© 2014 Corby Schaub and Schaubin' It Productions. All Rights Reserved.
WEBSITE BY SCHAUB STUDIOS
In the making of Handmade, I wanted to create an un-pretentious, stripped down, three-piece sound. I had been playing with Bill Small and Ray Rodriguez on many records with Walt Wilkins and The Mystiqueros, so naturally, they got the job. They were also the ones to encourage me to make this record in the first place. All of the basic tracks were cut at Ron Flynt’s Studio, Jumping Dog, just 3-pieces jamming away, live room drum sound, to a click.
The tracks were brought to Blake Atwell’s Studio 1916 in Kyle, Texas to record the electric rhythm. Blake is a fantastic musician with a lot of great gear, especially for producing killer electric guitar tones. All acoustic instrument tracks were recorded in my personal studio at my father’s house in Wimberley, Texas. Lead electric tracks were created amid the sawdust, tools, and sandpaper covered guitar shop in Lampasas, Texas, also known as Granny and Dadi’s. The piano was recorded in Kingsland, Texas at Larry Nye’s studio, and vocal sessions with Bill Small at his studio in the laundry. Mixing was done in 3 days at The Zone in Dripping Springs, Texas with Pat Manski and myself, and then mastered by Jim Wilson in Boulder, Colorado.
These songs were written, for the most part, in the summer of 2011. It was a tough summer full of change for many folks. It was also a time for many changes in my own life, particularly in my job, my relationship, and lost friendships. This album is the end of a journal that holds a journey I will never forget. Time to write another!
In the summer of 2010 some of my cousins and I got together to record an EP, and booked two days at Studio 1916 in Kyle, Texas. We call ourselves The Brousins. This was actually the first project I got to work on at my friend Blake Atwell’s studio. The night before we went into the studio, Cord and Luke Jackson came to my house and we did a little pre-production for the days ahead.
So the only rules were… We had to write and sing our own songs. We also had to play acoustic guitar, while everybody else filled in elsewhere, basically playing musical chairs in making this album. At the end of two days, there were some additional over-dubs recorded, along with mixing and mastering done at my personal studio, Schaub Studio.
We have many more musically talented cousins that weren't available for this EP, so we are in the process of creating another one to get everybody involved.
In the summer of ‘05, I was playing a show at Gruene Hall with the McKay Brothers and drummer Mark Patterson. We took a break and I walked up to the bar to order a beer, and Ryan Bingham introduced himself to me, and asked if I would like to jam sometime. I knew who he was from meeting him a few years before in Luckenbach, TX. That summer, he started recording an album in Nashville with some of the members of The Burrito Brothers. I wasn’t a part of those sessions, but he gave me a copy of that unfinished album which soon became a home for my favorite memories of that summer. Several of those tracks were used for a short-lived, independent release called The Dead Horses. Many of those tracks were also used as a platform for “Mescalito", which was recorded a couple years later.
During the fall of ‘06, we began recording an album in LA with Justin Stanley, who we met through John Gries. Justin was a very soft-spoken, kind, creative, musical prodigy/genius. I could tell right away that we were working on an album that was going to be the best thing I’d ever been a part of. However, months before, Ryan and Paw Paw met Mark Ford and recorded a couple of tracks with him, including the album mentioned before, The Dead Horses. There was a brief period where Justin and Mark were both around trying to land the producing gig. Eventually Ryan would decide to go with Mark and the following spring we recorded Mescalito. I will say that I was a little disappointed at the time, because Justin was one of my favorite people I had met and I knew he was super creative and we had barely scratched the surface with him. Having said that, “Mescalito” will most likely be one of the best albums I’ll ever be a part of, thanks to the production of Mark Ford and the amazing songs from the early Bingham repertoire!
The Compound, in Long Beach CA, is an old, long warehouse building with a large main room for tracking, with the other third of the building occupied as the control room --- no isolation booths! This record, for the most part, was recorded with live monitors and no click track. This allowed for significant bleed amongst the instruments and tracks, part of the lower quality of sound, but part of the live unique sound that I’ve come to love about “Mescalito” and “Roadhouse Sun”. The head engineer, Anthony Arvizu, is a fantastic drummer/engineer, and I grew a liking to him immediately. Anthony was a solid individual as far as keeping everything together when things got a little strange or sidetracked. He had the tricky task of taking some of the original tracks from the Nashville sessions and blending it with the new tracks. Here is a list of some the songs in which the basic rhythm tracks were used from Nashville: “Southside of Heaven”, “Ghost of Travelin’ Jones”, “Long Way From Georgia”, “Sunrise”.
