For me, the process of writing a song starts off with a spark of an idea. Usually it is a short phrase that, for some reason, gets some melody attached to it in my head.

I’ve also been writing new material, and I am excited to announce that I plan to record again in June. I’ve got my flight booked for June 28th, and I will record 3 of my songs on June 29th and 30th. It will be a brief trip, but hopefully productive. 

 

It’s been over 9 months since last I last posted a blog post over here. Where has the time gone?

Well, a lot of the time has gone to preparing and playing live show gigs. In 2014, I performed my “Jesus” concert 8 times. The

Last night I had my first full Jesus concert had Christ the King in Topeka, KS. The first one, I think, is the most challenging, because there is a lot of up front work that needs to be done to get the show together.  And I tend to get nervous when I try to do things that I haven't really done before.  

I have been practicing almost every evening getting the concert ready, and once I have one under my belt, the next ones should require less practice 

In 2014 I will not be releasing any new music (or at least no plans to do so), but will rather be working on my live shows. 

Lots of things are happening here in Fr. Kent's music ministry in the month of September!

It's been a long time since I have written a new blog post on this website.

The reason is, basically, that I have only so much time to work on my music projects (I am a pastor of a pretty active parish afterall!), and I've been using that time to work on the Kickstarter campaign and reviewing drafts of music that the producer, David C. Smith has been sending me...

Well, you might notice from the blog title that it does not say "Recording" there.  That's because we didn't record a single note today.  After listening fairly thoroughly to all the tracks, there wasn't really anything that I needed to fix from the "Jesus" album, and the two tracks that we have for the "Advent" album can wait until our June recording session for finer tweaking.  Even so, those sounded good too. None of the other Advent tracks have been started yet, and again that can wait.

So instead, we recorded some video for the Kickstarter campaing that I'll be starting up in a month or two.  It is a "crowdfunding" model, and you can find out more about that if you would like at www.kickstarter.com.  

So that wraps up things for the first recording session.

So what happens now?  Well, now the project goes quiet for basically the month of March.  David's got another project ahead of me that he needs to finish first, and then he'll start working on all of his layered tracks sometime in April.

Meanwhile, I will resume my Lenten duties as pastor of Our Lady of Unity parish here in Kansas City, KS.  I might tinker a little bit with liner notes and making sure that my lyrics are correct, but I won't be doing much with this project until after Easter myself.  I do want to record a couple of local voices for both projects, and that might happen in March, but it also might wait until after Easter as well.  

So, thanks for reading these blog updates, and it'll get quiet around here probably for a while.

Have a blessed Lenten time,

Peace,

Fr. Kent

3/2/13

Saved from heresy!

I almost made a huge error in my Jesus CD.  One of my songs, "It's All Good" is basic Christology put to music, and I had some of my Christology confused.  Basically "It's All Good" wasn't.  I was chatting with Fr. Shawn Tunink (henceforth referred to as my Theological Advisor), when he made somewhat of a side comment about the "Christological adverbs", and I realized that I wrote one of my lines very wrong!  Yikes!  Nothing like the potential of having your CD banned by ecclesiastical authorities. Eek!  Fortunately, I was able to go back and re-record that line this morning, before the burning at the stakes commenced.  Just in time!  Thanks Fr. Shawn!

Fr. Shawn also saved me from a rather embarrassing grammatical error in "One Man."  Not nearly as big of a deal (if you ask me), but good to get that error fixed too.  Thanks Fr. Shawn!

I also fixed two wrong words in "Master of Disguise". Minor, but the sentence didn't make sense as I sang it (actually, on that one I just got confused and sang the wrong words)

After that, we basically sat and talked about the vision for the Advent CD and narrowed down which songs we plan to record.  Other than the 5 originals that I will have on the project, the seven others that we decided on were "O Come O Come Emmanuel", "O Come Divine Messiah," "Night of Silence," "Advent Hymn," "Still, Still, Still", "On That Holy Mountain," and the first verse of "O Little Town of Bethlehem", which is my favorite Christmas eve morning song (the end of Advent).   This is not yet set in stone, but I think this sounds like a good line up to me.

At the end of the day we recorded the opening track for the Advent CD, "Get Ready," which is based on the readings from the First Sunday of Advent (admittedly a little odd recording this on a Friday in Lent).  Sounds solid so far.

The other originals for the Advent CD are "Mary Had No Y" (see previous blog post), "Benedictus" (a setting of the Canticle of Zechariah, and forms a "companion" song to my "Magnificat" song from the "Saints" album), "Voice in the Wilderness" (you need to have a John the Baptist song on an Advent project), and "Generations"--which sets the geneology of Jesus (according to Matthew's Gospel) to music.  What strange stuff I use as source material.  We haven't touched these songs yet.  We'll get to them in the June recording session.

