My name is Joe Rathburn. I'm a San Diego based singer songwriter with several CDs under my belt. I've been playing music for a living since 1972 and have done everything from playing backyard parties to corporate events, coffehouses to large festivals, opening for others and headlining.
This CD marks my tenth baseball season performing at The Tin Fish. The Fish is a restaurant half a block from PETCO Park in downtown San Diego. I’ve played there before over seven hundred Padres home games since 2004.
Over the years fans have told me I’m an integral part of their baseball experience. I am honored. I’ve gotten to know whole families of fans and watch their kids grow up. My residency at the Tin Fish means a great deal to me and I hope it continues until, as the late great Steve Goodman put it, “I’ve got season tickets to watch the angels play.”
- Joe Rathburn, March 2013
The Story of The Baseball Songs CD.
(a rough timeline)
An Idea, and an Idea Gets Put on Hold
In retrospect, the story of The Baseball Songs CD is quite remarkable; a miracle in a way that it ever happened at all. I'd originally had the idea for this CD back toward the end of the 2012 baseball season. I realized 2013 would be my tenth season playing music at the Tin Fish before all the Padres home games. I wanted to do something real special to commemorate the occasion. I started devising grand plans for it. T-shirts, ball caps, somehow get Jerry Coleman to record part of Casey at the Bat and stuff like that. I figured I'd start working on it in the fall to get it ready by the home opener sometime in April. The Universe had other plans.
Most of the early fall of 2012 was spent gearing up for the FAR-West music conference. Peggy Watson, David Beldock and I, as the trio Triptych, had been selected for an official showcase at the conference, so there were rehearsals, financial arrangements, applications, making a short Triptych sampler CD, and many other arrangements to be taken care of. Then there was the conference itself, which ran from October 18 through 21. My plan was to start work on The Baseball Songs CD right after the conference. On the morning of October 21, while still in Irvine at FAR-West, I got a call informing me my father-in-law had suffered a stroke. I left the conference early and drove straight home. Needless to say my plans became altered in a big way.
Well, my dear father-in-law, my wife's remaining parent, passed away on October 29. Thus began all of the procedures that naturally follow such an event. It wasn't until about February that I was able to begin thinking about the Baseball Songs CD again, and it suddenly hit me that April was just around the corner. I had to get cracking or the opportunity would come and go without said CD.
Idea Back on Track
First thing I had to do was secure a studio and a producer, so I went to the one I thought was most suited to the project. Jeff Berkley is not only a talented and successful producer with his own studio, but he's an avid baseball fan. I saw him February 16 at Rebecca's Coffeehouse at a musical lovefest for Nancy Mestyanek. I had mentioned the idea to him once earlier in the year, but it was at Rebecca's that I told him time was tight and I needed to get things going. He told me to call him and we'd set things up. I don't think he realized what he was in for.
I kinda knew the look I wanted for the CD art, so with my limited art skills and Microsoft Publisher in hand (not the graphic application of choice for any real graphic artist) I began that stage of the operation. There was not only the CD art to worry about, but the art for the T-shirts and caps I would have to order as rewards for the backers.
Jerry Coleman (Google him)
Earlier I mentioned getting Jerry Coleman to be part of this recording. We'll while on a gig with Roger Friend, a fine drummer I know, I happened to mention the CD project and my hopes of getting Jerry in on it. He said "I know someone who works in the broadcast booth with Jerry!" I asked him if he'd be willing to try to help me get through to him somehow. He said he would!
Kickstarter: Where's the Money Comin' From?
Next step then was to think about how I was going to pay for the project. I'd heard about this thing called Kickstarter. I had pledged money toward a few CDs of friend's who had used it so I had some idea how it worked. I knew that if I was going to use Kickstarter I had to do it right away, and I'd need a video explaining what my project was all about. To me that was the most daunting prospect so far. How was I going to make a plausible video? I would be trying to convince the world that my little CD project was worth a lot of money. I had seen quite a few Kickstarter videos and most of them were pretty slick. I don't even own a video camera. Wait, yes I do, I have an iPhone! OK, but what about editing? I know! I've got Windows Movie Maker! OK, camera, editing, check. Now what about subject matter, script, storyboard etc. I knew I wasn't going to be able to memorize an extended script, and doing multiple takes would drive me nuts if I had to do all the camera work myself too. Well, I came up with a script of all the points I wanted to make about the CD, then I decided just to record one paragraph at a time and edit them all together with crossfades in between. But just me talking wouldn't do the trick so how could I incorporate music into the mix?
