About a month ago I teamed up with producer Grey Revell to record an EP at Impermanence Studios for my solo project Fountain Penn. It was the fourth EP Grey and I have done together and definitely won’t be the last.
Who the hell is Grey Revell?
Grey Revell is not only a producer, but a legendary anti-folk artists who sprung out of the underground, Sidewalk Cafe movement and relocated to the Queen City. He’s released loads of albums and has toured around the country. Recently, he’s received recognition from around the world for a song of his called Gone, Gone after it was featured in an HP Commercial. I’m a gigantic fan of his material and have absorbed a tremendous knowledge and insight from him.
I love working with Grey as a producer for several reasons. He’s gets extremely motivated about the projects. Many producers will kick back and let the artists take the helm. But when Grey starts someone’s project, he takes a ownership of it, while still holding his clients opinions to the highest regard. I’m very much a head-in-the-clouds singer-songwriter, I pride myself on the ability to write catchy hooks and come up with insightful lyrics. I am, however, clueless, when I comes to sound and production. I need someone like Grey to make sure what I’m hearing in my head is actually coming through the speakers. He does a great job channeling my style and shaping it into a quality recording. He understands my vision and is able to add to it.
How’d it happen?
We got together and worked on Thermal Static for about three full days, one more than our usual two. Together Grey and I did all of the instrumentation ourselves. You’ll notice the only drum on the record is a kick drum on the first and third track, Grey had to do it because I have no sense of rhythm. I did all of the acoustic guitar, high strung acoustic guitar(little trick I picked up from the guys at Destiny Nashville), some of the bass tracks and vocals. Grey always leaves a signature bass track on every EP we do; first it was The Other Side, then No Where To Go and most recently, North and Gray. He outdid himself this time with the grooviness of his bass work on the third track to Thermal Static.
What does it sound like?
Compared to the other EPs I’ve done, Static is far more acoustic driven and reflective of my live performance. Small, intimate, acoustic performances are the focal point of Fountain Penn. Most of the people that follow my music first heard me in a tiny coffee house show. It’s difficult to create a decent sounding recording while still capturing that kind of presence. The challenge I want to take on when I record is not the struggle to sound professional. With modern technology, squeaky clean records are a dime a dozen. Catching the allure or the punch from a live performance, that’s what’s hard to come by. With Thermal Static, if we didn’t capture the spark, I think we got pretty damn close.
I was fortunate enough to get Gabe Borquez, a sound engineer out of Nashville who helped us make Early Bird Gangsters, to master the Thermal Static. He did an extraordinary job and couldn’t be happier with what he did.
What do these even mean?
Team Colors – I wrote this one back in February or March. It’s a upbeat, lightheaded little ditty about nervous first dates in the backdrop of my hometown, Davidson NC. Throughout the song I drop references to certain landmarks around town that Davidsonians might recognize. The innocently trying to make a good impression on someone is as comical as it is relatable, I think most people have been in that situation at one time or another. It’s funny because my brother shows up in the first verse of this song, just like he did in the first verse of the opening track to Shoelaces. This time, instead of sneaking stogies with me, he’s telling me not to lose my composure and bring up UFO conspiracies on a first date, which I’m sure I did.
Fading in the Haze– I wrote this about a week before recording it. It’s centered around a negative romantic relationship, realizing that there’s manipulation involved and then checking out of it all. I think there’s usually a point in unhealthy relationships where one of the people start to recognize how mutually destructive they’ve become to each other. I didn’t write it too specifically but it’s partly inspired by a friend of mine who was going through something similar.
Sestina– I wrote this one back in January. I was attending school at UNC Greensboro, taking a course in poetry. We were studying sestinas, which are a specific type of fixed form poetry. I became kind of captivated by the eeriness that resounded from the constant repetition. Trying to imagine what Sestina would be like if she was a person, I drew a connection between the stringent, fixed form poetry and an addict constantly need to get their fix. Addiction also tends to leave someone tangled in odd repetitions. So the character, Sestina, is mostly fictional, but the lyrics are sprinkled with added bits of experience here and there.
Folded– The last seven years of writing has accumulated over 200 originals for me. This song, Folded. Choosing favorites out of my songs, that all mean so much in different ways, it would be like choosing a favorite child. That being said, this is my favorite kid. If I could only have one, this would be it. I wrote it sort of spontaneously, one Sunny afternoon back in May. When you start falling in love there’s usually the adrenalin fueled, heart pounding, butterflies mixed with sleepless, nervous insecurities. But after all of that is over, if you finally know that you’ve found something genuine and that the feelings are mutual, there’s a sense of imperiousness that accompanies. Certain fear and regret starts to drift away or lose effect. That’s what the song is about. The “Pennsylvania hills” stems from my experiences in the state over tour, the idea that loving this person was giving me, not only motivation to return back home, but also a new perspective and purpose for what I was seeking to accomplish with my career.
Front Yards and Sanctuaries- This is the only song on the record that wasn’t written this year. Front Yards came out about a year ago, around Oct/Nov 2012. I was sort of mulling over the future and the different paths I could take. It’s kind of a third person description of where I could end up in a decade. As negative as it sounds, I have an incredible drive to embark on an endless tour, performing at tiny venues and meeting new people. The song presents it as a negative ambition because, in certain circumstances, it can be detrimental. It addresses the hesitation that can come with carrying dreams.