The “on the road” Dead Horses at that time were Ryan Bingham, Matt “Paw Paw” Smith, Jeb Stuart Venable, and myself. The record was pretty much recorded in one week. Other overdubs came later, but the bulk of the record was done in a week. I have several highlights and fond memories of making this record as well as many pissed-off and frustrated moments. I was a Dead Horse; it was my band, and during that week it became Mark’s band, and I was frustrated for selfish reasons, but not for the selfish reasons you might think. It was because I wasn’t being used to my potential. I had all of this art I wanted to apply to the record and a lot of it just sat on the bench. Maybe that’s a good thing…Anyway, I will admit that Mark didn’t know me at the time; we didn’t know each other really. He didn’t know that I came from a humble, loving, musically talented family, and that I never have given two shits about being a rock star. I’ve just always wanted to make music. I always have made music; I’ve never known anything else. Since then, Mark has become a lifelong friend and mentor who I give credit to for helping me advance my craft as a musician at a faster rate.
My favorite moments of tracking were the following: “Bread and Water”, “Don’t Wait For Me”, “Sunshine”, “Take It Easy Mama”, and “For What It’s Worth”. My biggest contribution to the record was on “Bread and Water”. Where the band breaks down and Ryan is jamming solo for several bars, then the band comes back in double timing it, that was an idea from yours truly. I sang the part or idea to Mark right before cutting it, and he looked at me for a sec, then his eyes got big and with a facial expression of “Glad I thought of that” he said “I like it” and turned to explain the idea to Paw Paw and Ryan. Being there was no click track used on this record, Anthony played the beginning of “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band” to set the tempo for this song.
Another memorable part was watching Paw Paw play along to “Southside of Heaven”. He had to overdub his drums to a track that didn’t have a click on it, a task that any drummer knows is damn near impossible, but the boy did great. I was glad I didn’t have that job.
“Take It Easy Mama” was co-written with me, at least the arrangement and music, unaccredited, of course. I never said anything because if I had said something, he would have cut it from the record. Sometimes it’s better to swallow your pride and play the game than to not play at all. Proof of that situation is pretty obvious: how many other songs can you count out of the Ryan Bingham catalog that have key changes besides “Take It Easy Mama”? Speaking of which, that was one of the tracks that took us a little while to tackle. It was a live take, including my solo’s, including Bingham’s vocal, but I think Mark overdubbed another “fill” electric guitar part, but the track was truly live. People often say they cut a record live when after all the overdubs it isn’t really live at all.
“Don’t Wait For Me” was another true live take. I still have the memory of sitting in that circle with Mark, Ryan, Mike Star, and Paw Paw, thinking halfway through, “Yeah baby, this is the take”. “For What It’s Worth” was damn close to a true live take, and we used everything in that studio. I think Mark did one overdub. The tympani part I played is one of my favorite recording memories. It’s the one time I used something from high school marching band in a rock-n-roll band, and I’m glad it made the cut.
But above all, “Sunshine” is not only my favorite track on “Mescalito”; it is my favorite recording I’ve been a part of thus far. That track had many overdubs, including myself on electric, mandolin, and drums. Yes, there are two drum tracks on that song. Paw Paw of course laid the groove down on the band take. I overdubbed another drum kit while Anthony used an old telephone receiver as the overhead mic!! That was a special moment in time for the Bingham and The Dead Horses line up, the best track that we ever recorded. Though “Bluebird” on “Roadhouse Sun” was a very close second, it falls short of “Sunshine” because the harmony vocals were a little overkill, while everything on “Sunshine” was exactly where it was supposed to be, imperfections and all; completely magical. To this day, I still put headphones on and crank that track, because it’s the only track I’ve ever been a part of that gives me the feeling that I get when listening to Rage Against The Machine. I will miss playing that live…
We were broke and homeless, but staying with amazing folks in Hollywood and Malibu. The momentum we had along with our drive and determination as a band to go all the way and do it no matter what the cost is something I may never be a part of again. With this album, the Lord blessed us with a journey of living our dreams, if only for a short while. It was full of great songs from a period in a songwriter’s life that was pure, honest, humble, and unpretentious. Before the political themes, before the songwriter started trying to prove to the world something he was not.
