The Who, what, where, when, and why

My Guitars 

My Guitars 

As I write this, my little homemade video for my song, “The King of Rock and Roll” has, in the last two days, amassed 1900 plays on Facebook.  When I saw that number, I got excited and started watching it again. Keep in mind that I spent just two afternoons putting that together, and it was meant to tell a story. The story of my teenage rock and roll dreams and how, in what I now see as part of God’s plan, my life unfurled in a completely different, but no less amazing, way.  I dug up pictures from my high school years with my first band, “Storm,” all the way through my wonderful teaching career.  I figured that, with a little careful nudge in the right direction, quite a few old friends and former students might be curious to see if they were in it - that’s about it.  I certainly didn’t expect 2000 of them! 

Watch the video here

The 4th shot of the video is of “Storm:”  me, Mike Daroche on drums and David Cutler on guitar.  We were about to do our very first performance - in my parent’s living room!  We (the band) had decided to throw a party and invite all our friends for our debut.  Since I was in 10th grade and my friends and I had yet to discover alcohol, there was very little risk for my parents, and they agreed to host (and to disappear immediately). 

What caught my attention tonight, as I looked at that picture, was the guitars.  I have seen this picture, now and then, through the years and my eyes always went to my guitar.  I LOVED that guitar!  It was an Aspen Les Paul copy with a beautiful pale natural wood finish.  I had saved a long time to buy it.  It was the first thing that I had ever bought for over $100 with my own money.  To be honest, I always had a hard time keeping that guitar in tune and I have always blamed the guitar for that. However, over 45 years of experience later, I now realize that I was doing lots of things myself that, more than likely, prevented the guitar from staying in tune.  I’m sorry, Old Guitar, for blaming you - it was my fault.  You were, and still are, I hope, the most beautiful guitar I have ever seen. 

What caught my eye when I looked at that photo was David Cutler’s guitar. 


What was so special about that guitar?  Nothing.  It was a cheap, mass-produced, sold in the Sears Catalog, Tiesco Del Rey.  A real piece of shit.  Ace Frehley would NEVER play a Tiesco.  Actually, nothing was special about it except two things. 

First, it was my first electric guitar.  That alone would be enough to make it a treasure to me, personally. 

Second, was the memory of how I got it.  When Bruce Springsteen talks about the overwhelming sense of awe and gratitude that he recalls at the moment he got his first electric guitar (his was purchased at the Western Auto store in Freehold, NJ - not Sears), I know EXACTLY the feeling he’s talking about. 

When I was in the eighth grade, I desperately wanted an electric guitar.  I had discovered Rock and Roll years ago, but I was learning to play, had discovered Alice Cooper and Kiss, and quickly realized that I could never truly rock on my cheapo acoustic guitar (which actually may have been purchased via the Sears Catalog).  I needed an electric guitar.  Like little Ralphie in “A Christmas Story,” it became my obsession.  The guitar was my BB gun. 

And it was Christmastime!  However, my parents cautioned me - and something about their tone and demeanor told me that they were serious and that this was not some kind of “Christmas fib” to throw me off the scent - that they were really sorry but there was just no way that they could afford an expensive gift like that this Christmas.  Though I was disappointed, I understood.  What did Ralphie Parker say?  “I guess Tinker Toys would be ok.”  I probably said something like that. 

So, Christmas Eve is here, and I go to bed excited - even visions of Tinker Toys are exciting on Christmas Eve!  I had a hard time falling asleep, so it must have been about four in the morning when my brother woke me up. 

“Dave!  You got an electric guitar!” 


I rushed into the living room and there, hung on the wall, was the guitar!  In my mind, I always see this moment with a brilliant spotlight on the guitar and with an angel chorus soundtrack, but that may be inaccurate.  It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. 

I took it down, slowly, and took it to my room.  I nervously tried to tune it, but I was too excited to get that right.  No matter. It was perfect - tuned or not.  There was no amp that I could see, and that was probably a good thing at 4:00 am. 

