David Keiski’s album, Big News Cafe, is a collection of 12 original songs that range from piano-driven country to classic rock to power ballads. It was an ambitious project that made its way down to Nashville and back. The result is a powerful representation of David K’s creativity, songwriting, and ability to collaborate with a variety of differing musicians.
David and I kicked off with tracking all the piano for the album. We tracked on my weighted keyboard, via midi, triggering the Minigrand piano sampler in Pro Tools. This way of tracking allowed for the most flexibility in editing, immediately and in the future. Since the album was still in concept form and we weren’t sure how it was all going to fit together, midi with a good piano sample was the best choice. Two songs feature David playing acoustic guitar rather than piano and we recorded those immediately as well. After quantizing, editing, and looping together the songs, we invited Jim Wilson to record the drums. Jim and David have a long history of playing together in bands and Jim was a great fit for the project. Talented, easy to work with, and a good sense of humor made working with Jim a pleasure. After drums we quickly recorded scratch vocals on every song in order to bounce demo versions. David began sharing the tunes with other musicians, utilizing the connections he’s made over the years to bring unique session musicians in on the creation of his album. The first musician to contribute to the album was Phil Solem of The Rembrandts. Phil is an accomplished musician, songwriter, and producer in the Twin Cities. It was a treat to have him play bass on several tunes. David K finished the remaining bass parts on his own. Following bass, David packed his bags and headed down to Tennessee.
Once in Nashville, David teamed up with recording engineer Billy Lee and a handful of session musicians. Steve Hinson played lap guitar and pedal steel, Scarlett Rische played Mandolin, and Eddie Heinzelman played electric and acoustic guitars. Additionally, Tim Lorsche recorded himself playing violin, viola, and cello orchestrations in his home studio. David gave the musicians a direction for each song and then made sure to capture every take and bring it all back home to Minnesota for me to sort through. The results were better than we hoped for. It was quite an arrangement puzzle to solve, but once we started the assembly it all fell into place. Every musician deserves accolades for their contributions on this album.
The final tracking involved replacing David’s scratch vocals with final takes. David provided additional harmonies on most songs, but we did have Jamie Baker sing background vocals as well. Jamie’s voice added depth and contrast to David’s vocal that really helped make the lead vocal shine. I finished all the editing up and finished with mixing the album. It was challenging to glue the songs together sonically because so much of the recordings varied. But ultimately, it came together and with the extra touch from mastering engineer Greg Reierson, Big News Cafe was complete.
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Produced by Stephen Helvig & David Keiski
Mixed by Stephen Helvig
Recorded by Stephen Helvig at Droptone Studio and Billy Lee in Nashville, TN
All songs written by David Keiski