Thursday, February 4, 2016

Sanctuary recordings

It's been 3 months of wonderful work with the Searcy Sanctuary group.  Thank you all for your dedication and diligence.  Thanks you for letting me be a part of the process.

New music from Sanctuary coming very soon...

Monday, December 22, 2014

Merry Christmas

Here's a treat for everyone this Christmas season! 
Thanks to Collin Littlejohn for his excellent work and heart in the project.

Song can be purchased here:


Monday, October 13, 2014

Night of Worship

Check out the link below for a great Night of Worship coming up.

We're so proud to have had the honor of partnering with the Starks on their EP.  The church needs to learn to "Abide" more and more.  Thanks Josh, Leah and Jarred for helping to spread the Kingdom.

Monday, December 16, 2013

the Yoder sessions

It was a wonderful fall weekend as we partnered with Christian Yoder, the winner of the Midnight Oil Singer-Songwriter Contest, at the Orchard to record his forthcoming EP.  Christian is a fantastic folk songwriter and quite the musician.  He brought in some excellent talent to help him out on these recordings: Eric McMullen, James Easter, and Don Eudaly.  The sessions went great, with Christian's vision for his songs taking shape and coming to life.  Now, as the mix sessions are coming to a close, you can be looking for the EP to be released soon.  Thanks to everyone involved in a wonderful time together of making music and enjoying life.  

Yes, there is even an accordion in the mix for good measure. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

simply worship

With all the recording work recently, life has been full.  It's good to step back from helping to lead worship, in order to just stand with my church family and simply worship.  Perhaps I need this introspection in order to refuel. 

On this theme of stepping back for a minute, I had a good article sent my way:

It's an interview with John Barnett, of the Vineyard movement.  While the article was speaking more to Barnett's experience in his work with the Vineyard church, it also was refreshing to hear his take on worship as a whole. 

He says that it's possible that the Vineyard group are the "has-beens of worship music" but that the ground is fertile.  I don't feel as though this is true, but... it's an interesting perspective.  I agree with Barnett - the ground is indeed fertile.  It was a different John who quoted Jesus as saying: "I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest." 

Barnett summed up worship wonderfully and I needed to hear it:
The essence of Vineyard worship is like this: As musicians and songwriters and everything else, God has gifted us individually. But that gift was for a reason. And that reason is for two things: to bless Him, and to bless his church in order to bless Him. Musicians are called to be matchmakers between the bride and the bridegroom and then get out of the way.
What a beautiful thought!  Worship is multifaceted, but it's good to be refocused and refreshed by such simplicity. Come Holy Spirit!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Interview: Gabriel Wilson, producer

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Gabriel Wilson, co-producer of Bethel Music's TIDES album.  We talked about everything!  So, if you're interested in learning about what a producer does, what this project looked like from the inside and even how in the world they shot the cover photo... continue reading.  Gabriel does a remarkable job in giving details about his life, this project and those involved. 

I do encourage you to get a copy of the album and visit Gabriel's website for more information on what he's up to.


