“From There to Here – Up & Down The Hudson – The Making of Go Stay Play…or…The Ballad of Shoe, Little Tity, Little Rocky Balboa, & Brian”
by John Dyer
Once Upon a time….err…..um… About 3 years ago I moved from Cedar Grove, North Carolina to Brooklyn, New York. I used to frequent the “old” Living Room (in Manhattan), a shoe-box-sized spot on the corner of Stanton & Allen, to listen to music & see what was happening. It was always good & there was no cover. I happened to be there one night when Blubbery (aka Gwen – a friend form TX) was playing. On bass was this guy Kenny Siegal who I recognized. I had met him & seen his group Johnny Society play in North Carolina & had heard about Kenny’ s work with other artists at his studio upstate. I also remembered digging/ being very impressed by Johnny Society when I first heard them down south.
Here I am in NY, thinking about cutting some new demos/ laying down some tracks.
After Blueberry’s set Kenny walks by. I grab his arm & reintroduce myself. I mention that I’d like to do some recording & ask if he’d be interested in helping – maybe at his studio upstate. He tells me to send him some of my songs to check out. I’d come to find that Kenny is someone who picks his projects/ collaborations very carefully.
So, over the course of the next few weeks, I send him like 4 or 5 90 minute demo tapes. He likes a lot of the songs, thinks I have a great voice & says he’d like to produce a record with me.
We begin song selection for the record & a few of the songs he picks (Hunyacutusup/ Golden Elise Gardening) happen to be from a body of material that i’d tried unsuccessfully to lay down in North Carolina. So i said well – those songs go with the other songs in that body of (Phantom Fire) songs & if we’re gonna record ANY of them then we should do ALL of them – which is a different record. Kenny says – lets make the record that we set out to make. So i tried to split the difference & throw down the Phantom songs quickly – solo & acoustic – as i had down in NC – and get them out of the way – so to speak. Then he jumps on one & puts some cool overdubs on “Upon These Swords” & all of the sudden it’s a whole new ball game. The lid had been thrown off. So the two of us lean into it & between July & Nov. of 2002 we lay down Phantom Fire http://www.cdbaby.com/dyer2. – recorded & mixed at “Old Soul” & mastered by Fred Kevorkian back down in the big city (aka the Big Kitty).
Twelve hours after that mastering session we begin work on the record that we’d initially set out to make. We’d agreed to use Kenny’s A team – so to speak – for this one – so it’s gonna be me on voice, guitar & harmonica with Kenny on bass & Johnny Society’s Brian Geltner on drums & percussion. Having narrowed our list & selected the songs we spend a few days in Brian’s little apartment in D.U.M.B.O (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass – in Brooklyn) rehearsing & working up arrangements.
On November 24th 2002 – we head upstate to Catskill, New York & convene at Old Soul. It’s a big brick house. There’s snow on the ground. Working with Johnny Society’s long time friend & engineer Tom Schick (aka Little Tity) we lay down basic tracks (over the next four days) for the new record.
We all split.
From Dec 4 to Jan 20 I split my time listening to rough mixes at home in Brooklyn & traveling up & down the Hudson River by train – to & from Old Soul where Kenny (aka Shoe) & I (aka Bill/ Little Rocky Balboa) overdub / further shape / flesh out the basic tracks with guitars, keyboards, bells, & whistles. Old Soul is a historic house filled with beautiful instruments. We even put a mellotron (think Alfred Hitchcock or the intro to the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields”) on one tune -” Nick (Song for Nick Drake)”. Old Soul is also haunted – & that’s where Bill comes in – but that’s another story. I’ll tell you that one over a bowl of marshmallows someday. So up & down the Hudson I go… & the recording grows & grows.
Other musical guests include Lily & Wren (aka “the girls”) singing heavenly backing vocals on the opening “Airtime” & two fabulous horn players – Jeff Hermanson (trumpet) & Alan Ferber (trombone & bass trombone) on “Moving Fast”, “Shybreeze”, “Surely It’ll Shine Through”, & “Hot Owl.”
Then Shoe, Little Tity, & Little Rocky Balboa reconvene at Old Soul to mix / listen/ remix – over a handful of days.
We all split. Back down the Hudson….
We need a remix or two. Back up the Hudson.
We remix. Is that mix better or is this one ? We split. Back down the Hudson.
I wrestle with the sequence…..wrestle……tweek…….wrestle……(3 bells: !!!)
Then, to top it all off we get it mastered back in the Big Kity at Sterling Sound by a one Mr. Greg Calbi. Greg has worked with some of my favorite artists on some of my favorite recordings ever – Paul Simon’s Graceland, REM’s Murmur, Television’s Marquee Moon, numerous Talking Heads & David Byrne records, Patti Smith, John Lennon, & on & on. He recently remastered the Bob Dylan catalogue. Bob who ? I’m thinking “yeah – ok – that’ll work – whatever – I guess this guy’ll do” (read: quietly beaming). Greg was totally cool…down to earth…enthusiastic & generous.
THEN i made a new painting – just for the cover. I drew & I painted & I drew & I painted & I drew & I scraped & I painted & I sanded & I looked & I drew & I painted & I sanded & I drew.
THEN the new image was photographed by Michael Bodycomb – a totally big time pro rootin’ -tootin’ -art-shootin’ New-Tex-Yorkan dude.
THEN i worked with my friend & designer Jeff Breazeale- who’s Matchbox Studio did the beautiful design work.
THEN i had the whole shebang duplicated at Disk Makers….who screwed up the print job TWICE & then got it right (third time’s a charm).
THEN i said good day to the UPS guy, signed off & carried ‘em all up the stairs….shipped some copies off to Cd Baby….. & so….after some 2 (+) years in the making…..
* GOSTAYPLAY *
All I can say is – if you like my music at all you’ll love this one. We had a great time & a great team working together on it & I’m really proud of it. It’s been a long haul & great effort. I hope that it’ll find a little spot in your world. With all the “laying down” that went on – the only thing left is for you to pick it up (if you havent already)…and enjoy !
JOHN DYER <> GOSTAYPLAY
Nick (Song for Nick Drake)
Ocean of You
Surely It’ll Shine Through
Two Can Play Too
Center to Hold
available now @ http://www.cdbaby.com/dyer3
Cheers & Thanks, John (Brooklyn, NY Oct 2005)