Sunday April 10, 2005

My Mom and Vern...

Mr. & Mrs. Lavern Hoffman.



So here's another family related landmark for this weekend.

My sister, brother, nieces, nephew, future sister-in-law, brother-in-law and Amanda all headed down to the middle of nowhere (aka North, South Carolina) for my Mom's wedding. She and Vern have been dating now for several years. I can't even begin to recount the turmoil they've seen each other through but it's involved near death for both of them and scattered family members. The last Christmas that my Dad was around, the two of them were actually there together at my Sister's place. And when my Dad heard about the major news story involving a tragic accident that almost killed Vern, my Dad was worried and checked with me for updates when I could get 'em.That's not to say they were friends, per se...but they did at least pretend to be respectful of one another.

We missed my Uncle Jim (he just wasn't up to the trip) but my Mom's sisters and my Uncle Frank made it down to represent the Oliver side of the family tree. I was glad to see them as our Christmas and Thanksgiving reunions have become rarer and rarer as my schedule gets more hectic.

I've got to say, despite the fact that this was absolutely the least planned, most disorganized wedding in history that it was a beautiful event. They exchanged vows out doors in a garden in the backyard of Vern's parents'. They built the garden and a little goldfish pond just for the occasion. The weather Gods even smiled on it by making it the only day in recent memory without miserable weather for at least a huge chunk of the day.

My job (and my brother's) was to walk Mom down the aisle and give her away and then run to other gigs. I was also the photog, you see. Benji photo'd, too, as well as ran the music (which unfortunately gave out on him during the middle of the ceremony due to a not properly plugged in extension cord). My soon to be sister-in-law April sang "From This Moment". She was clearly nervous but she pulled it off fine. She bookended the ceremony by singing an a capella version of The Lord's Prayer that I always prefer to her performing over canned music. My sister stood right by Mom as her Matron of Honor. My nephew Robbie did whatever he could, my new neice McKayla kicked and giggled in a stroller and Nichole manned the video camera.

At one point, I noticed Nichole and her boyfriend Chris sitting together on a bench. I was willing to give him a chance. He seemed nice enough after all. Then I saw him sitting there with a lit cigarette in hand and one behind his ear. His class level just plummeted to non-existent in my eyes. He's 16 years old with a not quite 13 year old girlfriend smoking at the function of a family he presumably wants to get in good with. I just looked at him and said, "Well, you just lost me" and laughed. He looked bewildered. "What? What did I do?". "You'll figure it out, " I told him. Nichole had a slightly pained look. She knew exactly what I meant.

So basically, I spent the rest of the day chasing my Mom around and trying to get shots that she would be able to cherish. There's a reason I don't shoot weddings. They're just too stressful, emotional and important. For my Mom (and select few other people), I will do it.

The reception was at a place diametrically opposed to my lifestyle. It was basically a hunting club / shooting range (Vern's an avid hunter). I kept waiting for the 21-gun salute but it never came. The building was a beautiful log cabin marred only by a chandelier made of (I kid you not) about a zillion deer antlers. I even had to admit to its impressiveness but never could shake off the creepiness when I looked at it. Copies of Guns & Ammo littered fancy antique night stands near the amazing wedding cake. The food was pure Southern comfort food (i.e., barbequed everything). I don't eat it so I starved 'til I got on the road and found a restaraunt near the Columbia airport.

The bottom line for today is that my Mom seemed happy. This family has been through enough trauma in the past 5 years to last most life times...we deserve a little peace and happiness. I think and hope that my Mom has that with Vern. She's earned it.

I must mention the service at the restaraunt on the way home. It may seem a minor thing following my Mom's wedding but Amanda and I went to a Lizard's Thicket on the way toward the interstate and we had absolutely the best service I have ever had anywhere at anytime. Everything came perfect, indescibably fast and the waitress was wonderfully (but not overbearingly attentive). Thanks!

Amanda and I pulled into our drive way for a little reunion with our crustacean friends just before midnight.

I am burned out...and I haven't even been working.

I am overwhelmed and exhausted yet again...and the week hasn't begun yet.





Saturday April 9, 2005

If you don't know the significance of wouldn't be important to you anyway. It means something to me, though and is symbolic of this day so here it is.


Last night's drive home was fairly uneventful and very rainy! But we made it just fine.

It's April 9. That means it's 34 years since the death of my Grandfather (aka my Dad's Dad!). So today was somehow poetic. After starting my day by heading to the cemetary where father and son lay side by side, I headed over to my Grandmother's to do more work cleaning up my Dad's room...which coincidentally happens to be where my Grandfather died those 34 years ago. It's also where my Dad checked out in '03. It was also my room when I was a child and again right before I moved out on my own. If you ever hear me speak of "my room," this is the room I mean.