AW - Gabriel, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions.  
GW - You're very welcome... Thanks for asking! 
AW - Let's start by getting an idea about your background with Bethel Church in Redding, CA.  Will you tell how you became connected with this Body and community of faith?
GW - My wife and I first came to Bethel Church in 2010 as students of their School of Worship called "Worship University" (  Even though I have been involved in touring, production, and a lot of other aspects of the Christian Music Industry I wanted to learn more about how to lead and mentor artists and worshippers.  I got that out of Worship University… but I also got a whole lot more.  As every day of school went by I became more and more impressed by the culture of Bethel, and their love for God's presence.  About a year-and-a-half later, my wife and I moved to Redding to be a part of the church and to raise our family in this amazing, vibrant church community.  
I began volunteering on the worship team as a drummer.  Later, I was asked to lead worship.  I continue today to serve as a volunteer on the worship team, leading worship whenever I'm asked.  The Bethel Music Worship Community is unlike anything I've ever been a part of.  Its so ALIVE.  We gather monthly as a team of over 100 musicians with spouses, kids, etc… Its a blast!  We eat together, worship together, pray for each other.  For my wife and I, it's one of the most beautiful parts of being at Bethel Church.  Such a wonderful family… 
AW - You've been in the creative arts industry for almost 20 years.  Tell about how you became a producer and explain how you approach the role in the context of making a record.
GW - I have, yes…  I grew up playing drums, then piano, then guitar… and I started writing songs even from the drums, singing melodies over the top of the grooves I would play.  I eventually wanted to record these ideas.  I bought an old 4-track cassette recorder and started documenting the songs I would write.  I was fascinated with how I could layer different instruments with my 4-track.  Eventually I upgraded to a pair of outdated ADAT machines and a cruddy old soundboard.  With the ADATs I had 16 tracks I could use… I was in HEAVEN.  I actually lived above an old funeral home, which made for some very interesting living conditions. HAHA…  But at the time, it was great because the rent was cheap and I could be as loud as I wanted to after hours.  I would record and experiment, going for vibe, texture, tone… always reaching for something creative.  Later, I began recording in major recording studios on 2" tape and Pro Tools, but the principles I had developed and learned stayed with me… 
I recorded a lot of my own solo projects and bands at this time.  I took my band (Rock n Roll Worship Circus) into the studio and recorded an album that would eventually land us a record deal with Integrity and Sony/Epic.  But in all reality, I didn't really understand the producer's role until I produced my first album for another artist.  At that moment, I was hooked.  I was captivated by the role I was playing in the artists' journey.  It shifted everything for me..  When I first started making records on my own, I was consumed with the "sound" of the album.  When I began producing for other artists, their story and their songs became the most important part of the album.  You can make a great sounding record, but if the songs are mediocre, the album's sound won't matter.  Nobody connects to a good sounding record with mediocre songs, right?  Suddenly my value for the song outweighed my value for the sound… And helping the artist express their heart and tell the story of their journey became my mission.

AW - Recently you co-produced Bethel Music's Tides album.  It sounds great and has been getting some nice reviews.  
GW - Awww… thanks man. We are all really excited and blown away by the reception it has been getting.  Wow! haha

AW - Can you explain how you helped organize the creative talent of Bethel Music team to keep this project moving forward?
GW - The process of making TIDES was actually much different than the majority of albums I've produced.  We actually set out to make a completely different album.  In fact, we hit the studio on Day 1 calling the project "Loft Sessions 2", because that was the album we were asked to begin pre-production on.  So on Day 1 of "Loft Sessions 2", which is sort of an acoustic album, we spent a great deal of time setting up all of the gear we could round up, just to try to push the "LOFT" brand into new sonic territory.  We had Moogs, Rhodes keyboards, old Roland and Multivox synths, a Modular Synth, tons of electric guitars, hi-strung guitars, old vintage drums, basses, an array of old stomp-boxes and pedals --- and of course, at least 2 acoustic guitars…
As we hit the recording floor, we started working on "Breaking Through".  Jeremy Riddle came in to flesh out his song with us, and what we came up with sounded NOTHING like "Loft Sessions 2" should sound.  We texted Brian (Johnson) and Joel Taylor, asking them to come in and check out what we were up to.  They came in, and were a bit surprised to see the array of gear we had going on.  "I thought you guys were gonna start on Loft Sessions 2"??  That was the question on all of their faces… But as the first demo of "Breaking Through" rolled out, Brian and Joel were pumped.  I remember Brian specifically looking at us, slapping his hand down and saying "This is the album we're making right here, fellas.  Loft Sessions 2 is on hold.  Great job guys. Get back to work." And then leaving the studio… I will say this - Brian trusts his team.  Its one of his strengths as a leader.  It was a great feeling for all of us to have such a huge vote of confidence from him and Joel.
From there, the scheduling was insane.  What was supposed to be 2 weeks of pre-production turned into 8-10 weeks of experimenting as our artists were literally writing songs in the studio as we, the producers and band, were doing our best to fuel the process without getting in the way.  We were literally chasing the sound as inspiration would lead, and the songs were being written in the process.  Brian might have an idea "Here's the chorus melody" or what-have-you… All just basic thoughts and song-starts.  From there, it was our job as a production team to work with the musicians to create a backdrop for the artists to flesh out their idea.  Once the lyrics and melody were nailed, we could move forward with the whole sonic frame.  But until then, it was a bit of forward and backward movement on the songs.  Sometimes the artists were the sole writers, but more often than not the songs were a community process involving anywhere from 2-6 other writers.  Scheduling is also a bit of a challenge in our community because of all of the travel our artists are doing, on top of a grueling local church and conference schedule.  Fortunately our writing and recording sessions were largely handled by Bethel Music project manager Kiley Hill.  She's a huge value to our team and process. As you can imagine, it was a bit of a wrestle with the calendar and made for some slow progress.  
About 16 weeks into the project, with the way the scheduling and the writing process was going, we had to shift our strategy.  We realized we couldn't keep paying a weekly rate on the local recording studio and stay on budget, despite them giving us a blowout rate.  So we took the remaining budget and used it to build a make-shift studio in Redding.  It took about a month to build it, wire it up, and set up all of our accumulated gear into the new location.  We decked it out with old barn-wood, and called it "Secret Studio" as it was the most unlikely location for a recording of this magnitude.  Going this route allowed us to take as much time as necessary on TIDES without going over budget. 
From beginning to end, the recording process took 9 months -- with the final song coming together and finally being written while the rest of the record was actually at mix!  
All in all, TIDES was a total community effort.  Without this community, it would have never happened.  Its a part of the challenge of making an album like this, and its also why it turned out so special.

