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David Wilcox


Open Hand

cover of Open Hand

released 2009   What Are Records

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2009 David Wilcox  

Produced by:  Dan Phelps
Engineered by: Martin Woodlee
Management:  Tom Simonson -
Booking:  Concerted Efforts -

Photography: Jeremy Cowart
Package design:  Eric Schumacher

(c) 2009 Gizz Da Baboo (SESAC), administered by Michelle Ma Soeur, a division of Soroka Music Ltd.

(c) 2008 Gizz Da Baboo (SESAC), administered by Michelle Ma Soeur, a division of Soroka Music Ltd.

(c) 2008, 2009 Gizz Da Baboo (SESAC), administered by Michelle Ma Soeur, a division of Soroka Music Ltd.

(c) 2009 Gizz Da Baboo (SESAC), administered by Michelle Ma Soeur, a division of Soroka Music Ltd. and Tom Simonson (ASCAP)

I'm looking out the window on the flight leaving Ferndale California and Sonic Temple. Wow, the new CD is now recorded  and mixed in just a week.   It all went so well.  I guess it happens now and then that everything goes right, and this was that time.  It was one of those rare occasions where I knew that all of me was required.  You know, if you've ever fallen through the ice, what it's like to be so focused that you feel suddenly enlightened.  All the superfluous thoughts are instantly gone because you know that if you are to survive, all of your attention is required.  Well, this was sort of like that.  My passion for getting these songs recorded with all of my heart and all of my voice influenced  thousands of small decisions, so that everything mattered and all of me was required.  Even little decisions like what to have for lunch became infused with a deeper question: what would be best for the music?  

For weeks leading up to this recording session, I was eating very simple food.  A cleansing liquid fast of hot broth with lots of green veggies blended in the Vita-mix with some miso. At first, it was for the sake of my voice.  I knew that it would make me sing better, and it did.  But the biggest advantage was that it kept my energy constant through the whole day and night.  We had three days of tracking and 17 songs to record.  I wanted to get each song on the first or second take, and I wanted it to be the best I'd ever sung it in my life. I love the added thrill of there being no chance to fix or edit stuff on Pro Tools.  We were recording to analog tape.  It changes the game and makes music much more present tense.  The last time I recorded analog was the Big Horizon CD, and that was fifteen years ago.  This time I wanted to not only do the tracking with all the musicians together, but also get my final vocal and guitar performance, inspired by all of us playing and listening to each other.  I loved the feeling that there was a lot at stake and that all of me was required. I felt these songs come through in the moment as if my soul were cracked open.  You can hear it in my voice.  

Working with Dan Phelps was inspiring.  He is so talented that you'd expect him to have lots of attitude but he is very humble and kind.  He plays so many instruments well, but everything is in service to the heart of the song.  The players that he picked for the session were wonderful.  James McAllister on drums and Jon Evans on upright and electric bass.  They both were able to transport every song to the emotional destination that it needed to get to.  When we played each song, the dynamics were telepathic.  We tracked songs together for three days and it went better than I could have dreamed.  I expected that it might go like it has in the past where I spend hours on each arrangement deciding who plays what when.  But this time, I would play a song for Jon who would chart it out and then we'd play through the changes with me just humming along or talking them through the contours of where the song builds and where the lyric demands that it get quiet.  That way when we were ready to record I got to sing the lyric to them for the first time and it made it fresh for everybody.  

The energy of the first take was captured and singing for them felt like a great audience.  After three days of playing with the band, we had the rest of the week to add overdubs and mix.  Each song needed something different.  Maybe a simple piano part, or Rhodes or whirly.  Or maybe melotron cello.  On the song Modern World, we added a bowed saw, played by Steve Porter, a champion saw player who lives locally.  It sounds like a Theremin and is the perfect compliment to the Moog bass on that song. After each song was mixed, we made masters not only of the whole band, but also of just the voice and guitar performance.  I sang these songs better with the inspiration of all who were present.  It felt like the whole studio was an instrument that was very much in tune.  As soon as the CD is out, we will also have the solo voice and guitar version of each song available on my web site, but each will be the exact same performance as the band version.  I love that the final vocals were recorded first, so that anyone can listen to the same performance with and without other musicians.

So what about these songs?  For a long time now, I've been riding on a current of songs that flow into my life, taking me where I'm going.  I like trusting it, but every once in a while I like to get out and climb up out of the canyon to look at the vista.  It's time to see where the current is taking me.  Each section of white water demands all my attention when I'm in the middle of it, just like each song.  But liner notes are my time to look at what I've been through and chart my progress in this territory,  so now I'm looking over this batch of songs and appreciating a beautiful stretch of river.   This time, the music seems to be saying to me:  

This is a great time to be alive.  Be bold!  It's a new frontier. We have the chance to start something grand. The next song tells me to watch out for how I can fool myself into trying to make a part of my life look good on the outside when it should matter more how it feels on the inside. Other songs say: Remember, you can walk right out of the scary movie of your own negative thoughts.  Remember to appreciate the power of the longing in your heart!  Don't get suckered into the lulling comfort of lifeless institutional religion.  Give everything for a life well lived!   Keep your sense of humor when you can't live up to all the possibilities that life offers to you, and hold your life with an open hand.

THANKS to my family and friends for the inspiration.  Thanks to Dan Phelps, James McAlister,  and Jon Evans, the musicians who came together for this recording.  Thanks to Martin Woodlee, the great recording engineer, and all the kind people at Sonic Temple.  Thanks to Jon and Esther Phelps for friendship, inspiration and making the best studio on the planet.  Thanks to Tom Simonson for your vision, hard work, and kindness for all these years.  Thanks to Mike Leahy and the folks at Concerted Efforts.  Thanks to Rob Gordon and everyone at What Are Records? Thanks to Jeremy Cowart for your beautiful photography.

Thanks to Karyn Soroka at Soroka Music Ltd for looking after my songs.  Thanks to James Olson for building guitars that are an oasis of perfection in an otherwise chaotic world.  And again, thanks to you for listening to these recordings, coming to hear me play, spreading the word, and accompanying me on this long ride.

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updated: 3 years ago

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