Steve putting down guide tracks

Adventures in Cong!

Posted on: Sunday, 2 March 2014
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Well, the Bishop and I have just about recovered from our third stint in Mountain View Studios in Cong, County Mayo, recording tracks for my upcoming second album, which is yet to be officially titled, but I have a few ideas in the mix… Keep your eyes and ears peeled!

Just like the first album (available here), almost two years ago now, we had five days in this superb studio booked – and many and varied people scheduled to drop in over the course of those five days!

Now, before I forget, a massive thank you to everyone involved:

Tim Gadsby – ears and inspiration!
Pat Coyne – engineer, guitar, banjo… and plenty more besides!
Chris ‘the Bishop’ Lydon – tuba, piano, musical guidance
Tom Leary – fiddle, mandolin, bazouki, octave fiddle, guitar, lap steel guitar… all sorts!
Nicci Keeling – vocals
Kev Moore – bass
Jimmy Higgins – percussion and drum kit
Stephen Doherty – whistles and squeeze box

(and Sammy Carter, not there in body but there in spirit and KitKats – and soon to be recording her vocals in England, somewhere, very soon!)

And not forgetting Emilia Jefremova who was in with us shooting footage for upcoming videos…. more on that later.

Now then. The story of those five days….

Well first off, it was seven or eights days, really, once you include the traveling either side.

Me and Gadsby were flying over, whilst the Bishop and Tom drove over (and the ever-astonishing, TARDISesque  Yaris), filled with basses, guitars, fiddles, keyboard, tuba… all sorts!

We all gathered Tuesday night for a brief catch up and plan of what was to come, before an early start on Wednesday. The Bish managed to get everything in the car (just about!) and he and Tom were on the road before long, as Tim and I whizzed over to the airport.

Steve and TimA few hours later, we were in drizzly Knock, picking up the hire car to head to our accommodation for the week – a lovely rural cottage, no wifi, barely any mobile signal. A log fire, a good kitchen and comfy beds – perfect!

The Bishop and Tom arrived later in the evening, having found fish and chips in a sleepy village en route. Early to bed (after a brief run through with the Bish of the brand new song which was just about ready…!)

Breakfast each morning seemed to involve sausages on a grand scale – and always one left over!

Thursday was all about getting the core of the songs down – key guitar and vocal parts, and piano parts, and starting to sketch out ideas for fiddles, guitars, lap steel, bazouki, banjo etc.

Steve putting down guide tracksThe aim was to do nine or ten songs for the album (and include on the record Steady which we recorded last year). These songs are very different to the first album. These seem more mature, more distinct in themselves. Most of them have been firm favourites on the set lists for gigs that we’ve done over the last year – audiences responding very well to them. (In fact, Kev flew out from Spain to Ireland (via the UK) because he heard us play just before Xmas and offered to play bass on one of the new songs!)

Friday saw things in the Studio get one notch busier… In addition to Pat, Tim, the Bish, me and Tom, today we had Emilia join us to start shooting footage for some upcoming videos for four or five of the tracks. Steve had to get some of the main vocals down so we could get some backing vocals done on Saturday.

Nicci was arriving from Sweden (via the UK) later today too (after some delayed flights) and Kev was there by the evening as well. (Nicci was in a band with Tim and me many moons ago – it was great to have her back in the studio with us!) (Kev was at school with me and was drummer in the first band I played in – funny how things can come full circle again after 35 years!)

Tom LearySaturday – time to get Nicci’s backing vocals down, along with Kev’s bass parts, slotting in some time for Tom whenever we could.

It was brilliant having Nicci and Kev in there with us – such great sounds and voices, bringing a lovely quality to the recordings. Thanks guys!

After an evening reminiscing and listening to some old tracks back at the cottage (with a delicious fish pie which definitely never found itself upside down on the floor between kitchen and dining table!), it was time to say farewell to Nicci, who had an early flight in the morning to get back to Sweden.

Sunday was a fair old day…! The core of the brand new song (which I’d worked out with the Bishop) went down just before Stephen Doherty arrived – whistle and squeeze box extraordinaire! He had a couple of hours to get whistle and squeeze box down on a few of the tracks. Again, it was a real privilege to have him along for the ride – such an amazing player and a gentleman to boot. His playing lifted several of the tracks right back up for me – this is folk, but not traditional folk!

Before long, Jimmy Higgins was back in the studio, getting straight into doing percussion on all the tracks. An awesome musician, again it was an honour to have him in with us. Shakers, tambourine, snare drum, bodhrán, stomp, djembe…. all kinds of things! Brilliant stuff!

Jimmy HigginsWe worked on late that night (at least it felt like it) – the Bishop trying to keep us on track!

Things were getting done. All of a sudden four days in the studio had whizzed past – but checking the Bish’s chart, we were getting there.

One of the songs had unintentionally been left by the wayside – such is the way of things. It was an old favourite of our we wanted to update and rework. It’s definitely got legs, but just not this time around it seems.

So come Monday – lots of people had come and gone, and Tim had to fly back to the UK today too, so we were down to Pat, the Bish, Tom and me. We started the morning taking advantage of the lovely fireplace setting in the cottage – Emilia came over and filmed us playing in front of a (almost) roaring fire. Should look good in the final videos! Then back to the studio just after lunch to spend the afternoon focusing on getting Tom’s parts done. Some beautiful mandolin and bazouki parts went done for some of the tracks – and a heart-breaking fiddle part for another. It was so great having Tom around – really superb playing bringing some of the tracks right to life!

By the evening, our brains were tired, the Bishop was talking in tongues and we’d just about got everything done that we’d hoped to. Pat, who had worked like a trooper all week – full credit to him, was doing a quick mix of each track for us to take away to listen to and before we knew it….

Steve and EmiliaIt was Tuesday morning and time to pack up and leave. Our iPods loaded up with the rough mix tracks, ready to take back to the UK to listen to and come up with plans for tweaks and mixing ideas.

Cong – once again you’ve done us proud. A pleasure as always to spend some time over there – and with such brilliant, brilliant company (let alone the fantastic musical side of things!)

We’ll be back in a few weeks to do the final mix.

Once again, a massive thank you to all the people who were part of this magical week. I can’t wait to be able to share the results with you all. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for announcements!

Chug a lug


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