Saturday, February 27, 2010

MX Photography

I wanted to take this opportunity to plug my girlfriends work as a photographer! :) Melissa Xenakis has visited the studio with me a few times and left with a camera card full of great shots, two of which became posters for What To Keep & Let Go. Her natural eye lends itself to beautiful compositions, subject matter and color...most of the time she has no need to crop what she shoots. Learning the macro option on her Canon SD1100, she took her photography to a whole new level and depth. In November she upgraded to a Canon Rebel Xsi and she has created some beautiful shots from road side sunsets, South Carolina plantations and Vermont fields.

I'm excited to see what she comes up with next and I'm very proud of her. :) Check out her site and become a facebook fan as well!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Colorado, Iron & Wine and a Little Push

Listening to some Iron & Wine today forces me to recall where I was first inspired by the artist and given an extra boost towards recording my own album. In a basement bedroom where my longtime friend Mike Rossi and I stayed in Boulder, Colorado, I melted away into the sounds and melodies of Sam Beam, happily realizing the power in his The Trapeze Swinger. I loved every minute of it. And there were a lot of minutes to take in! He proceeded to show me more songs and I remember disappearing in music and feeling very inspired.

Mike and I talked a lot that weekend about music, life and my progressing efforts on What To Keep & Let Go. It was October of 2008, two months before I met with Dave Eastman in Weston to begin production, that Mike and I sat in the airport and talked about my record and how it was so important to me to get it started. I was turning my ipod wheel down the list of songs in my Dylan Duncan folder to review the material that would soon become full pieces. Having not shared with Mike some of the songs, I ventured for him to have a listen. His favorite ended up being, not to my surprise, Bicycle on the Ice and he since has taken a fond liking to the demo that included an AOL Instant Message tone that was captured the morning I recorded it on my iMac. It was here that I think his interest in the project grew and he helped to push me towards doing it. At the time, I was coming out of a long stint of "indulging", we'll just say, and it wasn't really getting me anywhere productive. I recall our conversation as being of a "buckle down and get this done" nature; a realization that time is too short to not do what you really want to do, that you need to see something through to the end no matter how scared or "not ready" you are.

So with that little boost of confidence, I flew home to Boston, MA that autumn with a deeper urge to get started on the record. It wasn't a month later that I began discussing with Marcin about the producer he knew in Weston.

I can't really explain what made me recall this event other than how a particular song or artist can simply bring you back. That day feels important to me and I wanted to share it with you. Maybe someday you will find yourself waiting for a flight, discussing your dreams or goals with a friend and be changed and inspired when you return home. I hope so.

Thanks Mike for that extra push. I think it helped me more than I realized until now.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Singing for Dummies Was a Smart Move!

Last night the rain didn't turn to snow and so I was able to return to the studio for our weekly Tuesday night session. The goal- To record vocals for Stand.

Now for those who have seen my dorky video updates, you know that I have been practicing my vocals using a Singing for Dummies CD on my morning and evening work commute. And let me tell ya I really feel like it has been paying off. Just the other day when I picked up my guitar in the apartment and started singing a bit, Melissa noticed that my voice had gotten a much richer tone...which is awesome! I have struggled in the past with holding notes confidently and not breathing the way I should be. With these exercises, I think my overall tone is improving.

With all this practice and validation from my girlfriend, I had a lot of confidence stepping up to the mic last night to begin singing verses for Stand. I noticed with the first few lines that I had a lot of control and the tone sounded great. As time went on, I started getting tired and despite constant sips of Throat Coat tea, my voice was getting scratchy and worn. This wasn't so bad for the end of the song but I needed to make sure I could retain that rich and soft feel of my voice for the verses and the falsettos in the choruses.

Much to my surprise, we finished up the song after some regained confidence and upon listening to the takes in the control room I was very pleased. I haven't had that much confidence in my voice in a long time, much less been so proud and excited about it on recordings. There were a few trouble spots that I am hoping will not be noticed with the addition of the backup singer for this song but overall I was very pleased.

I feel excited to take on the challenges of the remaining songs and actually inspired to return to my initial takes on Horizons, as I am not at all impressed by what I have done on that song thus far. Being the first song of the record, it deserves the same treatment in confidence that I gave to Stand and I want the first song you hear to sound as best as it can be.

Practice is "Key"

So on any given day that I show up early to the studio and Dave hasn't quite gotten over there, I take it upon myself to visit his piano that sits in the corner of the back room and run my fingers over the ivories in hopes to conjure up some sort of piano melody using the basic knowledge I have of chords and what not.

Ouch that was a long sentence.