In the early spring of ‘08, we were going to get to make another record for Lost Highway Records, but it would be recorded in two different sessions so we could take our time and live with the record before going back in and finishing it. This was actually the first time The Dead Horses had a permanent, full-time lineup. It consisted of Ryan Bingham, Matt “Paw Paw” Smith, Elijah Ford, and myself.
We had a tour working our way from Nashville to LA leading up to the recording sessions for the album, so Mark Ford had hopped in the van with us. After the first gig with Mark in Nashville, we headed to a bar for the after-party, and Mark and I got to talk for a bit. I remember telling him right up front, “Use me! Produce me!” to find him very quickly saying, “I didn’t know you then, Corby; I was under a lot of pressure to finish ‘Mescalito’ as fast as possible. Now I know you and we have a full-time band with all the time in the world to record.” From that moment on, he was true to his word. And not just to me either. Ryan, Paw Paw, Elijah, and myself were all used to our potential and them some. It was no doubt a band effort!!
This was round two for us at The Compound Studio, and everyone was completely pumped up and excited!! I remember the first morning Mark practically running into the studio with his little Papoose Guitar saying “You boys ready to make a record?!” It was non-stop from then on. I don’t remember the order we tracked the songs in, but I can tell you that once again we didn’t use a click track. Live monitors were used in the room, and every single song was recorded as a live band; usually a few takes, some one takes, and some that took hours!
The rest of the tracks were all, for the most part, based on a four-piece, live band cut. There is no doubt that this is the record that showed what the Dead Horses could do as a band! I never dreamed that it would be the only one that showed what the Dead Horses were capable of…
It was a short phone call, lasting a minute or two, Ryan said we were going to be in a movie with Jeff Bridges and others. He said he would tell me the story when I got to LA, and I flew to Hollywood the following week. From what I recall, Ryan was handed the script to Crazy Heart and asked to write as song for it. I don’t believe he read the script at all when he wrote the song. I think he knew what the movie was about and wrote The Weary Kind the night before going to T-Bone’s house to present the song to him. The director Scott Cooper, Jeff Bridges, and T-Bone were all at T-Bone’s house when Ryan presented them with the song. After one listen, T-Bone approved and said they had their song for the movie.
The Village Recording Studio in West Hollywood is the most prestigious studio I’ve ever been in. Three floors of studio’s, office spaces, including a mini theater hall for recording symphonies, I had never seen anything like it. We were introduced to all of the crew working on the project as we were setting up. We started sound checking on one of the tunes, a tune I hadn’t heard yet. At one point while playing the song I stopped and started tuning, then continued playing and finished the song. When we finished, I took the headset off and T-Bone walked into to the room saying “All right! I think we’ve got one.” I was a bit confused for two reasons, the first being I didn’t realize we were recording and second what we had just done was hideous. As it turned out, there was a scene in the movie where they needed a sound check going on in the background, and that’s exactly what we just did. That’s how I met T-Bone Burnett. Shortly after that, while listening back to the sound check track, Scott Cooper and Jeff Bridges walked into the control room. I had never been star struck in my life, but that moment completely caught me off guard because I had no idea Jeff Bridges was going to be at the studio. Not long after that, I was introduced to Stephen Bruton, the mastermind behind the making of the movie.
There were so many cool things that happened throughout those days at the studio. I remember that people from all around the country would mail in instruments to see if they could be used on the project. For example, there was a 1920’s or 1930’s Martin guitar in flawless condition that was mailed to the studio for all of us to play. We passed the guitar around throughout the day, and when through, they mailed it back to the owner. I don’t believe we used it on anything. I remember sitting in the lounge area with T-Bone and Scott Cooper as they tossed ideas of who they might want to have on the movie or soundtrack. Merle Haggard was mentioned, T-Bone started singing and playing one of his songs on that old Martin I believe, and it was one that my uncle always sings, so I started singing harmony with him while T-Bone’s assistant went and called Merle. There was another time when I was half ass joking asking Paul Acklin, T-Bone’s guitar tech, “Man why don’t we give Gretsch a call and tell them we using a bunch of their guitars on this movie so maybe they’ll just go ahead and give us one.” He immediately got on the phone with their rep, and months later as I walked into my hotel room in Cincinnati, OH, to my surprise, was a hollow body Chet Atkins series Gretsch guitar.