After a few minutes, my brother cautiously reminded me that our parents would be awake soon and that I should probably put the guitar back where I found it, so that I could properly fake being surprised for them.  That was a good idea - I certainly didn’t want to deprive them of that. 

An hour or so later, we woke our parents up and I performed one of the greatest “surprised” acts of my life and everyone was happy.  The act turned into actual surprise when my parents produced an amp that they had hidden behind a chair.  I guess the joke was on me, after all. 

I was really curious as to how they managed to pull it off after they had made such a big deal of not being able to afford it.  It turns out that they had mentioned their dilemma to some of their friends at church and, in what I have always interpreted as divine intervention, it turns out that those friends had the guitar and amp and were eager to sell them both to my parents for $50.  It was, most definitely, the greatest Christmas gift that I had ever received. 

A few months ago, my wife suggested that I buy another guitar.  I’ll repeat that:  my wife suggested that I buy another guitar.  Every guitar player knows that if this happens, and it is saddenly rare, you must obey.  So I did.  I ended up getting a Fender Newport Player acoustic guitar.  Plays great.  Sounds great.  It’s even my favorite color.  I love it. 

When I first got it, I took it outside on the patio to try it out.  My grandkids were here, so they rode their tricycles around crazily while I noodled on the guitar.  Almost immediately, I stumbled onto a cool little riff.  “Hm,” I thought, “there could be a song here…” 

Eventually, that little riff turned into “The King of Rock and Roll,” the video that I am watching right now. 

So tonight, as I watched that video, I thought about those three guitars and how each one had changed my life for the better.  How each one had a story that was special to me. It also reminded me that I am incredibly blessed to be a musician, with all the ups and downs, successes and failures, and that I wouldn’t trade that for anything.




Album Releases Are Special 

It’s just a few days until “More Songs About My Cats” is released to the world. 

Album releases are special. 

I can still remember, vividly, how I felt when Bruce Springsteen released “The River” back in 1980.  I spent every waking minute in anticipation and an inordinate amount of time plotting how I could get my hands on it as soon as possible - calling each and every record store within 60 miles of Glen Ellyn, Illinois to find one who would get it sooner than the others.  It turned out that a record store (Musicland, I think) in Aurora would get it the earliest, and I somehow talked my buddy, Mark, into driving me out there to get it.  I’ll always remember how excited I was as we walked up to the store and… there it was!  Years of anticipation - finally over!  And, of course, it was all worth it. 

These days, since I’m the artist, it’s different. I spend the month or so after my record is done kind of basking in the glow of finally finishing and, even though I just spent months working on these songs, they all seem new again - and they’re mine.  I did this thing.  Wow!  I did this!  I wrote the songs.  I recorded every guitar part.  Every vocal part.  Every piano part, bass part, drum part, etc.  I agonized over the song sequencing and how the stories should be presented. 

So, even though the album is done, musically, I still have lots of stuff to do.  I send my “final” mixes to Daniel Brummel, my mixing engineer.  I italicized the word “final” because, after Daniel takes a shot at mastering the tracks, I have to make lots of little adjustments to the mixes.  In this case, Daniel and I repeated this process for about a month. 

But there are other things to do, as well.  I register and copyright the new songs.  I send all of the necessary information (the master tracks, lyrics, cover art and credits) to my distributor.  I get the CD’s ready for production.  I practice for the upcoming gigs so that I can try to present the songs with just my acoustic guitar.  And all the while, I wonder if these songs will find an audience out there. 

Sometimes they do.  Sometimes they don’t.  I try not to think about that.  The important thing, right then (now) is that these songs exist - and that’s a great thing.  They exist because, with God’s help, I made them exist.  Right then (now) they belong to me - and I cherish them and pray that, when they finally get out there in the world, they will be welcomed into someone’s life. 

I have said before that I feel like my songs are like my children:  I conceive them, raise them and, eventually, send them out into the world.  When I do that, how they are received is really out of my hands, but I always hope that they will be found by someone (or lots of someones) who will love them like I do. 

