. . .with visions of Merle Haggard dancing in my head.

As a kid, I gravitated to the music of the times. For the most part, it came about as a result of the music in my friends' and my older brothers' LP collections (or - for that matter - my friends' older siblings' LP collections). The music ranged from the Beatles to Boston to Queen. . .from Black Sabbath to Billy Joel to The Jacksons. . .from Blondie to Bowie to early U2. By and large, I wasn't interested in looking backwards to discover music. Like most kids, I had concluded that anything that happened before I was born (The Beatles & Stones aside) wasn't relevant.

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While I spent the 70's and 80's focused on rock, pop & punk, something else was kinda percolating off to the side. Even though "Hee Haw' only run for 2 or 3 years, it remained in heavy syndication on the local UHF stations. "Hee Haw" was more than a little strange and intentionally corny (it took place in fictional "Kornfield Kounty" - so there you have it). The format was sort of a mash-up of "Laugh In" and the countless TV variety shows that were popular in the day (Carol Burnett, Sonny & Cher, Donny & Marie and so on). "Hee Haw" didn't necessarily knock my socks off - but it was a way to pass the time in rural Ohio, a 2-hour drive from any city of significance. In those days, it also wasn't unusual to catch a ride from a friend's mom or dad. We'd be talking or goffin' around in the back while they might have an 8-track of Charlie Daniels, The Oak Ridge Boys or Waylon Jennings playing up front. It was kinda all around - but none of it really stuck with me.

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Off to college I went - to dig deeper into U2, discover Pink Floyd and listen to the amazing WOXY - maybe the nations best "alternative" station at the time. In the late 80s, they were playing The Pogues, early REM, The Smith, Depeche Mode, Black Flag and more.

With age (hopefully) comes maturity. With maturity (hopefully) comes an appreciate and respect for those that came before you. So - as I entered my mid-20's, my focus was no longer strictly on the "hear & now" or what the shiny new thing was. I slowly started to look back. I started asking "Who inspired and influenced The Beatles?" It was Elvis, Buck Owens & Carl Perkins. What about The Stones? It was folks like Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and Gram Parsons. What about Wilco, who hooked me immediately with "A.M." (Side bar - thanks to Forbes magazine for having them open for Chris Issak at the the Roseland Ballroom. While everyone else was busy at the open bar, eight guys and I - along with my band-mate at the time, Brian Mulhern - got to enjoy Wilco front & center). So- what about Wilco? Again - Gram Parsons. Hmmmm. . . .

As I continued to dig, I found myself (re)discovering the country & western greats that sorta lived in the fringes of my childhood. The artists and music I "found" in my 20's and into my 30's included Patsy Cline, Johnny & June Carter Cash, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn. . . .and the legendary Merle Haggard.

So. Yeah. Merle. He is simply amazing. Telling his story would involve writing a master's thesis. If you're interested in his life and his story, I strongly recommend the PBS/American Masters program "Merle Haggard: Learning to Live with Myself" as good place to start.

So - for me? I went deep . . . .DEEP into Merle's story. . .into his music. . .his songwriting. . .his singing. As a writer, he truly took the "write what you know" credo to heart. His lyrics are simple and down-to-earth - yet extremely potent. There's no mention of red solo cups, sexy tractors or achy breaky hearts here. . .just stories about people, dealing with everything that people deal with in life. I love it. I simply love it! And his singing? He's one of my top 5 of all time - up there with Frank and Ella in my book.

So - a few years back. . .with December on the not-too-distant horizon. . .I set myself the task of writing the best Merle Haggard Christmas song that I could. (I have an insatiable appetite for releasing music at Christmas time - the back-story is here.) I hoped to keep it simple, I hoped to keep it real (many of the lyrics come directly from my own experiences) and I hoped to keep it relatable (if I did it right, anyone should be able to hear this song and "feel" what I'm singing).

For the simple and stripped-down production, I was joined in the studio by the lovely and talented Jon Herington on the acoustic guitar. (If you've bought a Steely Dan album or seen the band play in the last 18 years, then you've heard Jon's chops. He's also played with the likes of Madeleine Peyroux, Phoebe SnowMiles Davis and countless others). Jon is truly a pro's pro.

So. . . .this all leads us to the track. Here it is (below). . .my ode to Merle. The story has to do with being in the Big City for the holidays, surrounded by a million people. . .but if the one, most important person isn't there to celebrate with you, it's hard to feel anything but alone. (Gee - there's some sunny, holiday vibes for you - eh?)

