Jacob Lawson

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Work, Friendship and Making Records

I realize that in all lines of work one’s professional world often intermingles with one’s personal friendships but in music this seems to be especially true and especially important. As a freelancing musician you don’t just occasionally make a friend at work.  Instead, you and your closest friends labor and toil and hope that one day you’ll earn enough to call it your “work”.  When at last you reach a point in your career where you’re earning a living, you’re very likely to find that you have built a network of colleagues consisting largely of friends and people whose company you enjoy.  These few months of work have really highlighted for me what a positive thing this can be and I’m going to mention several of the projects in the upcoming posts.  Today, the subject is a new album project.

We’ve wrapped up producing and mixing Carol Lipnik‘s new album and it is utterly magical, just like Carol herself.  Carol and I have been friends for a great many years and a while back made another album together called Cloud Girl.  For this project she has been working with Matt Kanelos on piano and while I didn’t know Matt going into the recording process we have come out of it as friends and, hopefully, future collaborators.  To get a taste of Carol and Matt I’d recommend this live video of Oh, the Tyranny.  If you don’t know Carol, I urge you to listen to the whole track as she sneakily hides her powerful voice at the beginning.  If you’re impatient, please jump to 2:50 to witness how effortlessly she can sing whatever she darned well pleases.  The album is almost entirely piano, voice and strings but we wrapped them in a glowing, spacious world of reverberation that will hopefully invite you into Carol’s unique world.  I’ll write more when the record is released, but for the moment I’ll close this post with opening lyrics to Oh, the Tyranny.  This is an example of the wonderful art that my friends and collaborators make and, for all the ups and downs of being a freelance producer, creating records of poetry like this makes it all worthwhile:

 

Dreaming an ocean at twilight

Curled up asleep at the bottom of a rowboat

Untethered

Just before the storm……

Jennifer Knapp’s New Record, Set Me Free October 14th!

JenniferKnapp_SetMeFreeCover_copy_1024x1024It’s official!  October 14th Righteous Babe Records will be releasing Jennifer Knapp’s new album, “Set Me Free”, which I produced!  I couldn’t be more proud of the result of all our hard work and I hope it will lead to many more people getting to know Jennifer’s music.  She has a voice that can knock you over and a delivery that makes you want to pay attention.  What’s more, her personal story is engaging.  Enough so, in fact, that Howard books is publishing her memoir, Facing the Music on October 7th.  I haven’t read the book yet but, knowing Jennifer for many years and being familiar with the incredible twists and turns she’s experienced throughout her life and career, I suspect it will be a gripping, heartfelt and thoughtful read.  Hopefully it’ll have a healthy dose of her dark humor as well ’cause she’s a master in that department.

What I do know is that her new record is wonderful. I’m not tooting my own horn here, but the horns of Jennifer (her singing and songwriting are tops) and all the artists who contributed inspired playing and engineering work to bring this album to life.  In the coming weeks I’ll share more details about the album, the musicians, and maybe a bit about the recording process, but at the moment I’ll just say that it’s very intimate with only three of the eleven songs being “rockers”.  As an album, it’s stripped down and exposed but the simplicity never feels stark or cold.  Instead, it’s evocative and personal and, often, more than a little heartbreaking.

If you’d like to pre-order it (please do!) it’s available through the label here or Amazon here.

Climbing Back Into the Saddle

Since mid-May I’ve been slightly out of the loop. I’d love to say this I is why I haven’t posted on this website but, by the barely-existent posting history from the months before I headed out it’s clear I can’t use that as an excuse. Excuses aside, my work this summer has been largely outside of music. I’ve been in Ecuador doing archaeology (how cool is that?!). However, while down there I supervised the mixing and mastering of one of the two records I produced this spring and I’m very excited about sharing this work with the world this fall.

The title of the post comes from my feeling that getting back into the saddle is really more of a process than an action. Unpacking suitcases will be a good start, but then comes the challenge of getting caught up with both business and domestic chores. I’m sure that in a week I’ll be feeling like myself, but for the moment I’m wondering how many (more) trips to the store it will take to re-stock the fridge!

What’s for sure is that this fall’s release of this spring’s work will require me to be vigilant about updating this website and creating a Facebook artist page. I want to let everyone know about the exciting projects I’ve been involved with and invite you to drop me a line any old time to share your thoughts.

More to come soon!

Long Distance Recording ROCKS!

Like many of my peers I began making records at the very beginning of the “project studio” era… that is to say that in the mid-’90’s changes in technology lowered the financial barrier of entry so that small, affordable studios began springing up all over.  I could write pages and pages about the pros and cons of how this explosion of access has affected sonic quality (and sonic expectations) but that would be of very little interest to most people.  What really intrigues me is how the arc of technology has now brought us to a place where I can record most things (pretty much everything but drums) at the highest quality, right here in my tiny studio and then shoot the files anywhere around the world.

I know my amazement with this makes me sound old or clueless, but the reality is that my amazement doesn’t come from a lack of understanding or a shortage of experience.  I very clearly recall the first time I recorded strings at home and then brought a laptop into a professional studio and, using timecode, synchronized my software to a 2″ tape machine to print my string parts onto analogue tape.  This was around the end of the ’90’s when almost all internet access was still dial-up and the idea of uploading a gigabyte of data was un-thinkable.  And even if we had somehow transferred the data, the process of sync’ing and getting things onto tape would have posed another tall pile of headaches.

Nowadays, I very rarely need to discuss the process for how files should be formatted or transferred.  It’s a beautiful thing!

So, in the last week I’ve had a the pleasure of contributing strings to a new Gustafer Yellowgold song that was recorded in the Hudson Valley of NY… I can’t tell you the title because it would lessen the wonder you’ll feel when you watch the video that will accompany it.  It’s just too awesome.

It seems to have been a week of children’s music, as I also arranged and recorded strings for a song on New York City children’s artist Joanie Leeds’ upcoming album.  It’s a beautiful track and she left a lot of room for strings!!!

So yes, I’m thrilled that the internet allows us music folk to work with each other wherever we are in the world.  It’s an ever-evolving chain of possibilities and opportunities.  Of course, the only way to take advantage of this brave new world is to do what I’m about to do: stop writing and go record something!

Strings for Awesome Things

I’m excited to have recorded and played all the strings for the famous Danish director Charlotte Sachs Bøstrup’s upcoming film, Kartellet.  The score was written by Irv Johnson and we’re really thrilled with the results.  We worked hard via skype and FTP and it hardly seemed like there was an ocean between us.  It certainly doesn’t sound like it!