A Lobster for a Pet

When I’m home, I have the amazing pleasure of teaching. It has honestly become one of my favorite things that I do relating to music. Besides, looking for pictures of posing lobsters online of course. One piano student in particular is exceptionally gifted. He’s around 9-10 years old, is 100% visually impaired, has PERFECT pitch (which even I don’t have) and is just a riot to be around. He has so much potential that it’s deadly. He came in yesterday to the lesson and said “I’m hearing voices”. “Well”, I said “what kind of voices? What are they saying?” I inquired. “They’re telling me to go get a lobster for a pet. Go get a pet lobster, go get a pet lobster. They won’t stop!” he said. He would then begin to play his lessons really soft. When I asked him why, his only response was “because they’re still talking.” MAN I want to be just like that! To have such incredible, random ideas. Where DO they come from!?! About halfway through I asked his mom to come in to observe all that was going on with the lesson. During which I made mention of the ‘voices’. “I know” she said “he woke me up last night at 10pm telling me he needed a lobster for a pet.” Priceless, absolutely priceless. I wonder if Babs would like one for a pet……

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The Making of Set on a Hill, Pt. 1

Set on a Hill

Set on a Hill

I’m sitting in a Caribou Coffee as I’m writing this. Two very chatty ladies behind me discussing Pirouline cookies, another diagonally across from me pretending to read a James Patterson novel yet she hasn’t turned a single page, peering from behind the paperback as if she’s practicing her voyeuristic competence. It’s just the four of us so I highly doubt she’s building a case.

Last week, my new solo piano Set On A Hill was released on iTunes. At this time, it’s only available via digital download. Within a few weeks it’ll be available as a cd if you would like. The album is one that I have wanted to record since I could crawl onto the piano bench as a kid (well, relatively speaking). The last three albums have been with my trio consisting of piano/bass/drums. I’ve loved doing every one of them, however I finally decided to record this one. The only thing that has kept me (oh…side note. Ms. CSI has just left the building, tote in hand. Hummm). Sorry, where was I? Oh, the reason that it’s taken me so long to release this album is because I honestly didn’t think the world needed another solo piano album. Particularly with this one being more of a relaxed, chilled sound as opposed to the jazz albums I’ve done.

Ok, I hate to leave you hanging but I must. Don Johnson’s “Heartbeat” is playing in the background and I have lost ALL creativity at this point and must leave before Rick James makes a sudden appearance. I promise to continue this tomorrow, considering my sonic recovery.

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The Making of Set on a Hill, Pt.2

Set on a Hill

Set on a Hill

Ok, after catching an incredible performance last night of Van Morrison on Austin City Limits, I feel that I am able to return of the telling behind Set on a Hill’s genesis. Man, if the show is on YouTube, I would HIGHLY encourage you to go and watch it. His rendition of “I Can’t Stop Loving You” gave me chills. The show aired November 11th, 2006.

“Set” as I’ll call it, was created out of pure need, however I didn’t really realize it at the time. I had two or three songs sketched out and then went to tour with an artist for a while, leaving the idea of the album on the shelf. After the tour, a previous health issue had reared it’s ugly head with a vengeance and without going into too much detail, left me with a lot of time at home. I had lost 40 pounds in almost 3 months and was really bed-ridden for about 6-7 months. So, it was a difficult time. During that time however, I wrote the rest of this album. It became almost cathartic if you will. I remember just hours after being in the hospital for a week that I wrote Change of Season. I’ll never forget that moment.

All the while I had asked Will Ackerman, founder of the Windham Hill label if he would be interested in producing the album. If there is anyone who knows the details of creating a solo piano album, it’s Will. Not only producing the infamous George Winston albums, but also another phenomenal musician Michael Hedges. So, I knew I was in great company.

I recorded the album in two days. My wife & I drove to Will’s stunning retreat in Vermont from Brooklyn and found ourselves in an environment that was simply beautiful. The atmosphere could not have been more inviting. When we arrived, Will was going to go and

check on a piece of machinery that cuts trees. That’s when we found out he built the entire place by hand. Unbelievable. The guy needs wood floors, he chops down the tree, and lays wood floors! Unreal!