I hope that person is you and, if so, that you’ll share them with someone else.  I hope that you’ll write and tell me about it: which songs are your favorites and which songs are not.  You would be surprised how little feedback we artists get sometimes unless we’re out on the road constantly, which I am not.  So feel free to send a message via my website or Facebook, and let’s talk about it! 

As always, thanks for listening! 


Some thoughts on the creation of “Sol y Sombra” 

I have a new album coming out next week.  It’s called “Sol y Sombra.”  I am very proud of it - and sincerely hope that you will all give it a listen.  If you are familiar with any of my music, it will probably surprise you. 

Like many artists, most of my time during the pandemic was spent writing and recording music.  Naturally, events surrounding the pandemic colored almost everything that I wrote - and, while it may be tempting to call this a “pandemic record,” that would be an oversimplification.  I can say that I was tremendously affected, both spiritually and emotionally, by the death of three members of my extended family shortly after the start of 2021.  At about the same time, my wife and I were fortunate enough to be amongst the first to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.  So I think that we were both grappling with a profound sense off sorrow and loss while also feeling that, perhaps, the worst of it would soon be behind us.  So it is these two seemingly contradictory emotions that color most of the material on the album.  I believe that many of you may have had those same kinds of feelings that we had. 

Now, with the emergence of the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus and the resurgence of the pandemic, I had to consider if some of the more joyous elements of the album were now somewhat false...I actually considered shelving the whole thing until this whole nightmare is over - but that seemed wrong, too. 

In the end, I decided that those joyous moments are still worth celebrating and looking forward to experiencing again one day.  After all, shouldn’t we all be trying to bring more joy into the world when we can?  As my wife said today “You know, we should all be trying to be the “silver lining” in all this” - in the way that we treat everyone we meet each day.  I love that.  Let’s do that. 

While “Sol y Sombra” is not a full-blown “concept album,” it does tell a story.  I know that, these days, it’s tempting to listen to a couple of songs and move on.  I hope that you don’t do that.  Most of the time, musicians like me spend a great deal of time sequencing an album so that it takes the listener on a journey.  So I hope that you’ll put it on from start to finish.  I did my best to make it a journey that will be fun and satisfying. 

I had some amazing people help me complete this record.  Kristoph Klover, (a Bay Area recording engineer/songwriter/guitarist/vocalist and owner of Flowingglass Music), my onetime musical partner, offered suggestions on how to mic acoustic guitars.  Renaud Buffoni, the owner, designer and master luthier at Mirafone Guitars, offered some excellent mixing suggestions (turn up the drums!) and, once again, Daniel Brummel (Weezer, Ozma, Sanglorians) did an amazing job at mastering the completed tracks.  These guys are real pros, and I am tremendously blessed to have them on my team. 

When I was nearing completion of the record, I sent the completed tracks to a musician friend of mine for his input on how I could make it better.  He offered some excellent suggestions (most of which I agreed with and tried to implement), but his written critique concluded with the following summary:   

“This is your masterpiece. I genuinely love it from start to finish... 
By listening to this album, it made me remember why you're one of my favorite artists: you definitely master the art of songwriting.” 

Masterpiece?  I don’t know about that (although it was certainly nice to hear), but I can say that I probably came closer than I ever have to accomplishing what I had envisioned for the record to be - both musically and sonically - with “Sol y Sombra.”   

I hope you like it as much as I liked making it.

Introducing: Daniel Brummel 

If you are like me, you. may have some "friends" on Facebook that you really don't know.  Maybe they're artists or public figures that you admire.  You see and "like" their posts, but you wouldn't know how to initiate a conversation or call them on the phone.  I have a lot of "friends" like that on Facebook.

A couple weeks ago, I was feeling pretty good.  My new album, "No Hard Feelings..." was finished and sent to my digital distributor and to the CD manufacturer.  After seven months of writing, recording, editing and mixing, it was done - and I was REALLY happy with it.  I posted something on Facebook to let my friends know to expect the album to be released on February 1.

