IN THE STUDIO -- CAEDMON'S CALL

(This article originally appeared on Musicforce.com circa October, 2000.)

It's always fascinating to attend a recording session of an album that's in its embryonic stage. Bands like Cademon's Call (known for their organic sound) make the process more interesting, as they stretch and bend to accommodate new ideas and musical experiments.

While cutting tracks for their upcoming October release, Derek Webb (the more diminutive of Caedmon's two male lead singers) and producer Ed Cash pause for a quick chat at the Bennett House studio in Franklin, Tenn.

Although Cash has released five records as an artist, if you recognize his name at all, it's probably as producer of Bebo Norman two albums, The Fabric of Verse Norman's WaterShed debut, Ten Thousand Days . I'm sure I have Bebo to thank for this gig," Cash admits. "He spent all last fall touring with Caedmon's and I know he told them how much we enjoyed working together. Then Cliff Young , of Caedmon's) mentioned something to me about [producing the new Caedmon's record], and I was very flattered and excited to accept. A lot of times, I say God is my agent. I don't make calls; I don't go searching for projects to work on. Seems like every time I've done that, it's been a dead end. When I've sat back and relaxed and waited and trusted God, things have worked out."

As this album is being cut, it's been less than a year since Caedmon's Call released 40 Acres , which was recorded under the very strict regimen of noted producer Glenn Rosenstein . "We worked our butts off," recalls Webb of those sessions. "We literally took sack lunches into the studio and recorded twelve hours a day! We had every guitar lick, solo and drum fill figured out. It helped us make a technically great sounding record, but we felt like we literally played the life out of a lot of the music. This time we've tried to keep the tracks as live as possible, even to the point of having everybody playing in the same room."

Cliff, who heads up WaterShed Records, describes Cash's production as "lifting a veil between the artist and the audience." Says Cash, "A lot of Christian music is polished to the point where you can't connect with it. It's like these you are on a different planet from the artist. We surely serve a perfect God, but it's okay to be human. I truly believe that if you invite God into the recording process He will honor that request. I believe His spirit gets stored on this little 5-inch piece of plastic, along with the music."

On this particular afternoon, the band has been rehearsing a version of "Prepare Ye the Way," a song first recorded by more than 20 years ago. It's a favorite of Cliff's from his church youth group days, so he takes the lead vocal. Drummer Todd Bragg and Cash (on acoustic guitar) lay down basic tracks while Young experiments with the vocal. Within an hour, they're satisfied with the results. Even without the contributions of Webb, Danielle Young , percussionist and keyboard wunderkind Josh Moore (who joined the band on the 40 Acres tour), you can tell the band has hit its stride. Most importantly, says Cash, the song doesn't sound like it's been labored over. "I am very technically minded, but the spiritual integrity of a record is of far more concern to me. Does this song have more going on than just great sounds and good grooves? I'm more concerned with that than how the kick drum sounds."

Cash is splitting the production duties with producer Monroe Jones , and says he has no problem understanding the reasons for Caedmon's enlisting their seemingly disparate production techniques. "I know Monroe was brought in so there would be something of a marketable flavor to the record," says Cash. "I'm basically a nobody' in terms of the industry, so there's some comfort in having a recognized name on board."

Webb admits the band is determined to shake things up on this album. He describes one of his new tunes as "almost a modern rock track. It's like a Foo Fighters song, with electric guitars," while "Love Is Different" is "a little country shuffle. A lot of the material I wrote for this record is very country-oriented; I'm talking throwback songs, not modern country." "Dance," another Webb original, "started out country, but it's taken on a more sophisticated, jazzy sort of flavor. Many of Ed's arrangement ideas have taken me by surprise."

The reason for such variety, says Webb, owes to the relentless touring schedule of Caedmon's Call and the fact that he and fellow songwriter/non-touring member Aaron Tate write a lot of material. "We get bored playing the same songs over and over. We live off of tours and we play a lot of the same places year in and year out. Once you've been there a couple times and you don't have any new material, that's a drag for them. Plus, I'd rather sing about my current struggles than the struggles that I was having two years ago. I'm so innovative in my sin; I have to keep it current! (laughs) As I've gotten older and learned a lot of hard lessons, I'm not scared to try and write some insight into a song. I think I was scared to write my opinions because I was afraid they'd be wrong. Now I'm a little more confident with putting them out there. I'm more ready to defend what I believe than I used to be."

Derek emphasizes that "knowing when to say when" will be central to the success of the new Caedmon's record. "We've worked every single day the last three weeks. We recorded a couple songs for the City on a Hill project. That took a week. Then we did a photo shoot, which took a couple days. Then we spent five days tracking five songs with Monroe. We obviously could not have done all these things if we had labored over every note the way that we did. A lot of the tunes we did with Monroe were first takes. They sound spontaneous and like people that just barely know what they're doing. It's like a breath of fresh air. It's still us making the music. I'm not really too concerned at this point about making sure there's an acoustic guitar on every song. That's definitely not a position we would have had a couple years ago. We're trying to stretch ourselves as players and musicians and hopefully it will stretch the audience. But we want to be loyal to the folks that have been with us all along. We're really still just a coffeehouse band. We're trying to find some middle ground, so it's going to be a real interesting record!"

-- Bruce Brown


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