Tag Archives: melissa axel

love . humanity . metamorphosis

I imagine that if this were the beginning of a movie, the opening would be like this:

The truth is, that’s exactly how it felt for me … like we were embarking on this glorious action-packed adventure with thrilling romance and great heroism. It was all that and so much more, but it all happened so differently than I envisioned.

Sure, I could go on at great length about the extraordinary amount of hard work, the incredible contributions of all the talented musicians, the ingenuity and brilliance of our producer, the unbelievable response from all 184 of those who contributed to the Kickstarter campaign, etc., etc., but in the end it all amounted to what was, for me, a profoundly moving and life-changing experience.

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When Melissa and I began making this album, I knew I wanted it to sound great and be well-received by listeners, critics, peers, and other industry professionals. What I didn’t realize was how going through this experience would finally help me realize exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. The missing piece of my puzzle was finally found, and suddenly everything made sense.

I am incredibly proud of this record, and I hope you’ll explore it. Wherever it goes, and whatever it accomplishes, it will always remind me of who I was and who I’m becoming. For the first time in my life, I feel like I have a direction, following my heart. Maybe it’s foolish … but as Obi-Wan once said, “Who’s the more foolish, the fool? or the fool who follows him?”

I hope you’ll follow me in following dreams.

http://music.melissaaxel.com

 

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One Tuba in a Sea of Guitars: DSE California 2011

Just returned last week from attending the Durango Songwriter’s Expo in Santa Ynez Valley, California (just N of Santa Barbara). At this expo, 150-200 songwriters gather together to mingle with each other, network with industry professionals and get direct feedback on material, write more songs, jam endlessly into the wee hours, and perform in front of the group if chosen for a showcase slot.

The DSE is held twice annually, once in California during February and again outside of Denver in October. This was the fourth in a row that Melissa Axel and I have attended, and it was the best one yet.

What exactly does a tuba player do at a songwriter’s expo? Well, play tuba, of course!

Apart from playing the kick-off party open mic the night before the expo began, Melissa was also chosen for a showcase performance during the opening night festivities. We played her song “The Worth Of Things,” which went over quite well—happy to have had the opportunity! It’s always an interesting experience for me when I play into a mic, but the sound in the room was great. (For lack of a piano, she was relegated to playing on a weighted keyboard. If only they’d move the lobby piano into the hall and onto the stage!)

The second night, singer-songwriter Andy Ard asked fellow musician Tage Plantell and me to sit in for his showcase performance, and the three of us had a hoot playing Andy’s “Here Comes Another Good Time” to the audience. He’s also asked me to play on this song when he records it later this year.

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After the showcases there’s an open mic which we’d wander in and out of. In addition, there were plenty of impromptu jams in the resort lobby, as well as packed song circles in crowded hotel rooms. The advantage to being the only tuba player at an expo overrun by guitarist singer/songwriters is that they are usually more than happy to have a tubist sit in and play with them. (Special props to Ron Gozzo who brought out his sax!)

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Ultimately, the driving force of the expo is the listening session: basically, twenty or so songwriters sit in a room, each plays a demo or finished recording of a song for a couple of industry professionals, and everyone takes note of their feedback and suggestions (pictured below). Pros come in all shapes and sizes, but many of them are music supervisors, label execs, successful hit songwriters, publishers, and management. This time, we were sharing nearly completed recordings from Melissa Axel’s debut album, and it was exciting to see a lot of these folks really impressed with the songs. There are also panel discussions on various music industry topics, and we attended the ones on Film & TV Placement (pictured below) and DIY.

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Overall, we had a great time seeing old friends and making new ones. Can’t wait for the next one this October!

 

Some videos from the recording process!

For the last nine months, I have been deep into recording Melissa Axel‘s debut record. I’ve participated as a tuba player, as a co-writer on a song (for which I also sang background vocals), as a production assistant, as an executive producer, and [very briefly] as an assistant engineer.

It has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.

On Friday we finally wrapped up the recording, and this week it is being mixed. Needless to say, I’m pretty excited about it! We are just weeks away from the final product (and vinyl will be on its way). The album has gorgeous vocals and beautiful piano, sweeping strings, rockin’ tunes, intimate songs, epic productions, delicate cello and tuba, and many other amazingly creative arrangements.

I thought it would be fun to post a few videos from the sessions to whet the appetites of anyone following this tublog, so enjoy!

Here’s video of our strings recording, featuring Kailin Yong (Kailin Yong Peace Project) on first fiddle, Tom Hagerman (DeVotchKa) on second violin, Mackenzie Gault (Flobots) on viola, Beth Rosbach (Fort Collins Symphony Orchestra) on cello, and Mike Fitzmaurice (Colcannon) on double bass.

This video starts out as a silly tour of Macy Sound Studios in Denver where piano and rhythm section were tracked, and it ends with Melissa rehearsing the instrumental track “Sharper Side” while producer Justin Peacock of The Hook Factory adjusts microphones.

And finally, here’s footage of us recording the song “Every Place Is Home” at Evergroove Studios in Evergreen, CO. The bloke on 12-strings is Irish songwriter Andy White—an incredible writer and performer who has written with such greats as Peter Gabriel, Tim Finn, and Sinead O’ Connor. Andy co-wrote this song with Melissa and me at the WOMAD summer school in Bath, England a couple of summers ago.

More to come, so stay tuned!

Faerie’s Aire and Death Waltz

Tuba music is just getting too darn complicated.

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Of course it’s just a gag—a piece of fun. Truthfully, I think our producer keeps this framed piece of music right by the recording booth just so nervous performers have something more intimidating to look at other than the microphone dangling in front of them. I think my favorite bit is where it reads, “remove valve.”

Speaking of the recording booth, today was another wonderful studio day, during which I did something unheard of for your average tuba player: I sang.

That’s right, I sang!

I sang background harmonies on the song “Every Place Is Home,” which I co-wrote with Melissa Axel and Irish songwriter Andy White (co-writer of Peter Gabriel’s “Whole Thing” and other fantastic music). Since the song has no tuba part, I knew I had to participate in some other way.

We also finished recording background vocals from the super talented Ayo Awosika, who is an incredible songwriter in her own right. We’re very blessed to have her working on this project!

Finally, Melissa sang final vocals on the quirky tune “Merry-Go-Round” that I referenced yesterday (piano, vocals, tuba, harmonium, and glockenspiel), which means just a few tiny details to add in tomorrow morning, and this baby will be ready to mix!

Until then, keep practicing “Faerie’s Aire and Death Waltz,” and let me know when you have it down.

Studio Time!

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Today we’re back in the studio finishing the song “Merry-Go-Round” by Melissa Axel, which features tuba as well as piano and voice. We just finished editing (comping) and tuning the tuba part with producer Justin Peacock of The Hook Factory. Thankfully, there was practically no tuning necessary, and the track is sounding fantastic!

I’ll be sharing some session videos later, so stay tuned …

Can’t wait to share this record with the world!