Album Review from Americana-UK

It was nice to wake up Friday to find the cover of my CD on the Americana-UK website alongside such stalwarts as Bob Dylan, Ryan Adams, and The Replacements. Of course, I had not actually read it yet, so there was no telling what was going to be said. And with Americana UK, they score the album from 1-10 so a number was awaiting me along with the prose. So, if you are wondering what I faced, here it is.


Choosing to record in San Francisco at Tiny Telephone

Before I had kids I used to spend an entire weekend holed up in my bedroom recording. I loved getting lost in the process. After I had kids getting lost in the recording process was not an option. I had my first kid 8 years ago, so, aside from a few one-off projects, I have not done much recording since my first child was born. So when I finally decided to record my first “proper” CD this year in a real bona-fide recording studio, I wanted to do it in a place far from the demands of my day job and of parenthood. I wanted to sequester myself and focus completely on recording and I knew that was not possible if I was to stay in town, so I chose to record elsewhere.

I am not sure how I remembered the name “Tiny Telpehone” I must have come across it in the liner notes for some random CD. Somehow, the name stuck with me so on that first night when i went cyber-exploring for a place to record, I typed “Tiny Telephone” into the search engine. Next thing I knew, I was emailing John Vanderslice, the studio owner. This is what my email said:

I am a singer-songwriter from San Luis Obispo looking to record an album April-ish. I’ve read about Tiny telephone in the past and it looks like it could work, but i suppose you would be a better judge of that based upon what I am looking for:
I have a couple of young kids. Before they came along I did a lot of lo-fi home recording which I am quite proud of. I played all instruments myself and made good old fashioned 3 chord garage folk/rock kind of stuff. But family distractions/day job etc no longer allow for those long, uninterrupted weekends when i would record away. I still write a lot of songs and play solo acoustic shows but cannot ratchet up on my own time to produce my stuff. So I am looking for a studio where I can record but also have the input/resources of a producer who can help shape my songs with ideas and guest musicians. I play in a bit of a vacuum so i wish i could drag a cadre of musicians in the studio with me, but I do not have those resources.
So, in a nutshell, I am not looking for a place where someone will simply press record. I need help. Help with musicians, with ideas, etc. In my humble opinion, I think i write good songs, but i need help bringing them to produced fruition.
I figure I would need at least a week. I’m hoping for some studio serendipity. My goal would be to have 10 songs album ready.
Any input is appreciated!
Derek Senn

And this was John’s response:

derek, this sound perfect for the studio actually.
we have a large group of exceptional, well-priced session folks.

i love the songs, listened to the entire man cave man and will listen more tonight.
i can hook you up with a producer no problem.

it might be easier to talk quickly on phone.

i’m around all day tomorrow. Call me.

april is good, feb and march are sold out.

thanks derek and THANKS for thinking of us!!

Next thing I knew, I had booked 10 days at Tiny Telephone.

A New Song called Downhill. It’s Fantastic!!!

I went on a songwriting tear about a month ago and wrote three songs. This is my favorite. Is is supposed to be sung as a duet and when i get it “properly” done it will. But for now this rough demo will have to suffice. By the way, this is the first recording I made using Logic. I bought Logic this weekend as an upgrade from Garage Band. It was a good move. I will ramble on in a later post about why this is since it will bore the hell out of most people. Meanwhile, enjoy my demo of Downhill:

Downhill_5-5-12_ist try


Baby baby you and me we better get some therapy were going downhill
We’re going downhill
Whenever I catch you looking at me you look like you don’t like what you see
we’re going downhill we’re going downhill
The only time you touch me is accidentally
we’re going downhill we’re going downhill
Every time I try to take you on a date you suddenly don’t feel so great
we’re going downhill we’re going downhill
I’m losing hope in us I don’t want to lose hope in us

There’s a white band where your ring wuz are you giving it a suntan becuz
we’re going downhill we’re going downhill
You used to be a sucker for a love scene but now you just say a bunch of cynical things
we’re going downhill we’re going downhill
The money we saved to go to belize is gonna get blown on attorneys fees
we’re going downhill we’re going downhill
I’m losing hope in us I don’t want to lose hope in us

