Lake Adger Sessions

8 Jan

When I was younger, I remember married folks with kids saying how much less time was available for non-essential things at that stage in life.  At 22, I paid it no attention.  Today at 29+, 5 kids (one in the belly still), a wifey, and a new puppy, I have learned very clearly that there really isn’t much time for non-essential stuff.  Although sometimes we tend to make time for it at the expense of something essential or at least more essential.  But when you get down to it, it’s tough to find time for a hobby, or the gym, or a date night, or recording a new EP!

Speaking of EPs, I had the blessing to spend almost two weeks in the mountains of North Carolina near Lake Adger.  I visited the same area a year prior and wished I had brought my guitar.  I thought it would be really cool to sit on the back deck of the cabin, stare at the trees, and write a new record.  The inspiration I receive when I’m out in the middle of nature is pretty powerful.  So I remembered that guitar the following year and I camped out on that back deck and started strumming.  My prayer was to be inspired enough to write 4 songs, which I did.  My new EP, the Lake Adger Sessions, is the fruit of that inspiration.  I like to think it was divine inspiration.  I was in the midst of a spiritually dry spell.  I often wonder if God allows me to feel that way so that I can better relate to people who struggle with their faith.  I don’t enjoy feeling disconnected from God but I understand it’s part of life in faith.  Even Mother Teresa felt a tremendous void from God.  She wrote:

“There is so much contradiction in my soul. Such deep longing for God, so deep that it is painful, a suffering continual, and yet not wanted by God, repulsed, empty, no faith, no love no zeal,” she wrote. “Souls hold no attraction. Heaven means nothing, to me it looks like an empty place. The thought of it means nothing to me and yet this torturing longing for God.”

Pretty powerful words.

I recorded the EP in Celebration, FL with my good friend, my brother, Alan Binau.  It’s very simply recorded.  It’s not big, it’s not loud, it’s not fancy.  It’s just emotions written on paper, enhanced with instruments, and sung with true feeling.

I enjoyed writing the record and I enjoyed recording the record.  I hope you enjoy listening to the record.  You’ll find some links below to access the music.

Over the coming weeks I will write more about the songs on the record and discuss in more depth how they were crafted.  I will also offer links to some cool stuff we have planned for the release including videos, t-shirts, CDs, and live concerts from the comfort of your home.  Thanks for reading.

To quote Mother Teresa again: “Pray for me please that I keep smiling at him in spite of everything.”

And I shall return the favor.

Much Love,

BRAD

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Spiritually Dry

12 Jul

I’ve been in the midst of a spiritually dry spell.  I would say I’m still in the midst of it.  But instead of just waiting for it to pass, I decided to get up early and get in to some Scripture reading and reflection.  In these times I try keep it simple, figuring doing so will assist me in getting back into the swing of things. So Sunday morning my focus was on the readings from Sunday’s Mass.  The Gospel reading in particular stood out to me – Luke 10:25-37.  To summarize, Jesus tells us that the way to eternal life is to love God above all else, to love him with all our heart, being, strength, and mind and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

It seems like a pretty simple recipe.  To gain eternal life we need to love God with all that we have.  Oh, and to love our neighbor.  It’s that neighbor part which can be difficult.  But that first part, about loving God, that should be easy right?  To love God is not merely a feeling but an action.  To love God with all our heart is to put God before all else.  To love God with our heart is to have the heart of Jesus; to show love and compassion and mercy.

To love God with all our being is to live out Psalm 115 – “Not to us Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory.”  The focus is on God, not on us.  In all things we praise God and give him glory.  With our being, our daily activities, our earthly bodies, we are to offer God praise and love.  How?  Let everything we do be a prayer.  And recall the words of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you have been purchased at a price.  Therefore, glorify God in your body.”  We can love God with our being by respecting our body, eating right, exercising, no drug or tobacco use, striving for purity, and taking pride in our appearance.

Strength.  We are to love God with all our strength.  We gain our strength from the Lord.  Consider the following two verses from Scripture.  “If God is for us, then who could be against us?” – Romans 8:31.  “The Lord is with me; I am not afraid: what can mortals do against me?” – Psalm 118:6.  Our strength comes from the Lord.  We can choose to be stubborn and refuse to be vulnerable enough to realize it.  I certainly learned that the hard way.  I continue to learn that lesson.  We will fail, wail, trip, and fall. We will struggle, doubt, scream, and cry.  We will wonder why and search all over for answers.  He is the answer.  And he is always waiting for us, ready to offer the strength we need to make it through, and even persevere through, this experience called life.

