The Lovespies

singing of brightness and beauty

Merry Little Christmas December 11, 2010

So eleven days ago, Julie had this crazy idea.

“Let’s make a Christmas album,” she tells me.

On its own, not so crazy an idea.

“Let’s record, mix and duplicate it in time for the Christmas Marketplace at our church in twelve days.”

Ok, she didn’t actually say this, but it was nonetheless implicitly implied.

“Sure, let’s go for it,” I say.

So, we asked for help picking songs, which our friends readily supplied via social media, and began arranging them.  It was Tuesday, November 30.  We started recording on Wednesday, using a loaned vocal mic from Julie’s Uncle Dan (the illustrious Dan Penn).  We thought we’d have it until Saturday.  We got two songs recorded the first night, and then heard back from Uncle Dan.  He needed the mic back, pronto, so we wouldn’t be able to to any more recording with it, and my mics were not up for the task of producing beautiful vocal recordings.

Enter Santa’s helper #1:  Mike Demus.  He lets us immediately borrow one of his FANTASTIC mics, and we’re back in business.  I begin working around the clock, recording guitar, pre-mixing, arranging, engineering Julie’s amazing vocal sessions, and fitting in my usual teaching schedule.  Julie makes short work of the vocal parts with her wonderful vocal chords and adds some keyboard parts and valuable suggestions for the arrangements and levels, as well as suggesting adding the amazing vocal talents of Santa’s little helper #2:  guest vocalist Jonathan Riggs.  The two Lovespies furiously work through the weekend until Monday morning.

Enter Santa’s helper #3:  Javier Santiago.  With one day in Nashville from his grueling Christmas tour schedule with The Annie Moses Band, Javier takes the time to record drum tracks for several of the songs, considerably raising the professionalism level of our homegrown project.

And Santa’s helper #4, Chris Lowry was not far behind, taking time off his busy finals prep time to lay down some breathtaking viola sections, lifting the songs into the heavenly realms.  Working late into the night, The Lovespies finish up the main recording sessions.

Julie, meanwhile, is busy contacting the publishers of the non-public domain songs to secure the rights to record the songs, as well as shuttling players back and forth, caring for the littlest lovespy, and contacting local CD duplication places and print shops to see how much time will be needed for a rush job.

We had decided to go with ‘We Make Tapes’ over by Music Row, who also do CDs, DVDs, etc.  (I wonder if they still even DO tapes?)  They told us we could have it back on Friday if we could get them the master by Thursday at 3:00 p.m.  So that was our deadline.

I mix and mix and mix and mix, lay down some midi bass lines, edit, compress, eq, reverb, etc. By Thursday morning, I have it in the ballpark.

Enter Santa’s helper #5:  Rob Still.  Rob Still, who is working against a deadline on his own CD project, graciously allows me to come by his home studio to listen through some different sets of speakers, and to give some GREAT advice on the mixes, all of which helped ice the cake on the production.

By 2:00 Thursday, the mixes are DONE!  (I notice a couple of things in the car on the drive to the duplicator, but oh well.)  I go up to the front desk, and get the bad news.

They can’t get it done by Friday.

They’ve had something go wrong with a previous order, and can’t do the job.

I call Julie.  The panic level starts to rise.

Enter Santa’s helpers #6 and #7:  Jeremy Hill and Dave Garvey.  Dave, a college friend of mine, works at a local publisher and, among other things, duplicates DVDs and CDs for their multimedia publications.  He had offered to dupe some CDs for the Lovespies when Julie and I had gone to Jeremy Hill’s wedding not long before.  Not having Dave’s number handy, I called Jeremy, who immediately provided the digits.  I called Dave, and, not only was Dave able to do it the next day, but he was able to do full color printing on the discs (they were going to be black thermal text only) AND he was able to do it for MUCH CHEAPER.  I can’t say how much.  It’s not fair to the rest of you how cheap.

So, with paper cutter and glue sticks in hand, the two Lovespies assembled the CDs, not only in time for the Christmas market on Sunday, but for the big church Christmas dinner on Friday!

It’s a Christmas Miracle!

So if you’d like your own copy of the Lovespies Christmas CD, click here to buy one!


