Working with Brian Humphrey

He keeps asking us to die. Really. He talked a lot about how we were gonna be “Doing a lot of dying this weekend”. It was intense, but it’s supposed to be an intense process when someone pushes you past your comfort zone. But that’s when you grow. It’s when you’re at your best and you do your best work.

He came in on Friday, arriving just as we were loading out for the Metro. A bit of background about Brian: We found him ’cause he helped produce a few tracks on State Radio’s first record Us Against the Crown. He did Camilo & Mr. Larkin- both amazing songs, and the production was really good. So Mike tracked him down and asked him to produce our first record, Jump the Fence.

He flew out in November of 2007 and we rehearsed all weeekend on 8 songs. I’m talking 12 and 14 hour days. It was long and strenuous. Then he came back in December for 11 days at CRC and we made the record together.

It’s been a while since we saw him- we worked with Jeff Piper on the double single- he was in the studio for Jump the Fence helping out, and we wanted to work with him more closely. He’s one hell of a guy as well. For this next, upcoming record we asked Brian to be involved again. He pushes us really hard.

So he came into town for the Metro show, said hey to Chad and then Saturday morning we got to work. If you know our songs, we’re working on Ghost of the Road, One Bedroom For Two, Like You Like Me Like Me (Myspace), Uptown, Wreckage and Lazarus.

He had us really focus on our parts. This meant re-writing a lot of the stuff we’ve been working on for the last few months. As a songwriter, and as someone who’s played guitar since he was about six, this is really hard for me. I kept hearing that the parts I wrote were stepping on the vocals or too busy. So there was a lot of simplifying that I had to do. And then also making my parts more complicated.

In ways, I was working too hard: I was trying to write a catchy guitar hook for every part of the song. That doesn’t need to happen. They’re good songs- but part of that is an ego thing: you want to show off how good you are, you want to play the stuff that people remember, and you kinda wanna show off. But when you do that, you screw up the whole dynamic of the song. And when I say YOU, I mean I, just to be clear.

So even when I’d written a good part Brian was often saying things like, “I like that, it’s good. I think you can do better. Let’s work with it.” And he was right. Nearly every time. I could do better, but I needed to be pushed outside of the comfortable little box I’d built for myself. It really shook my confidence as a songwriter and player though. Brian does it all out of love though, and you feel that while he’s pushing you. Still. I cried twice on Sunday. It was emotional and overwhelming. But I feel better about it now, and I feel like my parts are stronger.

He’s kind of like having a shrink for your art. And when you pour so much of your soul into your art, that can be hard when someone really challenges you.

It’s gonna be worth it, I almost can’t wait to show you what I mean. I’ll leave you with a picture of my weapon of choice.