It's called "Christmas Without You".

I hope you enjoy it. As always, I welcome your feedback.

Have a very Merly Christmas!

From NYC to NOLA: the story behind "The Christmas Sessions"

Many of you know the story by now - but it's worth (re)telling. 

In late August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina dropped an unimaginable amount of rain onto the Mississippi River delta. The levies gave way. New Orleans flooded. The waters rose with no where to go - turning the Crescent City into a wide, shallow lake. The city was devastated. I sat on my sofa in NYC - helplessly watching the heart-breaking footage on the evening news.

I've long had a love-affair with New Orleans - much of it directly tied to my love of music. I started attending JazzFest in the early 90s. While I always loved seeing the big-name acts on the main stages - something special regularly happened to me when I encountered (often accidentally) the music coming from the smaller stages. Cajun and Zydeco at the Fais Do-Do Stage. . .vocal quartets from the eastern Carolinas and 40-member strong choirs from Chicago's south-side at the Gospel Tent. . .New Orleans trad-jazz and dixieland royalty at the Economy Hall tent.

It washed over me (and still does to this day). . .the music I love. . .the music at our collective American roots. . .the music that moves us to fits of joy. . .that music that moves us to tears. . .the music that often does both within the same song. It's the through-line that extends over decades. . .over centuries. . .those that came before. . .this unique place at an unusual time in human history. African, caribbean, latin-american, european. . .they all converged here. New Orleans is America. All of of its beauty. All of its failures. Its sins. Its salvation. And from that - from that place. . .everything we hear today. . .the music. . .every beat, style, melody. . .born on the banks of the bayou.

As I watched the news - frustrated by the people's desperation and the apparent lack of action by our elected officials, I decided to not sit idly and settle for a feeling of helplessness. It was time to act. I reached out to my NYC-based musician friends and we quickly recorded, mixed, mastered and printed a small number of CDs - knows as "Xmas '05". All the revenue generated from CD sales and downloads went to Habitat for Humanity - New Orleans and The Edge's (U2) Music Rising.

The entire experience was fantastic. The can-do spirit of all the talented musician - who all gave selflessly of their time and talents. . .the by-the-seat-of-our-pants process (this was a crazy-tight timeline to get an entire album from concept to completion). . .the wonderful people that mentored us along the way. We quickly sold out of CDs and we did good for the people of New Orleans and those that serve them.  

New Orleans and the gulf coast was still reeling well into 2006. That was readily apparent at that year's JazzFest. Everywhere I went in the city that weekend, countless locals - musicians and otherwise - were reuniting with family & friends all around me. On every street corner, restaurant, bar, street-car and park-bench I heard the same conversations. "Oh my goodness - I didn't know if you were alive or dead!". . ."How are Bob and Carol - did they make it?". . ."Oh no! I'm so sorry to hear about your momma.". . ."Are your cousins still over in Houston?" And at the JazzFest itself, music about trials, tribulations, mourning and resilience - they all took on an entire added level of poignancy. Many hugs were exchanged that JazzFest weekend. . .many smiles were shared. . .many tears were shed. I left knowing I had to do my part again - bigger and better. 

Back to NYC, with more time to prep and plan. Many of the same musicians - some that were new. We had more time to record & mix. And we did a bigger press-run this time. The results. . . ."The Christmas Sessions from NYC". 

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This time we put on a benefit concert to raise additional funds and to promote the CD, Again - it was of the charts. Even more folks joined in, we generated even greater revenue then the year before and we had some great mentors help us through the entire process. (J. Chris Griffin and his wife Janet being a couple of the biggies). It was a great success. I couldn't have been more proud of what we achieved.

More than a decade on, we see a sales bump every December from the two album (mainly - of course - from digital downloads and streams). . . .and that is fantastic. To this day, every dime from sales goes to Habitat and Music Rising (who continue to do good work - most recently in Houston and Puerto Rico).

If you'd like to purchase either "Xmas '05" or "The Christmas Sessions from NYC", you can get them both on iTunes (search "Glen Muñoz"). Every penny that comes to me will go straight on to Habitat and MR. Or - you can simply contribute to the directly. 

Either way - thanks for reading about the journey, thanks for your support and have a very merry Christmas. 

