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Frontloader Sessions: Sheyna Gee

It was great seeing Sheyna again. She had moved to Nashville in the later part of 2015 and has been finding much success out there. Always knew she would.

She came back to California for a few weeks and came in for a session. Backed by the multi-instrumentalist David Mills, we spent some time catching up and then recorded a few songs. “I’ve Been Around” has been a staple to her live set, so it only made sense that it was chosen. The intro to this video is hilarious!

Sheyna recorded a few more songs that day and I’ll get to them soon! (I write that down as a reminder and promise to myself) Her Facebook page exploded with views and “likes” a few weeks ago. Her name is definitely getting around, so be sure to follow her and stay updated. It’s always exciting to watch how an artist progresses!

Thanks again to Sheyna and David for making in for a session. It was a blast and I hope to see you all again soon!

Sheyna Gee links: [Official site] [Facebook]

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Frontloader Sessions: Nathan Rivera and Friends

I’m so happy with how this session turned out.

Nathan Rivera, Shine Delphi, Jessie Andra Smith and co. came into the studio for a rousing session with three (3) resonators. I’ve never experienced that sound before and I want more of it now.

The musicianship was stellar as these guys ran through a bunch of songs that reminded me of New Orleans… check out “The Land of Milk and Honey” for a taste.

More to come from this session. Truly stoked.

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Jaime Wyatt: “Marijuana Man”

I had the absolute pleasure of meeting and recording Jaime Wyatt this last week. I haven’t had time to work on the videos yet, but her music is so good that I just had to share this video with you all.

Jaime is what I would consider an Americana singer/songwriter with a voice that made me take a step back and say, “Whoa.” It wasn’t even a loud, “WHOA!” it was the kind of “Whoa” that you say when you are not only surprised, but extremely mesmerized as well. Her rock/country style surrounds the catchy and memorable songwriting she possesses.

“Marijuana Man” was posted on her official YouTube channel back in October of last year. It’s a fun one that appears to chronicle the travels of the legendarily mythical Marijuana Man. I’ve never met The Marijuana Man, but he looks like someone that I could hang with whilst watching The Lego Movie.

Jaime has a myriad of other videos on her channel. Be sure to subscribe to it to keep tabs on her… and be on the lookout for her Frontloader Session!

Jaime Wyatt on: [Official] [Facebook] [YouTube]

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Frontloader Sessions: Alice Wallace (part 2)

I am so pleased to bring you the second part of the Alice Wallace Frontloader Session. In case you missed it, here’s part 1 –> click me!

Alice possesses one of the purest voices I’ve heard in a long, long time, even purer than my voice when I stub my toe and let out a string of expletives that would embarrass the finest cusser in the world, Yosemite Sam.

Don’t believe me? Check out THIS rant:

Anyhow, Alice recorded a total of six songs for the Frontloader Session, and I’m crossing my fingers that she will, in fact, release these songs as an EP…

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Everybody go to her Facebook page and tell her to do it! Do it now!

First up is “A Thousand Miles From Home,” a song I’ve come to become quite intimate with. The other day, I had this on repeat for about an hour and kept singing along during the chorus… “As far as the eye could seeeeeeee… in front of me…” I then took this song out for a drink and some dancing. I’m not ashamed to say that we shared a moment together beneath the great oak tree out by the park. Nope. I’m not ashamed to say that.

Going back to what I was saying about her voice – I swear I did not touch it in the audio. No EQ’ing at all. Some may tell me that I should’ve done this or that to the vocal, but I was completely happy with what was captured. Her voice simply doesn’t need anything. That’s so cool.

Up next is “Poor Cleopatra,” a song that describes a woman’s fall into her own self-importance and worth (at least that’s what I think it’s about!) [update – Alice just informed me of the real meaning of the song. I was WAY off. Go ask her about it. Pretty cool]. Her vocal shines here again as she displays her gorgeous falsetto. Check out Tom Bremer’s guitar solo as well… love that Tele sound. I’m still amazed on how he makes the guitar sound like a pedal steel. Maybe someday he’ll show me a few things that I can rip off.