Any Way the Wind Blows… June 9, 2009

Filed under: By Rob,Recording — thelovespies @ 10:27 pm

Plane Landing

So, airplanes have been driving me crazy for the last two years.  They know when I want to record, and plot to loudly land every five minutes every time I schedule a recording session.  They only bother me when they land, not when they take off, and they seem to decide whether they will take off or land, well, randomly.

Butch from Nashville Airport confirmed this for me.  For two years I’ve wondered why the planes land some days and not others.  I called Butch up recently and he told me much more than I wanted to know about the FAA and noise zones and visual descents (which are much louder than instrument descents and favored by Southwest pilots in particular) and the convenient (to pilots) but problematic (to me) south central runway which points directly at my house.

So I asked him why the planes land on some days and not others.  And he told me:

“The wind.”


“Yep.  The planes need to take off into the wind in order to get enough lift.”

“So which way does the wind need to blow in order for my house to be quiet?”

“From the south.”

So it was random.  But – and this is a huge but – it is something I can plan for now.  The amazing internet and fabulous has a 10 day forecast that includes WIND SPEED AND DIRECTION!!!  YEEHAW!!!

Ok, I’m calm again.  Chris Lowry and I recently got the violas recorded for our latest two songs, Time Machine and So Soon, because the winds were blowing from the south by south west at approximately 6 mph that day.

Ah, little victories.


Photo Sneak Peek June 1, 2009

Filed under: Pictures — thelovespies @ 11:56 pm

Sneak Preview

(photography by Kristen Chipman)


It’s Picture Day Tomorrow May 30, 2009

Filed under: By Julie,Dreaming,Waiting For You — thelovespies @ 11:20 pm

Tomorrow we have the First Official Lovespies Photo Shoot. The photographs will be taken by our lovely friend, Kristen. She found a fabulous field with some woods nearby and got permission to use it. And she is SO creative and a brilliant photographer. I can’t wait to see what she does with us.

I just had a lot of fun trying on a million outfits, trying to create something interesting out of my wardrobe, added to some of my friend Linda’s clothes I found in her closet today. I came up with a couple of options; we’ll see how they look in the field. I have no idea what Rob is wearing.

And then my friend Christina is doing my eye makeup. Now if I could just figure out the hair….


A Delightful and Random Discovery: Peter Adams May 29, 2009

Filed under: By Julie,Inspiration — thelovespies @ 12:11 am


Peter Adams cover

I just stumbled upon this DELIGHTFUL musician and his DELICIOUS music tonight!  His name is Peter Adams, and I can’t wait for you to hear him!

Here’s the totally random way it happened:  I was looking for a website for a lovely (but now-defunct) pop/folk duo, eastmountainsouth.  I couldn’t find one, so I started looking up the people in the duo to see if they had done any solo projects. The guy half is named Peter Adams, so I clicked on the first link google gave me, which is the above link.  

It turns out that the Peter Adams I was looking for is Peter Bradley Adams. But I like my new Peter Adams even more!


Here’s a blurb from his website:

Wandering through a floating jungle with a string band and stumbling onto a ruined city of waterlogged bass drums, mossy chord organs, and a tribe of harmoniums dancing in anarchic fervor to a primeval phonograph of the moon singing to the ocean.

Peter Adams is a critically-acclaimed musician from Cincinnati whose self-made albums have received worldwide attention. Mixing a variety of styles and influences, Peter creates a lush musical world that is entirely his own.

He writes, produces and plays everything on his albums, and the music is SO gorgeous!  He uses bells, violin, accordion, guitar and who knows what else to create lovely songs.  Rob said it reminded him of music that would accompany a magical children’s book story.

AND he has “pay what you want” pricing for his downloads.

Are you intrigued yet?  If so, go HERE and listen to him.  Right now!  (And while you’re there, you must see The Lunaphonic Omnibox.  Isn’t he so VERY creative?)

***Update – I sent him an email and he wrote back. See, he’s friendly also! He comes to Nashville for shows sometimes, so we’ll all have to go next time, ok?


Conversations To Avoid While Recording May 27, 2009

Filed under: By Julie,Recording,So Soon — thelovespies @ 7:08 pm


(Wherein The Lovespies discover that their chats about the songs should probably be recorded, too.)


Guitar Player/Producer:  Can we talk about the arrangement for So Soon?  