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. . .and you may ask yourself "Who is this 'Super Secret Santa'?"

Perhaps you've seen my #supersecretsanta posts on social media.

Or maybe you've come across one of the CDs on your daily travels.

Or perhaps you've helped me out with one of my other projects - and as a "thank you" I've handed you one of the CDs with the bright neon sticker.

. . .and you may ask yourself "Where did this CD come from?"

. . .and you may ask yourself "Who - in this day and age - is still pressing CDs?"

. . .and you may ask yourself "Why is someone apparently giving away these CDs?"

Well. . . .the story starts with an effort some years back to affect some good in this world. It involves a bunch of generous, talented, NYC-based musicians (and me) doing what we do - performing, recording and producing music. Our goal was to use our skills and our music to help those less fortunate than ourselves.

To get the ENTIRE back-story story, click here

The short version of the story goes a little something like this. . . .

"Christmas Sessions from NYC" came one year after "Xmas '05". "Xmas '05" was our first attempt. . .a bit of a baby-step, I guess. "Xmas '05" went from concept to pressing in record time - and we pressed only a modest number of CDs. )The purpose of "Xmas '05" and "Sessions" was to raise money for two worthy charities - Habitat for Humanity and Music Rising.)

Well - "Xmas '05" was such an unexpected success (the promotional concert was a blast and we quickly sold out of CDs). As a result, we aimed for bigger and better the next year. We took more time in the studio AND pressed more CDs (a lot more CDs).

Well - the CD came out JUST as the sales of legal digital downloads were starting to look like a hockey stick and CD sales were nose-diving. So while "Christmas Sessions from NYC" was - from an audiophile-POV - an improvement on "Xmas '05". . .and while "Christmas Sessions from NYC" still raised even more money. . .the majority of revenue did not come CD sales. As a result, we were left with a whole bunch of unsold CDs. . . .and. . .umm. . .CDs aren't selling any hotter in 2017 than they were then.

So - here we are. The revenue that "Christmas Sessions from NYC" continues to generate comes by-in-large from digital downloads & streaming services. On top of that - NYC is home, which means that storage space is at an extreme premium. Still - I can't bring myself to simply send the remaining CDs off to a land-fill. After all - 1) a lot of talented people put their blood, sweat & tears into this album, 2) I hate adding to our already over-stuffed landfills and 3) THERE IS GREAT EFFING MUSIC ON THESE CDs!!!!

I hit on an idea popular with a number of street artists and the like. . .I'll leave copies of the CD at locations in and around NYC for folks to find.

So - at the newsstand, you might grab a copy of the paper only to find a CD underneath. . .when you go to take a seat on the downtown A, you might find a CD there on the seat. . .as you walk through Union Sq toward the holiday shops, you may notice a CD there on a bench. . .as you're collecting your tips from a table you served, you may find a CD there as well.

On each CD is a sticker that reads "CONGRATS - you found one! Please enjoy, pass the love forward and have a very merry Christmas! #givelove #givemusic #supersecretsanta"

My hope is my follow NYers (and the odd tourist) will pause for a moment, sense the love & joy that went into the project and ultimately enjoy some rockin' versions of Christmas classics. If that happens, winner-winner! If they go so far as to read the liner notes and are moved to take action, even better. (Again - here is the back story.)

Either way. . . .I'm having fun playing Super Secret Santa this year. It feels good knowing that something we did years ago still has "legs" and can make even more people's lives a little bit brighter. I hope that the folks that pick it up and take it home enjoy it.

Merry Christmas!

And - ho ho ho!

Xmas 2017. . .or is it 1987? '77? '67?

Once again, I've put together a little hand-made Christmas ditty for your listening pleasure (at the end of this post). This year's offering is a bit different from what you're used to hearing from me. . . .but there's good reason for that.

After all - the inspiration came from a number of far-flung places. . .

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Over the summer, I watched a movie and a TV show on The Beatles. The movie was Ron Howard's "Eight Days A Week", which chronicled their story as a live, touring band. As the story goes, touring eventually became a grind - tiresome and pointless (no one could really hear the band at their stadium shows - not even The Beatles). After touring in support of "Revolver", the band came off the road for good to focus on their efforts in the studio.

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Which leads us to the PBS TV show "Sgt. Pepper's Musical Revolution", which did a splendid job of explaining how the Fab Four married numerous musical genres and instrumentation - while pushing the boundaries of the the days' technology. The resulting album blew EVERYONE'S mind and changed popular music forever. 

