An Interview about Heavens Gold
1) How long did it take to complete this album? Heaven's Gold is a collection of songs that spans my writing career. Recording started the early part of 2006. Heaven's Gold was completed in October 2008, so the project from start to finish - about two and one half years. The reason it took so long? I just wanted to take my time and create an enjoyable product for the listener. There was no reason for rushing the project, but it did go a bit longer than expected.
2) Who produced Heaven's Gold? I was the producer for Heaven's Gold; however, I had a lot of help. For instance, John Willis did most of the guitar production on the songs he worked on. In other words, John came up with the parts, riffs, etc.. When John played, I rarely had any input. I just sat back and let him do his thing. I also had a lot of help from Lenny Allen.
3) When and why did you move to Utah? I spent a good part of my life in California. I have always enjoyed both the mountains and the coastal areas. My wife Julie and I both enjoyed living in Nashville, but we wanted to return to the west someday. After finishing medical school, Julie applied to several residency programs in the west and was accepted to the University of Utah. At the time my daughter Melanie was living in Salt Lake so that was an added incentive. In 2000 we moved to Salt Lake City.
4) Comparing the Nashville days, did your life totally change? For the first few years I commuted to and from Nashville on a monthly basis because of our business there (Classic Rock Gym). That was kind of a rough time with the transition and all. We sold Classic Rock Gym, an indoor climbing gym, in 2003. Life became much more simple. I miss Nashville, but overall I enjoy the lifestyle here in Salt Lake much more.
5) Do you often do gigs? In the past I have periodically played live, and my plan is to put together a touring schedule along with the release of Heaven's Gold. I hope to be able to put a band together, as I enjoy playing live accompanied by other players. I think the support system not only musically but emotionally is an important factor when on the road.
6) Where did you record Heaven's Gold? Most of the tracking, background vocals, my guitar work, and the mixing was done at my studio in Salt Lake City. Over the course of the eight years we have lived in Salt Lake, I have put together and refined my project studio. For the gear heads out there, I am currently running Pro Logic version 7 on a Power Mac 2.0. My current audio interface is a Motu 828mkII. All of John Willis' guitar work was done at his incredible Pro Tools studio in Nashville. Phil Keaggy recorded his guitars at his studio in Nashville as well. The project was mastered by Richard Dodd of Nashville.
7) Did you often go to Nashville to complete this album? Yes, I made quite a few trips. As stated in the previous paragraph, a good percentage of the guitar work was done in Nashville. Missy Hale's performance on We Need You, was captured in Nashville as well as the background vocalists for this song, Gene and Susan Miller.
8) Why did you choose the title Heaven's Gold, and what is the significance of the feather? The song Heaven's Gold is not only one of the stronger recordings on the album, but the song answers one of the most quintessential questions in our Christian walk - what does our life here on earth boil down to? I think it's a pertinent question that the song addresses well. Heaven's Gold also sets the tone stylistically for the project. I thought it would be a good song to represent the overall concept and vibe. In a nutshell, Heaven's Gold represents the things here on earth that have heavenly consequences. The feather is meant to evoke a heavenly image - an angel. An image that hopefully reminds us of the greater and more important things that lie ahead.
9) Why did you choose You Made Me For You as the first cut on the album?For the opening song, I wanted to use a cut that was not too heavy or difficult for the listener to absorb. I hoped to create a sort of crescendo throughout the album, You Made Me For You seemed to fit the bill for the starter. I think You Made Me For You reveals some of my classic gospel roots. Hopefully the listener will find this song a refreshing and inspiring opener for Heaven's Gold.
10) What do you think is more important, music or lyrics? The lyrics are the message and the music is the vehicle. You can't have one without the other. So I feel like the lyrics and music are equally important.
11) What was the main reason for making this album? Over the years I have written so many songs that have never been recorded. I wanted to make these songs available to everyone. When I first started working on this project, one of my desires was to create a project that would be a blessing to believers. I think Heaven's Gold delivers hope. Many of the songs are about Gods grace and endless love. "Don't Surrender" talks earnestly about the difficulty of living a Christian life and the irony of our attempts to face the challenges of life on our own.
12) Which song(s) best represents your style? That's a tough question because my writing style is quite eclectic. But if pressed, I'd say Heaven's Gold, Build My House and The Treasure are among the songs I have written that I identify with most.
13) Did you play the guitar solo on "Don't Surrender"? It reminded me of Hadley Hockensmith.
I did play the guitar solo on Don't Surrender. Hadley has always been one of my favorite guitar players along with Dean Parks and Larry Carlton. Hadley has also been a mentor. We began collaborating in the early seventies and played together in several Christian bands during that time period. As you know, Hadley produced Never Turnin' Back in 1980 and co-wrote most of the songs on that album. Needless to say, Hadley was an important element of my musical growth, and he still remains a friend. So it's a no brainer that Hadley has been one of my biggest musical influences.
14) Tell me a little about your co-writers, Trendon Darryl Carter, Leisa Speegle and Julie Hibbard. Also Missy Hale. Darryl goes way back. Darryl and I both toured with The Amplified Version from 1976 to 1977, and we became good friends. After leaving the The Amplified Version, Darryl and I stayed in contact for a few years but then lost touch with each other. A few years back, Darryl called out of the blue. We refueled our friendship and began writing. Leisa Speegle is my youngest sister who lives in Oklahoma City. She is an incredible writer and artist whom I have watched mature musically over the years. One of the songs we penned together is The Innocence which was recorded by Jaci Velasquez for the Joshua movie soundtrack.
Julie Hibbard is my wife, also known as "the cleaner." Her specialty is finishing and tightening up lyrics. Julie has added her expertise to my compositions over the years, and she continues to be an important element in my musical career.
I first heard Missy Hale when a friend in Nashville gave me a copy of a five song demo album that she had recorded. Over time I wore the CD out and periodically inquired about her development. I was in Gene Miller's studio doing background vocals for one of the songs on Heaven's Gold when Missy's name came up. It so happened that Missy was a good friends of Gene and his wife Susan. "We Need You" was in need of a female vocalist, and Missy was more than happy to add her unique vocal style to the recording.
15) How did Vizor Music come into existence? Vizor Music was created in 1999 and released its first record, "Time Waits," in 2000. The long term goal of Vizor music is to develop and introduce new talent into the musical marketplace.
16) More thoughts on Heaven's Gold? Heaven's Gold Collection is an album dedicated to the listener. Before beginning this project, I prayed that God would truly guide my heart in selecting the songs. My desire was to create a tool that God could use to strengthen lives and bring hope to those struggling with their Christian walk.
17) What are the differences between Time Waits and Heaven's Gold? There are many differences as well as several similarities between the two projects. For starters of course, the two projects differ in content. Heaven's Gold is straight up contemporary Christian. Time Waits is more of a secular offering, with a pop jazz influence. Technically the two albums were produced using a similar strategy. The idea that a song has an inherent direction production-wise is a concept I try to follow. As opposed to making all the songs on a CD fit in the same vein, I tend to follow the natural production flow for each particular song. Sometimes that can be bad if there is to much diversity between songs, but if carefully constructed, this concept can allow diversity and interest to enhance a project. I think one of the masters of this concept is Sting. I like variety in music and tend to get bored with too much of the same. Hopefully I've been able to add fun and diversity to these projects.