Recording Chester Bay has been one of my favorite recording experiences in the last 21 years. Their acoustic/reggae/rock/jam/folk style called for a very clean, transparent, and in-your-face production. Having a nice, big sound room and some seriously pristine mics and preamps allowed us to capture what they do so well – perform great music live.
Jake and Cory Bosben are true songsmiths with ultra-creative pop sensibilities. Every step from honing in on the arrangement to the final mix was highly gratifying. The only problem was having their tunes stuck in my head every moment I wasn’t working on the album. For that reason and so many more, we’re proud to feature Chester Bay’s new song, “Victory” on our first-ever Droptone Sampler.
We approached tracking by starting with rhythm takes, capturing drums and bass live, while Jake played along with scratch guitar and vocals. Marcus Greely (drummer) was extremely prepared, allowing us to focus on getting great, large-room drum tones and in-the-pocket grooves. With Cory’s ridiculously tight bass playing we were able to capture unusually dynamic rhythm takes that exposed their nack for seamless groove changes.
Hot Southern Mess is a brand new country music trio consisting of Katie Doffing, Kristen Thomas, and Kayleen Goettsche. HSM approached me to help them do some songwriting, production, and recording back in February of 2011. At that time, they were working on a few songs but didn’t have anything fully completed yet. Katie and Kristen are great singers. When I first heard them, it was obvious that they had done a lot of singing together and they had a blend difficult to achieve. Kayleen was contributing to the songwriting duties, and they all had fragments of songs – some more comprehensive than others. We spent our first session just going through all their ideas and demos. The girls showed me a wide range of styles and genres they were comfortable and capable of doing, but didn’t feel too strongly about any particular direction. I took notes and presented some ideas of my own. We actually started with a demo that was more in the direction of Top 40/Dance music rather than country. But in the end, the girls realized that country felt the most at home. I think they made the right decision The following year, we slowly pieced together 5 songs that we’re proud of.
The past two years I’ve had the pleasure of working with Michelle Bergh, currently the “Miss Minnesota Preteen” title-holder. Michelle is very talented and has accomplished a lot for being so young. She previously was the “Miss Preteen National Sweetheart” and is VERY active with volunteer work. Just check out her website to see all the community service projects she’s involved in. Michelle came to Droptone looking for someone to start developing her musical talent. I met with Michelle and her mother, Donna, and together we talked about Michelle’s influences and aspirations. Once I had a good feel for Michelle’s abilities, I began crafting music that I felt would best represent Michelle’s persona as well as meet her stylistic expectations. Continue reading
Culture Cry Wolf came into Droptone in January 2011 to start production of their debut studio album, Día de los Muertos. Produced by both David Kellogg and myself (Stephen Helvig), this album has made an impact in both the hip/hop and punk rock scenes. Culture Cry Wolf is comprised of 6 members and about 16 genres. Their sound borrows from punk, hip/hop, reggae, ska, doo-wop, and cumbia among others. That’s what made this album especially enticing for David and I – it allowed us to collectively work in areas that we excel in. From hip/hop grooved drum-loops to big, guitar-heavy hooks, this album called for lots of different production and recording techniques and gives every listener something to appreciate.
Take a minute to watch some behind the scenes footage in Droptone Studio:
Droptone is pleased to announce the release of Mikel Wright & The Wrong’s first album, “We Get Down.” This was an incredibly fun project and we enjoyed the opportunity to work with some very talented local musicians. Since 2007, Mikel Wright has been building his fan-base with his progressive beach-funk sound. This album captured elements of their high-energy, danceable live shows, but also highlighted Mikel’s singer-songwriter abilities. From brass and guitar-driven “We Get Down” to the smooth, grooving ballad “Angel,” Mikel Wright & The Wrongs have impressive tunes that are sure to get you on the dance-floor and singing along.