If you like The Beatles - or simply have a deep interest in music - I highly recommend both the movie and TV show.

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Earlier this fall, Wendy & I binged on "Stranger Things 2". We loved the second season as much as the first. We would have been just a year or two older than the main characters in the show. . .so the story, the kids, the culture, the MUSIC. . . .it was all a blast and a massively fun flash-back. 

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Finally, PBS aired a number of fantastic shows this fall celebrating the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Voyager spacecrafts.  I've long been a nut for space exploration and space travel (and I'm still hoping to go for a ride). Watching these shows - which were heavily peppered with interviews of the folks that worked on the Voyager program - were terribly inspiring. Wow - thinking big! Once in roughly 150 years, the 4 outer-most planets align - which allowed us the chance to sling a device at them so that we might understand them (and ourselves) better. Hugely ambitious! (I wonder if we could pull off anything like that now.) From that journey comes the image "Pale Blue Dot", one of the final photos Voyager snapped before shutting down its cameras and make its way out of our solar system. In the image, there is a yellowish sun-streak on the right-hand side - running from the top to the bottom of the image. A little over half way down the sun-streak is a pale speck. Look closely - its there. That's us. Yup. All of us.

Google the whole story. Pretty awesome.

So - with this year's Christmas ditty, I set a specific goal for myself. This goal was inspired by all of these events and experiences. . .The Beatles pushing the boundaries of music and the recording studio. . .the talented men & women of the Voyager program, who had the vision and gumption to reach out beyond the edges of our solar-system. . .and that weird, ethereal, pulsating synth-sounding song that opens Stranger Things. With all of these serving as inspiration, I wanted to make something that sounds very different from the music I regularly make. . .and I wanted to make it using tools that I don't normally use. 

Give it a minute - it's a slow build. Headphones on. I hope you enjoy.

Please - as always - share you feedback.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

 

When you know, you know.

It has been an amazing journey - years in the making. Challenges around time, distance and schedules necessitated a long gestation period that saw us slowly but steadily shaping and molding ideas. . .basic melodies and lyrics. . . into "radio ready" music.

Throughout the process there are lots of conversations followed by scheduling, recording sessions, editing, more conversations, more sessions, more editing, more conversations. . . .but when you sit the client down in front of the speakers and let them listen to the mix. . .they lean in. . .their body starts to move. . .their head starts to bob. . .without any words whatsoever, you know you're there. What a GREAT feeling!

Give a listen to the entire track, "So Divine" here:

Thanks to the musicians. . .
 - Grammy Award winner Tobias Gebb (Skizm, Lenny Kravitz, Trio West) on drums
 - Darren Lipper (Big Bowl of Soul, Trio Loopy, Kokolo) on bass
 - Roy Dunlap (Wynton Marsalis, John Mayer, Madeline Peyroux) on clavinet and Hammond B3 organ
 - Matt Blanchard (St. Vincent, Ike Sturm, ATL's "Home By Dark") on tenor sax, soprano sax and clarinet
 - Marco Viccaro Bucalone - electric guitar
Finally, yours truly pitched in with some harmonica, claps and vocals.

 

Mastering Wet Mut's "Nightlight"

On Wet Mut's new album "Nightlight", I served as Mastering Engineer.

For those that are unfamiliar, mastering is a process all recordings must go through before their commercial release. Mastering ensures a cohesive listening experience - no matter how widely the arrangements, instrumentation and volumes might vary throughout the course of an album. When properly done, mastering allows the listener to enjoy the entire album seamlessly from beginning to end (otherwise, the listener would be adjusting bass, treble and volume with every new song). 

While working on "Nightlight", I absolutely fell in love with the songs. They poetically ponder life, loss and hope from the perspective of a person transitioning into adulthood during uncertain times. Not only is the songwriting exceptional, but the arrangements and instrumentation simultaneously evoke something familiar and comfortable (utilizing folkie guitars & ukulele) as well as something from the not-so-distant future (incorporating synths & samples) - seamlessly marrying the two vibes. 

I encourage you to give a listen to one of my favorite tracks from the album => "Green Cheese Pie". 

Follow Wet Met on Facebook.

Follow Wet Met on Facebook.

Purchase the album on Bandcamp.

Purchase the album on Bandcamp.

