From Experience - Pete Falloon
Since moving to Devon in 2004, and the end of new roots explorers Brothers Falloon (a band I shared songwriting duties in with my brother Matt), I slowed up writing new songs, although continuing to play live first solo, then as lead guitar in country-rock band Hokem, and later in acoustic duo Palmer & Falloon. In the years that followed, the lack of sleep that comes with a new young family didn't really encourage musical creativity, as you might expect! But as sleep patterns returned closer to a new normal, things began to change.
In late spring 2014, Brit-pop legends Dodgy invited local original acts to play selected floor spots on their Out In The Open tour, and I got a slot at the Bideford Palladium.
My three song set featured a new track, Avalanche, which prompted Stu Thoy, Dodgy's bass man, to give me a wake up call - something like "you can't deny it any more.. You were born to do this, man!". Well, I listened and full of energy and encouragement from his kind words, once back home set to the task of crafting more new songs into life. I didn't have many, if any whole songs, but I did have notebooks and phones full of sound clips and snippets of lyrics. That Spring was really beautiful and full of the vibrant bright greens of new growth. For nights on end, I woke between 4-530 a.m. to the sound of gentle rain which cleared to luminous early morning sunlight, and full of inspiration hid in a quiet place (actually a wardrobe) and wrote new music. Amongst others, THAT led to the track "Lay Down In The Morning Light". I had a kind of process worked out too.. song ideas were first recorded to phone and rough notes made, then sifted and reviewed and ideas I wanted to take further were honed and recorded onto me.
The snowball gathers pace..
It took a lot of erasing, chopping, changing and experimenting, but by the end of the summer a list of potential songs were beginning to emerge. My first chance to test them out was an offer of a solo set alongside the Rosie Eade band, at the Globe Inn, Exeter in November 2014. It was a surreal evening - the pub was full of mourners at Raph Ravenscroft's (renowned Pink Floyd sax player) wake, who had been there since midday.
It was a bit daunting, playing a full set of completely new songs in public for the first time. But the feedback was good, the experience spurred me on, and some of these tracks survived the final cut for the Reed In The River album, albeit mostly reworked!
The crafting and creation continued into that winter, and just before Christmas I felt privileged to hear the first mixes from brother Matthew Falloon's new solo work. Touched by his beautiful tracks "Lay In Your Arms" and "For Your Love", tears of admiration ran down my face while wrapping presents and listening to the mixes. I realized Stu was right, and that really made my mind up - it was time to make an album of my own.
I'd also been reading some really inspiring books from the lies of Brian Draper, Damian Hughes and Richard Rohr, and they set me to thinking that I needed some goals and aims. So I decided - I wanted to make a record that I would be proud of, that told my story and most of all sounded like me. I thought that was the easy bit at the time, but the sound side actually worked out to be quite hard. But ambition had to play a part, and I wanted to get reviews and radio play nationally. I was aiming to complete it all by May 2015, which turned out a little too ambitious.. I wrote a plan detailing what I wanted to do, how and when.
Matt warned me making an album would be a lot of work, and he was right - looking back it is hard to appreciate quite how much - but it was worth every minute too.
The boys are back in town.
As 2015 dawned I was ready to start working with a band on honing these songs further. Brother Matt agreed to take the lead in producing the emerging album, and play bass. Having played drums with us since 2002, I was delighted that Paul Everest agreed to join the project. It just made sense, musically at least. The big issue this time round was geography - with Matt living in Zurich Paul in London, and me in Devon, we made the best of new technology available, sharing demos online, and using Skype to make plans and keep in touch. As it turned out, we decided Bristol was somewhere in the middle and set a string of two-day rehearsals going in the early spring. By that time, the added pressure had forced me to make first cuts of a list of twelve new songs. Our first practice was in late January 2015 and it was great to be working together on these tracks. Matt also encouraged me to beef up my vocal routines, and put me on to the Aussie vocal coach exercises, which done daily gave me the stamina to sing in day-long rehearsals.
There was a great spirit of fun, creativity and openness, and a common love of good curry. Compared to our last record together (2004's Modern Harmonies), new technology made sharing material child's play. Recording sessions on my iPad, they could be up on Dropbox the next day compared to the old days of lugging round a hefty 16-track recorder, working out how to make it work, mixing, burning to CD and sending the discs in the post. We rehearsed again in late March and by the time we returned again in April, we were ready to start thinking about recording the basics in the studio.
Round the bend
Matt encouraged me to listen to a wide range of music to help decide what the basic sounds, especially bass and drums, should be once we got in the studio. I got particularly interested in the beautiful Byrds album, Ballad Of Easy Rider, and loved Clarence White's country guitar riffs. The rehearsals also showed up my beloved main electric guitar, a mid 1960s Gibson ES-330 to be in need to some tender loving care.
So I decided to get a second electric guitar, in candy apple red, to match the Gibson - not easy bring left handed... I found a Telecaster at Southpaw Guitars in Texas and had them ship it to Gene Parsons at StringBender in California, who made the original B-Benders used by Clarence White. He fitted an amazing handmade B-Bender which basically bends the note on the B string, giving pedal steel like sounds, and shipped it back to me. During May and early June 2015, I set to work making the final guide tracks (https://www.facebook.com/PeteFalloonMusic/posts/1647013608851746:0) to take to the studio and we were ready to go.
The first session at Vale Studios
Matt, Paul and I headed for Vale Studios in May 2015. Vale is a lovely residential studio, set in a village manor in rural Gloucestershire, and with some incredible vintage equipment. Perfect for the warm vibe I wanted on the album, and an ideal place to retreat and focus on the work ahead of us. Our first task was to work with Chris D'Adda to get the basic drum and bass sound right (here's a video of Paul testing out the drums - the rhythm is from Soft Falling Rain). Once that was done, this first four-day session over a long weekend focused on recording the core band parts together, live (bass, drums and electric rhythm guitar, or mandolin for Contemporary Ways). We also added a few lead vocal parts. I had been warned about Moira's cooking - both irresistible and addictive! We had an amazing time and there was a great energy in the studio, even if we did gain a few pounds.