David and his wife Teresa invited me to join them for dinner with their family, and it was absolutely delightful.  Wonderful people, those Smiths.  And it was nice just to sit and chat.

Tomorrow we might work on a few tweaks, but I think everything is sounding pretty darn good.  We might have caught everything that David would need me for.

We will film a video for the Kickstarter campaign tomorrow.  More on that to come.

I am very thankful to God for this opportunity to record and that he has kept me in good voice and good spirits throughout the week.  I am blessed.

Fr. Kent

3/1/13

And the "Jesus" project is done!

...well, my part anyway.

...well, I think so anyway...

All of the major recording of my parts has been completed for the "Jesus" CD.  We finished up my piano part for "Not My Will" today and we also got a solid recording of my piano for "One Man," much to my surprise.  I was just about ready to give up on playing this part, and just let David do it himself, when he said, "well, why don't you take a stab at it?"  And lo and behold, we got the majority of the song in one take!  We had to go back and fix some spots (and fix my sustain pedal, of course), but it was pretty strong out of the gate. 

I also re-recorded some of my harmonica parts for "Divine Mercy," and added a harmony vocal for "It's All Good"

Then we got into the fairly nit-picky tweaking stuff.  I added a couple of things to "It's All Good," fixed a couple piano things in "Shepherd's Heart" and "Pentecost", fixed a vocal here and there.

So, in the end, it looks like I am playing guitar on 3 tracks, piano on 5 tracks, harmonica on 2, and ukelele on 1.  This makes me very pleased that I will be playing at least some of my own instrumentation on this project.  The rest of the instrumentation will be provided by David C. Smith who is an extremely talented multi-instrumentalist.

Some people don't really understand how this works in most modern recording.  I know that I sure didn't understand it when I recorded my first project (The Musical of Tobit).  I thought that everyone just came into the studio and recorded the music together. But most modern recording is kind of like a painting or a fresco. You add one layer at a time.  You first get the general layout of the song (usually done by a drum and a rough guitar or piano part), then you go back and build on that, usually adding bass, then a better guitar or piano, then vocals.  After that is when all the fun stuff gets added on top, guitar solos and synth or strings, harmony vocals, percussion.

So after I leave this week, David will be working on adding all of the "fun" stuff to really make the song a song.  This is where the "production" of a song goes into full gear.  Or, thinking analogically to making a movie, we will move into "post-production", where all the actors parts have been recorded, then you go in and add all the special effects, get the sound just right, tweak lighting, etc.

The "Jesus" project pretty much is moving now into "post-production".

So, then also today, we made our first headway into the "Advent" project.  We got my ukelele and lead vocal done for "Mary Had No Y," which is perhaps the silliest song that I have ever written (although my "Philip Neri" song from "Saints" could give it a good run for its money).  My "Muppet" and "Veggie Tales" influence certainly shows in this song.  And it warmed my heart that when I came out of the little recording isolation room, at least 5 of David's kids had gathered 'round to listen in.  They seemed to be enjoying it, so that's good.  David's studio is connected to his house, and apparently you can hear studio stuff in the house proper, and I guess the kids wanted a closer listen.  That's the first time that has happened in my four days here.  So hopefully, this song will be a "hit" with many kids when it comes out in November-ish.

Tomorrow, we will probably take another listen to some of the Jesus stuff and fix any problems that need to be fixed and then get some more work done on the Advent project.

Tune in then!

Fr. Kent

2/28/13

Well, day three of recording is in the bag.  And it was another solid day.

I was hoping to have some pictures uploaded to this site (or at least to the facebook music site), but I still have not been able to get on to the wireless internet at the rectory. so I am using one of the parish computers to post these updates (with permission, of course!)

Today was a bit slower (as I anticipated), because we were recording some of my piano parts.  I have never recorded piano before, other than my demos that I made in GarageBand, and it is just quite a bit different playing in a studio than playing live. I also have discovered that my sustain pedal can sometimes be a little heavy and a little sloppy (which I don't notice really when I am playing by myself).  I think this is a fairly standard error by intermediate players (which I consider myself to be), as we tend to let the sustain pedal "make everything sound cool."  It certainly didn't work in recording though, but we were able to get that fixed in the editing process (pretty cool the way that can be done).  I think that my piano performances were still solid, just not perfect, and in a recording, they have to be pretty darn perfect.

So today I got the piano part recorded for what is slated as the last song of the CD, "Pentecost".  I then had to go back and fix a couple minor things in the guitar to match the piano part.  I took awhile to get it, but I am pleased with the final result.  I especially like the way that the song end, and therefore the way the whole project ends. 

