I was stunned by the feedback I got from my last record. Over and over again, people pointed out how much they enjoyed the pieces with just piano and vocals. I had always viewed tracks like this as a cop out - something I did because I was too lazy, confused, or indecisive to think of more production options. It never occurred to me that there was power in that choice.
In July, I sat down with the intention to cobble together a double album's worth of tossed out, thrown away piano and vocal songs. Songs where I couldn't decide what to do, songs that didn't fit anywhere, leftover bits and pieces of B-sides that never made it to records... you get the picture.
Dave Fleminger and I did two marathon starting-promptly-at-10am-ending-at-11pm days in the studio recording over 25 songs. I dug deep into my catalog, pulling out songs I used to perform live in Los Angeles that have never seen the light of day, half-finished tunes that got finalized in the studio on an iced tea break. I was ready to go with the double album concept and started charting it out in my mind.
Like most creative projects, however, praxis began to deviate from interior visions. Normally I keep my blinders on and focus only on the end goal at all costs. (Not always a bad thing - this is how I've released 11 albums worth of original music in seven and a half years and generally, how I do everything). I noticed a shift this time though, and instead of heading straight for the goal, I began to delve into the process. It had been a long time, and I was a little rusty, but I'm glad I took a slight detour...
In the course of 12-hour days of recording music, long vocal comp sessions, and pho and Thai food for lunch, Dave and I got to talking. I knew he was a visual artist but didn't really know much about his work. At the time, I was also a frustrated painter. I hadn't picked up a brush in several months and hadn't painted seriously for years. The topic came up. Embarrassed, I said "Yeah, I haven't picked up a paintbrush in years." At some point, I half-heartedly threw out the idea of starting a "painter's club," or rather, a "frustrated painter's club," designed to light a fire under my ass and stop the multitude of excuses bouncing around in my head. Dave said he would paint if someone would read to, an idea got planted in my head. In September, we did our first collaborative visual art project, while I was on tour in Seattle and Dave was in San Diego. I read to him one of my favorite childhood books, "The Twenty-One Balloons," in its entirety while he painted a piece. And snap - just like that, a collaboration was formed, the likes of which I haven't experienced in over ten years.
In the wake of tossing about artistic lightning bolt after artistic lightning bolt, an entirely new concept started to take shape: what if the whole record was a collaboration from start to finish? What if even the visual aspects, photography, and design came about as the result of a collaboration? And that's when the album (this one, that you're looking at right now) snapped into place. I started to view the process as the end goal, and I was able to envision the final result.
You always have a concept for how it's going to come together, and then sometimes you write a song in your car one night that becomes the keystone of the whole album. And then things shift into shape, perhaps in a much different way than you initially thought. The giant double album full of lyrical wordplay became a 9-track record focusing on the "softer side". Everything softened up and instead of doggedly sticking to my original vision, I allowed things to flow and shift into shape - not something that comes easily to my AAA, obsessive personality.
When I started recording this album, I was a frustrated painter and a retired dancer. A collaborative painting project later, a dance piece out of "retirement" later, a few months later, everything has changed. Now I am once again, "just" a painter. "Just" a dancer. I have shifted back to the present tense and am so unbelievably grateful for the opening and unfurling that's taken place in the past few months. You may or may not hear it in this record, but it contains a lot, and now you've heard my side of the story. Enjoy these simple songs.
To life. To love. To art!
released November 21, 2014
All music and lyrics by Normandie Wilson
Normandie Wilson - piano, vocals
Recorded by Dave Fleminger
Recorded at Rarefied Recording, North Park, San Diego
Produced by Dave Fleminger and Normandie Wilson
Mixed & mastered at 60 Cycle Hummingbird
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