Check out our official music video for “Whiskey”! Created by Versa Studios Media
Welp, I did not do a good job keeping our Studio Journal updated. The last entry I see was on September 25th, a solid (ground) 2 months ago. But wait, I can explain! Put down the pitchforks!
Basically, life got busy. Suz and I are always pushing the limits in how much time we can spend on music without getting fired from our day jobs or losing our sanity, but the last two months we definitely reached that limit and flew straight past it. There were more late night sessions with early morning shifts than I can count, plenty of Tuesday evenings feverishly finishing arrangements for every instrument the night before they were to be recorded, and I think I may have had a birthday in there somewhere, too. Friday night became our go to night where I would get off of work at 7, be at the studio by 8, and then record every single instrument on the song in one sitting until well into the morning, which is quite exhausting, especially when you leave pedal steel for the last instrument (pretty much every pedal steel part on the album thus far was recorded north of midnight). We also got a couple of shows in there somewhere as well up at Rosati’s. Lots of coffee. Lots of beer. One night of bourbon which we shall never speak of again.
The Whiskey music video release was a HUGE success. We were blown away by how many people took the time and effort to share the video around their various social media platforms of choice and all the kind words they had to say when they did so. If you did that and are now reading this – thank you thank you thank you. If you liked Whiskey, we can’t wait to show you the rest of the album.
After the video release for Whiskey, we hopped back in the studio and finished all the instruments for Solid Ground. Next we recorded Train to Memphis, which Rhonda and Troy took from being a meandering song that couldn’t quite make up it’s mind to a heavy hitting boot stompin’ good time. The drums on Train to Memphis were a blast to lay down – for the first time since we started the album I was truly playing them instead of instead of over-thinking everything. To keep the energy up, Suz and I did something we’ve never pulled off well before, which is recording our vocals at the same time:
No matter how many pictures we took one of always looked rather silly while the other one looked stoic and artistic. This blurry/out of focus shot was sadly the best compromise.
After that we tackled Window Panes, which was difficult for me to arrange. We have an older recording of the song on our first EP that had good intentions but didn’t quite reach the level it needed to be at now, and I spent several hours agonizing over the instrumentation trying to maintain what went well in the old recording but also build on it. After several attempts in our home studio, I finally got something down and it really came to life during one of the infamous Friday night sessions.
Tomorrow we start recording the first song I sing lead on, Love You Right (working-ish title). The arrangement came together quite nicely this morning before I even took a break for lunch, so I can’t wait to see what it grows into in the studio. I’ll try to do a better job of keeping you posted.
I also thought I’d start adding a little “what Scarlett Hill is listening to right now and what we think of it” section at the end of the journals:
Jason Isbell – Southeastern: Pure alt country songwriting gold. If you didn’t like him when he was in the Drive-By Truckers (guilty as charged), you’d better give him another shot.
Miranda Lambert – Platinum: Suz and I keep coming back to Platinum after not being totally blown away by it the first time, and I find myself now looking forward to several of the songs. Perhaps not as focused as Revolution or Four the Record, Miranda still definitely found more successful ways to push the boundaries of her artistry on this one.
Taylor Swift – 1989: I don’t really want to talk about it. But every #$&^%& song is stuck in my head all the time. Shake shake shake…
Whiskey is done. It was a brutal 6 hours filled with drums, bass, electric guitar, pedal steel, moments of frustration, moments of triumph, and dark coffee…followed by dark beer. We’ve never gotten so much blood, sweat, and tears onto tape as we have in this song. Whiskey has got us so excited that about a month ago I called the one and only Kenny Stevenson. That’s right – it’s time for another Scarlett Hill music video.
