Crooked Forest Release: The Clearing

It’s here, it’s here!

Today on bandcamp & all major streaming providers excluding Spotify & Amazon Music, my first official full-length record “The Clearing” is available for your listening enjoyment or relentless criticism!

When you order the album on Bandcamp for $10 CAD you’ll get all 10-tracks plus 4 bonus tracks, including the full-band release of “Wasted Time” ft. Shane Slimmon on drums, the acoustic alternate of “If Not Now”, and previously unreleased acoustic cuts of “Champagne Birthday” and my live-in-studio cover of Jimmy Eat World’s “Always Be”. You’ll also get the official album artwork including lyric booklet, designed by yours truly.

The Making of the Record

If you’ve been here since I started this band back in 2020, some of this might seem a little redundant but I think it’s worth repeating and, I’m just going to go ahead and run off the assumption that for most of you, it’s your first time here.

The official track list features a lot of songs that I’d otherwise put out previously as rough demo’s, which in part gave me a lot of pause in whether or not they should be included in this record, like the original 3-releases from “A Quiet Place To Scream“.

First I’d just like to mention that these are all brand new mixes with re-recorded vocals and for many of them, re-recorded bass and guitar tracks and cleaner drum programming, so in actuality they are brand new releases and I’m really proud of how they’ve turned out.

While I was stoked to get A Quiet Place To Scream out into the world in July 2020, they were meant to serve as an introduction to my sound, my style, my songwriting and in a lot of ways a bit of an experiment as to what I could get away with tracking at the time with only two microphones and 1 guitar amplifier.

At the time, I was surprised at what I was able to get away with but upon listening back, even on release day, I felt like I wasn’t showcasing my best work.

Of course how could I have when I was only just getting my feet wet with learning how to sing, learning how to put together full arrangements without the support of other players, and re-learning how to use all the tools I had neglected in the years leading up to the pandemic.

But I always had it in my mind that that was totally okay, everyone’s gotta start somewhere and when I eventually have the money and resources to track my full-length record, it’ll be different; it’ll feel different.

And I’ve mentioned this a lot but my goal for my debut full-length record had always been to track it in a professional studio with live drumming, and preferably, support players. One of the biggest draws to playing in bands for me when I was younger and even now has always been the camaraderie that comes along with it and the feeling of sharing that experience with others. Plus, working with other musicians has a way of shaping songs that’s an entirely different animal from doing it all yourself.

I held on to that goal throughout all my subsequent demo releases, using those same recordings as a way to attract players that might be interested in this style of music and hopefully, be attracted enough to it that they want to join in.

Of course, COVID-19 and the pandemic had other plans for us here in Canada and playing music with others has been just about near impossible given our heavy restrictions, rehearsal space closures and, otherwise, my own reluctance to break away from the advice of health care professionals – and so I’ve pressed on with this solo.

And an interesting thing happened while I carried on refining these songs and writing new ones – I realized that actually, maybe songwriting in this way just works better for someone like me. After all, so many of my favourite musicians have gone about their records in much of the same way, later employing session musicians for live performances but otherwise taking on the bulk of the writing and even the recording and mixing themselves.

Growing up when I’d see bands performing or working on songs, I’d often tell myself “I could do that” and.. hell, “I WANT to do that!” and here I was… doing that.

I’d never really considered it in this way, but something else was happening at the same time.

I was noticing myself getting a little better every time.

Writing a riff that was a little more ear-pleasing, a hook that seemed to catch me off guard and suck me back in, a bass line that… was I writing bass lines? Is this bass?

It might seem insane to some reading this who haven’t yet had the experience of writing their own music but it has this funny way of taking you by surprise… regularly.

My vocals went from shrill & shrieking to at times settling nicely into the grooves of my acoustic guitar. Was I in tune there? I think I’m singing in tune there!

