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SoundCheck: The Recording Club with Jimmy Rea

Courtesy of Jimmy Re?

The pandemic has been hard on all of us. We’re all doing our best, trying to get by. For musician Jimmy Re­­a of the Hillbenders, he saw the pandemic as an opportunity to work on a project he previously didn’t have much time for.

Balisle: What is the recording club?

Re­­a: Well, it's been an idea that I've had for a long, long time. What it really started with, besides all those conversations over the years about wanting to capture and record music, it really came to fruition because I was going through my original catalog trying to see how many original songs I had, because I know there's tons of them that I don't do just because there's not a band to play them in or I don't do solo shows. The main reason is I don't like the way I sing a lot of the time or I don't like the way that my voice fits this or that song. And so it'll just sit. And so I begin to reach out and try to find vocalists to sing my original material. And that's kind of where it started. And I've got a new studio room. And this was an opportunity to kind of break in the room and feel some stuff out and really just get some ideas out. So me and Brandon Moore been working together over there. Steve Ames has sang a song for me. I've sent a few songs out just via Internet so people can be working at their homes on these things as well. And I got Stevie Newman coming in to do some guitar on some stuff. We've had John Anderson in there on drums, Lane Waggoner on saxophone. And so it's just it's just this growing community of folks to come in and do some collaboration, really.

We had Ran [Cummings] in, as well. He came in and sang a song that I wrote, and that one was kind of unique. It turned out to be a song and I had words and everything for it. I couldn't get it to sound right and I couldn't get it to fit right. And so I just took the words out and I sent him to the music alone. I said, “Look, just come up with something.” And he came up with these great words, you know Ran, of course, he’s always got great ideas.

We're deciding on a name. Brandon Moore came up with a great one the other day – The Confluence, Jimmy Re­­a’s Confluence – which is when two rivers come together.

With live music coming back, it's taken a little bit of a backseat, but it's on my platter over the next coming weeks to get some of these mixes out. And I want to have 10, 12 of them done before I roll it out. And just kind of be one of them things where we released one a month or something for a year and continue to bring people in.

Balisle: I think a lot of people would really enjoy that.

Re­­a: Yeah.

Balisle: Tell me where your studio is that you're working out of.

Re­­a: It's actually at Drury University. There was a room to where I could stay set up all the time. It's smaller, obviously, but I can keep my drums miked and everything. Everything's ready. Just plug and play, which makes it a whole lot easier instead of having to set up and break down, set up and break down.

Balisle: There is nothing that takes more time than miking drums for a recording session.

Re­­a: It’s just kind of like, come on! So it's been great, you know. And I'm teaching a little bit over there. The touring schedule went kaput, obviously, for everybody last year, and so I've just kind of been rolling with the punches and putting my eggs in some different baskets that I kind of had. It's a long term goal anyway, of teaching and recording and just being more part of the community, which I've been a part of for a while, but a little deeper part of now. And so some touring will resume, but I want to continue down that path.

It's a relatively small room. You walk in and I have got some colored lights, though, that I can control for my iPhone. So it's like you want purple, you want blue, you know. And it's got the sound treatment on the walls and in the corners. And we've got the drum kit set up in the corner, miked up, ready to go. I've got the Fender Deluxe amp ready to go, miked up. I've got my computer in the other corner and a cabinet above that with all my microphones and stuff like that. A few chairs on the other wall. On the wall, I've got hooks with cables and headphones and stuff like that. So everything's kind of pushed against the wall because it's smaller and that way the open spaces in the middle.

And so, you know, the first one was Brandon Moore came in. We're kind of all starting. He said, “I got this guitar riff,” and he played it for me. I said, “Well, hold on a second, let me get the mic on.” It sounds great. We put it to a click, which is a metronome. And then that way we can begin to cut and paste stuff like, “Oh, it was a little bit sour there, we'll just grab the one before that wasn't sour.” You know, it's all to a click or a rhythm, and that makes it really fast and efficient. And so he laid something down and then we sat there and talked – we put a drum machine on, as well, after that. So it's kind of a click. “OK, we like that one. Let's put a drum machine on.” Because it's much easier to play to a drum machine than it is to just a metronome and people get freaked out by a metronome. But anyway, so we did that and put it down is like, “OK, well, let me just kind of get a little bass on it just so I have some low end.” So I put the bass down and then he had one or two lines that he wanted to sing on it. And then we sat we wrote words together too, which I haven't done a lot of that before. And it was a lot of fun.

Balisle: Like collaborative songwriting?

Re­­a: Yeah, yeah. Like, “How about this line? What's this line? What are we trying to say here?” I haven't done a lot of that and he's just so great to work with. We work really well together. And after that, you know, it's two or three weeks of I try to put a keyboard thing down on it, a little bit of synth on something. We brought a saxophone player in, he stacked a few parts. I put a saxophone part on it to me give it kind of that big horn sound. And then from there, it's kind of like cut and paste. “I don't like that section there. Let's pull that out. Let's try this new intro. Let's try this. How's this feel at the end?” And then just into the mixing phase, you know, and it's ready to go. And so we've got a couple in the hopper. And like I said, I'm trying to build it up before I kind of roll it out or something, maybe put a website or social media together.

We're talking about some videos, too, but all this just begins to pile up. You know, time is money, you know, and it's just kind of like I want to work on it all day long, but I can’t! I got to do stuff that actually makes money.

Balisle: Right? You can’t just do your hobby all day.

Re­­a: Right. But with the love and support of my wife, you know, Melissa, who works here at KSMU, she's allowed me to chase my dreams ever since I've known her.

Balisle: She's a good one.

Re­­a: Yeah, she's great. And her family helps a lot with our son, Archie. And so does my family, too. So we're very lucky. And the main reason I've stayed in this town is just family and friends and always having something going on, you know? And sometimes I regret maybe not slipping away in my 20s and seeing what Colorado was like or California. But at the same time, you know, I didn't want to end up washing dishes somewhere or having three jobs just so I can try and do something else when I knew I was doing it here, you know, so.

Balisle: Well, we're glad to have you.

Re­­a: Well, thank you. It's kind of like was it Jeff Houghton says, you know, “Make something where you're at.”

Balisle: Yes! I love that.

Re­­a: The pandemic, I think, put an exclamation point to the importance of arts and entertainment and gathering and concerts and music and community. And so I'm starting to see that, you know, even just financially just in the tip jar over the past month or so, folks being very generous and really understanding, helping to show me and other musicians the appreciation that they have for it. And then venues really starting to take some chances on events and putting their neck out there and hoping the community shows up. So if you're listening to this and I hope you enjoy the music, I'm playing on this particular program, but there's also tons of live music out there and lots of ways to support it. And we just appreciate you, Springfield.

Jessica Gray Balisle, a Springfield native, grew up listening to KSMU. When she's not wrangling operations and compliance issues, she co-hosts live music show Studio Live and produces arts and culture stories. Jessica plays bass in local band the Hook Knives. She and her husband Todd live with their two cats, Ellie and Jean-Ralphio, and way too many house plants.
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