I'm not going to badmouth the record label executives who believed in my music and enabled me to record in some of the best studios in Texas and Nashville with some of the best players in the world, but let me tell you nothing was ever profitable for me and I didn't start getting ahead until I began recording my own records in my own studio. I learned from each experience.
My first album, On the Border, recorded with Rival Records in the Texas Hill Country led me to some of the finest Grammy-award winning musicians from Ray Benson's band Asleep at the Wheel like Floyd Domino, John Ely, Gene Elders and Chris O'Connel. My second album, Spinning Our Wheels, introduced me to Merel Bregante, one of the original members of Loggins & Messina and to mastering expert Jerry Tubb, co-owner of Terra Nova Mastering (where I met one of my hero's Townes Van Zandt).
My third project, Stand Your Ground, included some of Austin's finest session players; Joel Guzman who's insane on the diatonic accordion, Glenn Fukunaga on bass guitar, Paul Pearcy on drums and percussion, and Ernie Durawa to name a few. I greatly appreciate Phil Mezzetti's attention to engineering detail. What an experience it was to record with the team Columbia Records (a subsidiary of Sony) assembled before my appearances on the USA Network's Nashville Star spearheaded by producer Don Cook and later with Clint Black.
The subsequent album I did with Dualtone Records after my TV appearances brought me into a few of the finest facilities in Nashville and to the heralded A-list cats who make their living making country music superstars shine. Studios like Emerald, Masterfonics, and Dualtone's own facility, pros like Matt Rollings, audio production, keyboards, producer, Brent Mason, guitars, Eddie Bayers, drums, Dan Dugmore on steel, Jon Randall Stewart, background vocals and so many more.
My AGR-TV release allowed me to work with Larry Nye, engineer, Tommy Spurlock, bass, engineer, guitar (acoustic), guitar (electric), guitar (steel), producer, slide guitar, vocals (background) and Jamie Oldaker, drums, percussion. I was able to achieve extensive airplay with Purgatory Road, produced by Lew Curatola, engineered by Pete Greene, with Rob Hajacos and Glenn Duncan on fiddles. I say all of this with no regrets as I was able to learn much from each producer, engineer, and studio musician but I always wound up owing the label, an executive producer, or even friends. That weighs on you.
As to my more recent recordings, Live In New England, You Play My Heart, What a Christmas It Was, If Stars Could Sing, and San Antonio Woman, (plus an earlier release Amor! Amor! which was a collection of bilingual recordings I had never released), I decided to try things on my own with my
own bandmates and friends in the music world without label support. These recordings, more organic and more truthful, have become fan favorites because they include the musicians that I regularly perform with--players like Chris Reeves on guitars, Kurt Baumer on fiddle, Luiz Coutinho de Souza on percussion, Mark Epstein and William B.B. Morse on bass, Stefano Bertolotti on drums, Mike Blakely, Drew Womack, John M. Greenberg, Pauline Reese and Rex Schnelle on background vocals. Schnelle also co-produced and mixed my last two recordings thereby giving them the extra shine needed to compete on commercial radio. That's not to say I didn't have label support but that label financial support came from my fan base. I'll tell you more about those recordings and the process next month.
I record using a Rhode NTV Tube Mic (I found in an Austin pawn shop) like the one used by Ray Benson on his Grammy-winning Asleep at the Wheel records. I've also had great success with my Shure Beta 57 into my Focusrite analog to digital converter onto Apple's Logic Pro on a workhorse Mac Mini with a solid state drive. And to warm up my digital recordings I use a Demeter tube mic pre with the legendary dbx 166. I don't usually hit the compressor very hard but it sure smooths out the jagged edges of my digital recordings.