Lastly is my new favorite song from the session. “A Traveling Song” was the final song of the day, and I’m so glad she decided to record it. Lyrically, the song captures two separate encounters with people Alice has met during her time on the road. I’ve always loved the straight forward storytelling song, one that does not need much interpretation other than the one the artist delivers. Alice reminds us that life is all about perspective, and what we take from it defines our own existence. It’s poignant, thought-provoking, and altogether beautiful to listen to.

The smiles on Alice and Tom’s faces at the end of the video are priceless. I’m so glad I was able to get this on tape.

So there you have it, the complete Alice Wallace Frontloader Session. Alice has a few Southern California shows coming up before she hits the road again to Florida.

Jan 30 9:00pm @ Big’s GrillFullerton, CA US
Jan 31 8:30pm @ Yves’ BistroAnaheim Hills, CA US
Feb 06 7:30pm @ California SolSpring Valley, CA US
Feb 07 8:30pm @ Yves’ Restaurant & Wine BarAnaheim, CA US

Thanks again to Alice, Tom, and Robert for coming out to do the session. Great music, performances, and people. I love what I get to do!

Alice Wallace on: [Official] [Facebook]

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Frontloader Sessions: The Lovebirds

I hope you’re having a great 2015 so far. The other day at work, I told someone “Happy New Year!” to which they responded, “It’s already almost halfway through January… you can stop saying that!” I scratched my head and wondered if that was correct, if there is a time when “Happy New Year!” isn’t appropriate anymore. I supposed if you’re still saying that in August, then you MIGHT want to stop, but it’s still January! I figure if I see you for the first time in 2015 during the month of January, it’s appropriate to say it.

What do you think?

Now, I know that you didn’t come to this post for a lesson on “Happy New Year” etiquette, so I’ll get to the point.

The Lovebirds (Lindsay White and Veronica May) came in for a session last year and I’m just getting to them now. I have to say that I was extremely swamped last December. I fell behind on finishing the session videos, and then I fell behind even MORE when the holidays hit. I took a month off from the sessions to spend time with family, and I’m honestly just now getting back into the swing of things. I’m ashamed to say that I’m still behind on a couple of the sessions, but I will catch up in no time because someone gave me THIS for Christmas:

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Pretty cool. I intend to fire it up this week. I’ll let you know how it goes 10 years ago. By the way, if you didn’t know what that is, then I’m going to point and stare at you in a most judgmental way until you tell me not only what it is, but who created it.

Anyhow, I came across The Lovebirds whilst clicking on a bunch of links one night. I can’t recall where the original link came from, but it took me to a YouTube video that captured a live performance. I said to myself, “Wow!” and continued to listen to more of their music online. The songwriting was top notch. The performances were stellar… and man alive, the harmonies… the harmonies were exquisite. I wrote them and after some exchange, they decided to drive up from San Diego on the Friday after Thanksgiving for the session. On their official site, The Lovebirds akin themselves to The Indigo Girls and Tegan and Sara. By the time you watch all the videos, I’m sure you’ll find some truth in that description.

Such a big sound from two people. The dynamic range of their songwriting kept me captivated throughout the session. From the rocker “Gray,” to the tender and delicate “Volcano,” I was amazed on the control they had over their voices and how they played within the music. I don’t know how much they practice, but the end result is a sign of their dedication to their craft.

“Gray” was the first song up… drums, electric guitar, and vocals. Veronica had this (old?) Ibanez guitar that we ran through my Vox Night Train amp. If I recall, she just plugged the guitar in straight… no effects… the EQ was straight up at 12 o’clock… just some grit. The bluesy riffing and groove to the music fits the lyric that plays out a boxing match that must have a deeper meaning than my tiny brain can handle.

Loved the bow at the end. I need to start doing that in everything I do. Even after ordering something at In-N-Out, I need to just turn around and bow to the rest of the customers. Somebody will film it one day, put it on YouTube, and it’ll go viral. Then I’ll be famous for the most ridiculous reason. Livin’ the dream.

Coming off a rocker of a song, The Lovebirds turned to one that started off so quietly that I had to hold my breath while filming. “Boat Train” showcases their wonderful harmonies… I love the ornaments they throw in at the end of some of the lines. Such a gorgeous piece of music.