I had started the process of making demo recordings of the songs I wanted to include on the CD. I'd just finished a nice tight little version of Take Me Out to the Ballgame. I especially liked that tune because I'd taught myself how to play mandolin for that song and had worked up a pretty cool part. I thought that would be the perfect music to use for the video. So now with an idea of what and how, I went to our little vocal booth closet and set up my iPhone on a mic stand. I staged a static shot up against a wall, brought in a couple of extra lights, taped up my script beside the camera, and, over a period of two days, shot and edited my video. The first part would be me holding and playing my mandolin while reading my lines. The second part was going to be a montage of baseball pictures over the music bed of my demo of Take Me Out to the Ballgame. After a couple more days of editing and tweaking, my Kickstarter video was done.
Then there was the actual Kickstarter process. There were lots of forms to fill out, setting up an Amazon business account and linking it to my bank account. Figuring out what rewards each pledge amount would earn. There was lots of rules and regs to read. I had to configure my Kickstarter page and upload lots of pictures and my video. Then I had to actually work out my production budget and determine what my actual goal would be. After some discussion with certain involved parties, and a good deal of deliberation I decided $10,000 would take care of producer, recording, mixing, mastering, musicians, manufacturing and all other various and sundry costs associated with those things. I was dealing with friends, I was getting some breaks, it was going to be tight, but whatever it takes, this CD was going to happen. (I hoped). I set my goal on my Kickstarter page, hit submit, and waited for Kickstarter to approve my submission. On February 28 I was approved and set my campaign deadline for March 20. I had twenty days to raise $10,000, or bust.
Gettin' Down to Bidnit: The Tracking Sessions
While I had been doing all that Kickstarter stuff I had had several conversations with Jeff Berkley about scheduling. He had at first thought we had more time, but when I finally made it clear to him that I was talking about having finished CDs in my hands in just over a month, the reality hit him. He was concerned it wouldn't be possible by April 9. I then had to make the decision to push back my release date to the April 22, the start of the Padres second home series. Between he and me and Lizzie Wann, who handles his scheduling for him, we managed to squeeze into his already massive workload five tracking dates. With drummer Brian Cantrell, and bassist Jim Reeves, we did the drums, bass and guide vocal and guitar on March 13 and 14. Then I went in and did keeper guitar parts on March 19 and keeper vocals on March 26. We set aside March 30 to bring in Dennis Caplinger to record banjo, mandolin, fiddle and dobro, and Sharon Whyte to record piano. Jim Reeves also did a fix that day, and I fixed a couple of guitar parts. That left only my mandolin parts, B3 and backing vocals. There was also the promised "Backers Session" as part of the reward for those who contributed over a certain amount to the Kickstarter campaign. Those backers would come in and do some clapping to be included on the Centerfield track.
Whatever Happened to Jerry Coleman?
Just about this time Roger Friend (you remember him, right?) called me and said at long last he had finally been able to get through to Jerry Coleman! He had gotten a copy of the demo I had made of my version of Casey at the Bat to Jerry's assistant. She had listened to it and called Jerry and told him she thought he'd really enjoy this project. He called Roger immediately and invited us to come over on Tuesday, March 19. We set up recording equipment in the livingroom of his La Jolla home, overlooking the ocean, and recorded him reading the penultimate stanza of Casey. He was a very gracious and charming host.
I took the Jerry Coleman track to Jeff and we edited it and flew it into the project. Things were starting to gel.
Did We Get The Money Yet?
One must remember that as of those first tracking sessions I still didn't know if I'd have the money to pay for it any of this. My Kickstarter deadline was March 20 and it wasn't until March 19th that we reached the $10,000 goal! I can't tell you the sense of relief I felt when I got that news.
Ben Moore: B3
With funding guaranteed I breathed a sigh of relief and we plowed ahead. We asked Ben Moore if he could record the B3 organ parts at his facility since Jeff was so busy. He agreed and we set that session for April 4th. Jeff sent Ben stereo mixes of the tracks he was to play on and I met him at his studio. He recorded his parts to the tracks Jeff had sent. We loaded them on a hard disc and I took them back to Jeff who flew them into our sessions where they lined up perfectly and sounded amazing.