As an aside, when rushing between the cemetary and my home of all homes, I got stopped by a Kershaw County police officer. I'm a good, safe driver (generally) so I was shocked. I can't even remember the last time I was stopped. I figured it was 'cause I have Georgia plates. Nope - apparently I was doing 60 in a 45. Oops! The officer asked what I was doing in Camden, "just passing through?" "No, I said. This is my hometown. My Dad died and I'm going to my Grandmother's to help pack his possessions." A few minutes later she came back with a warning. Good thing! That ticket would've cost a few bucks. I guess it's a good thing she asked what I was doing in town, too. Thanks, Dad, for helping me beat a speeding ticket!

Anyway - I got to Grandma's. The first thing I did (after picking up some lunch for the both of us) was open up that ol' room. I then opened all the windows to let the first fresh air in since '03. Then I started separating. There's the charity pile. There's the pile for my brother and sister to dig through. Here's my box full 'o' memories.

My sister got there late. She showed up with her nearly 13-year old daughter Nichole and her 16-year old boyfriend Chris (hmmm...). He was nice enough, I guess, but I still wouldn't allow it. Missy, Nichole and I dug through and cleared out all of the dressers and tore down the displays that Dad had painstakingly put up. Yes, this is a difficult job...but there's also comfort in it. And no one else but me should head this job up.

After a couple of hours, my sister took off and my brother arrived. He picked up a few of Dad's sentimental keepsakes (including his honorable discharge pin from the Navy) and an entire, massive bag full of shoes. Dad had way more than a different pair for everyday. His shoes often bothered him so he had a pair for every imaginable comfort level. They're my brother's now and the size matches.

Then we headed for the attic. It's very creepy, dusty, spidery and depressing. Letters addressed to and from my Great-Grandmother, my baby crib, dishes that I recognized from childhood, Dad's playbooks and pads (he was an umpire as well as an intense ball player). Nothing much...just fragments of former lives. Worthless to the common eye but priceless to me.

My good friend Shawn happened to show up with a light at just the time we needed one. He kind of relayed stuff down the ladder while Benji and I dug through everything. Oh well - I guess I have at least one more full day of this. It was getting late and Shawn and I had to go meet Amanda, Lori and their kids for dinner.

We had a late dinner at (where else?) LHOP and wound up the evening sitting around talking with friends as their kids and dog Goldie lapped around us. It was a relaxing ending to an emotionally odd day.

Tomorrow is set to be even Mom's getting married again. She and my Dad divorced when I was a kid but it's still a weird thing. That's the reason I'm home this weekend. I must mention that the synchronous timing with today's anniversary and work is too much to completely ignore.

We were back at Amanda's parents sometime around midnight.




Friday April 8, 2005



After a morning of tidying up a few of my life's loose ends, I headed down to the studio to meet up with Tom so we could tidy up some more of the album's loose ends.

First up (after waiting an hour for a band running overtime) we created the "washing machine / ultrasound" for the choruses of "Into My View". It didn't take too long and worked out well. I had originally planned on doing it analog but figured we'd might as well we did. I think it worked nicely.

Then we did the tag on at the end of "Until The Road Ends." That's gonna be our raw song on the album but we had to put a touch of uber-production on it, didn't we? We spent a good hour putting together the last 15 seconds or so of the track (piece by piece and all in the digital realm). I was enjoying the drama of it myself!

Then I ditched Tom up there to do some of his own playing around while I hit the road to SC to handle a bunch of family business. It's a messy day outside so I'm just hoping for a nice uneventful trip home. Here's ta hopin'!





Thursday April 7, 2005


Today was the day to work and work and work until I got caught up. I just about pulled it off, too. Judging by the fact that this DIARY entry is being written the same day. What a weight off of me to have this thing caught up. I also got the show reports and new pictures up under THE was a rather Tom-centric update there.

Tom emailed me to let me know that he took it upon himself to invite a few of our friends up last night to do some handclaps on "Until The Road Ends." That's cool. It puts us a little ahead...but I still want some more on it when we do the official invite to be a part of the "choir" and crowd...

You want to be on our album? Email me.

I'll announce more details about that soon.




Wednesday April 6, 2005



Back in the studio for the next batch of vocals...

Everyone seems to think that it's odd that I don't EVER want a break when doing my own vocals. In fact, I purposely try to short out my voice in the studio to make me reach harder. It seems to give more texture to my otherwise too choir-boy sounding voice.