Then, I received a comment from Daniel Brummel:  "Do you need it mastered?'

Mastering is a difficult process to explain, even for musicians.  I would say that 95% of them don't really know what it really is.  I will give you a brief and probably incomplete explanation of what a mastering engineer does:

The mastering engineer puts the finishing touches on a completed recording.  He applies various processes such as equalization and compression to sonically enhance the music.  He adjusts the tracks on an album to make sure that they are all about the same volume.  He cleans up any fades or transitions between songs.  He makes sure that the music will sound good on a variety of playback devices.  He prepares the music to be released commercially.

I have used a variety of mastering engineers and methods to master my music in the past.  The reason I say "methods" is that there are now a few companies that offer mastering services online.  These service use computer algorithms to analyze and adjust music automatically.  It's fast and cheap.  Since I really had a very incomplete understanding of the mastering process, I decided to use one of these online services to master "No Hard Feelings..."

A couple days later, my son, Sam, called me.  "Daniel Brummel offered to master your record?!!!!  Are you going to do it?"

"Sam, it's already done." I said.

"So what!  This is a great opportunity!  You should do it man!"

I told him I'd think about it.

My wife asked, "What did Sam want?'

I told her about our conversation.

She said "So tell me why you're not doing this?'

"Well," I said, "I've already paid this service to do it, so I'd be out that money, plus the various distribution fees that I paid.  Plus, Daniel Brummel isn't going to do this for free, you know.  He's a real pro."

She replied, "Didn't you tell me that this is your best album?  Isn't it worth it - if we can afford it?'

I hired Daniel Brummel the next day.

Here is a brief summary of his career:

Daniel Brummel, M.M. is a Los Angeles-based mixing & mastering engineer, producer, songwriter, composer, and multi-instrumentalist. He received his Master of Music degree in Commercial Music Composition & Arranging from CSULA and his Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Composition from UCLA. In a career spanning more than two decades, he has performed and recorded with artists including Weezer, Nada Surf, Spain, Ozma, Sanglorians, Scott & Rivers, and The Elected.

Working with Daniel was a wonderful experience.  I'm sure that I tried his patience more than once, but he never showed it.  He was always upbeat and professional.   He intrinsically understood my style and how to get the sound I was looking for.  He took "No Hard Feelings..." to another level in a number of ways.  I am sure that we will work together again in the future.

Now there is another line in his bio that I think is really cool:

Recent mixing, mastering, and production clients include Jose Galvez, Diabolyk, David Prince, Jonathan Mann, and Rivers Cuomo.

Just a few thoughts on "The Rules of Christmas" EP 

It’s a couple of days before Thanksgiving 2020 and I guess that it’s a little harder to get in a “thankful” mindset this year.  I could make a list of reasons why this has been a pretty sucky year, but I won’t.  I’ll just remind you to look at your 2020 Bingo card. 

I have often thought, for a few years now, that, while most of us have really had a tough time dealing with the antics of the outgoing administration, the late-night comedians have been enjoying a never-ending source of material.  Sometimes it really didn’t need a whole lot of embellishment, either.  The President suggested that we cure the Coronavirus by injecting ourselves with bleach - that’s pretty damn funny on its own! 

This year has been pretty inspirational for me, as well.  I finished a new album: “Full Moon Over Crazytown,” remixed and remastered another album, “Wheels In the Rain,” and prepared both of them for their physical CD release.  I also am nearly finished with another album for 2021.  That’s a lot of music. 

One day, back in October, I found myself in-between recording projects, so I decided to re-visit my two Christmas songs that I had written a few years back:  “The Rules of Christmas,” (from 2017) and “The Story of My Birthday,” (from 2018).  As I said in my notes from the “Wheels in the Rain” re-release, I have learned a lot about making records in the last couple of years - enough to really make those two Christmas tunes quite a bit better than their original mixes.  I also realized that neither of those songs had ever been officially released - if you have heard those songs you probably heard them on my old Reverbnation page. 