Inspirational SONG – Our God by Chris Tomlin

Inspirational SONG – Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies) by Chris Tomlin

To love God with all our mind starts with thinking of God often.  We should look to God for guidance in all decisions.  Call upon his name.  The first Bible verse I ever memorized was Psalm 145:18 – “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.”  For a long time, that verse was my church.  It was my proof that I had a relationship with God.  Seek God constantly, through moments of great faith and through the darkness of doubt and fear.  Call upon his name and keep him in the forefront of our minds.

Inspirational SONG – Oceans by Hillsong United

Now for the hard part.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  It’s a vexing commandment.  I find it helpful to “un-complicate” it.  I think about Matthew 25:31-46.  To summarize, Jesus tells the parable of separating the sheep from the goats.  He talks of a king who offers a place in his kingdom to those who fed him when he was hungry, clothed him when he was naked, gave him to drink when he was thirsty, and so on.  The righteous reply in wonder, asking “When did we see you hungry and feed you…ill or in prison and visit you?”  The king replies, “What you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.”

We love our neighbor by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned.  We should treat others as we would like to be treated.  If that’s the Golden Rule, then I propose the Platinum Rule – See Jesus in everyone.

 

 

Recording Session 1

14 Oct

Session 1
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
6PM
Alan’s Studio

This record is 4 years in the making.

The decision to say yes came about a half a year ago.

Scheduling of actual recording sessions began on August 22, 2014.

And here we are.

Recording session 1.

The session has snuck up on me like the butler in Mr. Deeds – “I am very very sneaky”. This is my first experience recording while having a family and working a full time regular job. The days of spending long hours and evenings in relatively carefree recording sessions are behind me. Time, these days, is more precious. Time is always precious. But when you have a wife and children, time becomes a commodity. It’s a gift. It’s an asset. It’s a liability sometimes, especially when it’s not protected. I have to admit that I was a bit ambitious when I developed the recording schedule. It’s been some time since I spent time recording and the great lengths of time it takes to set up and record had somehow slipped my mind. It was still smart to create a schedule. It’s a good foundation for what is predominately a flexible, malleable, and swaying musical experience.

Alan’s studio is located in the upper level of a beautiful home he owns in Celebration. Alan personifies peace, love, humility, kindness, generosity, and Christ-centeredness.

More about Alan and our introduction in later writings.

The studio is not only well equipped, but very homey and comfortable. On high reaching shelves sit, and from studio walls hang, examples and representations of many facets of fine art: painting, literature, poetry, music, sculpture. Keyboards, guitars, basses, and other instruments line the walls and wires and cords snake along the plush carpet; connecting cabinets stuffed full of equipment with LEDs blinking and illuminating. A lone fan is suspended from the ceiling, awkwardly holding only two blades. The room is cool – despite the heat generated from the multitude of electronics – and the lighting soft and inviting. We sit on drums stools, piano benches, and two ultra comfortable leather office chairs; which are reserved for the person charged with engineering the particular session (or take) and the person charged with producing the session (or take) – or sometimes for a studio guest; particularly of the female persuasion (wives, guest singers, daughters).

The goal of recording session 1 is to lay down the piano for the 4 songs of the EP.  In many cases, bands spend hours practicing songs before actually recording the parts. In this case, because all of the people I have asked to play on this record work regular jobs, and have wives and children, it was impossible to spend a meaningful amount of time rehearsing the music. All of the musicians are professional and very talented so some learning on the fly would not be detrimental. Only one musician is less comfortable with improvisation and spontaneous learning and musical changes. With this player, I spent much time planning.

More on him in the next blog.