There was one unfortunate situation that happened with this project and I only tell it so others may not make the same mistake I did. The first morning at the studio after everybody arrived, the secretaries started bringing around the paper work for all of us to sign. I knew from reading it that the paper was pretty much saying we were being paid as session musicians on the project. At that moment I told myself not to sign it until I talked to an attorney, but I was still poor at that time, and decided to just go with the flow and sign it. I mean who was I to say any different, I had never been apart of a real movie before. So I said to myself it’s the first time, I’m learning as I go, and I signed it. I will say it would have been nice to have management or somebody looking out for us, but all our management team at the time cared about was Ryan. I mean, who could blame them, a major song in a movie can get you 150-300 hundred thousand dollars right off the bat. Plus the movie only had a 7 million dollar budget to it, so at the time, everybody just expected it to go straight to video. But as it turned out the Dead Horses got screwed. We should have been paid for the rate a movie score musician would receive, which brings royalty payments like no other. So every theater that movie was played in, every time that movie sold on DVD’s or whatever form of entertainment out there, we missed our cut. They even used our tracks for the movie trailer, which would have been an extra paycheck for every time it aired. We never received a dime for any of it because we signed the papers saying we would be paid as typical session musicians. If I would have known the soundtrack was going to win Grammy’s while the movie would win Oscar’s, I would have taken a loan out to pay a freaking attorney to help me. Anyway, the point is anything involving TV, and I mean anything, make sure you have covered all your tracks because that is were ALL of the money is.
The realistic quality of the movie Crazy Heart should be credited heavily to the work and vision of Stephen Bruton. Not to take any credit away from Scott Cooper, for it seems to me he did an outstanding job directing the film, though I don’t know a lot about that position. What I do know is how hands on, Stephen was from beginning to end and how accurate the music business life was portrayed in the movie.
Stephen was Bridges' right-hand man throughout the entire process of making the movie. He was there in the studio showing him how to play guitar parts that were going to be filmed, he was his vocal coach, and was there from morning to late at night on the movie set helping with every aspect of the movie to ensure the accuracy of a musician’s life. I had a short period of time working with Stephen, but I’m thankful for having it. It turns out that we lived 5 minutes from each other in Austin, TX. He was an uncommon common musician seen and heard at the Saxon Pub. I see his picture every night that I play as I’m putting my guitar up in the corner of the room. He was a fan of mine, as I was of him. I’ll try to keep his legacy alive through my days as a working musician on every level including, writing, playing, singing, producing, and above all, character.
Since it was the album following “Crazy Heart”, we went back to The Village with T-Bone Burnett producing. We might have used T-Bone’s gear and pot, but make no mistake about it my friends: it may say “Produced by T-Bone Burnett”, but this album was produced by Ryan Bingham.
Let me mention some of the highlights of the recording experience before I get to the harsh truth and story about this unfortunate album.
Elijah Ford was definitely the MVP. He nailed every take with very few punches. The drum sounds were killer, the guitar tones fantastic, and it was a pleasure to get to make a record the old fashion way, tape-to-tape. I don’t mean “through the tape machine”, like many studios are doing these days. By the way, watch yourself on that technique; it’s a selling point gimmick at times. People think just because it’s going through a tape machine means you are getting that old-fashioned, warm sound, but that is NOT necessarily the case!! Anyway, tape-to-tape: recording to 2½-inch tape while simultaneously recording to ½ inch tape. The smell was every bit as cool as the sound. For the most part, if you listen to the individual songs, you can really hear the strength in them, but they shouldn’t have been put together for an entire album. If we’d made an EP with them, that would have been something strong. Working with T-Bone was memorable and fun, or was it?… can’t remember very much of it. Paul Ackling, T-Bone’s guitar tech, and Mike Piersante were a pleasure to work with again.