“Boat Train”

Recording drums in the space I have here is always a challenge. The chances of the drum tracks bleeding into the rest of the microphones is high, as you’ll hear in this next performance. In “Whiplash,” the drums bled into Lindsay’s vocal mic a bit too much. Personally, I liked how big the drums sounded, but I think in getting that big sound, the drums drowned out her singing a bit too much, especially in the middle section. Live and learn. I absolutely love this song. The line, “If the crash doesn’t get you, the whiplash will,” is one that I sincerely wish I came up with.

“Whiplash”

For their last song, Lindsay and Veronica decided to sit on the (now famous?) black couch for a more intimate song, “Volcano.” For the guitar, I plugged it into the board as well as sticking a mic in front of it. Love the sound I got. I need to get a Taylor guitar. If anyone wants to buy me one, let me know and I’ll send you 1,000 links to the one(s) I want.

This song was the perfect ending to the day. I’ll say it again – the harmonies! Man ALIVE I love harmonies. Their voices blend so well together. This may seem like a small detail, but it’s one that I think is overlooked in many singers that harmonize together… notice how Lindsay and Veronica handle the “s” at the end of the lines. They both end at the same time, so there is only one “s” that you hear. I’m not sure if that makes sense, but pay attention and I think you’ll hear what I mean. Paul Simon (of Simon and Garfunkel) once explained how he and Art would sit in front of each other study how the other sang… all for the purpose of getting this sort of timing down.

Take a look/listen. This is a great song as well, so you’ll doubly rewarded!

“Volcano”

The Lovebirds have a few shows coming up:

Jan 16 @ 8pm – Java Joe’s/Artlab Studios in San Diego, CA
Jan 31 @ 1pm – Belly Up Tavern in Solan Beach, CA
Feb 14 @ 7pm – San Dieguito United Methodist Church Hall in Encinitas, CA
Feb 19 @ 9pm – Folk Alliance Internation in Kansas City, MO.

I highly recommend catching a performance. I described their music as “powerful” to a friend of mine, and I’m going to stick with that. Thanks to Lindsay and Veronica for making the trek to do the session. It was such a joy to meet and record them, and I really, really, REALLY hope to have them back sometime soon. They were kind enough to gift me with their catalog…

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Yeah, I’m kind of a big deal. I should’ve had them autograph the covers. Rats.

Check out the pictures from this session on our Facebook page here.

The Lovebirds on: [Official Site] [Facebook] [Twitter]

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The Norms: “It Takes Two”

It’s always exciting for me to write about artists I’ve already written about. I guess at the most basic level, I’m thrilled that the artist in question is still producing new material. They’re still moving forward, they still have their eye on the prize. That’s never a bad thing.

I’ve been involved with a number of projects that eventually called it quits because of one thing or another, so believe me, I know how challenging it is to keep it together as a group.

The Norms have been covered by TheFrontloader a few times already. They’ve come in for a Frontloader Session, and just recently they reached out to inform us of their new single and video for “It Takes Two.”

I says to myself, “Sweet!” and took a listen/look. The song showcases their blend of pop/rock, with catchy riffs, guitar lines, and a sound that is inspired by The Strokes, Vampire Weekend, Weezer & Bloc Party. I always dug the quality songwriting of this band… take a look!

In their most recent press release, The Norms state that their “EP is set to release in late January after which they will embark on their first national tour.” Very cool, indeed. I look forward to the new EP and can’t wait to be invited backstage at their shows.

Guys… I’m going to be invited backstage, right? RIGHT?

The Norms on: [Official] [Facebook] [Twitter]

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Frontloader Sessions: Alice Wallace (Pt. 1)

It’s a beautiful morning here in the Inland Empire. I’m sitting here on my bed, typing this, listening to the Frontloader Session with Alice Wallace. Perfect match, if you ask me.

1688694_1509261409349904_3832214545668796657_nAlice Wallace is a country/folk/blues singer here in Southern California. She has a gorgeously gorgeous voice that hits “it” every single time. That “it” I mention is probably different for everyone… for me, “it” is the feeling that I get in my gut that tells me, “Dude. That’s it!”

Yes, I know I didn’t make much sense there, but you get my point: Alice is awesome.

On a cool Monday morning, Alice, Tom Bremer (guitar), and Robert Bowman (stand-up bass), ready to record. I had never recorded a stand-up bass before, so Robert was kind enough to show me how it’s usually mic’d (one mic pointed more or less at the bridge, one at an f-hole). The full, booming tone was such a pleasure to hear through the monitors. I have GOT to get myself one of those things. It’d help if I first learned how to play it, of course.