AW - When working on a project, I find that speaking about the "sonic aesthetics"  in pre-produciton meetings greatly help form ideas and drive the praxis of tracking and mixing.  Will you tell us what terms/sounds kept coming up in discussions and how these became realized in the recording and mix process?
GW - Well, we knew we wanted to make a record that would move the Lord's heart.  We knew we wanted to make an authentic album, something which was an accurate picture of our community.  And we knew we wanted to push some new sonic territory as a band.  So we went with the things that are inspiring us most these days.  We used a lot of analog synths (Moog Voyager, Modular Synths, Roland Juno 60 & XP60, Multi-vox synths, etc) in conjunction with Reason/Ableton.  This produced an incredible blend of modern clarity and vintage warmth.  For tracking we used a lot of vintage and ribbon microphones (Royer 121, Coles 4038, RCA 44) along with many modern microphone pre-amps (API, CHANDLER, MANLEY).  We used a lot of vintage dynamics and eq's as well, (1176 Rev D, LA2, Chandler TG1, Altec, etc) with a vintage modded Yamaha Console at the helm.  Our backline selection was also a lot of old Vox and Fender amps.  Our vocal mic selection was surprising to most, but believe it or not, we used an old Shure Unidyne 545SD (basically a vintage SM57) for several of the lead vocal tracks.  We used the RCA 44 for one lead vocal track, and we also used the Blue Mouse for a good deal of the vocals.  
For mix, we used a Harrison Console, along with a great deal of vintage and modern outboard gear.  Craig Alvin (a Portland-native now living in Nashville) helped us mix the album.  He's a SUPER diverse mix engineer, working on everything from Gungor's "I am Mountain" to Amy Grant's latest album, to indie rockers Priory for the Twilight Soundtrack.  There isn't anything that guy can't do. 

AW - What does it look like working with such a Spirit-led group on an album?  
GW - It's not as mystical as it might seem (haha).  But I will say we are very deliberate about leaning into the Lord for our inspiration.  For instance, on Day 1 of pre-production we got all set up, and then we prayed together for awhile--probably close to an hour or so.  We asked for God to inspire us as musicians and producers.  We prayed for him to lead us, and we asked Him to help us make a record that would "move" His heart.  That was it, really.  We just wanted to minister to Him, first and foremost.  At this time, there were no artists in the studio… Just myself, Daniel (co-producer) and a few of our key musicians… But I'm telling you, the atmosphere in the studio was thick.  We were literally moved to tears as we prayed together.  It was from that specific place that we found our creativity for the duration of the 9 month process.  