Singer/Writer:  What do you want to know?  I’m kind of busy.

(They briefly talk about the first part of the song.)

SW:  Can you just make it slow and dreamy?  Just do whatever arrangement you want.


[A couple of weeks later.]


GP:  Ok, I’ve finished all the guitars and I need you to do the scratch vocal.

SW:  I’m ready.

(They start recording the vocals and get to the end of the instrumental chorus.)

SW:  Wait.  Why does it do that part once and not three times like we do it live?

GP:  I thought we were going to do it the slow way we used to do it.

SW:  Yeah, but we were going to leave in that new part.

GP:  Why didn’t you tell me this when I wanted to talk to you about the arrangement?

SW:  You didn’t ask me about that part.  You just asked me about the first part.

GP:  But I wanted to talk to you about the arrangement and you were too busy.  You said to do it however I wanted to.

SW:  But I didn’t mean to leave out that part.

GP:  !!!

GP:  I have to re-record the guitars.


[A little while later.]


SW:  Sorry.


The Time Traveler’s Wife May 21, 2009

Filed under: By Rob,History,Inspiration,Waiting For You — thelovespies @ 1:40 pm

The Time Traveler's Wife

Every so often you have a book stop you in your tracks. So it was with ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ by Audrey Niffenegger. Julie and I (and yet-to-be-out Bella) were working in Baja, Hungary with Randy and Tami from the Sozo Festival. We were helping with a leadership program for some Eastern European teens, and the summer was wearing on. The novelty of living in Baja was wearing thin, and the daily chores of keeping everything clean and everyone fed had us looking for an escape.

‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ hit me like the first splash of cool pool water on a hot day. I think I read in within 40 hours, and its mix of mystery, sci-fi, adventure and love (and loss) really connected with me, plus it whisked me nicely away from our pedestrian tasks, unairconditioned apartment and unintelligible neighbors.

I don’t want to give much of anything away about the book, but for those of you who have read it, I’d like to give you the impetus of the song lyric. A few months after we got back to the states, I was sitting in the living room of our old condo in Hillsboro Village one Saturday morning, playing around with a chord progression from one of my favorite guitar studies (by Cuban composer Leo Brouwer), when the ideas from the book began to creep into my thoughts.

Henry’s ability to travel through time is really just a genetic freak. He has a ‘chrono-displacement’ gene that causes him to involuntarily pop in and out of time. That inspired the first lines of the song – ‘It’s just one of those things / You get used to it, like / seizures or color-blindness.’ His travels are random, but largely involve him visiting people and places that are important to him, primarily his wife at her childhood home, so he’s able to piece together a patchwork narrative of the events of their life together – ‘Just what the future brings / is still a mystery, but / some things begin to show more clear.’

There’s a scene toward the end of the book (if you can’t stand spoilers of any kind, skip to the next paragraph!) where Claire, the wife of time traveler Henry, waits at her home for him to show up. Claire’s an old woman now, and she knows that Henry will pay her one last visit before she’s gone, and the song idea came from this delicious moment of hope and expectation before she actually sees him. I thought about this bittersweet scene, how she’s known she will briefly see him this one last time (he told her many years before that he visits her when she’s much older), and has, for many years now, held on to this last goodbye. She has been waiting for him, waiting all these years.

The book switches narration each chapter between Henry (the time traveler) and Claire (his wife). We figured the song could mirror that “he said/she said” feel as a duet, and after a few changes with who would sing what, we came up with the final version of the song. I’d love to hear from anyone who’s recently read the book as to how well the song captures the mood and tone of the book (or not).

Thanks for tuning in.

Waiting For You

It’s just one of those things
you get used to it like
seizures or colorblindness

Just what the future brings
is still a mystery, though
some things begin to show more clear

I’ve been waiting for you
I will wait for you
I’ve been waiting for you
I will wait for you

You say that you picked me
but the more I think of it we
neither one really stood a chance

You think it’s destiny
well, I dunno, maybe that’s
just the way you feel when you’re in love

And you look at me with eyes that hold
the mysteries of life but you’re too kind
to tell me

I’ve been waiting for you
I will wait for you
I’ve been waiting for you
I will wait for you

and yes I learned to run to steal
to cheat to fight to lie to heal
to do what it takes to survive
and you have been my heart my home
my hiding place my tether to the rest
of the world
and I will wait for you

I’ve been waiting for you
I will wait for you
I’ve been waiting for you
I will wait for you


Opposites Attract: The History Of The Lovespies May 20, 2009

Filed under: By Julie,History — thelovespies @ 1:32 pm


Rob and I come from very different musical backgrounds to say the very least.