A very musical week

OK, this is why the past week has been very musical:
I started a weekly 3 hour class on songwriting and production, taught by my friend Darren Clarke, at the Modern Music Academy. It is from 6-9 PM on Thursdays, and we are going to work on crafting good demos, which is something I need some work on.
I bought Logic, Apple’s big brother to Garage Band, and I started watching a tutorial on about how to use it, and I recorded my first rough demo of a lovely new song called Downhill, which I will post.
I spent two nights this past weekend playing music, recording music, messing around with Logic, and drinking way too much beer.
I will cap it off tonight by attending a concert of Lindsey Buckingham, the Fleetwood Mac frontman.

There is one thing I could have done to make the week even more musical. This past Sunday, there was a concert about 1/2 hour from my house that featured Los Lobos and X, and I did not go. I did yard work instead. How dumb is that? I LOVE Los Lobos and I LOVE X. Talk about a dreamy double bill. But I came up with some lame excuse as to why I should not go. Dumb dumb dumb. Regret Regret Regret.

Want to see my first commercial? Of course you do!

My last post was about how I wrote a ditty for a local commercial. Tom Franciscovich, the owner of SLO LIfe Magazine, creates a monthly commercial featuring a local musician and he asked if I would like to be featured in February’s edition. I suggested we shamelessly rip off Bob Dylan’s Subterranean Homesick Blues video and Tom was all for it. Here is the finished product. I need to work on my lip synching. I swore I would never lip synch, but when you sell out to The Man concessions must be made.

I wrote a song for a commercial

I was at a New Year’s Eve party on 12/31/11 and was approached by Sheryl, the owner of SLO Life Magazine. Apparently, she and her husband Tom put out a monthly commercial about the magazine and the 30 second spot typically features a local musician. Sheryl asked if I would like to be in February’s commercial and I hemmed and hawed about it, since the prospect of a DEADLINE was terrifying. But actually, I love deadlines because they press me into action. So later that night, well after the ball had dropped and thus in the wee hours of the first day of 2012, I started to write down words to a ditty. I woke up the next morning with a splitting headache and reviewed the words. Surprisingly, they were not all that bad. Typically, I find that drunken inspiration turns out to be pretty awful when viewed the next morning through a sober lens. But hell, with 30 seconds there is not a lot of time to do much of anything, which is wonderful. Economy keeps us out of trouble. So, a few days ago I did a rough cut of the song. Basically, the only parameters are that it be 30 seconds long and that it refer to loving the SLO life. So I wrote:
I love the SLO life
Its a good life
Better weather than Toledo
Just drop the W to get the acronym
That’s our phonetic credo
Pinot oenophiles press their case
that you can bottle happiness
from the happiest place
I-L-O-V-E the S-L-O life

You can listen to it here, and maybe in a month or so there will be a commercial as well:

New video of a new song

First of all let me say that I am so happy to have a new song. It has been a long dry spell.

When I was on vacation in Canada this summer I played a lot of guitar. I played mostly covers and after awhile I got bored playing covers and really longed to sing something new and original. So at the tail end of my trip I started a song which I finished when I got back home, which is tentatively titled “Whoop de Fuckin’ Do” and is an ode to my canoe. But that is not the song in the video below. That song is kind of ho-hum and I got bored with playing it. But the process of working through that song was the springboard that led me to this song. I got the idea for it while hiking, which is where I get ideas for lots of songs and lyrics. I have been hiking a lot lately with no iPod so I can keep the brain free of distractions with the hope that a song appears in my head.

I am not much of a video person. I HIGHLY prefer audio. But I am going to start messing around with video a bit. I just took this on my point and shoot camera. I hung it from the ceiling and pressed record. It is bright, raw, and uncut. Or, in other words, lo-fi. Or, in other words, lazy. The song is called “Hell if I Know”.