I also recorded "Shepherd's Heart", which is a song that my sister-in-law, Wendy O'Connor, wrote way back in 1989, and I have always loved the song, and I think that Wendy has had some influence in me writing songs.  She wrote the song as a guitar song, and I have done my own arrangement as a piano song.  It will probably be the "quietest" song on the project, with just piano and bass, and maybe just a little strings or something else in there.  It too, took me a while to get this recorded, so that it would be close to "perfect".

We were able also to record the vocals to both "Pentecost" and "Shepherd's Heart," and I think we got solid tracks on them.

I also got a start on the piano part for "Not My Will," but we ran out of time, so we will finish up that one tomorrow.

I think that we will probably wrap up my parts on the Jesus project tomorrow, and then get started on ideas for the Advent project.

This evening we also closed out the parish mission at St. John the Baptist with a Mass with Bishop Kevin Rhoades.  It has been a special delight to participate in this parish mission and get to know some of the parish community here.  It's been a nice way to spend the evenings, and I will miss it.

Tune in tomorrow for another exciting recording report!

Fr. Kent

2/27/13

Another successful day at Icon Music Studios with David C. Smith!

The day was bookended with priestly ministerial things.  I concelebrated Mass with the pastor of St. John the Baptist, Fr. Cyril Fernandes and did the homily for the school kids.  Yep, they had school, no snow here (some light freezing rain).  I then again attended the parish mission and helped out with confessions.  It was very nice.

The morning recording sessions were spent working on some of my instrumental work.  I recorded guitar parts for "One Man" (to which I recorded the lead vocal yesterday), "Pentecost" and one of my two cover songs "What a Friend We Have in Jesus", for which I have a hand in the arrangement.  Then I got to play ukelele on "This is the Day" (a setting of Psalm 118), which is a pretty happy little ditty (it's hard to have a song with a ukelele not be a "happy little ditty").  I am grateful to Kyle Heimann from the band Popple for letting me play on his ukelele.  It has such a great tone, I might have to go out and get myself a new uke!

In the afternoon we worked on some more vocals.  We actually tried to do some in the morning, but my voice just wasn't up to it.  There were some kind of painful moments in those takes, and I'm glad that nobody else had to hear them.  So we came back after working on guitars and uke, to record the lead vocal to "This is the Day" (the uke song), "What a Friend We Have in Jesus", and "Pange Lingua" (which sets St. Thomas Aquinas' lyrics to a new melody).  On at least "This is the Day" and "Pange", I hope to have some guest vocalists.  Maybe on "What a Friend" too.  Finally we did the lead vocal to "Master of Disguise", which is based on the words of Mother Teresa.  It is a song that I first performed at Mother Teresa parish in Topeka, KS and is kind of a "holdover" from my "Saints" project, where it is as if the song is sung from the perspective of the saint, but I think it works very well on this "Jesus" project as well, where the lyric says "I saw Jesus in distressing disguise..."

David exported all the rough tracks for me to listen to, and I must say, that they are sounding really pretty good.  My vocals are still very "dry", they still need "eq" and effects like echo and stuff, but they still sound really good (and it's easy to "shudder" when hearing one's own voice), and I'm not shuddering, so that's a good sign!  He's done a great job capturing my vocals, and I think it will sound really super when it's all said and done.  At least one of my harmonica songs sounds pretty good too.

Tomorrow I think we need to get my piano parts recorded, and the vocals to those songs as well.  We have all the lead vocals for the project except for the two songs that have some piano "free form."  We should be able to get a jump on the "Advent" project later this week, maybe even tomorrow!

Stay tuned for tomorrow's report!

Fr. Kent

2/26/13

 

Today was the first day for recording the new music projects, and I would consider it to be a very successful day. 

I started off the day by taking the 6:30am parish Mass (it had been a long time since I had a Mass that early, and I was a little nervous as to whether I would be up in time or not) and then was followed by some time in prayer.  Good way to start the day!

I arrived at ICON Music Productions at about 8:45am, got a little bit oriented and we were probably recording by around 9:15.  The first track that we recorded was the lead vocal for "The Name" (based on the Philippians hymn).  It took a couple takes to get my voice warmed up and the producer, David C. Smith, has been an excellent vocal coach.  He has a very good ear to when I am a little off pitch and instructed me that I had too much diction!  So I had to soften that up a bit.

The second song that we recorded was "Divine Mercy" the text of which is inspired by readings that we hear on the second Sunday of Easter.  We got my lead vocal down, then recorded the harmonica solo and then some harmonica background.  My harmonica playing seemed to be a little bit off today.  I think the solo was good, but the rest might yet need to be re-recorded.  This is my first time recording harmonica (and David's first time recording it too, whaddya know!), so I might have to get a few of the "nerves" out.  When then recorded my piano part, which had a few errors that can be fixed later.