In high school, he played guitar in a thrash-metal band named Militia. Their music sounded as lovely and inspiring as their name led you to expect. Which means that you were more likely to want to jump off a building than jump for joy after listening to them. They even had a punk song called “Beat Your Mother Like A Drum”.  Rob’s hair was long and scruffy and he wore leather jackets and Metallica t-shirts.  (Look over there to see what I mean.  That’s Militia and Rob is the one with the cigarette.)

Around that same time, I was listening to The Beatles and any kind of Broadway soundtrack I could get my hands on. I had memorized every word to The Sound Of Music, Annie and Les Miserables.  I also enjoyed my mother’s old records of Petula Clark, Skeeter Davis and The Box Tops, a band my uncle produced.  I took piano lessons every week and loved playing classical music.  I was in marching band for 6 years and concert band for 8 years.  

Julie Band

I wore bows in my hair and could not sing in front of someone without almost throwing up, which means that I avoided it at all costs.  I did love to sing in church, though, where the voices all blended together in delicious four-part harmony and I thought no one could hear me.

We joke that it’s a very good thing we didn’t meet each other for at least another decade or we would have never spoken to each other in a million years.  However, during that decade, we both changed a little.  

Rob studied classical guitar from one of Manuel Barrueco’s students and moved to Nashville to go to college, where he  joined a 70s art-rock band and eventually cut his long, long hair.  He also began experimenting with alternate guitar tunings and writing Celtic-inspired songs.

I went to college, sang in a couple of large choirs, an improvisational children’s theatre troupe and a musical.  Then I  moved to Nashville, learned to play guitar and worked on being brave enough to sing in front of others by myself.  

Our paths finally converged when we met through a mutual friend at The Crucible, a class designed for creative people.  The first time I saw Rob, he was playing one of his Celtic songs with a band that included a penny whistle played by Rob himself.  Being of Celtic descent, I fell in love….with the music.  (The rest would come four years later.)

We became friends and a couple of years later, we were asked to do the wedding music for our dear friends Nina and Moses.  It was our first official collaboration, and while the result ended up sounding ok, the experience was AWFUL!  I thought he was overbearing and arrogant, and he thought I was hysterical and insane.  Granted, I was extremely nervous and very inexperienced, but I was not insane.  I promise.  (Shut up, Eric.)

Fast forward a couple of years:  we magically fell in love one summer and got married on the first day of fall.  The same year!  Musically, he had been writing even more Celtic songs and some gorgeous instrumental guitar pieces.  I had somehow written a handful of pop songs, quite by accident, I think, since I had no intention of singing them for anyone.  

Wedding PicAfter we got married, Rob began writing acoustic rock songs and playing shows with those.  He even won a couple of Acoustic Hero performance contests in Nashville and Atlanta, advancing to the national finals in Chicago.  And thanks to Rob’s encouragement, I was finally brave enough to sing in front of others so thought I would put a pop band together.  However, with the exception of a couple of recordings and one or two tiny shows, my band remained just a fantastic idea in my head.

For a couple of years there, we were also playing together every Saturday at a homeless outreach in an old warehouse near the projects.  Our church sponsored the outreach, and our job was to play some background music that would create a peaceful atmosphere while other volunteers served lunch to whomever came.  We were joined most of the time by our friends Michael, a mandolin player, and Jon, a string bass player.  Occasionally, Javier would bring his djembe and play along if he was in town, and others would join in from time to time.  We would sing familiar hymns sometimes, but most of the time we would make up our own hymns and songs spontaneously and just play whatever we wanted for two hours.

We really enjoyed playing together and after some other similar experiences, we realized we wanted to form a band together.  It would certainly be easier than having two separate bands.  And honestly, I would have never been able to do music if left to my own devices, so there would have really only been one band in the end:  Rob’s.

So there you have it:  the musical history of The Lovespies.  