Having two Christmas songs is cool, but also a problem.  If I released them simultaneously, would they both get the attention that they deserved?  I don’t know.  Some people would probably listen to both, but I suspect that most would pick one and then move on.  Maybe I’m just a pessimist, but most independent artists like me spend A LOT OF TIME trying to catch your ears and hold onto them as long as possible.  Then I thought “why not write and record a couple more Christmas songs and release an EP?”  Great idea! 

Now remember that this was about mid-October.  If I wanted to get this record out on the day after Thanksgiving, which was my goal, I would need to have it done right around the beginning of November.  So...I had about two weeks to write and record two new Christmas songs. 

Thankfully, good ol’ 2020 provided plenty of inspiration once again.  Of course, no one wants to hear “Christmas in Crazytown,” so the inspiration would need to be more upbeat and hopeful.  It didn’t quite work out that way.  I was halfway successful. 

The first one I wrote was “My Christmas Wish,” which I would describe as a 2020 version of “I’ll Be Home For Christmas.”  I was thinking about “Christmas wishes” and thought: 

     “What would I wish for for Christmas this year?” 

The answer was:  to see my son, Sam, and his wife, Leandra, who live in Southern California.  They were here for Christmas last year, and I have such wonderful memories of our time together.  The Covid-19 pandemic makes a visit with them out of the question for the foreseeable future, so...that was what I wrote about.  I tried hard to make the song as universal as I could and still be personal.  I hope that I succeeded.  I know that there are many, many people who have that same wish as me this year which, sadly, will not come true. 

For the next song I wanted to write about how this Christmas would be different from all of the other Christmases that we all have known.  I started making a list of all the “Christmassy” things that we would not be able to enjoy during a pandemic. The list was pretty long and, frankly, kind of depressing.  The whole “upbeat and hopeful” goal seemed to be slipping away.  The whole project seemed doomed. 

Then I had a moment of clarity that I can only describe as a truly divine inspiration.  It’s as though God whispered in my ear and said: 

          “The most important thing about Christmas has not changed - not even in a pandemic.” 

That was it.  I had my song:  “Psyched For Christmas.”  It’s a song that I am really proud of, and I hope it brings you the same joy that it has brought to me. 

“The Story of My Birthday” is another song that I am super-proud of.  I was thinking about how, when my kids were little, they always enjoyed hearing about the events and circumstances surrounding their birth.  So I wondered “How would Jesus’s parents tell him about his birth?”  The fact that I have teenage Jesus as the narrator in the song makes it even better, I think.  And yes, the drummer boy makes an appearance. 

“The Rules of Christmas” was written for the songwriting game that I am a part of.  Every two weeks we have to write a song to a given prompt.  The prompt, in this case, was “Rules.”  Christmas was approaching, and I kind of blurted out “The Rules of Christmas.”  This started a vigorous debate amongst my family as to whether there actually are any rules for Christmas.  My stance was “Yes!  There are!”  Every family has certain traditions that are so set in stone that they must be followed for Christmas to be “complete.”  The song lays out several “rules” that were, or are, true for my family.  Yours may be similar. 

So that’s it.  I finished the record.  My shipment of CD’s arrives today.  It’ll be out digitally at 12:00 am EST on November 27.  I hope you love it.  I hope you’ll share it with your friends and family.  I hope it becomes a part of your Christmas every year.

The Loco-Motion and Other Valuable lessons 

I think that I have always been obsessed with rock and roll.  I remember being a huge fan of the Osmonds, which was oddly encouraged by my parents.  You see, the Osmond Brothers got their start in showbiz by singing as a barbershop quartet, which is pretty amazing if you have ever tried to sing barbershop.  It requires some serious skill to do it really well - and the Osmonds did it really well.  My parents had their Christmas album, “We Sing You A Merry Christmas,” which wasn’t really barbershop but, if you can sing barbershop, just about any kind of vocal harmony is pretty easy.  Anyway, they had that album and it was a staple in our house at Christmastime.  I still have it. 

