I've finished my record! It's taken longer than I expected, but all the energy and time poured into these eleven tracks was worth it...I'm humbled to have so many amazing friends add their creativity and musicality to the songs I've written.
I have been writing this collection of songs over the past few years. They are all very personal compositions and are mostly about losing things from your life...broken relationships, death of loved ones, and the loss of core things that once defined you. It all sounds a bit depressing, but I tried to approach these heavy things with a sideways perspective that I hope people can relate to, or at least find their own meaning in the lyrics and music.
I named the record "The End of Ours".
My lovely wife Priscilla was instrumental in convincing me to make this record...without her encouragement and support I would have never started...and she is the one who suggested that my long-time friend, Tony Berg, might actually agree to produce it.
Tony helped me realize the vision. In any creative endeavor I've found it helpful to have a central theme to fall back on when the answer to any particular creative question isn't clear. Early on, Tony and I agreed the theme for this record would be "honesty". During the production process, we tried to only do things that served the "honest" meaning of each song. When we first started working together, I sang my songs for Tony, accompanying myself with just my acoustic guitar...the same way I wrote them. In many cases we extend those arrangements with additional musicians, but the "honest" theme led us to stick with almost entirely acoustic instruments, centered around my little acoustic guitar and my voice.
We recorded most of the record at Berkeley Street Studios in Santa Monica, tracking the core band live...all playing together while I sang and played my guitar. It's the studio owned by my "sister" Betty Bennett and her husband and my good friend Bob Clearmountain. In the past I've spent a lot of time in that studio with a lot of great people. So it felt very comfortable, even if it was a long way away from my home up in Northern California. Bob engineered the record along with my friend Brandon Duncan. Nothing made me happier than to hear Bob's voice at the end of a take, "Yeah, I think that was pretty good." Bob Clearmountain is a legendary recording engineer...and I had to stop every so often and remind myself how lucky I was to have him in in the control room while we played. Bob also mixed the record, assisted by Sergio Ruelas...I was happy to get to know Sergio during the mixing. He defines the word "chill".
Tony helped me get together a great group of people to play on the record...some are old friends of mine, others are friends of Tony's...I was honored to have each of them add their talent and creativity to my songs. We have a tradition of calling the band I play with "Them Rounders"...The brilliant idea of my Northern California sideman, Jamie King. (Depending on your definition, Rounders is either a game akin to baseball, a group of cheating poker players, or whoever "rounds" out the band at the moment.) The core "Them Rounders" band for the record was:
Yours truly - Lead Vocals and Acoustic Guitar. One of the benefits of making your own record is that you get to sing and play on all the songs!
Val McCallen - Acoustic and Slide Guitar. Val is a long-time friend of Tony's and he took so much care with my songs...he is central to the recording of almost every one of them. Val has a day job playing guitar for a great country band called "Jack Shit" as well as for some dude named Jackson Brown.
Sebastian Steinberg - Upright Bass. Sebastian is the nuttiest guy I have met in a long time. His sense of whacky humor kept our days in the studio from getting too serious. Sebastian is a rock solid bass player with wide-and-deep tone. He is known for being part of one of my favorite groups from a few years back called "Soul Coughing". Now he spends his time touring and recording...the last time I saw him on stage he was playing with Fiona Apple and Blake Mills.
Matt Chamberlain - Drums. I met Matt about 5 years ago working on another project. We spent several weeks together then, and I knew that if I ever ended up making a record that his nuanced and creative approach would be so amazing to have as part of the band. We have kept in touch over the past few years...but Matt is incredibly busy, so I am so happy that he made the time to be part of the record. Matt spends his time playing on everybody's record. He does his own projects, and has played for Fiona Apple, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Brad Meldau, Jon Brion, Elvis Costello and the Saturday Night Live Band. Seriously.
Patrick Warren - Piano, Organ, Auto Harp, and other things. - I had never met Patrick before the day we started recording, but a lot of my friends knew him. On almost every song, he would come up with such amazingly subtle parts that you weren't even sure if you were hearing him...but those parts became the glue that held all the other instruments together. Patrick has played with Lana Del Ray, Michael Penn, Fiona Apple, Aimee Mann and Lucinda Williams, to drop a few names.
Greg Leisz - Pedal Steel, Doboro and Lap Steel. - You have never seen a musician more amazing that Greg Leisz. My friend Zach Smith put me in touch with Greg...Hearing him play on my songs left me speechless. The guys is a legend on this crazy instrument.
We then called on a host of other amazing musicians to round-out certain songs...we recorded most of these folks at Tony's crazy-magical studio called Zeitgeist Studio that sits behind his house occupying his former garage:
Dan Newitt - Madolin, Harmony Vocals. - Dan is the one member of our core Northern California live group that played on the record. Dan is primarily a guitar player, but he plays Mandolin like he's been doing it all his life. It was important for me to have Dan on this record because we have a long history singing together...and I think our vocal blend is unique. I'm glad he made the trip down to So Cal to add the local mountain flavor.
Gabe Boucher - Fiddle. - Gabe adds some great texture and amazing fire to a few tracks. He is one of the best fiddle players out there today, playing primarily with "The Punch Brothers".
Taylor Goldsmith - Harmony Vocals. - Taylor, my wife Priscilla and I met about 6 years ago while I was working on another project. Taylor is the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter for the band Dawes. I love the songs he writes and his passion when he performs them. Taylor played a song for Priscilla and my wedding ceremony and Dawes played for our wedding reception in our old barn at our little home up in the mountains...before they were famous. He's a good friend and he sings killer harmony.
Z Berg - Harmony Vocals. - Z is Tony's daughter. She is a trip. Her voice bends my mind with it's uniqueness, intimacy and beauty. She was always game to pop in for a few minutes of singing in Tony's little studio. She also swears like a sailor. Z used to front the band "The Like" and then moved on to fronting "JJAMZ". But, her solo material is my favorite.
Kory Dane - Harmony Vocals. - Kory is a new artist Tony is also producing. Kory was always wide-eyed and happy to sing a few low harmony parts. Pretty much the nicest guy you will ever meet.
Jacob Snider - Harmony Vocals. - Jacob is also a new artist that Tony is producing. Jacob hung out with us during the tracking of some of the record. A few weeks later Tony played me some of Jacobs music...it's incredibly unique and totally original. Jacob sang with me on one song while his family waited for him in Tony's house. I really enjoy his music.
When we were all done with recording and mixing, I packed my bag and flew to Portland, Maine to spend a day with Bob Ludwig to watch him work his subtle magic mastering the entire album. You have never heard anything like Bob Ludwig hears things...he is a wizard.
So, my new record - Alec Lytle and Them Rounders - "The End of Ours" is scheduled for release in early 2015 on iTunes, CD and 180g vinyl. The first two singles from the record, "North, CA" and "Rain" are available for listening on SoundCloud, BandCamp, or via my website at www.AlecLytle.com.
Live dates to support the record will be announced as details become available. In the meantime we will continue our regular shows at Alice's Restaurant and similar places down the road from where we live.
More information about all the things like this can be found at my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/AlecLytleMusic or at www.AlecLytle.com.