It is what it is
It Is What It Is or Making a Record for under $100
I recently went to Nashville and made me a record. I can now tell all of my friends that I am a Nashville Recording Artist. I’m a big deal. Y’all should all line up to kiss my ass.
Here is how it all happened.
I was going to be in Nashville and I wanted to do a little picking with my old friend Donnie Winters. The last time I talked to him he told me that he had a little pro tools rig at the house that he would use to cut demos. Nothing fancy, just about as basic a rig as you could possibly get. So I figured I could both play with Donnie AND make a record at the same time I called him up and approached him about the idea. He was hesitant at first, but once I explained my plans to him, he was all for it.
I’ve been trying to play out more and everybody wants a CD so they can hear what it is that you sound like before they will book you. I always thought that this was bullshit, because if I wanted to spend the money, I could go into bigtime studio, hire a bunch of A List Session pickers, record for two weeks, Go in a booth record my vocalsm then have them pitch corrected and come out with one hell of a record in my hand, a hell of a record that I could never duplicate live in a million years,
Instead, what I wanted to do was just set up a couple of microphones in his music room (actually his son Ryan’s bedroom) and just start playing. Record a whole album’s worth of material from start to finish. No frills. That meant no headphones, no booths, no playbacks, no effects, no overdubs, no stopping, no tracking, no nothing. We would just sit down and start playing and whatever we got, would be what we ended up with. Live in the truest sense of the word.
It is what it is.
Now unlike me, Donnie has the skill to pull something like this off. He is a professional musician and has been most of his life. Unlike most professional musicians, he has even enjoyed a bit of success and fame. He is still an in-demand guitarist and back in the day he was a genuine Guitar God. He played in a Southern Rock band, The Winters Brothers Band (no relation to Edgar or Johnny), that kicked ass and developed a strong regional following. They toured with all the Southern Rock guys, They made a record with Paul Hornsby. They toured with Lynyrd Skynyrd… before the plane crash (where Ronnie Van Zant nicknamed them The Crusty Nostril Boys (I think it had something to do with allergies)) and played on several of the big Volunteer Jam shows.
We have been friends now for about 25 years or more and I have always loved his playing. Lately he has been playing a round necked Dobro that I absolutely love the sound of and I wanted it on record.
So how we did it was just to set up in the bedroom, have Ryan hit play on the recorder and just started playing. There was no practicing. In fact, Donnie had no idea what it was that I was going to play until I started playing it. I had no idea what I was going to play until I started playing it either. We just hit the go button and we started playing. The few times we stopped were due to equipment malfunctions or because someone had to use the bathroom. If we flubbed a lick, Oh well people flub licks all the time on stage. It stays on the recording. If I forgot a lyric, oh well, it happens, people forget lyrics on stage all the time. It stays. Our motto was It Is What It Is. In two hours time we were able to record 10 songs. It then took us another hour to bounce it down on to a CD. I spent another hour cleaning it up, breaking the tracks up into individual songs and then converting it all into mp3’s.
So I now have about 4 hours into this recording, and less than $100.
Doing it this way took off a whole lot of pressure. It didn’t have to be perfect, it just had to be done as best as we could do it at the time. Once a song was done, it was done, and we would just move on to the next song. There are a lot of things on here that I am embarassed about, things that most people will never even notice. That happens a lot on stage as well. I will think I have just totally blown a performance and people will come up and tell me that it was teh best they have ever seen me do. I’m the last person who should ever judge my work.
So, It is what it is. Is it Live at Budakkan? No, but I’d bet it was just as much fun to make. Basically, I got to play music with a friend for 2 hours and I have it all on disc to remember. Screwups and all. To me, that’s what makes it precious. I have been asked what it sounds like so I will link to it and you can decide for yourself. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed making it.
Link to It Is What It Is: http://bigdumbhick.fatcow.com/