Because my parents knew and loved the Osmond Brothers, they were accepted by my folks even after they grew up and became a pop band.  To this day, I still have their album “Phase III,” which was my first record that I bought.  I still love most of it, especially “Down By The Lazy River” and “Yo Yo.” 

I remember being home sick from school one day and I must have been in the second or third grade.  My mom was going out to the grocery store and asking if she could get me anything.  “Yes!  There’s a new record out called “Crocodile Rock,” by someone named Elton John.  Could you get it for me?”  She thought it was a weird name for a song, but she came home with the record. About this same time period I received my first record player for Christmas one year.  Along with it I received a 45 of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by the Supremes.  That was a good one, too. 

Having a record player was like having the keys to the kingdom - at least to me.  However, records cost money.  I eventually did what lots of kids did back then to acquire music:  I recorded them off the radio on a little Panasonic cassette recorder.  This was tricky.  Of course, you never knew when the song you wanted would be played, so you may have to wait for a long time.  Then you had to hope that the DJ wouldn’t talk over too much of the intro or outro, which they did constantly.  I would sit for hours and hours trying to get a clean recording of “Bennie and the Jets” or “The Loco-Motion” (the Grand Funk version).  I would also experiment with ways to cut down on unnecessary background noise, too.  I would construct fairly elaborate contraptions out of cardboard boxes to put the recorder and radio in while still allowing me to press “play” and “record” simultaneously. 

Now, I never really thought about this until right now as I am writing this, but sitting there for hours exposed me to a whole lot of music while I was waiting for “The Loco-Motion”.  This was in the mid-Seventies, when top-40 radio was much different than today.  In that time period that I spent waiting for “The Loco-Motion,” I would hear The Righteous Brothers, Jim Stafford, Steve Miller, The OJays, Hot Chocolate, The Bellamy Brothers, John Denver, Steelers Wheel, George Benson, The Jackson Five, The Climax Blues Band, The Eagles, Barry White and Ray Stevens, just to name a few.  That’s the kind of diverse playlist that you’d never see the likes of today.  So, while I waited for “The Loco-Motion,” I was exposed to the entire world of pop music. 

When Bruce Sprinsteen sang “We learned more from a three-minute record than we ever learned in school,” he was talking about me.

Let's start from the beginning... 

I grew up in a very musical family in Arlington, Texas.  It was there that I began to pursue a career in music, although I didn't know it then - by joining his school band, where I played the trombone. 

My parents went out one night and they hired a sitter who went to the junior high that I would go to the next year.  She was telling me about all of the cool organizations and opportunities there and she mentioned the band - almost in passing.  I said ‘Hold on! Back up. They have a BAND!? A BAND!? I AM GOING TO DO THAT! There was no question about it. I was a band geek from the start. 

About the same time, I was given my first guitar and started taking lessons.  It was also around this time when I started writing songs. 

There was a wonderful lady at our church who played guitar, and she agreed to teach me.  I basically learned all the hits of the day (Eagles, Doobie Bros. America, etc.). I started writing songs when I ran out of stuff that I could play with my four-chord vocabulary.  They weren’t very good, but I found that I loved expressing myself through music. 

My Dad, grandpa and uncle were all active in The Pekin Chorus in their hometown of Pekin, Illinois.  The Pekin Chorus was a group of maybe 40 men who sang in the barbershop style:  a cappella, four-part harmony.  This group from Pekin was actually one of the first "Supergroups" for that style of music, because the won the International Barbershop Chorus contest three times.  This was unusual because Pekin, IL is e pretty small town and the Pekin Chorus regularly beat groups from Cincinnati, Louisville, etc. 

So, needless to say, I grew up with four-part harmony.  As a teenager I sang alongside my dad in a barbershop chorus in Bedford, Texas and later sang in both a chorus and quartet with my dad and my brother, Jim.  Our quartet, "Class Ring," was actually the number-one ranked quartet in the state of Idaho at one time in the early 90's. 

Anyway, if you're wondering why there is so much harmony on my records, that's why.  It all goes back to the barbershop.