Bremer’s Telecaster ran through a Bassman (if memory serves). The Tele’s 60-cycle hum was evident but thankfully it wasn’t too prominent in the mix. I loved Tom’s playing… very tasteful, subtle, and kept the song moving with his flavorful runs. Plus, his Telecaster was cool. I would say, “I have GOT to get myself one of those things!” as well, but I already have one… wait… I can have ANOTHER one!!!!

My mom once asked me, “You can only play one at a time. Why you need so many guitars?” My reply? “Why not?”

My mom didn’t seem to like that answer. She shook her head and said something in Chinese that I think… I THINK meant, “My son is an idiot.”

Everyone set up in a semi-circle and they started with “If I Knew,” the opening track to Alice’s album, A Thousand Miles From Home.

I tried a 3-camera set up this time: 2 stationary and one I carried around. I’m pretty happy with the results… one issue I had was making the clips from each camera look the same. Not sure if I achieved this, but I think I got close.

“If I Knew” deals with what we all realize: hindsight is 20/20. The question Alice asks, though, is even though hindsight is 20/20, would she still do the same things again? Interesting lyric… made me think. Hey! Alice made me THINK! Cool.

“If I Knew”

If you get a chance, listen to this session through headphones (a good set!) and you’ll be able to hear how the electric guitar floats around the stereo space. I was quite pleased with the sound.

“A Waltz” is one of my favorite songs of the session. Yes, just as the title says, the song is a waltz. During the recording, I found myself wanting to sing along, even though I didn’t know the words. That’s how much I dug this song. As I listen to it now, I can’t help but sing along at the “La dee die” part.

From 2:54-3:00, the look on Robert’s face is priceless. I’m so glad I got that on film.

“A Waltz”

And finally, here’s “Long Road,” just a great way to end this first part of her session. Tom’s funky country guitar picking chimes throughout this fun, toe-tapping number.

“Long Road”

I’ll say this about the whole session with Alice: it was great to watch them perform and feed off of each other. Their knowledge of not only the style, but their playing was a joy to hear. The discussions about which type of chord to end on, which scale to use for the solos, and how to go about getting the right feel for the song in this setting… it showed me just how dedicated each musician is to their craft. While I am guilty of just “banging it out” as well, it’s great to be reminded that the drama is in the details.

Be sure to catch Alice in concert! Here are some upcoming dates:

Dec 27, 8:30pm @ Yves Restaurant and Wine Bar in Anaheim Hills, CA
Dec 31, 8:00pm @ Westin Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage, CA
Jan 03, 7:00pm @ Ranch Party @ EB’s Beer and Wine Bar Farmers Market in Los Angeles, CA
Jan 04, 6:00pm @ The Wayfarer in Costa Mesa, CA
Jan 16, 8:30pm @ Yves’ Bistro in Anaheim Hills, CA
Jan 31, 8:30pm @ Yves’ Bistro in Anaheim Hills, CA

Thanks to Alice, Tom, and Robert for coming out for the session! I hope we can all do this again sometime soon.

Alice Wallace on: [Official] [Facebook]

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Frontloader Sessions: Treble Down (part 2)

As promised, here is part 2 of our Frontloader Session with Treble Down! Yes, it took me a little longer to complete these videos, but I did it with time to spare!

“Time to spare? Was there a deadline?”

Well, of course! There is always a deadline! I had the Arrow dude staring me down as I worked on these videos… just like this:

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He kept saying, “YOU HAVE FAILED THIS CITY!!!”

Me: “What? How did I do that?”
Him: “YOU HAVE FAILED THIS ZIP CODE!
Me: “HOW???”
Him: “YOU HAVE FAILED TREBLE DOWN!”
Me: “Ohhhh… well, yeah… if I don’t finish these. Good point, Arrow guy!”
Him: “Got any Cheetos?”

If you don’t watch Arrow, you’re missing out on good television.

So with his encouragement, I finished the videos. It’s always good to step away from something, for when you come back to it, you get a different (and sometimes just as fresh) perspective on things. My excitement for this session was rekindled and I, once again, was drawn into Treble Down’s music.

