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.


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


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!