TRAINWRECKLOVESONG originally began in the winter of 2015 as a collection of songs that I had written over the past ten years. These were songs that I felt were good and deserved further attention, but for some reason I had never finished or recorded them in any fashion. A few of them had never been played outside of my bedroom for anyone other than myself. I brought these songs to Shookie (Eric Schuchmann, producer and engineer) with the idea of making an EP that I would release as a solo project.
My initial plan was to record the entire project myself, with as little help from outside musicians as possible, in the same vein as “McCartney” by Paul McCartney, or the Foo Fighters eponymous debut. After some discussion we decided that the songs deserved more than what I could do alone (specifically in the percussion department), and so we set out to try to find a drummer to work with the demos that we had already laid down. I had known Matt Carlock from his work with the band Mustache, as well as the Rugs, and we had both played for a short time in the group HeartPunch. Matt is easily one of the most gifted musicians I have ever known, and a fantastic drummer to boot. He came in and laid down tracks for the first five tracks that we had started, and in less than two hours we had turned simple demos into songs that resemble what you hear now. We then spent the next eight months slowly building those songs up and trying new things and ideas to give them life.
It was always my intention to record this record slowly, giving the songs time to grow. When I was a kid I would spend countless hours reading about the recording processes of albums like “Sgt. Pepper”, “Pet Sounds”, and “Dark Side of the Moon”. I loved the idea of using the studio as an instrument; of not being pressured by budgets and egos and the limitations those things impose. I wanted to record an album in the way that my heroes had done, even if it meant slowing the process down and making it more expensive as well. This was possibly the only time in my life that I would be afforded the chance to do this, and I wanted to have no regrets.
After the first year we had an EP’s worth of songs finished, but I wasn’t too keen on ending the process there. Part of it was out of the sheer enjoyment I had building these songs up, and the other half was probably fear of not being ready to allow them to see the light of day. With that as motivation I sat down to write a couple of new songs, and to find another few to add to make this a full-length LP. This second batch of songs went somewhat quickly compared to the first. Our little team had learned each other’s rhythms and workflows and were able to be creative and experiment, but while being very efficient in how we recorded the basic tracks. It was during the recording of the last three songs on the album that Matt suggested that his good friend and musical partner, Dennis Faught, would be a perfect addition to help finish the record.
I’ve always been a mediocre bass player at best. I can learn the lines that others have written, but if it comes down to me creating a nice, melodic bassline, I am not of much help. You can expect quarter root notes from me, and not much else. Dennis is a melodic bass player in the classic sense. On his first session, he asked me how I would like him to approach a certain part; comparing a more simple approach to one with a little more movement and melody, calling it a more “John McVie sounding line”. He had me at McVie.
We tracked the final three songs as a live band. It was a lot of fun watching Matt and Dennis work, figuring out their parts quickly, yet always paying attention to the smallest of details. There are so many subtle facets in their arrangement ideas that most people will never notice, but they change the flow of the songs in dramatic ways. Working with the two of them was one of the most musically rewarding experiences of my life, and I am grateful for every second I got to spend learning from their expertise.
Once the ten songs were close to completion, Dennis went back and replaced a few of my basslines in places where we felt it could use a little more counter-melody. We had our good friend and ever talented guitarist Stevie Newman come in and add slide parts to “Somebody New”, and we invited Joe Terry to come and add piano to the same track, as well as some Wurlitzer to “Fire Away”.
In the end I chose to refer to the project as “the Substitutions” simply because I have always preferred being in a band to being solo. Even though this isn’t a band in the traditional sense of the word, I felt as though this project became something more than just my hiring session players. Each person involved in this record gave me much more than I ever could have expected, gave up their personal time and resources to see that the end result was as great as it could possibly be. And while this record will probably never be performed in a live setting, and you will probably never catch “the Substitutions” playing your local club or planning a support tour, the resulting album is certainly more deserving to be billed as a collaborative effort as opposed to a solo one.
So, after two years of toiling and experimenting and scrapping and bringing songs back from the dead, we finally have a completed record. Ten songs that I think are the best that I’ve had a hand in. My only hope is that maybe one or two people find something in there that speaks to them in the same way that so much great music has spoken to me over the years. Thank you for taking to time to listen, and to form an opinion, good or bad, about what we’ve created. It’s an honor to have you here.