Last summer I had the sincere pleasure of working with singer/songwriter Ariel Strasser. A recent graduate of The Boston Conservatory, Ari is an up-and-coming artist from St. Paul, Minnesota. Ari is deeply rooted in music. Her father, Tamás Strasser, is a violist in the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, her mother, Anne Strasser, is a violinist and manager of Crocus Hill Trio, and her step-father, Peter Douglas, teaches Bassoon at the University of St. Thomas and played professionally in the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. It’s no surprise that Ari has developed a talent for singing and writing that is catching the attention of many. Continue reading
Samuel Crown has released a new E.P. “Dream My Way Up,” a collection of 5 songs recorded over the past year. Ranging from electronic, synth-based dance tunes to bare-bones acoustic ballads, Samuel Crown covers a lot of territory. Continue reading
The Sota Boys are back to follow-up their album “Always Say Always” with a Christmas EP, “MistleFlow”. The EP consists of 5 songs, 4 of which are originals, and one of which is a Sota Boy twist on George Michael’s classic “Last Christmas”. The project includes featured vocals from Jarryd Haag, who has helped produce & write several Sota Boys instrumentals; The DL Show, who bring a uniquely heartfelt swagger to “Last Christmas”; and former American Idol contestant Nels Leafblad, who lends a powerful vocal to the choruses of “Christmas Forever”, “Coming Home”, and “The Christmas Jam”. Altogether, there is a spirit of celebration throughout the album; with plenty of fun Christmas cliches, coupled with moments of tenderness and emotion that bring it back to the real reason they celebrate (“The Reason”). The songs are really catchy and bring a unique flavor to the Christmas genre, and the boys once again had a blast recording it at Droptone. Continue reading
The Sota Boys are a local pop/hip-hop group managed by Droptone intern Drew Schmalz. The group consists of members Brent Haglund, Jesse Johnson, and BJ Skoog, with occasional features from some of their friends. This past summer, we had the privilege of producing their first full-length album, “Always Say Always”. Continue reading
Over the last several months we’ve been fortunate enough to track and mix Vision The Kid’s upcoming album “Lost Summer”. Together with Producer Ryan Tru Truax, making this album has been an amazingly eclectic adventure. Our pristine signal chain met its match with Vision’s lyrics and incredibly syncopated delivery. A master of minimal takes, his gift to rip through verses made the whole recording experience feel more like having a box seat in the front row of a concert. We our very proud of this album for its content, sound, and the talent these guys showcased in our studio. The release party and performance is tonight at Honey. Come down and celebrate with Vision, Tru, Droptone and all the fans.
Visit Vision The Kid’s webiste.
Watch Vision’s music videos off the Lost Summer album:
New artist Nikki (Nicole Rodriguez) recorded her first 3 singles at Droptone Studio over the last few months. All 3 songs were a collaboration between Nikki and I. Nikki supplied the lyrics and I layed down the tracks. Nikki was fantastic to work with and made huge strides in her musical abilities.
Nikki is currently working with Oryon Media Artists in Minneapolis. She has recorded a still unreleased music video for her song “Space.” It was a pleasure working with Nikki – she gave me lots of artistic freedom to create songs that I thought would work for her, but also contributed many ideas. I truly believe we capitalized on her talents, but I look forward to seeing how far Nikki will progress in the near future. Keep your eyes and ears open for this new and upcoming artist.
For more information about Nikki, check out her Myspace.
Parallax made their way back to Droptone in early August to record their second live album, “Nice 2.” This project is a collaboration among some of the state’s finest artists including Big Zach (of Kanser), St Paul Slim, Jellyfish and Corey (of More Than Lights), Colin Hodges (of Know Breaks), Mario Morales (of Los Nativos), DJ Gabe Garcia, Rellium Prime, and Sean Anonymous (of Wide Eyes), and Alicia Steele. Parallax released “Nice 2″ on October 1st, at the Cabooze. Give your ears a treat and listen to some fine Minnesota music.
The summer of 2010 has come and gone, but on September 1st one full length album remained. Corby Pelto recorded his debut album “Merry-Go-Round” over the last 3 months here at Droptone and it’s out now. Continue reading
We just just finished a killer one drop track “Turn Back Time” for African based lyricist and singer Mukama Morandi. He had a great time performing his first studio vocal session and the track came out really strong. We are just starting to work on his second track. The song caught the ear of L.A based video directer/producer Corrin Hodgson, who invited Mukama out for a video session. After seeing Mukama’s performance in this video, we think he may need to seriously consider a career in acting.
Chicago based songwriter, Gordon Vanguard and his grunge-pop band Licker recently did some mix work at Droptone. The band recorded a handful of new songs a few months back at local recording school, IPR. With bare mixes in hand, they asked me to polish them up. I really enjoyed working on Gordon’s songs, and I know you’ll enjoy listening to them. After a bit more editing than planned, Gordon and I dug into the tunes and started mixing. We spent 2 days in the studio equalizing, compressing, tuning, limiting, balancing, and adding reverb, delays, and other effects. Although I wish I had the opportunity to record this band myself and spend more time with the mixes, I’m very proud of how far these tracks came along. Take a listen to the tracks below and I’m sure you’ll be rockin right out of your chair before you know it. Continue reading
Dani came to Droptone with a notebook full of lyrics and a few melodies in her head, but wasn’t sure where to start with her first song. After talking about a stylistic direction, Dani and I dug in and started getting creative. Continue reading
The project began by adding the support of her extremely talented band. I captured the live sounds from her drummer, percussionist, guitarist, bassist, trumpet player, and keyboardist. We mixed in and/or replaced the samples with these live elements and the difference was huge. Maria re-sang a few things and added additional harmonies that helped highlight certain tracks. I worked tirelessly on drum, conga, and bass loops that added a solid, yet acoustic, rhythmic foundation. I then re-edited her vocals to bring out her voice in the mix and tighten her overall sound.
