A CONVERSATION WITH THE SHERPAS (continued)
PM: So we started to talk about how, although the first meeting was in '93 and the first tour was fabricated in '94, it took another nine years to get the first record done.
TK: We made a couple of aborted attempts to record some stuff, but the stars just didn't line up for it. One guy would be doing something else or going through some stuff or something, and it just kind of...I don't know. Finally we got a little clear spot in the clouds and everybody wanted to do it at the same time.
ML: It really came from last year's Folk Alliance, when we hadn't played together for probably a year and a half or two years, and we did a couple of impromptu things. And it just felt good. And we decided, "There's still a buzz about us."
PM: Yeah! I was there. I couldn't believe it. People flipped out when the Sherpas played last year.
ML: So we committed. We didn't know how we were going to do it or when we were going to do it or where we were going to do it, but we decided to have a CD done by next Folk Alliance, and somehow we managed it.
PM: And it came down to the wire, too. I mean, you picked it up the day before or something like that?
ML: Right. Well, we didn't start it until the mid to late summer at my house, but we'd been talking about it this last year.
PM: So how did this record come together? How was it begun?
TK: How did we first decide to do it the way we did it?
TPR: We talked a lot about trying to go get a deal, and go that route. Start with a budget and a record deal.
PM: Old school.
TPR: Yeah. But I think, in a way, we kind of wanted to document what we already had. We didn't really know where everything was going to go, and we kind of felt like we wanted to just keep it in house. Right?
TK: We felt that whether we toured or not, or whatever might happen on the other side of it, we did want to document our work. We had written a lot of wonderful songs together. We wound up saying, "Let's do this much. Let's commit to this much. We know we'll get our money back out of it."
ML: Yeah. We talked about what it would be like to go in and try to make a $70,000 or $80,000 record, and where that would put us. We'd be in a position where we'd have to really seriously get out and play, get out and be totally committed to this project. But we were never on the same page about that. So we asked ourselves, "Okay, what level are we all committed to?" And this felt right.
TK: We talked about producers. We talked about some guys who do major league work, who we all admire and everything. And I think it was my idea to just have TPR produce it. I said to these guys, "Man, Tom's producing records for other people. He's doing a great job. He's very focused. He plays all these instruments. And plus it would just be a workable plan. It would be something that we could do." It was a way for us to do it without getting in over our heads.
And they were both into it. We felt maybe we'd be able to find a financial backer who'd give us a nut to work with, something that would actually result in an album. And so that's what we did. Michael, being the Elixir rep, is based out of Denver. Cliff Goldmacher, who co-produced my last couple of albums with me, we hired him to engineer. And he brought his portable Protools rig out. Michael set up--built sound baffles and ran wires, etc.
ML: Clifford committed to driving out and spending two weeks to do basic tracks and vocals. No overdubs, just basic stuff.
TPR: We started with loops and guitars over loops.
ML: And then did vocals.
TPR: And then we came back in. After the vocals and the guitars were done, we came back in and added the drums and bass.
ML: The one thing we really all wanted to be together for was the vocals. I mean, ideally we would have been together for it every step of the way, but we really wanted to be together to do vocals. Whether you're singing harmony around a mic, or whether one guy is doing a harmony part and moving into the booth as the other guy comes out and lays a part on top of it. It just needed to have that flow and energy of us all being together.
TPR: I really love the vocals, too. We focused a lot on getting a room sound and doing a lot of the vocals live, with the three of us together doing harmonies and stuff.
PM: And there's a lot of good parts. It's hard sometimes, with three guys whose ranges are not worlds apart, not to sound like Crosby, Stills & Nash. You've got to really pick your parts carefully. You often sing one part where there could be three, or two, just to keep it musical and also to not always sound like "Helplessly Hoping."
TK: Not throw three parts on everything just because we can.
TPR: We tried not to be gratuitous on the album. I think we really tried to focus on the song, and say, "What does it need?"
ML: Yeah. "What feels right here?" And not take that Eagles approach and triple the "oohs" and make it sound like a bunch of angels. There's a time and place for that, but we really, I think, kept perspective on that.
TPR: I think so. I hope so.
ML: Yeah. You be the judge. [laughs]
PM: I've heard about half of the record this morning, and it sounded really, really good. And I'm not usually the guy that says this--I love produced records--but when I hear the Sherpas the way I just did a minute ago, basically just with two or three guitars and three voices, I think, "Boy, I sure like that too." And I hope that a live Sherpas record is not far behind.
TPR: Well, that would be a cool way of doing this.
ML: We're going to do a record every ten years whether the public is ready for it or not. [laughs]
PM: [laughs] Well, you can only do twelve or thirteen songs on a record, and there's already so many more I want to hear, because the group's written so many good songs together. And you can reach back into your personal repertoires, too, for songs like "Blue Train" and songs like that.
TPR: A lot of those songs have been part of our Sherpas repertoire also.
TK: It was really cool for me that we did "Angels" together, because I love doing "Angels" with you guys. And I would love for us to do "Blue Train" someday. Ours is a unique reading of it.
PM: Yeah, it really is, and it's a beautiful reading of it. And, you know, "Falling Star," there's a whole bunch of them.
ML: We've got to do "Falling Star."
PM: When was "Ships" written? I didn't know that song until last night.
TPR: Oh, my God, you hadn't heard that song? It's an old one.
PM: I'd never heard it around the Kerrville campfire.
TPR: That's actually pre-Sherpas, isn't it?
TK: Michael and I wrote that song around '94.
PM: God, that's a great song.
ML: It was on one my records. It's on Middle Child.
TK: That was one of the first songs we wrote together, wasn't it?
ML: Yes. continue