The three of us, Elijah, Paw Paw, and myself, got a copy of the new songs Ryan had written and recorded at his home. I imported the songs into my Pro-Tools rig at home and started working on parts. It was cool because I could try things and step back and listen to see if they would work. Elijah and I worked up some creative parts for many different instruments including bass, guitars, piano, dobros, mandos, etc. We worked together; if I had a bass idea, I’d show Elijah, and if he had a guitar idea, he’d show me. It was to be the next record after “Crazy Heart” and he and I wanted to knock it out of the park. We both knew it was going to get a lot of exposure, so we wanted it to be the best thing we had done. Paw Paw was still living in LA, so when he came to Austin, the three of us all rehearsed to the songs. The songs were upbeat with killer parts that all complimented each other.
When we got to LA, Ryan made us drop everything we had been working on and decided he wanted to make a full-band, acoustic-style album. I knew exactly what he was doing, and it had nothing to do with “I wanted to get back to the songs.” The entire Ryan Bingham and The Dead Horses experience was 100% about the songs, always. It never once drifted from that. Unfortunately, paranoid delusions can have strong impacts on troubled souls.
“Crazy Heart” had just come out and there was no doubt that our next record was going to get a lot of attention. So everything was set up and ready to go. Every musician I’ve known would have loved to have that kind of opportunity. All we had to do was give it everything we had, but Bingham wasn’t having it. He couldn’t rise to the occasion, or wouldn’t, whatever. The outcome of the album’s performance honored the quality or lack thereof. Our record debuted at #9 on the top 100 Billboard and #2 on the country charts. It dropped and disappeared immediately following the next week and was never heard of again. Here are some of the reasons why:
That road was one of the finest and strangest journeys of my life. We took a group of guys that had no business playing on stage, who never really fit in anywhere, and we went all the way to the top! I wish I had a cigar to smoke to go with this loud, rocking stereo in the living room so I can reminisce about the first time I met Ryan at a pickin’ circle around a camp fire in Luckenbach, TX; to the time we opened for Neil Young in Holland; to the last time I walked off the bus in DC, swearing to myself I would never live in that type of situation again.
In 2008, Daniel White and I combined studio gear and built a small studio at his home to record CCS V. It was recorded in the same way as CCS IV, but with much better gear. We were still using the Delta 1010 and had a typical mic set up on the drum kit, as well as some new preamps and condenser mic’s for vocals. It was mixed and mastered by Daniel.
While all of the songs for CCS IV were written before I hit the road with Bingham and Paw Paw, the songs for CCS V were all written around the time Mescalito came out. I was living in Austin with my girlfriend and I had a handful of songs coming at me from the road and from home. I really wanted to finish what Daniel and I had started with CCS II, which was to make an album all the way through with pro sounding tones and performances, just the two of us. CCS V was it!
Every Night: This was one of the few tunes I’ve written on the drums. I had just gotten back from NYC, walked into the studio, pushed record and started playing and singing. I had the groove in my head and a basic idea for a chorus. Thus the strange key, I naturally sang it in D flat, so I thought I’d leave it.
These tunes were written and recorded on a lo-fi system in my bedroom the week before I hit the road with Bingham and Paw Paw. I recorded three other albums before this one but those 3 are too embarrassing to release. This is the first album that I was confident in releasing publicly. Recently I remixed the album and rerecorded some vocals before putting up on the website, but 95% of it was recorded in '05.
I didn’t have much equipment at the time, but I did have a basic Protools rig using the Delta 1010 through a PC computer I built. Besides Windows XP, Protools, and Reason 2.5, nothing else ran on that machine. It was the most dependable PC I ever owned. The entire album was recorded on 3 microphones. I had a small and cheap condenser mic, brand unknown, D112 and a beta 57. All acoustic parts were recorded to a click track and then Daniel White and I laid down the bass and drum tracks. Daniel ran his bass through the Fat Man 2 preamp, while the drums were recorded with 3 tracks. That condenser mic was used as the overhead mic on the drums hanging from the ceiling fan in my bedroom, with the D112 on the kick, and a beta 57 on snare. Everything else on the album was recorded through a DI, Beta 57, or midi effects.
Still I Get By: I was at a party in College Station TX where everybody, myself included, were rollin’. You know, on X, E, Ecstasy, whatever the kids call it these days. After several hours of listening to that upbeat computer synth rave music I became bored and decided to go get the mandolin out of the truck. Since I didn’t want to change the mood of the party by changing the music, I just started playing along with the rave music on the mandolin. Everybody freaked the fuck out and formed a circle around to watch and listen to me play along. After the party I thought it might be cool to try and record a song with that concept in mind.