We finally returned to the studio where on the scene appears Corin Nelsen, Will’s right hand man when it comes to engineering/mixing. The two of them together are such beautiful spirits that it’s easy to see how one hand washes the other there. Sitting behind Will’s 1953 Steinway B, my fingers felt like is was sliding them into butter with each pressing of the piano key. We started the session with Passing Country, then Sojourn, Promise Made on Signal Mountain, and then an unreleased song that may appear on the next album. By this point, I was getting pretty fried so we decided to call it a day, retreating back to our hotel and some rather not-so-great italian delivery that actually really hit the spot! Day two coming up next.

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The Making of Set on a Hill, Pt.3

Set on a Hill

Set on a Hill

Wow, really? You’re really that interested in all of this? Welcome back, thanks for following all of this. If you have any questions at all about any of the details, please just email me and I’ll be happy to oblige.

The start of the second day was really, really difficult physically. I’m telling you this because I really think it’s important to the album.  I’m rather a tight-lipped person when it comes to opening up and sharing, however there is so much relevance between where I was physically and the details of the recording, that I can’t just let it not be made mentioned.

My body was shot before we even arrived at the studio the second day.  We started with A Goldfish Named George which going in to this project was my favorite of all the songs.  Although it didn’t turn out as I had wanted, I still love the song.  I remember going through it a couple of times, barely keeping myself together.  I took a break from recording it and just sat there, wife on the piano bench with me saying “I just can’t do this, not today.  I’m just not able to.” Being the amazing woman that I married, she understood and allowed me to just process through it all.  Eventually knowing that I would try again.  As I did, and we continued with the rest of the album. She’s smart like that.  In between songs and different takes, I would literally lay on the floor and rest under the piano while she, Will & Corin would listen to the play backs.

After George, we went on to Will, the first track.  And although it would be very fitting to name the song after Ackerman, this wasn’t the case, though I love the guy like a brother.  The song brought back everything that I had wanted this album to be.  I love this song, hence it being the opener of the album.  I really wanted this song to set the tone of the album.  After Will came Reflections.  Probably the most…..un-improvised song on the album.  So, that one went down pretty quick.

The next song was rather the surprise, She Walks in Beauty (The Wedding Song).  I married the woman of my dreams, in every manor.  I had written all of the music for our wedding for violin and cello.  This song performed for violin and cello and turned out to be so absolutely beautiful, I could not have been happier.  My wife had no idea I had planned on recording this, so when Will & Corin asked what the next song was, I just asked them to start recording and I’ll tell them the title afterward.  She cried.  This is the piece that she walked down the aisle to at our wedding (however with strings, not piano).  I have plans of recording the wedding music for violin & cello soon, so please stay posted if you’d like.

Following that was the album’s title Set On A Hill. I love this song and was happy with how it turned out.  This was the final song of the 2nd day of recording.  At this point, I was really fried.  After recording it, Will, my wife and I walked around the property for a while just taking in all of it’s beauty before having to leave.  Such a beautiful place.

We sadly departed after the hugs and smiles, promising for it not to be the last time, but only the beginning.  The long drive back to Brooklyn (only made long by the last 30 minutes turning into an hour and a half because of traffic back into the city) made it all feel like it never really happened.  That it had all been just a dream.  But I’m finally beginning to see that the dream is becoming a reality.

After being home for 2 days and struggling, I called my doctor around 6 am, and was then told to come to her office where I was then placed in the hospital for 3 & 1/2 weeks.   I think my body was waiting for me to record this album.  The album sounds the way that it does because it was a process of both struggle and of healing.  I could not have gone in and recorded the songs straight down with the same response had I not been going through all that I had.  I’m completely better now physically.  Had a major surgery and the next morning felt like I could run a marathon.  But I know, I know, I know that the album is THAT album by everything I was going through.

I know these blogs about the album have been somewhat heavy, but I really wanted to share this with you.  Give you an insight behind the album.  It was an amazing experience.  Now, with my health back 100%, I’m ever so curious as to what the next one will sound like.

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Anyone Know any Latin?

Chad Lawson

Chad Lawson

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Of all the blog joints in all the towns in all the world, you’ve walked into mine.

Well, I’m really glad you’re here. Thanks.

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