“Bottom” was one of the first songs I had requested the band to play. They had told me that other songs were already chosen, but if there were time, they’d give it a go… so you can imagine how pleased I was when there ended up to be enough time to have a run through of the tune. The opening of this video cracks me up every single time! One take, one camera angle, one cool ass song (the ending of the video is pretty Jurassic, too):

“Bottom”

LOVE the kick drum work. I’m a big fan of more kick drum. Some people want more cowbell, I want more kick drum.

Up next is perhaps my new favorite song of the session. “Taking Us Away” is another great example Melissa Salas’ vocal ability. Her delivery is poignant yet powerful, showing her range as not only a belter-outer, but as that of a balladeer as well. Salas posted on Facebook that this was the first song she had ever written. Sometimes you hit a homerun on the first swing. Totally love this song:

“Taking Us Away”

This next song is a great example of Treble Down’s songwriting style. The intro starts off slow, establishing the vocal hook. Then there’s a good groove/riff to latch onto, which is always a plus for me. The bridge section feels like a car putting on the breaks (in this case, changing the time signature) in order to avoid driving straight off of a cliff. Top all of that with a bluesy vocal line that has an almost conversational phrasing to it and you’ve got something. “Keep Your Name Out Your Mouth” flows so well with all of these parts. Take a listen:

“Keep My Name Out Your Mouth”

Apparently, this performance of “Metamorphasis” is the only existing recording of the song. Pretty cool! I’d be very interested in hearing an electrified version to hear the band’s vision of guitar tones. I’m so used to hearing their music performed acoustically, I’m sure the electric version would be like a huge wall of sound hitting me in the face like a pizza pie.

“Metamorphasis”

Treble Down is performing TONIGHT, so all of you in Southern California… you know what to do. Go see this dynamic band live and get a pizza pie in the face.

    12-18-14: Rockefellas at 8:00pm in Corona, California

Thanks again to the band for coming out for the session!

Treble Down on: [Facebook] [Twitter] [Bandcamp]

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Frontloader Sessions: Steve Maggiora

A momentous occasion occurred this weekend… yes, I’m talking about the addition of Frank “The Tank” Hippo to TheFrontloader.com. For those of you saying to yourself, “A HIPPO? Dude, you’re going off the deep end,” I say to you, “Why NOT a hippo?” Hippos don’t get the kind of recognition they deserve, nor do they get their own internet shows. It’s about time!

10801826_1514519002157478_5572636639885645547_nSo this last weekend on Cathryn Beeks’ Listen Local Show, Frank introduced you to today’s artist, Steve Maggiora. I came across Maggiora one night whilst perusing the internet for music. His songwriting on this Demos and Roughs EP grabbed me instantly, but I have to say that I was not prepared to witness a live performance.

Steve showed up on an overcast Monday afternoon for a short session with his guitar. Once he saw the Fender Rhodes in the studio, he suggested that it be used. Up to that point, the only other artist that had wanted to use keyboards were Twin Oaks. I readily agreed and requested that he sing “Only,” off the EP, to which he readily agreed to.

“Only” is one of those songs that make you say, “I can TOTALLY hear that on the radio right now!” I love the buildup, and when Steve belted out the chorus, I remember saying to myself, “That’s Jurassic.”

Regarding the writing of the song, Steve told me how it was written in open D tuning on the guitar. It seems that someone had left the guitar tuned like that when he picked it up… at first he was puzzled, but then once he started to noodle around, the song presented itself.

“Only”

The next song required the Rhodes. I hadn’t mic’d it up for a while, so it took me a bit to find the sweet spot in the speaker cabinet. This particular Rhodes is the suitcase model, so it comes in 2 pieces: the keyboard and the amplifier it sits upon. I love the sound of this thing, and with the tremolo engaged… pure milk and honey. As I set up the microphones, Steve played a bit of the song he chose to perform. “Whiskey” is a most appropriate name for the lyrical content. It’ll make you want to grab your babe and do what comes naturally. Just trust me on this.

“Whiskey”

Man ALIVE that’s a great song!

Maggiora has a few shows coming up that you’ll want to check out. He works with other artists around town and just recently got back from doing a few shows with Robert Jon and The Wreck. Steve is what I would describe as an all-around musician (his website states, “I do a lot. Call me”)… he sings, writes, produces, plays for other artists, does solo material… plus, he’s one hell of a nice guy. I highly recommend catching a show and saying hello.