Brian Crawford arrived to the studio a little bit after 6P.  Brian is the regular piano player for our church band/choir – C7. C7 plays and sings for the Sunday evening Mass at my church – Corpus Christi in Celebration, FL.  Brian is the Chief Business Officer for a company called Vestagen. Vestagen develops, manufactures, and markets advanced performance textile products for use in medical uniforms and athletic apparel. The product is successful because of its fluid barrier technology, anti-microbial protection, and quick dry comfort. The proliferation of the Ebola virus has increased the demand for Vestagen’s products (because of the fluid barrier technology for use in scrubs). With increased demand for Vestagen’s products comes increased demand for Brian Crawford’s time! So, as one could imagine, I was very thankful for Brian’s generous offering of his time and his talent in support of this record. Alan had an M-Audio midi controller set up and ready for Brian. This instrument is basically a keyboard which connects to the computer and records the performance via MIDI. MIDI gives us more control over the sound and allows us to make minor adjustments to timing or notes played. I usually prefer the sound of a miced up baby grand piano. But for this record, recording the piano parts in this way was the best choice for realizing my vision of what these songs will sound like. Although MIDI offers us the flexibility to change the sound of the performance in post production, we decided to spend a substantial amount of time finding the right piano sound.

Also present at the studio was our friend Floyd who will drum on this record.

More on Floyd later.

We began with prayer; thanking God for the opportunity and our friendship. We asked him to be present and for His will to be done. It was a beautiful experience to be able to actually pray with a group of men in such an environment.

The first song we began to record was called “The Way”. It’s a song I wrote around February of this year, shortly after my yes. When I write songs, the music and lyrics generally come to me quickly.

Really it’s like the song is offered to me.

It is not I who composes it but I who is being used as a conduit to breath life into the words and music.

I know that anything I have is only because of God’s generosity. And I know that God blesses us in abundance when we strive to do His will. So this song, like so many others, is, in my perception, a gift from God.

More about the song and it’s development in later writings.

In the first few takes of recording the piano parts, I asked Brian to play very simple chords throughout. I didn’t give him much room to be creative or to improvise. I came to realize that this approach of basic chords wasn’t the best idea for the piano and further, was something I could play on my own. I invited Brian to be a part of this record because of the way he connects with my songs and is able to translate my requests into elegant piano pieces. That said, I cut the chains which stifled Brian’s ability to do what it is he does which I love so much; that is, add emotional piano beauty to songs. And as he played, he played freely.

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With each chord progression came a deeper enlightenment of what the song was evoking.

With every take came new smiles, new nods of affirmation, and virtual high-fives offered via eye contact.

Brian was in the zone and the song began to take shape.

As he played the instrumental bridge, he played a riff that struck me. After the take, we played back what we recorded and I pointed out the riff. I said, “That is the bridge! Disregard the chord progression I wrote and let this be the basis!” We worked through the new bridge for several minutes until the progression was set and the chords determined.  At that point, I went downstairs to grab some waters and coffees. When I returned, the recorded bridge was not the bridge we had worked on! Ha. (A new rule was implemented whereby I am no longer permitted to fetch the water and coffee.) We spent the next block of time reworking the bridge back to what I had intented and proceeded with recording. After several takes, we achieved our goal and moved on to the next song.

The next song was called “Arrive”.

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I wrote this song on an unplugged electric guitar (Parker Fly) a few months back. Again, the song just seemed to come to me. I  sat in my office chair late one night and positioned my hands at a D minor (my friends say I live in a minor key) and just started singing and playing. It took a little while to work out the chords as I had become so accustomed to writing songs on my piano. But the song came almost in full that first evening. I made some revisions over the following weeks and months. On this night of recording, the song was ready and so was Brian. We learned a valuable lesson in the recording of “The Way” and so we allowed Brian to be free and to do what he does which I love so much. We worked through a few adjustments to the notes of the chords and before long, wrapped up another song on piano. At this point, 6PM turned to about 10PM. Brian was scheduled to be on a very early flight to NYC the next day so we decided to call it a night.

It became clear that the recording would take at least twice as much time as I had anticipated. That’s okay. This first session reminded me just how much I love to be in the studio, to hang with musician friends, and to make music.

How blessed I am to have the opportunity to continue to make music; to continue to make (a majority of) a living making music.

Alan’s custom is to walk his guests all the way out to their cars, even opening and closing the car door for them.

As we stepped out into the night air, a full moon hovered.

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Session 1 was complete.

