There was another start on a new album in 2016. I went to a nice studio in Phoenix, one used by a friend and which is an award winner. But, I had, and still have, a sound I am looking for, and although we recorded a few tracks, I was not able to make my self understood as to what that sound actually is. Surely, and without a doubt, that was my problem. I did not have the words, could not find the descriptors, didn't know the vernacular, in order to be understood. There is a good first lesson. Not only do you have to know what you want, you have to know how to ask for it or you are going to get blank looks.
So, I went back to the drawing board. Well, indirectly, anyway. I put it on the back burner figuring once again, it just was not the right time. And, rightly so. I was still very much involved in the dispute over Mom's estate and knew the reflection of that would become a part of anything I produced. How could it not? Focusing on the sewing shop, playing the Sunday Brunches at Monterey Court and a few gigs here and there, I was keeping my head low and trying to build a new life, a new direction, put my self before new and broader influences, and, recover. Allowing recovery to begin was necessary before anything else.
The "need" to make a new album was to establish a line in the sand to which I could point and say, "See that on the other side? That is who I was. This, on this side of the line, this is who I am now." Making a new album was a way to separate myself from an old life and herald in a new life. That is was I was telling myself, anyway. What I came to realize is that I did not even know who the "who I am now" was, other than a royal mess. I did not want to record a royal mess. I lost sight of any value in my writing other than to my self. I did not see anything in my writing which could be of value to others.
Having people in my life who were happy to answer questions, guide me, encourage and even co-write with me was the first biggest happening to show me the way to grow. I began to see a value once again in my writing and music. Now, I wanted to grow more, settle in to this new direction before I got serious about an album which would be for you.
Last summer, in 2017, I went to Cavern Studio in Tucson and recorded demos on 22 pieces. I knew before going in not all of those pieces were going to be on an album, but felt it a good idea to have them permanently archived in their current state. Just taking that step felt like progress. I went back to writing, and asking musicians who are light years better then me, "What do you think about this?", "Could you give me a hand here, show me where you think I am trying to go?". All I heard back was, "Of course.", "Come on over.", "Oh, you bet!".
In November of 2017 I got a call from Ted Ramirez and Ismael Barajas, asking me to be a part of their new label. When they described the mission of their label to me, all I could say was, "I am in."
And, so, the learning really begins. Begins anew, continues in another direction. I am so happy you are along for the learning!
Photo, Nancy Hernden
Recording began in December 2017 at Mi Casa Recording in Tucson. Ismael Barajas listened with me to the two disks of demo tracks and looked over the songs I had chosen for my new album. It was my first experience with a truly natural, gentle spirit as is Ismael. I had made good song choices, all of them strong, yet not every one of my choices would stay in the lineup. As we began recording, coloring out the story in each song, building the sound for each instrument, it became apparent a couple of songs were not for this project. They didn't fit in the story line. A new take on "murder your darlings" for certain. But, those songs were not murdered, merely set aside for another project.
When I first spoke with Ted and Ismael, I told them I wanted Hammered Dulcimer on at least three songs. Their response was, "Okay." Actually, it was better than just "okay". Ted is friends with Walt Michael, who was in town for a weekend in December, for Common Ground on the Border, a series of workshops in Tubac for music and the arts. Ted told me we would have to catch Walt as we could, but he was interested in my project and wanted to play on it. We caught up with him after a day of workshops and teaching and he played for Tall Tree, Thirty Some Miles and A Breath of Spring. I was mostly speechless, Walt probably thought I was strange. I was realizing I was beginning to experience my songs coming alive as I heard them when I wrote them. Even after this much time, when I hear those yet unfinished songs, the excitement of the session wells up, and I am anxious for you to experience it, too.