listen to Frank's harmonies on this song - really great. The spooky sound is a result of tripping his harmony tracks - we recorded them three times and then just stock them on top of each other. I stole this idea from the Beach Boys.
ACROSS THE BAY
I tend to think of this song as the related somehow to "Willow Bay". They both have bays, they're about similar subject matter, I wrote them kind of close together. The lyrics don't 100% match up, but I don't let that bother me. My bass player, Craig Koozer, did some excellent bow work on this song - he gave it that spooky sound by bowing harmonics on his big upright bass.
This is the first song that I wrote for the album, and I think it's a text-book JJ Schultz song, if I may be forgiven for using the 3rd person. It’s got the little pull-off deal on a G chord that I like to do - it's about moving on. Its all very similar to "Bustin' Outa Town", which I always think of as my signature song. This is the first song that features Sonya Cotton's backing vocals... doesn't she sound lovely? One of few regrets with this album is I didn't turn her vocals up a bit more in the final mix. In retrospect, they’re a bit too far in the background. One other thing I like about this song is the build with the bass and lead guitar right before the bridge - I think that all came together very well.
This is the last song that I wrote for the album - I wrote it in the studio as Craig was laying down his bass parts. This one features some excellent telecaster playing by Frank Rathbone - it's loose and aggressive and just about perfect in my opinion. This is also the only track on the album with drums. This lack of drums is mostly by design and partly a result of the way I laid down the initial tracks - I laid everything down live with just me and my guitar, and that makes it really hard to a beat after the fact. I intentionally didn't play to a click, and its really hard to add one later. This is all fine with me - drums are for parades.
THE CLOUDS UNDER THE MOON
Two of my good friends out here in San Francisco play in a duo called "Bramble and Briar", and I always admired their songwriting - its so whimsical and personal and so I really wanted to try and write a song in the style of Bramble and Briar, and this is that song. I usually make up stories when I write songs, but not this one - this one's all true and personal.
This song here is another song about North Dakota - I initially started writing about an unemployed grain elevator worker and luckily, that's what I ended up with. This is one of the songs where I can really picture the guy in my head - I know just what he looks like and what kind of car he drives and which buttons are missing on his flannel shirt. I'd describe it all to you, but I'd rather you have your own image.
COME ON, COME ON
This one is kind of a true story as well - it's specifically about a car breaking down in the desert (which has happened to me) (not fun), and it's also about the demise of a relationship all that. I thought the parallelism worked out pretty well in this one.
I wrote this one on an airplane coming back from a week in North Dakota. I was taking a nap, and I woke up and wrote this song and it all came pretty quick. This is one of my favorites to perform live - I really like the imagery and way it builds and all that. This is also kind of a personal song - in that it's a song about me and not some made up characters. I could break it down and tell you the origin of each verse, but I think that would take some of the fun out of it all, but I will tell you this: the cure for head lice is to shave your head.
This is a recycle from my "Bustin' Outa Town" album. "County Backroad" is one of my favorite songs that I've written, and I really like the way it sounds before a live audience. I can hear some of my friends in the background - and just prior to the song, somebody shouts out "Something to me!" (the title track from my previous album). You can hear all of my live recordings here: http://theutah.org/artist