When they released Sleeping Dogs two years ago, Rob and Jen Slocumb were simply hoping to make a good record that would sell.
They had worked to produce a disc that would attract attention from bigger record labels and make Martha's Trouble a more recognizable entity on the folk music scene.
The Canadian music duo got what they were bargaining for, and much more.
Sleeping Dogs is MT's best selling release to date, and has garnered its fair share of attention with movers and shakers in the folk music industry.
"That record got us in the door with people," said Rob, who manages the day-to-day business aspects for the husband-wife team.
The effort grabbed rave reviews and earned Martha's Trouble some hard to land festival dates where the couple have rubbed elbows with stellar artists like Greg Brown.
The CD got the attention of booking agents and even landed a tune, Some Peace Tonight, in a CBS movie starring Ted Danson and Mary Steenbergen.
Now, Rob and Jen Slocumb are poised for even greater success with their new release entitled Forget October.
"This disc represents a departure for us," said Jen Slocumb, lead vocalist for the group. "We've taken some chances artistically, and these songs reflect our creative growth."
The Slocumbs' paths converged in Houston a decade ago, and when they met there was an almost instantaneous recognition that they would make beautiful music together.
Jen was born and raised in Canada, while Rob, whose father was an executive with Texaco, moved about the southeastern United States throughout his childhood.
Neither one has any formal music training, but they've got more want-to than most groups plying their trade out there on the circuit.
This attitude shows up in their music, which chronicles their life and times, and whose tone isn't the least bit pretentious.
"We just try to be real and personal with our songs," said Jen. "Rob and I make music from our hearts and we share it with our audiences as though they were friends we haven't seen in a while."
LET'S TALK ABOUT THE FORGET OCTOBER SESSIONS.
ROB: We recorded at Hollow Reed Studios in Asheville, North Carolina. It was a great set-up this time around because the whole house had been converted to a studio with a guest room. So, we could live, eat and work all in the same place.
JEN: We wanted to work with the same producers, Chris Rosser and Jerry York since there seems to be great chemistry when the four of us commence on a project. For this record we wanted to expand a bit, and bring in some other musicians but the only guest turned out to be River Guerguerian who played all the drums on the record.
WHAT WAS YOUR APPROACH TO THE RECORDING PROCESS?
JEN: Our approach was pretty simple. We wanted to make the best record we could with as much tasteful production as possible. Adding drums would be significant because our last three albums were percussion only. Along with that we wanted to experiment with different synth sounds and electric sounds and see how we could incorporate them into these 12 songs. The trick would be do this in a way in which we didn't lose our sound, but only evolved it.
WAS 'EVOLVING' AN ISSUE FOR YOU?
ROB: Yes, an important one. We didn't want to lose who we were or alienate our fans. They've been accustomed to something a little less complicated production-wise.
WHAT WERE SOME OTHER FACTORS THAT MADE THIS RECORDING DIFFERENT?
JEN: Well, one important factor was being able to take our time with the recording. We had the opportunity to get away from it many times and come back to the studio with a clear focus. This is something we haven't done in the past and it allowed the tracks to breathe a little more.
TALK TO ME ABOUT THE RECORDING PROCESS. OBVIOUSLY, ALLOWING FOR MORE TIME TO MAKE CREATIVE DECISIONS CHANGED YOUR APPROACH.
ROB: We wanted to take our time with this album and not be on any deadline. Our thinking with this is that we could really make a good record. So we started around Thanksgiving last year and did a little pre-production with our producers and then laid the drums down. During the month of December we spent time at the studio laying down parts while trying to maintain a busy tour schedule. Once we got all the parts down we did a rough mix and then a couple of final mixes.
ANY PARTICULAR SESSIONS STAND OUT FOR YOU?
ROB: For She Hear's A Train, we decided to go with a spare arrangement, just piano & voice. So for this, we thought it would be nice to find a studio with a grand piano. We took an evening and went to Charlotte, NC and recorded the song at the Acoustic Barn studio. The recording of that song that night was very moving.
ONCE RECORDING WAS FINISHED, YOU STILL HAD TO MIX AND MASTER. CARE TO ELABORATE ON THAT PROCESS.
ROB: We finished mixing in March, and mastering was done in early April by Bob Boyd at Ambient Digital in Houston. Mastering is a process that is the final critical stage in making a beautiful-sounding recording, sort of like polishing the car. It brings out the shine. (Laughs)
ANY FINAL THOUGHTS?
JEN: We hope listeners enjoy what we've done here. We had a great time making this record and that really comes through when we've let people listen. We're focused and ready to go.