AW - How is this different from any other project?
GW - The Bethel Music community is exactly that - a community - which means we are working together on a foundation of relationship.  The community approach is pretty special, but does have some unique challenges.  There's a lot of voices giving input over the course of the whole project. On Tides specifically, there are 7 different artists along with 8 or so musicians and players, as well as myself and Daniel Mackenzie as producers.   On most projects you have one artist and maybe 4-5 band members giving their input.  Quite the different scenario here.  
One of the challenges of making an album with 7 different artists is giving the album continuity and flow, framing each artist's voice properly without making the album sound like a compilation album. Also, with 7 distinctly different artists, you have 7 artistic visions and temperaments which need to come under the project's vision as a whole--a challenge for most artists to give way when a song's treatment isn't sounding like they had envisioned.    
Finally, perhaps the greatest of all challenges is learning the different artistic temperaments and how to best channel their creative strength.  My job as a producer sometimes looks more like pastor/midwife/therapist than it does a knob-twirling producer.  And I usually have 10-12 songs on a project to walk an artist through the emotional process of making an album.  In this scenario, I had 1-2 songs per artist… Quite the different path for self-discovery, to say the least.  
I found the best way to go about making TIDES involved a lot of encouragement and over-communication.  The more the artists and musicians know that we are "for them" and that I "believe in them" as the producers, the more they open up and put their heart into their work. Also, clearly defining everyone's role and expectations helped avoid a lot of potential hurt feelings.  It helped the artists put trust and faith into our work as producers.  It allowed for us to have a lot of creative freedom in framing each song sonically, as well as steering the project's vision as a whole.  
Because of our relationships with each other, and our commitment to work together for the long haul, there weren't any conflicts we couldn't work our way through.  Incredibly, our relationships are stronger now with each other than before Tides.  And for me, that's about the best thing I could ask for.  

AW - Tell us about your favorite moment in the making of the Tides record.  
GW - How about moments?  There's just too many great moments to have a favorite! 
Jeremy Riddle's vocal performance at the end of Heaven's Song.  The air was so thick in the room, I started crying with the performance he was delivering.  It is a vocal I will never forget. 
Jenn Johnson's vocal performance on the end of For The Cross… wow.  Just wow.  I believe she gave the best vocal performance of her career on this album.  And For the Cross takes the cake.  She might be my favorite of all vocalists I've worked with.  She's so creatively unpredictable, you never know what she's gonna give you… You have to capture everything, even before you have the sound fully dialed in, because when it hits, its electric!  And you don't wanna miss it.
Writing with Brian Johnson on "Forever" and "Strong in Us".  I didn't set out to be a songwriter on this album, but when I was invited to the table to help Brian flesh out "Forever", I was determined to give him my best work.  Brian is a songwriter's songwriter.  He is SO good.  It is an honor to work with him.  And when he cuts vocals, he WORSHIPS.  Hands raised, every take.  Inspiring.
In fact, the writing process… so much work, and so much fun.  Amazing to have co-written 7 songs on this album with artists I'm such a huge fan of.  A dream come true for me as a songwriter.
Matt's vocal treatment on Give me Jesus.  What a fun time, running one Pro Tools rig into another, and using one to scrub as the other recorded.  Inspired by the Beatles and how they used tape machines.
Writing with Steff… Had the honor of walking her through her writers block.  She wrote Letting Go and Be Still in 48 hours.  She's a champ.
Hunter… what a songwriter.  And what a killer vocalist.  Two takes.  One for us to get sounds… the other to capture.  Done.  That kid has mojo.
Witnessing Daniel Mackenzie program.  Dude is the best at putting the icing on the cake.  He's an incredible colleague.  
The album cover shoot --  a concept I had envisioned and pitched when Joel and the gang held a brainstorming session at the studio.  We all hit the coast of Northern California and threw some furniture in the shallows as the tide was coming in.  The idea was to let the waves come in on the artists, but not have the artists lose their composure.  It was definitely the theme of the album's creative process.  No matter what is happening around us, let's keep our eyes on God and on the goal of making a record that moves His heart.  The water was so, so cold.  But the artists held their composure despite the waves and wind, and Nathan Grubbs NAILED the shoot.  It was a long 15 hour day, but well worth it.  That cover is epic.

BIG THANKS TO GABRIEL WILSON.  Thank you for your heart and your work!