Give me a band, some mics, some instruments and a room.


The experience of making music. One morning you wake up and there's nothing. Later that night, it exists. You can play it back. You can sing along and dance and laugh and cry. Earlier it didn't exist and now it does. And it happened because you/we did it. That's the beauty of creation. The satisfaction that comes from, "this didn't exist and now it does and its because we said so", is greater than any drug. 

I have had this experience with a lot of people this past year. It's been variety of things. Solo artists, bands, rock, pop, indie folk, bluegrass, soul/funk, roots, blues. All of it has been inspiring for the same reason with different genres bringing their "thing" to the studio. But all is the same, you make something from nothing.

As a recording engineer/producer you have a uniquely auspicious role. Essentially, you become an additional member of the band on a short term rental. You are a temp. Essential, but temporary. I always talk to bands and tell them I envy them for this reason: "When we are done with this, you get to go out and tour and play live. You are physically spreading the gospel of the work we did together. I get to see that through a different filter, watching on the periphery. You get to feel it personally from the fans. Hand in hand." 

There is a reason why your name is in large print on the front of the record and why my name is in small print on the back. I have skin in the game. A lot. But only a fraction as much as you. What's your pay off? You get the process of creating but you also get the euphoria of the crowd. My payoff is in that creation. When I get home, pour myself a beer or a bourbon and come down from the creation, that's my payoff. A man I truly respect (not in the music biz) has told me repeatedly, "You have to love the process". I love the process. I don't just love the process, the process is what I do. It is what I specialize in. It is my job to make sure the band/artist is going through the process the right way.  

The right way? It just happens. You can feel it. It's like a relationship. When it feels right, do it. Do it over and over again for as long as it feels good. Make it feel as good as you possibly can. Because once you release it, you never get it back. You can't unring a bell. 



Finally Home and Shifting Gears

Madison Square Garden for the Sweet Sixteen

What a basketball season it was. I really do think I have the best job in the world. Certainly for me, a guy who grew up obsessed with music and sports, I get to make music and work in sports for a living. Being able to work for the Virginia Basketball team for the past five seasons has simply been awesome. It has taken me to some of the coolest sporting events and venues in the country.

What has been incredible has been watching a program grow. The leadership that Tony Bennett has exhibited, focusing on the long term goals and success and not sacrificing that vision for a short term gain, has had a profound influence on me. For his team, it has paid dividends. I am sure by now, for anyone who follows the team (or my travels with them), are aware of all the headlines. Joe Harris' Senior leadership and self sacrifice for the team. Akil Mitchell's fortitude to stay with a program and buying into his coaches vision. Justin Anderson and Anthony Gil embracing their roles to come off the bench when they could start for any team in the country. Malcom Brogdon having the resurgence following a very serious foot injury and a year away from competition. I could go on and on. All of these things were special.

Really what it gets down to is what Tony set as the foundation for the Virginia Basketball program. His five Pillars: Humility. Passion. Unity. Servanthood. Thankfulness. He carried these on from his father, Dick Bennett. I watched this team embrace this message completely and I ascribe their success by displaying this message in everything they do. As the season progressed and it took me across the country to Cameron Indoor Stadium and a -30 degree South Bend, Indiana, I started thinking about these pillars more and more. Was this the usual coach speak? Some catch phrase to fire up a team that has become cliche? The more I understood his pillars, the more I understood that these were not five pillars for a successful basketball team. They were universally applicable. They translated into my music career and even my life with my family. Maybe that's the real genius of Tony Bennett. Sure the guy can X and O circles around damn near anyone across the court from him. His real wisdom is in using your skills to better the world around you. That applies to everyone. 

As the team was advancing through the NCAA Tourney, after already showing complete dominance in the ACC, he offered this thought to his team: "You have been given a gift. How do you repay that gift? With undeniable effort." My colleague Dave Koehn brought this story line to the public. He had a fan reply to him - "Universally Applicable". There I saw a common theme in Tony Bennett's leadership. The things he teaches his players are lessons we should all take with us. Be Humble in what you do. Be Passionate and not lukewarm. Be United in your efforts. Serve those around you. Be Thankful for the opportunity you have to do these things. 

I am now home from what has been a tiring and thrilling month of travel. I am now shifting gears back to music mode. I have a lot of great artists I am currently working with, I'll get to them as we are in the studio. But what I am thinking about right now is applying Tony's Five Pillars to the other areas of my life. I am sure that it will influence my music. I know it will help me be a better husband, father and friend. 

Virginia Sports Network following the ACC Tournament Championship (L/R) Me, Macon "The Squid" Gunter, Dave Koehn, Ted Jeffries 

ACC Champions