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Last July, during the week of rehearsals leading up to Rock for the River, (the benefit concert that I produce each year around the fourth of July in support of the non-profit, Save the River), Garrison Starr and I spent some time working on finishing a song that I had started the week before. Garrison’s voice is one of my favorite voices in the world and, in a lot of ways, she is the sister that I never had. So, when this song first began to take shape, it was not wholly surprising that I almost immediately began imagining the way it would sound with us performing it together, rather than performing it alone.
Over the course of the week, the song which became, ‘The Easy Way’ emerged as one of my favorite songs in a long time. We performed it at the concert, hastily and possibly nervously in front of 500 people, smack dab in the middle of a rock and roll show, just hours after we completed it and settled upon it’s final arrangement.
As we do almost every year, Garrison and I put a plan together to make more music together and play a few more shows later in the summer.
We regrouped at my place in Vermont, during the last week in August with a plan to spend three days in my studio, writing and possibly recording some new songs. At the end of the first day, it dawned on us, that rather than constructing something in the studio over layers of recorded sound or producing a lush arrangement, the best use of our time might be to make an attempt to capture the sound and chemistry of the two of us, recording and making music in a room together.
Over the course of the next couple days, we wrote another song called ‘Eyes of a Dreamer’, that we were really excited about. Like ‘Easy Way There’, it dealt with the concept of finding hope in the face of disappointment and possibly a shade of the blind relentless loyalty that we and most of our musical friends have to the ongoing mission of trying to create something beautiful.
I think that it was on that second day, that we sat down across from each other, with an old tube mic between us, and played through ‘Easy Way There’, first with out headphones, and then subsequently, we recorded a pass, with headphones on. With our eyes closed and listening through the headphones, we were both able to hear and communicate musically in a way that I am not sure we ever had before.
I played a 1946 Gibson Southern Jumbo and Garrison played a 1964 Gibson Hummingbird. In that moment, it really felt as though those four musical components were created with the destiny to play these songs.
We listened back to that single microphone recording and we were stunned. ‘We have to put this out! We need to record more songs like this!!”
Later, we unearthed ‘Promises’, a song that Eric Clapton had a hit record with back in the 1970s. His version is heavily influenced by JJ Cale, with a rolling Tulsa influenced country rock flavor. As much as I always loved that version, I also always felt as though the utterly devastating heartbreak of the song’s lyrics were sort of glossed over. We meditated on the song and it’s story. Rather quickly, we settled in on entwined dance between our two guitars that somehow conveyed heartbreak and hope simultaneously.
This little suite of three songs is brief snapshot of musical connection. Garrison and I have been cultivating that connection for the better part of a decade. We both have a real tendency to be outspoken. We laugh a lot together, we’ve shared some tears too. We also are really good at pushing each others buttons and shouting over each other.
But on these three songs, I think we really listened to each other and subsequently captured a transcendent moment of synergy.
We both hope you enjoy listening to this EP as much as we enjoyed making it.