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Lord, thank you for this gift of music. Thank you for the many years of music I have experienced and endured which prepared me for what I do today, and what I will do tomorrow. You are loving, you are kind, you are generous. And I am forever gracious. In God’s name: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor

17 Feb

I recently bought two of those tall glass enclosed candles which typically have images of Catholic saints on them.  Mine have Our Lady of Guadalupe on one and the other is one devoted to the Holy Spirit.  What I did not buy is a lighter long enough to light the candles so for days I would light them by setting a long wooden skewer on fire and reaching it down into the candle.  So while at Publix last week, I bought one of those fancy extra long lighters that you can use to light your fireplace, your BBQ, or your Catholic candles.  Got it home, opened it up, pressed in the child lock, and engaged the lighter.  Nothing.  Tried it again, or more like tried it again 20 times, but to no avail.  Yesterday, Sunday, I returned the lighter and upon doing so, I was given three crisp $1 bills along with some change.  I usually don’t keep cash in my wallet so I had to think about just how I was going to use those three $1 bills.   So, I decided that:

1. I would buy one of the Magnificat Lenten Companion books which the church is selling in the lobby for $1

2. Next I would either light two candles in the church – one for Mary’s intercession  ($1)  and one for Joseph’s intercession ($1) OR

3. I would place those two crisp $1 bills into the poor-box located inside the church

I continued shopping and purchased several items, including a new lighter.  All of it I paid with my debit card.

I got home, lit the Catholic candles with my new lighter, prepared for Mass, blew out the candles and went to church.

After Mass I hopped into my truck and headed onto the highway and to my Mom’s house – about a 25 minute drive.  I decided I would listen to my Rosary app as I drove and I found myself singing the song, “The Cry of the Poor”, over and over again.  Made sense I guess since (A) I love the song and (B) we sang the song at Mass and (C) I’d been singing it all day, even before Mass.  So I listened to my Rosary and I sang The Cry of the Poor – for 25 minutes.  I exited and pulled up to the stoplight.  The light was of course was red, and there was a man walking up to cars looking for money.  It was odd because he started on the side of the road you would least expect.  And I looked at him (as I continued to sing The Cry of the Poor) and hoped that he wouldn’t make his way over to my car.  And then it struck me.  “The Lord hears the cry of the poor.”  Of course I wanted him to come to my car.  I had 3 crisp $1 bills, 2 of which I had already decided I would offer to the poor.  So I reached down into my backpack to grab my wallet.  Despite the darkness of night, this man saw me doing so and immediately made his way over to my truck.  I rolled down my window which revealed a black man in his early 40s with a chipped tooth and a relatively nice smile.  I put all three of those crisp $1 bills into his cup and he said to me, “Man I really need to get my life together!”   I said, “Yeah man, we all hit hard times.”  He said, “Do you know what the temperature is?  Because sleeping out here last night was cold!”  I pushed the button in my truck which reveals that information and told him it was 42 degrees.  He said, “Well you just helped out a cold bum.”   I told him I had just been singing a song called The Cry of the Poor.  And he looked at me and said, “God knows.”  And he kept repeating it.  “God knows.  God knows.  God knows.”  Even as the light turned green and he was surrounded by cars, he repeated, “God knows.”

What did God know?  That I didn’t want this guy to come near my car?  Or that I had just sung his Sacred Words in front of 625 people repeating, “The Lord hears the cry of the poor…Let the lowly hear and be glad…The Lord listens to their pleas…Every spirit crushed God will save…(He) will be safe shelter for their fears”?  That I said a Rosary and sang his Word for the 25 minutes leading up to this encounter with this poor man?  Or maybe God knew that I would recognize his presence in that experience.  That I would see the face of Jesus in this man.  Maybe God put him there for me.  Wouldn’t that be nice to think?  That God cares enough for you to put before you a blatant sign?  We read in the Gospel today that Jesus was frustrated with a generation who is always looking for a sign.  So what does that make me?  I wasn’t asking for a sign and I certainly wasn’t looking for a sign.  I was just trying to have a peace filled 25 minute drive.  I wasn’t looking for a poor man.  I certainly wasn’t planning on giving up my rare presence of cash in my wallet to a stranger.

I do believe that God offers us signs.  Sometimes they are a bit ambiguous.  Sometimes they slap you in the face.  Sometimes we ignore them.  Sometimes we don’t recognize them.  Sometimes we see them but don’t heed them.  I’ve learned the hard way to be open and vulnerable enough to recognize his presence and most certainly to follow the direction I prayerfully discern he is leading me to.

So in the end, I smiled.  And I thanked God for being there with me on my journey.

Amen.