Oh, and this being the Christmas season and all… pick up his Christmas album here. Beautiful piano music.

@ SOCIAL in Costa Mesa, CA: Friday, December 19, 2014 at 10:00PM
@ SOCIAL in Costa Mesa, CA: Friday, December 26, 2014 at 10:00PM
@ The Warehome in Orange, CA: Saturday, December 27, 2014 at 8:00PM
@ The Wayfarer in Costa Mesa, CA: Sunday, January 11, 2015 at 4:00PM

Thanks to Steve for coming into the studio. It was fantastic meeting him and I definitely hope to have him back sometime. He’s a musician with much depth, and it’s been great uncovering all of his talents.

Steve Maggiora on: [Official] [Facebook] [Twitter]

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Frontloader Sessions: Sheyna Gee Christmas Edition

As of this writing, there are 15 days until Christmas! The big question that has been thrown around work is, “Are you ready?” I usually reply with, “Absolutely not!” or some version of that. Sadly enough, I am one of those Christmas Eve shoppers, scrounging around for a gift moments before everybody comes together to celebrate.

How sad is that?

Up until that moment, you would probably find me doing the things I normally do… putting on new shoelaces, vacuuming my hair, reorganizing my junk drawer… pretty typical stuff.

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Well, this year is already different. I had the pleasure of kicking off this season by having Sheyna Gee in the studio to record some Christmas songs. She came with her usual enthusiastic self and had two songs ready to go: “Nuttin’ For Christmas,” and, “Silent Night.”

Sure, everyone is probably familiar with “Silent Night,” but how many of you know the other song? I had not heard of “Nuttin’ For Christmas” before, to which Sheyna reacted with, “What? Are you serious?” Usually when people react like that, it means that I’m missing out on something quite good.

The song has been around since 1955 and has been recorded numerous times, the highest charting version being that of Art Mooney and His Orchestra. Money’s version has a 6-year old Barry Gordon singing lead.

Sheyna ran through the song a few times and decided to adjust the lyrics to suit her style. This country-flavored version finds Sheyna camping it up with the camera, adding to the hilarity of the song. Throughout this video series, I’ve been telling artists to avoid looking right into the camera. With this song, though, it just didn’t feel quite right. Sheyna did a couple of takes playing it straight, and on the last take I told her to go ahead and look into the camera. She said, “Oh, I can do that!” and that last take ended up being the final take.

“Nuttin’ For Christmas”

“Silent Night” was composed in 1818. That’s a really long time ago. Here are a few things this song is older than:

1) cell phones
2) Me
3) the food I’m eating right now
4) You

I’ve heard (and probably sung) this song hundreds of times, and it still remains one of my favorite Christmas carols. Franz Gruber and Joseph Mohr did a bang-up job on this one… faring far better than their follow-up collaboration, the destined-to-be-doomed, “Really Frikkin’ Silent Night.” Yes, the word “frikkin'” has been around since at least 1818. Don’t let people fool you about that little bit of trivia.

We used the Gretsch for this song. The acoustic guitar just didn’t quite get the sound we were looking for. On a side note, I love that Gretsch. It has TV Jones Classic pickups that make that guitar SING. I ran it through my old Fender Blues Deville and we were off and running…

“Silent Night”

Sheyna is currently in the process of recording a record and performs regularly around Southern California. Here is the rest of her December schedule:

12/13- Bel Vino @ 12-4 & Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill Rancho Cucamonga CA CA @9pm
12/19- Stubrik’s SteakHouse & Bar @ 10pm
12/27- Dale Bros Brewery @6pm
Sixty6 Sports Lounge @ 7pm EVERY Tuesday

Thanks to Sheyna Gee for dropping in and spreading the holiday cheer. I’m reminded that this season perhaps means something different to everyone, but I think we can all agree that peace, joy, happiness, and especially love are at the top of the list. I hope you all find those things in all that you do!

Before leaving the studio, Sheyna turned to me and said, “Next time, let’s record some originals!”

I look forward to that session.

Sheyna Gee online: [official site] [Facebook] [Twitter] [YouTube]