I got it in my mind to write and record a Christmas song in 2021. A friend of mine, Doug Suman, had recently written one, and it convinced me that I should have one in my song repertoire as well. However, I wanted to stay away from the more traditional types of Christmas Songs, so I came up with a bit of a satirical idea on Hollywood’s commercialization of Christmas. With my day job I had spent a lot of time on the Paramount Studio back-lots, so it was easy to come up with the imagery of filming a snowy Christmas scene on a sunny day in Southern California. I wanted to poke a little fun at how the “Hollywood Production Factory” uses famous movie personalities to pitch the “must have” products and presents, that everyone needs to buy for the holidays. I decided to write it as an up-tempo rock song. (I just didn’t think the world needed another Silent Night). Brett and Stephen came up with the idea to add Christmas Carolers to the song, and they really made this song work as they gave it a cheesy TV commercial sound throughout. Also, I usually like to have a subplot and I do think Christmas songs should have something positive to say, and I was able to mesh a love song into it as well. Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t come up with a really cool guitar part (to me its all about the “hooks” both musically and lyrically). I came up with a very catchy outro in the style of Jackson Browne’s “Somebody’s Baby” which I really love and I think fit perfectly. Sarven Manguiat was on electric guitar; I played acoustic, Travis Carlton was on bass, Bonnie Brooksbank was on Piano, Stephen Haaker was on drums. Harrison Crenshaw sang all the background vocals and Harmonies. Brett Grossman and Stephen Haaker. My Christmas Caroler's were: Diana Ortiz, Jayme Palmer, and Bonnie Brooksbank. Brett Grossman and Stephen Haaker Produced and Engineered it. We recorded again at “Perfect Sound Studio’s” in Frogtown CA and “The Vanguard” in North Hollywood. The song was mastered by Jennifer Munson at Taloowa Corp.
There's a Story Behind Every Song
There’s a story behind every song. I’ve always personally enjoyed learning more of what a song was about, how it was created, the musicians that played on it etc. and I wanted to share those stories with my fans. So, I thought it would be a great idea to write about some of those thoughts and ideas that went into the creation of my albums and the songs on them.
“Call me Ishmael” - I started to make this album sometime back in 2018. Writing songs was a hobby for me since my early teens. It was something I worked on, daily, but most of the songs I wrote hardly saw the light of day. I’d take them out and dust them off occasionally to play at local “Open Mic’s” and that was about it. But in 2014, I read an article that Steve Earle was going to host a songwriting camp” in Upstate NY. It was an easy decision to go as I was a huge fan of Steve’s song writing. I had no idea what to expect, or what I was getting myself into, but it turned out to be quite the awakening for me. There were close to 100 songwriters from all over the world and as I have said many times since, it felt as if I found my lost tribe. This was where I was meant to be, as we were all kindred spirits with a passion for songwriting. In addition, everyone was also actively recording and performing. I left with the goal in mind of making an album and finally bringing some of my songs to life. But unlike many of my fellow songwriters from camp, I wasn’t interested in recording a group of mellow acoustic songs. I wanted to make an electric album. So, I worked on selecting and re-arranging 12 of my songs that would best fit. As luck would have it, my daughter Kelly introduced me to a recording engineer that she had worked with named Brett Grossman. Brett in turn brought in his friend Stephen Haaker as Producer and then everything started to take off from there. The three of us plotted out the album, rehearsed the songs and went into “Perfect Sound Studio” in Frogtown CA in Sept 2019 to record it. I wound up playing guitar for most of the album (except for the lead guitar which was done by Sarven Manguiat), Rob Hall played bass, Aaron Durr keyboards, and Stephen Haaker was on Drums. In addition we wound up recruiting some phenomenal musicians to fill out many of the songs: Fabian Chavez on Saxophone, Jon Manness on Trumpet, Ethan Sherman on Mandolin, and Bonnie Brooksbank on violin. Harrison and Phoebe Crenshaw along with Diana Ortiz handled all the wonderful backup vocals and harmonies, and my daughter Kelly made a guest appearance sharing lead vocals with me on the song “Strung Out”. My son Dan, who writes, designs, and does the artwork for Graphic Novels and Video Games, did all the design, layout and artwork for the CD. Brett Grossman recorded and mixed the album, and as fortune would have it, we were able to get Emily Lazar from “the Lodge” in New York to Master the CD. Of the 8 albums up for 2020 Album of the Year she mastered 3 (including Call me Ishmael) “Call Me Ishmael” was released on July 24, 2020. One quick note, the CD title “Call Me Ishmael” comes from Herman Melville’s book “Moby Dick”. There is a lot that went into that song lyrically and musically which I plan to explain further. Here’s a clue though, the entire song’s story is revealed in the album cover artwork. Up next I plan to discuss Ishmael, plus each song on “Call me Ishmael” and the stories behind them.