Call it killing time. But I think that overall, I'll get a better feel for playing this haunting instrument and very well start writing more songs in this manner. I plan to use piano in more songs in the future, having always been inspired by tunes that use it to drive the melody.

Hopefully I arrive early a lot more as I thoroughly enjoy learning how to play the piano while I wait for Dave's arrival. And if you're wondering if I took this photo of myself playing...yes I did. But strictly for documentation purposes!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Long Awaited Update!

So sorry I haven't been updating the blog very much! Been tremendously busy lately with work and with freelance stuff at home, plus my lack of confidence that these videos are actually playing properly for you all! My faith was restored today as David Ireland and I have been able to load some of them and so it seems as if they're working again! Here is a video update that I've been waiting to post from sometime last week.

Photos by D.A.D.

No not my father. Dylan, Aaron and Dre! Who is Dre you ask? Well the night of our Circles guitar session and Aaron practice, a guy named Dre showed up to what he thought would be practice with Dave. It being a Wednesday, Dave had to cancel his usual band practice to make time to fit in a session for me and Dre didn't seem to get the memo. Unfortunately Dre had to drive about 40 minutes to get there only to find a practice set up with me, Dave and Aaron to work on Passing Into August and If Not Now, Then When! To his good sportsmanship, Dre took a seat and listened in on the practice. He even took a few photos by request of us all playing. It was great to have an outside ear in the studio to gauge how the songs sounded. He seemed like he enjoyed them so that's a good sign! At the end of the session I asked him his last name for photo credit purposes. He said to get it from Dave which I haven't yet done. So for now, he shall be known as simply Dre!

Below are photos of the session by D.A.D.

Aaron's Entry

My recording session for Circles on the 3rd of February was overlapped with the arrival of Aaron Pring to work some more on Passing Into August and If Not Now, Then When. Seeing his headlights out the window, I knew that he'd walk in to hear me busting out the guitar part for Circles and I was curious if would like it! Coming into this project a lot later than everyone else, Aaron hasn't really had a chance to hear the album as a whole or any other songs on it for that matter. He made his initial appearance on Electric Candle as a snare drum player mid way through the song so he had his first taste of the What To Keep & Let Go meal that we've been serving up this whole year. He seemed to have liked it! Of course, naturally the next songs he would hear were the ones he'd be playing full kit to: Passing Into August and If Not Now, The When? I had sent him these songs over email and all the while I was curious if he'd have a good reaction to them and really be excited to give them his treatment. He came into the studio like a breath of fresh air, having a new born innocence to the already maturing record. I loved having him work out his parts as we played along with him; his constant reshaping of the sections and the fine tuning of his beats to get out the best possible take on these untouched songs. At the end of this practice on February 3rd, Aaron requested to play If Not Now, Then When one more time as he said he really liked it and that it "tugged at his heart strings", or something to the effect of it really hitting him emotionally. I'm happy this song has had such a impact on a guy that came into this project not knowing what it was all about :) It's an honor to touch not only the listeners of the album but the ones involved as well and I can only hope to continue to do so. Working with Aaron has been great as he has really filled in the gaps of both the first and second half of the record, providing, without initial practices, the drum parts for the last two songs needed to be worked on. And he has one helluva sense of humor too!

Thanks Aaron for all your hard work and I'm excited for your recording sessions!

The Tone of Circles

On the 3rd of February, I brought in the Gibson Les Paul Studio guitar that my Art Director Dave Ireland let me borrow to play the electric parts for Circles. I knew exactly what I had in mind for the tone of the guitar and Dave helped make it all possible with his equipment and overdrive pedal. Here is a clip of the sound test for this session. I was able to get it down in a few takes and am very happy with the results :) Thank you to both Daves for helping me achieve the correct tone for Circles!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Videos Unavailable?

I apologize if any or all of you have had problems watching my more recent video posts. It seems that they're not working and I'm not sure what the problem is. I will try and contact the folks at blogger to see if they can shed some light on the subject!

Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lack of Posting!

Hi all! Sorry for the lack of posting lately. I haven't had a chance to upload some video and photos taken from my session recording Circles guitar parts and a few other random photos. So what's been happening?? Well for the past couple of weeks I have been practicing vocals in my car rides to and from work and I really have noticed an improvement. So when I'm ready (thinking March), I will go at all the songs that need vocal work and then we'll be ready to bring in some backups. Speaking of, I have contacted my old friend Angela Paladino in VT who is a singer/songwriter and she has agreed (timing permitted) to lend her voice to the back ups parts on Stand. It came down to a couple of people and Dave and I had a listen and really think her voice would fit nicely.

