Monsters, ghouls, ghosts oh my! Just fresh back from my 6th songwriting week at The Holiday Music Motel. As Vince Gates put it, "You've now spent a month and a half of your life doing this." 52 songs crafted by 40+ musicians in a single week. All written and recorded, most of which were then performed at the Third Ave. Playhouse in downtown Sturgeon Bay, WI.
I had the luck of drawing amazing talent for a bottle spin, Christa Ebert, aka "The Uno Lady," who comes in from Cleveland, OH, along with the gift and deverse Jamey Clark, a local to 'Sturge.' He holds down the fort for "The Dirty Duece." They just released a live record produced by Teflon, the resident engineer (and SOOOO much more) in 'The Lab' underneath The Tambourine Lounge. Between my tonal instruments, Christa's vocals, and Jamey's rhythym, it was simply put - a perfect spin.
All we needed was a song.
LA comedian by way of Virginia, Wisconsin, and Chicago, Rick Wood and I had spent time together leading up to Dark Songs. One thought he brought up was how as humans we are basically a glorified bag of water. I was thinking about this while listening to the collection of songs that is Dark Songs Volume 6, and came up with the response to 'bag of water' with, "You can't deny the dirt." This became the theme and eventual title to our song.
Christa tirelessly grabbed lines and thoughts that the 3 of us spewed on the subject of coming from and returning to the dirt. We wanted to cover some philosphy, while still personalizing the experience via anecdote. Once we had too much chose from, it became pretty clear on how to crush it down into form, and it was actually straightforward. At that point in the process I always bring up the idea of 'getting out of the song's way.' The ideas are there, the goal is obvious, just follow through and quite getting your brain involved.
While drumming up the ideas for the lyrics, I had laid out some chordal thoughts to push Christa's melodic brain, and Jamey instantly grabbed onto the main idea and created a fascinating pattern with just his hands on the table. Pushing all of this together in a 24 hour time frame, it became clear where the song wanted to go. Heading towards a 'dia de muerte' vibe, or dark cubanismo, I had Jamey play the drumkit with a moving blanket covering it, he brought up the point of using mallets instead of sticks. That muffled attack of the drums, with a reverb to carry it brought out the 'thick/morbid' vibe in the lyrics. I played strict piano chords, bringing out the story and melody Christa performed beautifully. Then I laid down an overdub of the piano part with embellishments to accent Jamey's toms, and Christa's vocal performance.
We knew the song would need a little bit more to thicken it up, and the uprigh bass seemed obvious. Newbie to the construction zone, Wade Coisman of "Devil to Drag" was brough in to play. The always patient enabler Teve Mith ran the board in Rear Recieving Studios, capturing the heaviness and delicacy of the tune. (Heavy in concept, not sound) Once everybody thought we were done tracking and left, I overdubbed my vocals, and layered a few percussion tracks to enhance the rhythmic craftmanship that Jamey performed on the drum kit. The clavas, tambo, and shakers brought out the voodoo/caribian vibe even more, yet still subtle enough to not detract from the tom wor of Jamey, nor the effortless vocals of Christa.
I am so proud of this track, and more so about how easily it came together in collaborative form amongst us regulars to these events. I look forward to its reincarnation as a Hidden Agenda track. I'm sure it will take on a new life of it's own. Once "Don't Deny the Dirt" is remixed to creative director pAt mAcdonald's standards, I will be able to share the original version with you. He might want to wait the year and release it as part of next years Dark Songs collection.
I can't wait to work with these two again.