Today was a challenging day for me. I had to go right in cold and do my version of "Down." This song is particularly intimidating because I co-wrote it with the original singer, Tom O'Gorman, who happens to be one of my favorite singers of all time. While I know I can't compete with him, I think I did okay. I did spend well over an hour on this one as opposed to ten minutes on some of 'em. It just has to be more together as the first minute and a half is just acoustic guitar and vocals.

"Colors In Black & White" was more fun and a lot less stressful. I still spent more time on it than I thought I would. We added a lot of additional harmonies that probably won't make the final mix. I'm really liking the way this one's sounding so far. The keyboard parts are really setting the song off and making it more unique sounding. I was kind of surprised when Asa said he thought this one was more of a "punk" song. Huh? Interesting...

"Until The Road Ends" was the easiest today. I want this one to be more raw and "live" so I simply ran through 2 full takes of the vocal (we'll decide later which ones to use) and then added the harmony. Nothing to it. Ten minutes later, it was on to the next one.

"Taking Its Toll" was the other one I was scared of. This was also one that was written with O'Gorman, although we never recorded it with him. Imagine my surprise when I hit this one on the first take. I couldn't believe it. I really thought this was going to be one of the hardest ones. It'll probably be the only complete first take vocal on the record. I also added in a slew of backups and we'll be putting in the "choir" and "crowd" bits at some point later.

"I'll Be Fine" was last and by far the most draining emotionally. It wasn't that difficult to sing even though I did take a lot of time fixing it up. It's just so personal. I had to have particular feels on particular lines. This one's for my Dad. I kept trying to dredge up those wounds to pour them into this. I think I did it. The last few "I'll be fines" were as hard as I've ever sung on anything. I poured my guts into it. I hope it shows.

Four hours later, I had completed all lead and backup vocals for "side two." Now all that's left is for me to put the "washing machine" on "Into My View," add some ambience, choir and crowd sounds to "Until The Road Ends" and "Taking Its Toll" and then its all over but the mixing and manufacturing.

For the record, I will have done every one of my parts in around 20 hours total...

Now I'm going to relax with a Twilight Zone...



Tuesday April 5, 2005



I am so swamped. How do I continually get so far behind? I'll keep climbin'. Maybe I'll be out of the hole by the end of the week. What do you think?

I haven't been able to return emails to friends or even about a couple of potential business deals. It's crazy. I've got to get back to that stuff sooner than later. It'll be done in its own due time.

I did get a little further today and I'm really starting to see some progress. Hopefully, you'll see some soon, too!

I can say this. I've been taking time to get out of the house for a few minutes here and there when I can. The weather's absolutely stunnning down here. It clears my head even as it clogs my throat with pollen.




Monday April 4, 2005

This is the crab on the wall of the vocal booth at D.A.R.C. After today, I consider him a close friend - even if I still can't tell if he's viewing me through that claw or attempting to snip off his own eye stalk!

Well, today was the big day for me. I went into the studio to begin cutting vocals for the album. I've been dreading it for awhile now. I'm not confident enough in my abilities as a lead singer to believe that I can do what needs to be done. I guess we'll see.

I got into the studio at about 1:30 but scheduling difficulties meant that Asa and I didn't get to start until around 3:30. For arrogance's sake, I decided to do the songs sequentially. I didn't want to spare my throat (which is a little sore due to pollen related allergies). I wanted to push it to the limit which is just what I did.

"Towel Cape Song" came first. It took a couple of takes but I was satisfied remarkably soon. I added some backups and extra harmonies and the first track was done within about 15 or 20 minutes.

"I Know Too Much" took about the same amount of time. The backups were easy but I took a lot more time with the verses. I decided to go for a softer, more intimate sound than I had originally planned. Let's hope it works.

"Into My View" was the first really hard one. That "this is not like me" line at the end of the bridge is a monster for me. I hit that line repeatedly until it felt like my vocal chords were shredded. I don't care. It'll be right or it won't be there at all. Tom "pinch hits" for me during this section live. Here, I had a lot to live up to. I think I pulled it off. I don't think I was ever totally happy with the first verse but the rest came out nicely.

"Sometimes I'm Sam" was a breeze. I went for a totally conversational tone to contrast from the more melodic style of "Into My View". This one went without incident and quickly.

"Phony" was the last one (and the end of the first half - side one, if you will) for today. Again, I ran through a couple of takes of the lead but the screaming / shrieking ad libs at the end (again - Tom "pinch hits" live) were as blood curdling as I get. I put everything I had into it. I hope it's not too over the top. It's sincere, though. There's a running concept through the record and this is the "bottoming out" portion. I had to try to capture it. I hope I did.

I was home by 9 o'clock in the evening for a late dinner with all vocals and backups for "side one" complete. What a relief!

Click here for getting caught up and a couple of shows...