We had decided that singer songwriter, guitarist Veronica May and multi-instrumentalist singer Barry Cahill would handle the harmony singing on the CD, and though Barry's schedule just happened to be pretty open, Veronica's was not and just wouldn't line up with any available time Jeff had. He was shoehorning me into his schedule anywhere he could, working many extra hours beyond his normal work day. I had just called Veronica and told her it just wasn't going to work when Jeff texted me that he'd found an opening on a Sunday.
Tracking Almost Done
We scheduled all the remaining tracking for one last final marathon on Sunday, April 7. That session was supposed include background vocals by Veronica and Barry, The Backer's clapping session, and my mandolin parts and a couple remaining guitar fixes. About twenty backers came and waited outside the studio in the the cool April evening air while we finished the backing vocals. Then we brought the backers in and recorded them clapping and saying "put me in coach" and they went their merry ways. A great time was had by all. However we didn't get to the mandolin or guitar fixes.
Again, Jeff managed to squeeze in one more session Monday the 8th, for those last things and the tracking was done!
Mixin' and Masterin'
Then it was up to Jeff to mix April 9 and 10. I had to listen to those mixes and get back to Jeff with any changes I wanted made. He had to finish up mixing by the evening of the 11th when he was leaving for Hollywood for two mastering sessions on April 12, one of them being mine.
I got to Lurssen Mastering at about 2:30 on Friday, April 12, just as Jeff was finishing mastering the CD he'd produced for Tolan Shaw. With Grammy winning mastering engineer Gavin Lurssen at the helm we began the process of mastering my CD at about 3:00, and I left the facility around 7:00 with the first draft of my mastered recording in hand. I was cautiously elated. I listened to it all the way back to San Diego and even more the next day. It all sounded great except for a few small things that I just couldn't get past. These were things we should have caught in the tracking/mixing process but hadn't. I was devastated! I couldn't believe that after all this I was going to have to live with these tiny blunders that would have been so easily fixed, but now it was too late! I had to have the finished master to the manufacture by 12 noon Eastern time on Tuesday, April 16!
Saturday morning I sent an email to Jeff, Gavin, and Nikki, Gavin's studio manager explaining what I'd discovered. To my great relief they all said it would still be possible to fix the problems. Jeff, God bless him, arranged for me to come over on Sunday and make the necessary fixes. He then redid the master mixes of those songs and uploaded them for Gavin to download. Gavin made the mastering changes on his end and Nikki sent the files back to me. I successfully uploaded the finished master and my finished artwork to the Discmakers website at 3:00 AM Tuesday, April 16.
So now here I sit on the eve of receiving my finished product feeling relief, joy, gratitude, tired, anxious, excited and a host of other feelings. Gratitude is the big one though. I'm so grateful for how so many came through with pledges of hard earned dollars to fund the project. I'm grateful to Jeff Berkley and Lizzie Wann for their amazing, selfless efforts toward giving me the time I needed to finish the project, and Jeff for his producing/engineering skills, musicianship, good humor, and willingness to make changes and indulge me my fancies. I'm grateful for the efforts of Roger Friend in getting Jerry Coleman. I'm grateful for all the fine musicians on the project who so effortlessly gave such great performances. I'm grateful to Jim Reeves especially for his preparedness and constant encouragement. I'm grateful to God for allowing it all to happen, and I'm eternally grateful to my amazing wife, Mair, who, even in the aftermath of losing her father, still had the beauty of soul to grant me the freedom, time and space to work on this project and get it done, all the time expressing her encouragement and love.
Later this morning UPS will deliver the CDs, and later this afternoon I'll pick up the ball caps and shirts. I'll take the whole shebang down to the Tin Fish and enjoy another day of playing tunes outdoors to good people. I'll give some folks the CDs and apparel they earned through contributing, and sell some to strangers. It will be a momentous occasion, yet it will also be just another day in the life.
$10,000 funding achieved in 20 days. Commencement of tracking to delivery of finished product in 39 days. Over budget by only $600 (caps and shirts were a little more than I figured they'd be). Not bad at all. It could not have been done without many souls working together. That's what I'll take away from this experience. For a brief moment in time, I stirred things up a bit, got the energy flowing and made it touch a lot of folks. I hope it helps. I hope you enjoy the fruits of these efforts.