Tonight, if the storm that we're getting lets up, I will be heading into the studio to either try out Stand vocals or play one last practice with Aaron as Dave has suggested perhaps we get him into the studio to record his drum parts this weekend. That'd be great because then ALL of the songs (minus Hello, Amy) will have been put down. Speaking of Hello, Amy, I have called a practice with the guys for the 28th of February in hopes to get them all up to speed on the song so we can get into the studio and record it.

So things are coming along but a tad slowly right now. It's crucial we stay on track as best as possible, however, and make it to the production deadline of the end of May. I am not so sure it's realistic to think that the album will be actually manufactured and packaged up by then so there might be an adjustment in the release date...thinking perhaps July.

Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Morning Update!

On the way to work today, I practiced some vocals using my "Singing for Dummies" CD that I got a few years back. The exercises are silly but I need to be diligent in warming up my vocal chords before I am feeling confident to sing these songs. I decided to give you an update while I was doing all this.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Guitar Fund!

So about every three or four years I get a new guitar. My first guitar I ever owned was a cheap Epiphone Acoustic that I got in Sarasota, FL at a Sam Ash Music. It was $100 or less or something but that's the way it should be on a starter guitar. After graduating school, I bought myself an Ovation Roundback Celebrity that would enable me to plug in direct to perform; standing still in a two-man rock group just so my acoustic guitar could be miked properly was getting to be a bit old and not fun on stage. In 2007, I graduated to a more high quality dreadnought as I was really looking to start writing some songs with a full sounding, bright acoustic guitar. The ovation wasn't really good for acoustic performing had no depth to it...literally! It was so thin and was only really good for rocking on stage in a full band in my opinion. My Breedlove dreadnought guitar helped me write a lot of the songs that are featured on this record namely Electric Candle, If Not Now Then When and Ask You. I also wrote a few other songs that Chad and I have managed to make part of our future compilation together: Warnings in the Sky and Hesitate.

So just out of 2009 I find myself on the cusp of yet another guitar purchase. I'm not doing this out of pure pattern and tradition (okay Chad, maybe I am a little haha) but really I'm ready to take the next step into a different type of guitar: an electric.

So for the past couple of months or so I have been researching different types of electric guitars, gotten advice and listened to bands that use certain models for the guitar I'd most likely see myself using and writing songs with. I sifted through articles, listened to You Tube video clips of Paul Reed Smith vs. Gibson and even had a chance to play an '85 Les Paul Studio that my art director, David Ireland, brought in for me to try. Researching and playing the Les Paul Studio, I came to realize how much I loved it and I even learned that album-mate Brendon Thomas uses the same guitar (featured on Ask You I think) and I just love that sound. I believe Jimmy Eat World uses Gibson as well and that is definitely the sound I've been looking for. Of course a lot depends on effects, amps and everything but handing and feeling this guitar for myself made me love it. I even found the exact finish I wanted - Wine Red with Gold Hardware. I was up at the Guitar Center in Danvers recently and they happened to have it on the wall. I asked to play it and they graciously pulled it down and let me have my time with it. It was beautiful and though I was timid to plug-in in front of everyone there, I got a good feeling from it and made my decision right then and there. However, I wasn't ready quite yet to spend the money on it. Being of a more expensive price tag than I'm used to, I had to walk away and figure this out.

On Friday I got a Guitar Center coupon in my email inbox that was promoting a 15% off special this last weekend. It was perfect timing! The only thing I needed to figure out at that point was financing, as I was only able to get it with the help of my Guitar Center card and a No Payments, No Interest for a Year plan that I have, on more than one occasion, utilized for my musial instrument needs. Last night, I returned to take advantage of the coupon and the last day of the January promotion to not pay for a year. I filled out the application and waited for the results of my credit line. All I needed was an approval to walk out the door with the recently polished-up Gibson in the nice white-furred lined case.

However..I was denied credit.

So my financially responsible self walked out the door. This was no easy task as when I set my heart on something I usually go for it. But alas, I realize I shouldn't go for something like that until I'm truly ready....or when my credit is better. haha

So as I have had a lot of advice and support from David Ireland in getting the guitar, he decided to make me a little fund container made out of a CD spindle case. He even threw in a little over a dollar in change, of which was followed by whatever singles I had in my wallet. Hey, it's a start! Thanks Dave!

So! If anyone cares to make a donation to the "Guitar Fund Please Help".......haha just kidding. Kinda. :) I do know, however, that whenever I eventually get the guitar, it will spawn a whole new era of song writing for me and help steer me away from my often similar sounding songs. I'll have a chance to play around with atmosphere and mood, something I'm really hoping to accentuate on album number two.