Earlier this summer, Fat Lemon, an alternative rock band, came into the studio to mix and master their latest self-titled release. The band tracked all of their songs independently outside of the studio, and I just helped them get the best sound out of their recordings. We spent 2 days mixing and produced a master shortly after. The process was fun, yet challenging. Fat Lemon is a college band based out of St. Paul. They’ll be playing shows in the metro area, check them out. Continue reading
Morrison Boomer is an acoustic duo from Seattle. They were in Minneapolis over the last few months and I had the privilege to record their first studio release, and their second album throughout July and August. This album is mainly acoustic guitar, bass, and vocals. We added strings, djembe, and piano to a few tracks as well. We had a great time making this 13 track album. Continue reading
Several months ago I started working on a project with singer songwriter Keaton Kronberg. Before we got too far on his solo project, he ended up adding a full band to the mix and we switched gears. We both decided it would be best to let the band work on the songs for the next 4-8 weeks and then hit the studio together to record two of the sketches we had previously laid out and two new ones.
In August, Keaton brought over his new band “The Dayshapes.” We scheduled 4 days in the studio and knocked out some brilliant material. The new musicians really added some great texture and dynamic to Keaton’s work. Day 1 concentrated on tracking and editing all four drum tracks. Day 2 we tracked and edited all guitar lines. Day 3 was vocals, organ, and melodica. Day 4 was bass, tambourine, and shakers. I then worked on the final touches and did final mixes.
“Monster Clouds” will be coming out soon and I highly recommend picking one up if you’re into the likes of Steve Tannen, Mason Jennings, Bright Eyes, or Romantica.
”Love All Over” was the culmination of 2 years of work by singer/songwriter Noah Cornelius. Noah and I began working together in the summer of 2007. We put down a handful of acoustic guitar scratch tracks and experimented with different tempos and song structures. Once we had that foundation set, we gradually added other elements. Noah’s friend Jon played drums for this album and did an excellent job. We tracked and edited his parts over 2 days. The next step was bass, and I volunteered to fill in. I took a few days to work out parts and get them recorded. After Noah was satisfied, we moved to vocals.
Esera Tuaolo is scheduled to release his first solo full-length album on February 26th. The venue has yet to be decided. Esera has been working on his album over the last 2 years, tirelessly perfecting every track. Packed with 8 originals and 2 covers, Esera’s album covers a wide variety of musical stylings. From traditional Samoan folk song to edgy pop/r&b songs, Esera’s album promises to deliver something for every music fan.
Feel like you recognize the name Esera Tuaolo? That’s because Esera is a former NFL pro-bowler, playing in the 1998 Superbowl with the Atlanta Falcons. He’s also an accomplished author. His autobiography, Alone In The Trenches: My Life As A Gay Man In The NFL, was released in the spring of 2006.
Several tracks on the album were co-wrote with David Kellogg (Droptone Studio owner). Please take a moment and listen to a few of Esera’s tracks on our website media player. Another exciting contribution was made by Henry Krieger, the Grammy award-winning composer for the cast album Dreamgirls. Krieger and lyricist Bill Russell wrote the song “Oh God” for Esera’s album, a beautiful account of the inner-personal struggles and ideologically conflicting attitudes between homosexuality and Christianity.
Esera’s album is currently available online. You can find it on iTunes.
Welcome to the Droptone Studio Blog! It’s a new year and we’ve got a new website. 2008 was full of fun and lots of music. It went out with a bang as the studio stayed open around the clock working on Christmas music. Helen Thul, a local christian artist, recorded her first solo project, A Christmas Journey. It contains 5 songs and kicks some butt. The last track is one of Helen’s originals and is acting as a teaser for a future full length debut. The entire album features Helen’s extraordinary vocal talent. Helen also included her friends and family as musicians, and Jai & I contributed bass and background vocals. David even got involved in the track all the way from Cambodia where he’s currently working. Helen’s 2nd track, “Journey to the King,” features one of David’s groove driven instrumentals. If you want hear one hip christmas dance track, you’re going to have to pick up this album. Check out Helen’s music here.