Right now Suz and I are sitting on the floor of our apartment while old R.E.M. plays softly in the background getting all of our stuff together for the shoot. She’s figuring out what makeup she needs to take while I figure out what color pickguard should go on my tele. You know, the important stuff. We’re busting out of Atlanta tomorrow night in the middle of rush hour traffic to try to make it to Louisville before the sun rises again and shoot all day long. We shot out last music video for Flyin’ South with Kenny, and it was a huge production – my dad drove a tractor pulling a 5 piece band on a wagon to a bonfire and a barn with a projector showing The Great Train Robbery for goodness sake. It was awesome, but we’ve got a very different plan for Whiskey that we can’t wait to show everyone. It’s going to showcase a side of us we haven’t captured yet on film. We’ve shot several music videos with Kenny over the years, and I think this one will be the best yet.
Although nothing will beat the first video we shot with Kenny back in our GNF college days when I played a burning piano in a field while the last of the world’s civilization stood around and watched and then got subsequently nuked by a pair of fighter jets. No, I’m not going to post a link…you’ll have to go digging for it if you want to watch.
Now that Whiskey is wrapped up, next weekend we will finish the banjo, mandolin, and pedal steel on Solid Ground and then move on to some really new songs: Train to Memphis, Love You Right, along with an oldie we’ve resurrected from our very first EP called Window Panes.
Suz is next to me asleep on the couch (even Parks and Rec isn’t funny enough to keep her awake) as I sit here and reflect on how quickly the Summer of 2014 passed. We finished two great sessions at the studio this weekend, and noticed on our drive up this afternoon that Fall is certainly in the air. Something about the crisp air makes me nostalgic for Fall days back in Indiana during high school, especially the Friday nights at the football game. Unlike your stereotypical country musician, however, I wasn’t the star player on the field – just a doofus in the marching band trying to figure out when we were going to have to play the school song again (um…who has the ball? What inning is it? etc). Regardless of what clique I chose to identify with during high school, there was always an energy in the air that time of year that I haven’t felt since then, a sense of freedom and endless possibility. Fall is a welcome change every year.
Ooooh that felt painfully cliche as I reread it. But it’s the truth. As songwriters Suz and I have come to find that cliches have their place in any songwriter’s arsenal – but they must be used sparingly. So no more cliches for this entire studio journal entry.
Oh…that reminds me that you probably want to hear about what happened in the studio. On Friday we started tracking drums for Solid Ground. Troy set up the mics Glyn Johns style, a seemingly simple mic pattern that I had not tried before, and I was blown away by the snap of the snare and overall balance of the kit. After a few tries I had a solid (har har) take and laid down some bass using my trusty ol ’67 Fender Mustang. Solid Ground is ready for the finishing touches of some mando, banjo, and pedal steel next week.
We spent all of this afternoon working on the vocals for our lead single from the album Whiskey. Yes, we are a country band and we now have a song called Whiskey. Doesn’t that pretty much mean we’re “in” now? Anyway, Suz’s vocal part is tough and takes a lot of attitude. We’ve never worked so hard or long on a vocal part, but Rhonda and Troy kept pushing for better and better takes until Suz had taken the song to a whole new level. Toto may have helped too:
Toto, before he was promptly kicked out of the studio for breathing too loudly.
It was exciting to feel like we are finally taking the time during the recording process to get performances truly worthy of these songs we’ve spent the last year writing. We can’t wait for y’all to hear it. Next week – drums and guitars for Whiskey!
Well, it’s finally time to kick off the first official post to the Scarlett Hill Studio Journal, written by yours truly (Blake). It was always a blast maintaining the road journal for Suz and my college band GNF, but I knew that I had to wait until there was something really worth writing about in the Scarlett Hill world before I could kick off a similar awkward side-blog where I ramble on about Lord knows what for a few paragraphs until I feel as though I’ve made some important artistic statement.