Wet Mut will be touring the new album this summer. Stay tuned for dates and cities.

V.O. Sessions: XPressBet - "We Are Racing"

Few things match the excitement of hearing the bell ring and witnessing 1,000 of lbs of muscle and determination dash out of the starting gate. The folks at XPressBet not only provide a user-friendly way for you and me to get in on that action (legally, online) - they are also uniquely dedicated to reinvesting into the sport. These efforts help to preserve horse-racing's rich history and ensure its future.

XPressBet - "We Are Racing"

The above spot premiered during NBC's broadcast of the inaugural run of the world's newest and richest horse race - the $12.0 million Pegasus World Cup.

It was great fun engineering and recording the voice-over audio for such an epic TV spot at Due South Studios. When working with the talented folks from the creative shop Crush & Lovely and the skilled voice-over actor Jim Haines, it all comes easy. Looking forward to the next one.

For you audiophiles - we used a Neumann U87Ai mic, a Vintech Audio pre-amp and an EL8-X Distressor for the session.

Where are you goin'? Where have you been?

To be successful, you have to be on a trajectory - have a goal, have a plan and execute on that plan. Like a rocket aimed at Saturn, you have to know the direction you need to point yourself and the velocity at which you need to travel in order to be at the same place at the same time that Saturn is. Also - like a rocket ship - you may at some point in your travels realize that you need to adjust your direction or speed. And finally - and most importantly - in order to even begin this trip, you need to a strong and stable pad from which to launch.

Musicians. . . .any musician. . .all musicians. . .unless you're a member of the philharmonic (and even then, I would argue you still have much to gain by embracing this genre). . .the blues is the launching pad for your musical rocket ship.

I've encountered numerous artists over my career who quickly dismiss the blues. Sometimes these nay-sayers are jazz cats that consider the blues to be too structured & limited. Other folks are multi-degreed music-scholars that see the blues at being too simplistic and basic to be worthy of their appreciation. At other times, the doubters are the young-guns that create everything in the box with samples & loops and think of analog instruments as square and outdated.

Admittedly - I too had a similar attitude toward blues music as a young man. After all - I thought - the blues were from a by-gone era. The blues had nothing to do with me, the music I love and the music I wanted to make. . .until I learned better. 

Your journey - if you choose to take it - will be yours. . .so I won't bother you with the specifics of mine. However - the key, as a musician, is not only to be a maker of music but to be a STUDENT of music. After all - when someone wants to be a painter, they investigate the various "schools" and they study the masters. In the end, the best painters surely don't duplicate those that came before them - but they understand the roots of their art, draw on the best of their predecessors and channel it through their own perspective to create something new & unique.

So I encourage you. . .be you a young-gun or a grizzly veteran. . .a jazz-cat and an EDM DJ. . .a singer-songwriter and a pop music producer. . .ask the question "Whose shoulders are those that I and my art stand upon?" And then ask "Who was their inspiration? Whose shoulders did they stand upon?" And then again. . .and again. . .and again. Don't be surprised if this quest leads you to the realization that at the heart of your musical launching pad lies the blues.

And then. . .knowing where you have been. . .knowing where you have been MUSICALLY - long before you were born. . .will you then have a greater understanding and appreciation for where you are going.

Bon voyage!

Sound vs. Music

There are all sorts of sounds that we can create. . . .tapping a pencil against a coffee mug. . .drawing a horse-hair bow across a tightly wound metal string. . .humming a melody. . .recording "found sounds" and playing them back in a sequenced manner. But when do sounds become music?

Read More

Merry Christmas 2016!

Wow - another year has gone by. Here's hoping you & yours had a great one.

This year I'd like to say "thanks for a great year" and "merry Christmas" by extending the gift of an original composition. You're free to listen to the song in the embedded players below or download it (either the CD-quality AIFF file or the lower-resolution AAC file) and enjoy it anywhere/anytime.

You're also welcome to share this song with friends & family. The more the merrier.

This year's song is entitled "The Lamentation of Mr. Claus". Give a listen and you'll get the idea. 

After working this year on mostly pop productions, it was fun to make something intentionally stripped down, lo-fi and pretty much acoustic. It features a kick drum, sleigh bells, upright bass, Fender Rhodes electric piano, blues harmonica (through a bullet mic & tube pre-amp) and vocals.

Please enjoy.

Merry Christmas. . .and have a great 2017.