3. Across The Earth

RAQUETTE LAKE, NEW YORK SUMMER  2011

That's Teddy on the left, holding the banjo. The bachelor in question is on the left. The best man is to the right, assisted by the best dog.

That's Teddy on the left, holding the banjo. The bachelor in question is on the left. The best man is to the right, assisted by the best dog.

This song was conceived on August 20, 2011. That's what the date says on this voice memo I've been saving.

I was at a friend's camp on an island in upstate New York for a bachelor party. 

That night in 2011, Teddy, a camp regular, was playing the banjo like he was leading the marching band at a rugby match on a pirate ship, and my friend Greg and I were just trying to keep up.  

These were the Hotels & Highways days and I was particularly on the hunt for a song.  I try to have a little slice of my brain set aside that's like an objective journalist following me along in life holding out his tape recorder. Unlike my inner artist who is shy, insecure and questioning, this inner journalist is not questioning, insecure or shy. He's got the assignment of his dreams, he's following along an artist at work.

I just have to train myself that whenever I hear that little confident journalist voice inside say "record this", and every so often...well, that's the kind of easy magic I named this whole thing after. 

That night, 5 years ago, in what seems like an entirely different life, that's what happened. 

It sounded like this:

For those who are curious (like my lawyer) that riff Teddy is playing is a rough approximation of a song called "Spotted Pony". It's a traditional song and is what is considered "public domain" -- we either don't know who wrote it or their copyright expired after a hundred years. Here's a video of serene fellow demonstrating that song. 

One Year and 2 months Later (Fall 2012)

November 26, 2012 should be considered the first session for "Easy Magic."

Jer Coons, Zac Clark and Dylan Allen converged at my studio in Ventura for a writing weekend. 

I brought this song to the guys and we very quickly recorded it. Jer played banjo, Dylan played guitar and bass, Zac played drums, we recorded all kinds of vocals. Jer went back to Vermont and started sending us mixes of our new song. 

We got pretty far in the mixing process and three things bothered me about the recording we made, all of which were on me. 

First, there was my vocal performance. I had taken on a character in the vocal that, at the time, sounded authoritative and confident but in the end just didn't sound like me.

Second, there was the lyric. I had used a Train metaphor, so the chorus was "We will ride a train across the earth." It was close, but no cigar, least of all because "riding a train" is a theme Patrick had explored with much more poignancy in the Hotels & Highways song "Train Whistle". The verses had more railway metaphors in them and all of this steam-powered imagery was somehow diluting the whole point of the song. 

Finally, I hadn't insisted on giving Zac proper drumsticks when we recorded his playing. He played a great, laid-back beautiful drum part...with giant brushes so the drums didn't have any impact on tape. 

Those three things, plus my uncertainty about what to do with the song (release it, don't release it...) stalled things for a few years. Yes, I said years. No, I can't believe it either.

Here's the last mix Jer made of that recording session. 

Zac Clark, before his hair and beard achieved wizard length with the culprit brushes.

Zac Clark, before his hair and beard achieved wizard length with the culprit brushes.

Jer Coons and Dylan Allen

Jer Coons and Dylan Allen

Then and Now Meet (Easy Magic Sessions)

The song I was still calling "Train Across The Earth" was at the top of my list to re-record in May.

But actually, the recording we made at my house isn't the recording you're hearing.

It turned out, once I came back to the sessions after all the guys had left, we had recorded it too slowly. Plain and simple -- a very rookie mistake. If we had just checked the tape, we would have known. But we didn't, and in a way I'm glad we didn't.

Instead, I was forced to re-examine that original recording with Jer, Dylan and Zac and discover that it had all the energy we needed. I re-recorded Zac's drums with sticks and I dug into to finish the lyrics and the vocal. 

What you're hearing today is the result of almost 5 years of work. It's essentially time traveling through different phases in my life, as I, *ahem* found my way across the earth.

It's always a slippery slope telling myself something isn't finished or isn't up to a standard. Whose standard? Will the work ever be done?

Every situation is different, and this one has a happy ending.

I was able to successfully navigate that question with a great deal of help from my crew and some skill of my own, if not efficiency.


ACROSS THE EARTH
(Sidney, Allen, Clark, Coons)

LEAD VOCAL + RHTHYM GUITAR - Erin "Syd" Sidney     
BACKGROUND VOCALS - Zac Clark, Jer Coons, Dylan Allen, Mia Dyson + Joe Ballaro
DRUMS - Syd  GUITAR - Dylan Allen   KEYS - Zac Clark  BASS- Dylan Allen

ENGINEERED by Jer Coons, Daniel Wright & Syd
MIXED + MASTERED by Jason Mariani

Had our worries then we lost em
In Desert skies and canyon blossoms
As we find our way across the
Mountains and the valleys of the earth

The rails they rattle over rivers
We are passengers we're drifters
Storms may gather in the distance
We will find our way across the earth

Woah lose our troubles by the mile
Woah watch the sun light up the sky
Woah and we'll never say goodbye
We will find our way across the earth

Snow fall in a northern forest
An ocean break in California
it’s like the world was made just for us
As we find our way across the earth

Though we have no destination
We know there is some final station
But still we have today
to carry on, to find our way across the earth

and if it takes all day and night
if we’re not looking for what we find
then we’ll just head out tomorrow

We will find our way across this
No matter what the ticket costs us
We will find our way across the earth