Who would have thought that a “Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow”-singing musical theatre enthusiast combined with an ex-thrash-metal/70s art- rock/classical guitarist would sound like this?  

Maybe our band should be named Newton’s Third Law.


Houston, We Have (Possible) Contact May 18, 2009

Filed under: By Julie,Dreaming,Waiting For You — thelovespies @ 2:10 pm

We are trying to get our song “Waiting For You” in a movie called “The Time Traveler’s Wife”.  A few years ago we both read the book, and it inspired Rob so much that he had to write a song about it.  (I’m sure there will be an upcoming blog entry about that.)  Well, now a movie has been made of the book and it is due to be released in August of this year.

As it happens, we just finished the final recording and mix of our song a couple of weeks ago.  Since then, we have been asking everyone we know if they know any movie people or song pluggers.  Because we live in Nashville, one of the song writing capitals of the world, it turns out that we know quite a few people with the proper contacts.

Today, I got an email from my friend Leslie who has a screenwriter cousin in Los Angeles, and guess what!  It turns out that he knows the movie’s director and will be happy to pass something along to him.  We are just waiting to hear back about what to send.

In the meantime, we are saying little prayers, wishing on stars, crossing our fingers and recording more songs.

***Update:  It turns out that the cousin knows the director well enough that he convinced him to cast the little girl who appears in the film.  Wow.

***Another update:  It also turns out that the movie was completely finished by the time we got anything to them.  O well.  Maybe it could go in another movie.


Recording With The Backpack Studio May 17, 2009

Filed under: By Rob,Recording,Technical Stuff,Time Machine #13 — thelovespies @ 8:15 pm

Ok, here’s a posting for those of you out there who want some behind the scenes recording info. I’ve been doing it long enough to forget how interesting it can be. Practically everything today is done digitally, because it’s so darn easy.

Audiophiles can tell you how cold and flat and dead digital recording sounds, but with the right gear and ears, it doesn’t have to sound that way. Plus, the mind blasting advances of the last decade allow you to do most of what the million dollar studios of the 70s and 80s could do, but now it costs less than $2k and fits in a backpack (not counting mic stands).



We bought my setup about 4 years ago (172.4 in computer years) largely to be able to do remote recording, in particular for a trip to Hungary. It’s a Mac laptop (iBook G-4), with maxed-out memory (barely enough these days) and an updated hard-drive (always full!). I’m running the new Logic Studio (8.0), which my computer is hanging on to by its fingernails, so to speak, but hey, it does the job.

I’m also using an M-Audio Firewire 1814 interface (8 ins, 4 outs), which converts sound into 1s and 0s and puts them nicely on my hard-drive, and a Mackie 1202 mixer, largely for its preamps, which sound better than they have a right to. I’ve got a Shure KSM 27 large diaphragm condenser microphone and an M-Audio Luna mic which I use for stereo imaging on guitars, plus a couple of SM58s. It’s basically enough to record guitars, strings and perc, which conveniently is all I’m recording.

The heavy lifting of the studio world is vocals, and I’m happy to defer to an amazing professional for that, namely Mike Demus. It’s unfair that $5000 worth of mic and mic pre sound so good, but that’s reality for you. Add to that years and years of expertise with compression, reverb, delay and eq, plus a pair of golden ears and a musical genius between them and you have a compelling reason to spend some money with Mike.

Anyway, so yesterday I packed my rig into a couple of backpacks and headed to Javier’s to record the percussion tracks for Time Machine #13. It takes about 30 minutes to set up the ‘studio,’ which is everything you see in the picture plus mics, stands, cords and headphones.

The first thing to record was Javi’s wooden djembe. We ran through the song a couple of times to make sure Javi could hear everything, talked about the feel of the song, then recorded a pretty good take. Javi wanted to do another one, and even though I thought it was just fine, I figured what’s another 4 minutes? I’m glad we did, because that was THE take. Amazing. We added some shaker and a layer of ‘the box,’ a groovy cube shaped perc piece that sounds a bit like a snare drum that Javi sits on and plays with his hands, and then we were done! Two hours total with set-up and tear down.

All that’s left on that one is glockenspiel and vocals, so depending on Mike’s schedule, we could have it done in a week. We’ll let you know when it’s finished!