Take the reverb off the monkey

This is a tale of a cd. My initial intention was to release a single. I had written and recorded “Smile all day” and “Red Balloon” last year. I put in a line I credit to my insurance salesman dad: “A stranger is a friend you haven’t grinned at yet.” We were struggling with the mixing of “Smile all day,” because the vocal, while technically correct, wasn’t happy enough! Needless to say, I sang it again. And again.

So, I happened to look in my folder of “unfinished songs.” It’s not big folder, but I did see a song I had started about a band of dogs. My guitarist, Alan Young, had contributed a line about a chihuahua pedal. I wrote that song in about 27 minutes. What choice did I have? I booked studio time and began the long process of recording another song. I used a shiny new Home Depot garbage can for percussion. This provided Marv, my engineer, some guffaws of laughter. I wanted to keep the song organic, so I convinced my friend, Tom Mason, to play harmonica, and acoustic slide guitar. He is a pro.

Erin Parker is new to my music for this cd. We were at a Super Bowl party, when Bruno Mars came on for the halftime show. I almost wrenched my neck turning around to see who was harmonizing so well with him! I immediately began convincing her (i.e. pestering her) to sing on my tunes. She was house-sitting for Tom Mason, but during our rehearsing, Tom’s dog, Errol Flynn, would start howling with us. Erin said when Tom plays harmonica, he goes wild singing along. I had to use that at the end of the song. I tried to get actual dogs from my neighborhood on the track, but, I’m not technologically adept. I erased the barking I did get on my Zoom recorder, then had to use samples.

It’s funny with songs, I’ll talk to someone about an idea, they’ll say something in reply, and even though I don’t use their idea, it’ll trigger a workable lyric. Johnny Rampino (the drummer in the “Pet Snail” video) and I were bouncing ideas and he said “Elephants never forget, so they’d be good history teachers.” Boom, Mr Elephant was born.

Bob Williams, a guitar player recommended by another guitar player (this is Nashville), came in with a super cool part for this song. We had to have a tuba (I love tubas) and Chris Mike, a member of my live band, played the bassoon and the Bari sax solo (not at the same time, though). I had performed this song live, solo, acoustically, and had the kids repeat what I sang. That was a fun element to add in, but kids are expensive, so I had another pal of Erin’s, appropriately named Melodie, sing those parts.

That summer, I went on a vacation, in Delaware. Nice place, very quiet. I have oodles of time to kill. I play some guitar, write some lyrics, write two more songs. I had a New Orleans-style riff that became “Do what you wanna do.” Once we got to the mixing process, I had done a little chimp sound on my keyboard, and it seemed to have some extra sweetening on it. Studio engineers like to have everything sound huge, I prefer “clean and crisp.” I asked Marv to “take the reverb off the monkey”, but as we later found out, it was built into the sound, so we left it.

Dogs get really scared during thunderstorms and fireworks (I vacationed around the 4th of July) so, “Thundershirt” was written. I get back to the studio, and we’re off and running.

“Pink stuffed bunny” was a song idea suggested by my cousin Paul’s wife, Stephanie. Paul was also the inspiration for “Peanut Butter Fish” but, that’s another story…

“Lucy & the blue footed booby” was a song idea an art teacher friend of mine, Kris Mc Bride, gave me. She said “You should write a song about a blue footed booby”. I giggled and said “There’s no way I could write that.” I know now, when I say that, I’m going to to write that song. “Platypus” was another one of her ideas. My college friend, Mike Barrick, played the nice fretless bass solo on that.

“Common sense” started out as a song to get kids to listen to their parents. I have learned that, as I get older, my parents get a lot smarter! I had some lyric help from another children’s artist, Alina Celeste. Sometimes you just have to bounce an idea off someone else’s brain.

So, we’re into the mixing process at the studio, and even after I told Marv that there would be no more new songs…
there was one more song.

My inspiration for this one was partly my day job, and partly, a good rhyme scheme. Once I get going on an idea, it seems to groove right along. I can’t explain it, either.

This, sadly, was my friend and former producer, Mike Bush’s last recording with me. He added the cool bass line over Emmett’s reggae groove. I had Oscar Utterstrom add the trombone and we had a good one in the can. I love the “ahh’s” from Cindy and Lindsey, we always sing those live and it’s so much fun! (Maybe I was destined to be in a vocal group: I would’ve made a good “Pip”).

”Big Mouth “ has become crowd favorite every where I play.

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