As my first album in 6 years, I wanted to make sure to get everything right, part of which meant I needed to be hands on at every step of the process from writing, to producing, to artwork design and everything in between. But it also meant I needed to find a space and a team who could help me get what I was hearing in my head onto what you can now hear on the album. And finding the right producer is as much about trust and a personal relationship with the producer as it is about his or her studio skills. I already knew Ben Majchrzak from years of working with him as my live sound man and occasional drummer, as well as from recording my Shehecheyanu with him at his studio in Marlyand. I also knew that Ben would treat my songs as his own and be willing to have all the long conversations we needed to get it all right. Ben helped me assemble a killer band of local musicians including Tony Barbata on drums, Nathan Jatcko on piano/keys, Zebadiah Briskovich on bass, and I flew in one of my favorite guitar players, Adam Tressler, from LA on lead guitar. We recorded at the beautiful and extremely vibey Native Sound on Cherokee Street in St. Louis, MO. The studio is basically floor to ceiling brick and reclaimed wood, with a surprisingly comfortable victorian couch in the control room, filled with tons and tons of gear, both antique and state of the art, and a huge poster of John, Paul, George, and Ringo. It’s warm and feels worn in and is capped with the beautiful wooden light-up native sound sign in the live room. It feels like history and magic and I’m so glad I chose to record there.
One of my favorite tracks on the album is Lo Yisa Goy which you can listen to here. Like all of the songs on the album, it’s meant to be positive and hopeful, but I wrote it out of frustration with the apathy and inaction over gun violence which seems to be spiraling out of control in this country. It’s a public health issue that at very least demands research, but it won’t happen until we demand it. We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to our children. Many people know that I used to be an engineer where I learned how much human energy and money is spent on weapons and tools of destruction. So the lyric is meant to ask what we might achieve as a species if we focused more on creation and cooperation instead of destruction and division.
Now I’m a pop writer and I wanted the song to be driven by soaring poppy hooks I also wanted it to be powerful and moving. So for weeks leading up to the first rehearsal, Ben and I were going back and forth sending sonic references to one another. We finally settled on something that was kinda sorta at the intersection of Imagine Dragons and James Bay. I also wanted to include teens singing on this track so that they could be the ones demanding change and to provoke the listener a bit…kinda like the children singing on “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd. I suggested that Tony (drummer) lay down a military style snare drum march to contrast with the lyric, and he came up with the brilliant thumping military toms which appear on the last chorus and which actually tag the end of the song. Adam (lead guitar) was channelling Paul Simon’s Graceland for the lead guitar line, perfectly walking the line between playful and serious. Zeb (bass) comes in with a great Haim-like sixteenth note bass pattern along with the teen singers on the first “B” section. But my favorite part is the long crescendo at about 2 minutes in which leads into a nearly dub-step soaring final chorus.
Now all this being said, the song is extremely fun to sing A Cappella as a three part round. Or you can sing it A CUPpella (sorry, had to) and do the cup song rhythm (you know, like they did in the movie “Pitch Perfect?”) I actually got to do this in my concert at Shwayder camp in Colorado this past summer with water bottles, but I’m looking forward to doing it for real at a song session in the Chadar Ochel (Mess hall) with loud plastic cups.
The rest of the album is filled with nine more songs centered around themes of peace and songs to celebrate “Life” including the Sim Shalom I co-wrote with Hadar and which you can watch in the video at the bottom of this post. I am particularly proud of this album because I believe it showcases my growth and development as a singer, songwriter and recording artist. It is my hope that as you listen, you will hear music that is as fresh, fun, and listenable, as it is hopeful, inspiring, and centering.