Whistlestop Bio. 2008
It was a cold sunny day in early January 2006 when Mike Roy met Rob Watson. Mike had just started a job at company called Design Dimension where Rob had been holding it down for almost 9 years. The two were warned of each other’s music-making before actually meeting, causing their first exchange to go something like:
“Hey, I hear you write songs” “Yeah, I hear you do too.”
That’s where similarities began, but hardly where they ended. Rob and Mike’s wives turned out to be old friends from high school. Each couple had a baby girl, with baby boys on the way (one for Mike & Eileen, twins for Rob and Joanna!) They both also lived in Apex, NC allowing them to share the 30 min. commute into Raleigh. This was a great arrangement, as it not only saved gas money and the environment, but the time also proved to be very fertile creatively. There was much prayer and reading of Scripture in those 30 min. rides to work. As iron sharpens iron, the Good Book says, so one man sharpens another. Sharpening sparks flew, and The Whistlestop was born.
Rob and Mike each had solo albums they were still reluctantly performing from. Mike moved down from Baltimore to marry his Apex-based beauty, left his band behind in 2004. Rob was playing with a conglomerate of Raleigh rock-specialists to support his solo effort. Leaving the past behind was freedom, and the beginning of finding a new (old) sound to dig into in collaboration. The common ground arrived at was something very familiar and welcoming to both. The melodies and song structures that were popping up were comfortable like an old blanket, and reminiscent of good things gone by.
The carpool era didn’t last long. Rob got a new job in May of 2006. While collaborative song-writing time became harder to come by, the parameters of this new project had been set, and the material kept trickling in. By the middle of 2006 there were about 7 – 10 solid Whistlestop songs, and the first few performances had been given.
Rob had been asked to play a solo set at Raleigh’s (now defunct) Bickett Gallery. He had asked upright bass playing pal (and Raleigh Rock Royalty) Peewee Watson to join in on a few tunes. At the last minute Rob asked Mike to come along as well and do a few of the Whistlestop songs that they had finished. It was that fateful night, in front of a rapt audience of approximately 12 – 16 people, when the project was taken to the next level.
Peewee dug it, he wanted in! Along with then drummer Joshua Snyder, the quartet played several more shows. Now with sweet three-part harmonies and Peewee’s expert song tweaking, the idea of recording became preeminent.
Mike Roy had long been a fan of artist Daniel Smith (of the Danielson Famile). Dan had his own recording studio, so Mike contacted him to see if he’d be interested in recording the Whistlestop. Dan said he liked what he heard, and would indeed be interested. The tentative dates were set for late summer, early fall of 2007. Everyone was excited. New songs were written; a few more shows were played. Piano player Lonnie Coultier joined for a few memorable performances (solidifying the need for piano on most of the material.)
As summer wore on, it became more and more apparent that a trip to Daniel Smith’s studio in New Jersey was not going to be financially or logistically possible. The plan was reluctantly called off. The Whistlestop record was back at square one.
Peewee Watson, being the very connected music man he is, said, “Hey, I know who should produce this record, he’s perfect for the job… Me!”
Mike’s main request was to record as live and as quickly as possible. So Peewee set to work, right away calling John Plymale at Overdub Lane in Durham. Then Peewee nailed down the amazing Jim Crew to handle all of the keyed instruments. Scott Miller was the hired-gun on guitar, with deadly accuracy. Kevin Boxell signed on for drumming duties, and rehearsals began. By now it was already late Fall of 2007, so the recording studio was booked for Feb. 1– 4 of 2008.
That weekend would prove to be a magical one. A dozen tunes laid themselves down in just four days. The bulk of each song was tracked live; with drums and amplifiers, isolated in separate rooms, and the rest of the players and acoustic instruments in a larger tracking room. Overdubs were reserved mostly for background vocals, organ parts, and a guitar part or two.
The band excitedly awaits the album’s release now. They hope it marks the beginning of a long string of albums worth listening to, and live performances worth remembering.