Thirdly, we recorded "One Man", which is based on Romans 5.  I like the challenge of taking the most unlyrical Scripture passages and setting them to music (wait until we get to "Generations" based on Matthew's geneology--talk about an odd choice for a song!).  We got a good take of my lead vocal, but I was really having some troubles with my piano part on this song.  I felt that I had the song well-practiced, but for some reason my fingers weren't doing what they were supposed to.  Probably a combination of being tired, at a new piano, and just not quite ready for "prime time."  Hopefully we'll get it recorded by the end of the week. 

We then took a break for a couple hours or so.

I came back with good energy (plus a little help from some Mountain Dew!) and was ready to record "It's All Good" which sets Christology 101 to music (again, I like the challenge).  We really had fun with this one, and I think it will be a real treat on the album.  I also recorded a couple of the background vocals and some harmonica on this one.  Again, the harmonica didn't seem as good as it did back home.  We'll see how it sounds tomorrow.

The final song we recorded for the day was "Not My Will", which is a meditation on the craziness of Christ's sacrifice on the cross.  Time will tell, but this might be my favorite song from the album.  I think we got a good vocal on this, but as David said, we might need to take another listen in the morning.  We were both getting a little tired (I think him more than I).  Recording is a pretty tiring process.  I shared with David what I was thinking for the piano part, and we might hit that tomorrow (but who knows, I'll be here all week!)

All in all, I think that it was a very successful day.  David has been excellent to work with thus far and I think he is really bringing out the best in my music.  I'm excited to see what the next days will bring.

I've never really had the experience of recording over the course of several days before, but if it is like my experience with retreats, I think I will get more and more comfortable as the week goes along.  Tomorrow I will need to play some more instruments, something I have not done much of recording-wise, so I am excited (and a little bit nervous to do so).  I would like to get some of my acoustic guitar parts recorded tomorrow, and maybe I'll get the ukelele part down too.

Very fun.  Tune in for another report tomorrow

Peace,

Fr. Kent

2/25/13

It is now Friday, February 22nd, and I am preparing for my trip out to Ft. Wayne Indiana for my first recording project in over 5 years.  A lot has changed for me over the past 5 years.  I started my "Saints" project when I was still an associate priest and finished in during the first few months of my first pastorate.  Since then I have taken piano lessons, picked up the ukelele and harmonica and joined a new band, "The Mama and the Padres."  I was also moved into a city parish and finding myself doing a lot of ministry in Spanish (quite different from my two years out in rural Kansas!).  

I also joined the Catholic Association of Musicians (founded by John Michael Talbot) and attended a conference with some fine Catholic musicians from all over the country.  One of the main features of the conference was an all-day workshop on songwriting.  I think my songwriting has improved from attending this conference.

This conference also encouraged me to start playing my music live.  I started by singing and playing back-up with Dan Dúet, Steve Courtney, and Terry Little, but now I have started performing live concert versions of my "Saints" project.  I believe that I have performed "An Evening with the Saints" 6 times. My plan is to develop another live show based on my "Jesus" album and then I've also got plans for a "Bible" show as well. 

So a whole lot has changed in my life since my last recording project.  

I have also learned how to manage my way around in GarageBand pretty well, which has resulted in much better demos from which the producer can work, and it has also facilitated me improving in my own playing skills.  Unlike my last two projects, where I just played acoustic guitar on one track, I plan to play acoustic guitar, piano, ukelele, harmonica, and maybe mandolin on my next two projects.

I am not a "studio musician", that's true, however, I always like it when "solo" artists do more than simply sing on their albums.  I personally like looking at liner notes to see what people are playing, and if the main artist is just singing, I usually am a bit disappointed.  I figure that this person had better have an extremely awesome voice if that's all that he/she does on the album.  Since I do not have an "extremely awesome voice", I want to contribute other things to these projects, so I have been practicing a good deal to get my playing chops "up to snuff."

But I also think that i have a better idea of "my place" in the Catholic music world.  Although I want to make the best album that I can, I am not going to make an album that has "national significance."  I'm not trying to make "the next big thing."  It's possible I had some delusions of this in my first couple albums.  So I'd rather make a project that I'm proud of, and that's authentically me.  I also don't think that these will necessarily be the last projects that i record (I thought "Saints" would be the end), so these don't have to be perfect.  The "great one" might be the next one.  :)

In any case, I am excited to be back in the recording studio, and I believe that I have a strong line-up of songs to record next week. I think that I have refined my craft over the years, and I am looking forward to hearing the finished project and sharing it with you. I plan to update more next week.

Peace,

Fr. Kent

2/22/2013

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