With every demo recording release I gained a tiny bit more confidence and ultimately I realized, hey maybe I don’t need to bring this thing to a professional recording studio anyways, maybe I just needed to give it a little more time and care. Maybe I’d be prouder of my efforts if I kept at it this way, knowing by the time it reached completion, I could sit back and listen and say, “I did that. I made that thing all by myself.”

And again I’m not necessarily someone that needs to take on every detail of a project my self – it literally goes against my natural instinct to be around others to share in the experience – but there is something to be said about seeing something from scratch to end and as someone that has otherwise so often put down my instruments and put down my pens, I can’t help but feel like it always had to be created in this way.

Encouraged by the polite response to A Quiet Place to Scream, I finished this record in much of the same way, with one major distinction.

I recorded the entirety of The Clearing at home using the same equipment; my Apollo twin, a Shure SM57, an Audiotechnica 2020, my CGC bass, my Gibson Les Paul Special Custom, my newly acquired Martin Dreadnought acoustic (an impulse buy in the winter of 2020), old Norm – my Norman acoustic, and my own voice, layered where necessary.

The change? With A Quiet Place to Scream I was running everything on my 2012 Mac Mini which, although it is on its last legs, was stocked full of great plug-ins from my pro-recording studio days.

This time I updated my Pro Tools rig to 11, bought just 2 plug-ins (the DBX 160 Compressor and a Neve 1073 pre-amp), and everything else I used comes stock with the DAW and the Apollo. I actually didn’t use many plug-ins at all in the entire thing, save for some D-Verb, EQ and Compressor, this record is almost entirely the raw recordings as I performed them.

In the years I spent working in pro studio environments, you hear a lot about how in order to make a great record you need to spend big bucks for the best engineers, best rooms, and the best outboard gear – and while I cannot deny that there is certainly a difference in sonic quality when you go that route and still very much aspire to create in those same rooms, it laughs in the face of everything I’ve ever known about great music. A great song will sound just as great on a grainy old 8-track as it will on a slightly less-grainy cassette, as it will on a 16bit CD, as it will on high-fidelity speakers in the worlds best mixing room.

The Clearing, to me, proves that you don’t need the best gear to write and record a great record that you can be proud of and with this release I encourage every musician I know to try and do the same.

I was 13 when I started playing guitar and dreamt up the goal of doing exactly this – I’m 31 today. It’s been a long road but I can genuinely say I have never been so proud of anything I’ve done in my life as I am with this album.

I really hope you enjoy it & if you do, good news! There’s more to come.

Watch the official DIY music video for “Camp” now on my YouTube channel!

No music video budget? No problem. Try using stock video footage, there’s lots of website you can download clips for free, like Videezy.

What’s Next?

I wrote these songs between February and August 2020, each telling a story I’ve always wanted to share but wasn’t quite sure how. I’ll be diving further into each one in its own blog post, similar to the track by track of Jestem Krzywym Lasem I did back in October 2021.

Make sure you subscribe to the blog to get each post delivered straight to your inbox, or feel free to come back anytime. The first one will be out this week.

Edit: It’s here! Click me to read the first in The Clearing Track By Track: Champagne Birthday

And finally…

Join me in a live-listen through of “The Clearing” today at 3PM EST on YouTube!

While the record is slated to begin hitting streaming services at 1PM EST today, those of you who don’t use digital streamers for whatever reason can listen through live with me at 3PM today on my channel. Click the header to set a reminder.

Can’t make the stream? No problem. It’ll just be there every day afterwards, too, so you can head over whenever it’s more convenient for ya.

Thanks again & talk to ya soon!


Read All Ten Blog Breakdowns of The Clearing Below:

Track 1: Champagne Birthday
Track 2: Pressure Cooker
Track 3: Camp
Track 4: Still Catching Up
Track 5: All On Me
Track 6: Little Fish
Track 7: Lie To Me
Track 8: Asleep/Dead
Track 9: If Not Now
Track 10: Tradition

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