For the past close to a year, i’ve been working on recording and mixing a collection of original songs by Shavano, an 79-yr old piano player / singer who lives in the same mountainous, forested region of Colorado as me. He dwells in a house built with his own hands, which is powered exclusively by solar and wind energy, on an amazing property with stone-lined paths twisting here and there. It feels like something from a fantasy novel, a magical space that is totally separate from the rest of the world.
It took me three years of occasionally urging Shavano (at events like birthday parties, weddings and such) to convince him to begin recording his original songs, to be able to share with his extended family and in order to document his compositions. Once we started the project rolling, i would go over to his house every couple of weeks with a laptop, audio interface and microphones, and record takes of him playing, then take those back to my home studio to work on. We managed to get twenty-six original pieces out, plus one cover. The composition dates for the originals ranges from all the way back in 1980 to this year, 2019.
I am delighted to report that the project is complete and the music is now available! You can listen and download the album Progressive Energy Transfer for free over at shavano.bandcamp.com. Each song has individual info, lyrics, and a custom image, so it’s worth clicking around between them to peruse the associated lore.
These songs were described to me by an early listener as being “both vintage and modern at the same time” and i think that sums up the feel pretty well. The recordings have a very raw, down-home feel, without being sanitized to oblivion… you can sometimes hear sounds come through such as fingers hitting keys and the rustling of music sheets. These touches of reality are kept in intentionally to a degree, preserving the realistic feel of an actual performance happening in a real place. We did not use click-tracks whatsoever, because doing so really wouldn’t suit the style of emotionally-driven music that Shavano writes. There’s more than enough overly polished, perfectly tuned, plastic music being made in this current era, in my opinion, so this to me feels like a refreshingly grounded exploration of authenticity. All that said, care was taken to present the songs with ultra-high-quality production for a tasteful and refined listening experience.
Most of the tracks are solo piano, quite a few include singing, and a handful have extra instrumentation or sound design going on. We used a variety of keyboards and timbres to keep things fresh and tonally dynamic from song to song. There are a few spots here and there where Shavano played things somewhat “imperfectly” due to his improvisatory nature, but in the spirit of going-with-the-flow and in the interest of “actually releasing the music at some point”, we’ve let these “imperfections” slide. You won’t know where they are anyways, i promise. Overall, we’re left with a poignant, rustic, quaint and heartwarming feel.
In closing, if you feel like you’ve been dragging your feet about producing and releasing the songs you’ve written, don’t feel too bad. This dude is a great-grandfather and he’s just now releasing his first album, including some songs that are nearly 4 decades old. It’s never too late!
Photography credit: Brian Elyo aka mobdividual.
Oh, and here’s a music video for the song “Clouds” i made, just for fun.