About 4 years ago or so I was freshly out of school, working construction, and evolving my ambitions to become a music producer. I wrote a song one day called "STEVIE WONDER SONGS" at my Dad's house and proceeded to link up with my friend Mitch to lay it down with him at his recording school. I'd never really been in a full studio nor had I produced a complete song with another artist featuring on the vocals. I had been hearing about Rachel from my Dad for years maybe and after listening to some of her work, was absolutely amazed by her voice. It has the incredibly full and aged quality like a fine wine. She was 18 or 19 at the time and I was 22. I sent her message on some social media platform and was stoked when she said was down for it and loved the track. I had sung the vocals over it and, mediocre as they were, the soul of it came through. We locked in a day to record and hit the full send. The song came out really nice and was a wonderful time in music. We did another track a bit later called "CRUMBLE" that came out great as well, although those sessions were a bit darker than the Stevie Wonder one. I wrote the song about addiction and relapsing into the cycle of pain and substance abuse. On the surface, however, it was about a person. Rachel was going though a tough time in life trapped in the pain of relationship ending with a guy she had fallen very much in love with. It seemed like perfect timing for that song to be created and the result captured the emotions it meant too. I had gone through a strikingly similar situation the year before and hoped that the song might help her in her own situation.
Fast forward now a couple years. I was in the middle of a session for "IT'S GONNA BE A PEACEFUL NIGHT"and the idea of doing a similar project with Rachel popped into my mind. I knew a handful of solid musicians in the Bay Area and I figured Rachel would sound great through the equipment at Hyde Street in Studio A. I gave her a call and she was down with the idea. We met up soon after and the original idea for an EP morphed into a full length album. She had a projects worth of songs telling the story of her and her man's relationship ending. The songs brought to mind "PET SOUNDS" by The Beach Boys. We started by recording the demos at my Dad's house in my room and then I began the search for some musicians that could play them well. My good friend Scott who'd played bass was down for it and then I found a session drummer to hold the beat. The plan was to record guitar, bass, and drums at the same time without a click track to give it that natural feel. Additionally, I recruited my friend Tim to overdub some electric guitar and a mutual friend named Greg to overdub some violin. We locked in a day and we were on our way. The sessions went great. I was amazed. Looking back, it was definitely a risky call but everyone played great and we had some rock solid tracks to build on. The rest of the record took a bit longer to finish.
Anyone who says doing an album is all fun and games has probably never done one. The process forces us to face our insecurities and make many tough decisions. Many of the following sessions were tense and emotional. Rachel had to re-live and work through those times in her life and I had to keep my head level and keep moving things forward. I was working full-time, had a record of my own that got sidelined but continued to eat away at me each day that I didn't work on it, and my stress levels were redlining most of the time. It probably didn't help that I drank heaps of coffee either. The bills were going up on the project and I knew Rachel was in the mindset of needing the album to be perfect and hit the Billboards. This is a difficult mindset to get out of... I've been there for sure. Trying to make a hit has a very sinister way to corrupting things. Midway through the record I took a trip to Haiti for a week and that put a strain on things. I think Rachel thought I didn't care, but that wasn't the case. I cared about this record and her as a person immensely. Perhaps that was the problems. A lot of emotions got involved and eventually our egos collided. I was completely burnt and when the opportunity came up to hit Arizona for a month to work on the Haiti project I'd sidelined for 6th months, I put in my two weeks at work and took it. We were done recording at that point and it was on to mixing. I sent the project to Scott McDowell in Studio C to mix. We got the mixes back and I thought they sounded great. There were a few revisions that needed to made, but overall, he did great work. Sometimes when you get the mixes back for a project, a cognitive dissonance happens. Rachel was not happy at all after hearing them and let me know it. I was so bummed that day. I set up a session with Scott to do the revisions when I got back into town. Rachel and I talked on the phone and she decided it would be better if it was just her and Scott. It hurt bad and I was pissed. I had invested so much of my time and energy into that project and to be more or less pushed to the sideline at the end was really upsetting and I let her know it. A few days later we spoke and she wanted me to be there. Prior to the session, we went over the contract I'd done up at the start. It was not good vibes. We reached an agreement on some terms and then went in to mix. After about 5 minutes, I knew me being there, fuming, would only hinder the session, and took my leave. I told her that the goal from the start was not money, or even the end result of the music, but to help her work through what she was going through and reach a better place in life. Growing is hard, no doubt about that. They went through and made the changes and got it to a mastering engineer shortly after. The record came out a few months later and sounded great. Take a listen above and you can hear for yourself.
Looking back, there was plenty of things I could have done differently if I had the experience I do now. For a long time, it kept me up night and had a lot of resentment in me over the way things panned out. That carried on for about a year. We didn't talk much and it was sad that our friendship had deteriorated the way it did. We talked a few times on the phone and arranged a trip for her out to Arizona to shoot a video. That trip was a doozy to say the least. I mainly wanted her to get out of the hometown and spend time with some other people who were in the music world out here. I was pretty out of my mind at the time trying to stay alive through the summer of working full-time and riding the bus. Foolish as I was, I thought there could be something more to our relationship and kinda made a move. There wasn't more to our relationship and that hurt. I was definitely fragile AF at the time though. We took a day trip up north with Esteban and Connor. Connor and I split an 8th of Shrooms and I went hard on the dance front until we got kicked out of the Tonto National Bridge park. Definitely could have ended up in jail that day, but luckily, did not. Later that night I was still trippin' pretty hard and tore into Rachel. I can't remember what exactly I said, but it was definitely harsh. I felt used and taken advantage over the whole project and I'm sure that came across. It was definitely a foul moment. The next day I went out to get coffee and ended up trying to help this dude who was hooked on methadone try to find his wallet for a while. When I got back, Rachel and I talked through a lot of stuff. We decided we wouldn't do anymore work together for a while. I had to go to work and when I can back home, we talked a bit more and I wished her well. She left early the next morning.
The whole thing was a bit of a mind fuck, and to be honest, that was pretty what I'd intended. I was trying to shake up her world a bit and inspire some movement. This of course is pretty deranged, but at the time, so was I. Her and I haven't really spoken since, and that's alright. Life brings people together at just the right times and catapults us to new places. My only hope is that the experience did not spoil her love for music. It definitely could of, but knowing her and her ambitions, I don't think it did. She is the type to carry on with her dreams. One of those dreams is, or was, to be an independent artist. I think if there's one thing we both learned, it's that you need help and have to be able to let go of certain things to make it work. That's never been easy for me, but life doesn't care too much about making things easy on us. Until another day...
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