All intent and awkwardness aside, it’s a very exciting time for Scarlett Hill, so therefor it is legally required that I post this first entry. We moved to Atlanta, GA from our previous home of Indiana a little over a year ago with the mission of finding a country music scene that we could call home and to record Scarlett Hill’s first full length album. After several long months of strange and seemingly random coincidences, performances, late nights/early mornings, and email strings, we found ourselves sitting in the brand new studio of Troy and Rhonda Lashbrooks last Sunday afternoon laying down vocals for the very first song for a new record.
The Lashbrooks have an extremely interesting history that I may delve into more as time permits, but the spark-notes version of it is they are two extremely talented musicians and producers who have agreed to take us on as their first project for their new management agency, Sweet Corn and Cotton, based out of Cumming, GA. The studio is about a 45 minute drive from our apartment away from the hustle and bustle of the city through winding pastures and by Lake Lanier – quite the cliche southern country imagery. It ends with Troy and Rhonda’s nearly vertical driveway that really does a number on the otherwise peaceful drive, requiring you to floor it to climb the grade and then slam on the breaks to not go flying into the beautiful garden they have been so carefully tending. I assume if I ruin the garden with our Subaru the deal is off, so this is one of the most important parts of the recording process.
A little over a week ago Troy and I spent the afternoon recording the acoustic guitar tracks for the first two songs we are working on, Solid Ground and Whiskey. He made Diane sing like never before – for those of you just tuning in, Diane is my Gibson songwriter that is really starting to come into her prime. Every day the wood resonates a little bit sweeter, and she’s going to sound fantastic on the record.
Suz and I drove up yesterday to start working on the vocals for Solid Ground, which is a mid-tempo Dixie Chicks-esq country tune that explores the conflicting and confusing advice we often receive from mentors and peers alike about wanting to be professional musicians – “dream big!…but don’t forget to get a day job and save money and find a nice spouse to settle down with and follow the small town formula etc.” Rhonda worked with Suzanne to bring out an awesome connection between the performance and the lyrics, and I dare say that if every other song gets that kind of performance from Suz, we will have a damn good record on our hands. We’ve always struggled with capturing vocal performances when in the studio, so it was a breath of fresh air when Suz stepped out of the vocal booth on her final take and everyone was clapping because of the energy she left on tape. The song has some tricky harmonies, and it took me several tries to get them all in tune, but I was able to lock in on Suz’s pitch better than ever before and you can really hear them shimmer and shine in the recording. Troy threatened early on that there he “wasn’t putting any of that %*$# autotune on our voices,” so we are extra proud that what ya’ll will be hearing is really us singing.
Next session, we tackle Whiskey.
Wow, Happy New Year to us!!! We just heard that we are one of 5 finalists for Duo of the Year in the annual Nashville Universe Awards! Head on over to www.thenashvilleuniversie.com to give us a vote, and if we get enough votes we’ll get to play the Live Awards show in Downtown Nashville!
Suzanne and I are very excited to announced that we have begun writing music for our first full length album, which we hope to release Summer 2014. That means we may not be playing out quite as much during December, but we’ll see y’all again come January.
We had a great run of shows in September, and are excited to already be putting together a busy schedule in October and November as well! Here’s what we’ve got so far:
Saturday Oct 12th, 45 South Cafe, Norcross GA, 7:30-9:30 pm
Monday Oct 14th, Steve’s Live Music Sandy Springs GA, Open Mic Featured Artist, 9:00 pm,
Wednesday Oct 16th, Steve’s Live Music, Songwriters in the Round
Saturday Nov 9th, Turners Corner Cafe 2012 Cleveland GA, 9-11 pm
Check out the show tab for more information/directions
If you’re a Spotify user, then you’re all set to listen to “Long Gone” on either your computer or mobile device. You can either search “Scarlett Hill” or CLICK HERE.
Excited to announce that we won the “Serious Songwriter Competition” at Steve’s Live Music tonight! The word for the night was gasoline, and Blake wrote a song for it called “Big Ol’ City” that was chosen by the judges as the best song! You’ll probably be hearing more of “Big Ol’ City” in the future, so stay tuned.