You Are Here

You Are Here cover

You Are Here is my new album, to be released on July 26th, 2024. It continues the direction set with Unsung, from 2021. As with Unsung, You Are Here is a very personal project; I wrote and played most of the music, and recorded and mixed it at my studio in Devon, UK. I was joined by two other musicians: Michelle Packman played cello on six tracks, and Reggie Jones played upright bass on five. In addition to playing my cello arrangements, Michelle contributed her own improvisations, many of which became key elements in the songs. I’ve always wanted to hear upright (double) bass on my stuff, and Reggie did a great job.

The album was recorded entirely at my studio in Devon (except for Michelle’s cello [LA] and Reggie’s bass [London]).  Giving up my studio in southwest France was a huge loss, but… first world problems, etc.  You Are Here was also recorded and mixed in a much shorter period of time than Unsung, my previous release, so it sounds a little more coherent.

The process was very much the same, though – I keep a musical diary (although that implies more organisation than it should) of snippets, ideas, and improvisations.   Eventually, enough of them accumulate and seem worth pursuing that I start to build on them.  Not all survive even that basic step, but enough of them begin to find some sort of structure and to fit together individually and as a whole.  I spent a couple of years – the pandemic and a bit after – seriously wondering whether I had lost the ability to make music.  Then a switch flipped last August (that was the working title of the album), everything sounded like music again, and I got to work.

The most important aspect of recording You Are Here (for my engineer/production self) was recording as many things in stereo as possible.  I love albums that have a strong sense of space. I’ve been working on improving my acoustic guitar sound forever, and using two microphones in a mid/side configuration allowed me to dial in how “stereo” things would sound after the fact.  (For recording nerds, I mostly used a Neumann KM-84 as the cardioid mic and a Sennheiser MKH30 as the figure-8 mic.)  As the layers of guitars built up, I really like the sense of space that this method of recording gave.  I used a similar approach with piano.  I used a more conventional approach with drums, using an Extinct Audio Valkyr, a stereo ribbon mic in Blumlein configuration for overheads.  Microphone preamps for most everything were either Neve 1272s,  a pair of Bob Starr’s RCA clones, or my cherished Gates SA-70 tube mic pres, all into a JCF Audio AD-8.

I used my usual assortment of old guitars on You Are Here.  A ‘43 Gibson LG-2 did a lot of the work – it just sounds like I want a guitar to sound in front of a microphone.  One unusual standout was a ‘37 Martin 5-18 – a very small “terz” guitar designed to be tuned up a third from normal E.  Guitar geeks will have seen one being played by Marty Robbins and Bobbie Gentry.  The cool thing about this guitar that I discovered is that it sounds almost like a harp when playing single-note lines, and I used it all over the album, particularly on “Making Something Out of Nothing/Nothing Out of Something”, “So This Is Now”, and the title track.