The release of my new album, I Have A Dream, has been the center of many recent conversations. "Where did you record it?" is almost always the first question. Well...I did the whole thing in my home "studio." Yep, the office in my house. Just a room. And it was awesome!

Access to the top recording equipment and spaces, the best producers and engineers, and whatever money can buy is still recommended (I was short on the latter). These labels often lead to greater exposure, thus sharing our music with more people. At the same time, a good quality microphone and recording interface (in my home, it's my iMac with Logic ProX (the software used for recording), a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB interface (how I connect my microphone to the computer), and Ear Trumpet Lab's Louise microphone) can pass for a debut indy project. Before any of this, however, write good music.

First, I scratch out a rough take on my guitar and vocals with the tempo clicking in my ear. This sets the stage to layer the rest, or "multitrack." Using this "scratch" as a guide, I record my rhythm section - in my case this is the guitar and bass parts and anything else "rhythmic," such as a mandolin chop, harmonica, or banjo part. At this point, I like to add the vocals - all of them - from the lead to the harmonies. Finally, I fill in any solos or other production ideas, like a string section or synth pads.

My "studio" - iMac & Focusrite in the background, headphones playing back other recorded tracks.

This last step is often the "design-build" phase. I enter a project with a general idea of how I want it produced (i.e. start with just guitar, add percussion on 2nd verse, drop everything out at the last chorus, etc.), but when I begin doing these things, additional or completely different ideas often pop to mind. Because I am in my home studio and limited only by my imagination, I pursue many ideas. It's Free - costs nothing but time - and what is our time for if not to create joyous music for others.

Thanks for listening, Friends.

My Framus long-neck banjo and the mic, "Louise," used to record the entire album.

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I am often asked, "What is your song-writing process?" Short answer: It varies. A good song must be music-driven. Without the lyrics, the song is still 1) engaging to hear, 2) has a memorable and readily-singable melody, and 3) could become good elevator music (yes - I think a pop tune converted to elevator music is high praise).

My most frequent process begins with creating a chord structure or finger-style guitar progressions and riffs. I usually have about five of these I'm doodling with at any time. Think of "Life in the Fast Lane" by the Eagles. It begins with a wicked riff that was in fact just a practice routine for guitarist, Joe Walsh, but goes on to define the song. Next, I begin fitting a melody over that, though this often becomes a dramatically different product in the end. The form of the song (verse, chorus, bridge or no bridge, pre-chorus, length) are often worked out later as I discover how many lyrics I will really have.

Next are the lyrics which begin with a theme - sometimes just a hook at the end of a chorus, sometimes an idea based upon my meditative readings, and commonly a theme of love. This theme is often the song title, and I write that song title in the center of a page in my journal, then circle it. For four minutes (yes, I set a timer), I write as many thoughts as I can about that theme, happy or sad, up or down, silly or serious. On the adjacent page, I add quotes found in my readings and elsewhere. Finally, I use a phone app called "Rhymers Block" to help round out phrases. Often the single rhyming word is what drives the idea of a line. I write verse and chorus in my journal and then type and print the first draft to make edits from there.

This is just rough idea - each song is a little different, just like people! Thanks for listening, Friends.

My actual journal process for "I Have a Dream"

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My favorite musical style to hear, to play, to learn or teach is hands-down any finger-style guitar song. And the repertoire is vast - from James Taylor, Jim Croce, Don McClean, Joan Baez, Peter, Paul & Mary, Bob Dylan, and today's talents like The Milk Carton Kids and Passenger. What I love the most is that there is such a full sound and rhythmic drive in those many continuously plucked strings, but the music is seldom loud or frenzied. Often the final production is just voice(s) and guitar. Here are some of my new and old favorites:

1. You've Got a Friend as performed by James Taylor

2. Don't Think Twice by Bob Dylan as performed by him or Peter, Paul & Mary

3. Vincent (Starry, Starry Night) by Don McClean

4. More Than Words by Extreme

5. If We Were Vampires by Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit

6. These Dreams by Jim Croce

7. The Thief of Time by Me! (Peter Markes)

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