It’s not every day that you get to work a few of your childhood heroes, and this last month has not been every day. Or rather… every month…? Jars of Clay - the platinum-selling, multi-Grammy-winning band that derives their name from 2 Corinthians 4:7 – is a band I first encountered when I was ten years old, just before I became very serious about music, and long before I’d developed the analytical, hip (?? ;) ears of a musician. I remember playing Nintendo in a friend’s room and listening to their music, which resonated with me so much – their acoustic, open-sounding blend of guitars, percussion, strings, oboe…
This last month I’ve been composing, arranging, and recording strings for their next album. It’s been a very rewarding project so far, centered around a great collection of songs written and performed by band members Dan, Matt, Steve, and Charlie & the rest of the band as well as legendary drummer Matt Chamberlain, with the singular Tucker Martine at the producing helm.
I’ve been recording violin and viola on the road and in Jars’ home of Nashville, TN as well. It’s been challenging, rewarding arranging/recording work, as I try to flesh out the intangible possibilities in my head onto notation/multi-track recording. Some of my biggest composer heroes are Samuel Barber and Vince Mendoza (heard Bjork’s Vespertine?) who can both rip your heart out with their orchestral writing. You can get a pretty big sound when you record dozens of string parts, and this time I was grateful to have a few new additions to the JK recording team:
1) a pair of vintage KM84 condenser microphones, which are my favorite kind to record on strings, and the story is that these were used by the Grateful Dead, amongst many others…
2) Bernard, my new viola. That’s BER-nard, pronunciation-wise, BTW (no, that’s not Bernard below). Bernard helps with the depth of the sound of the string arrangements, and with a little computer magic he sounds like a cello – awesome (a special thank-you to the anonymous benefactor who helped me get Bernard on the team :)
Jars of Clay also spearhead blood:water mission – a dynamic initiative to provide clean drinking water and community-building tools to people in west Africa. From what I gather it seems to be a VERY inspiring and results-oriented program I know – check it out here.