Ghostree EP Recording Blogs (2011)

God Doesn’t Need PR (Ghostree Recording Blog 5)

In this next installment of our guest blog series from the band Ghost Tree, Haydon Spenceley updates us on the progress of their EP as attention turns away from the recording phase and onto promoting the record. Haydon addresses the idea that God doesn’t really need PR…

Greetings! It’s a chilly Sunday morning here in Nottingham, and I thought it was about time (mostly because Jono told me it was) that I put finger to keyboard and updated you all about the goings on with Ghost Tree, and our very soon to be forthcoming debut, self-titled EP.

Since we last spoke (I imagine our times together as cosy fireside chats) lots has happened. Our EP is now completely tracked, including some fantastic string parts, which are amazing and wonderful (did I mention that they’re quite good?) and mixed. Kevin and Brandon have done a fantastic job of bringing my vision for these songs to life in the mix. They sound huge, and yet spacious, risky yet absolutely spot on. Even my voice sounds OK (miracles do happen). This coming week, Brad Blackwood is apparently setting to work on mastering the record so that, in a few short weeks, we can let it out of the bag for you all to enjoy. Can’t wait for that. At the same time as figuring out mixes, I’ve been working on some ideas for tours for the next few months as we look to make the most of the fantastic platform we’ve been blessed with. We’ll be announcing a couple of very different tours in the next few weeks, both of which I’m very excited about. Also been dipping my toe in the waters of trying to find partners with whom to release the record. I know very little about business, so it’s an eye-opening experience for me to even begin to have conversations with people. No idea what will come of all that.

Still need to figure out what to do with my hair.

At the same time, I moved to Nottingham yesterday to start theological college (I’m training to be a vicar from tomorrow – bonkers) while others of us in the band are having joyous family experiences, and some sorrows too, as some seasons come to an end and others start. It’s got me thinking recently, life goes on, seemingly, whatever happens. Life isn’t all about music and bands and good hair (although I really wish I could do something with mine). If nothing else, this year’s taught me that the songs I write and sing should match the life I live, and the words I do and don’t say. I want to be welcomed home as a good and faithful servant, to know Jesus, God made man, not my own construct of who I think Jesus is, but who Jesus actually is. I want others to know Him too. This is the point of all that we do as a band (I hope) and if we ever get lost up our own bottoms, or chasing after a different dream, I hope that we have people around us who will tell us off, dust us down and set us on the right path again. 

This morning I woke up thinking about brackets. I read a lot of press releases, and often, the humble bracket plays a crucial role. What happens often goes something like this: “Blah Blah band announces the release of their new album Seismic Shift in History of Modern Music. The new record was produced by A.N. Other (someone who should make you go “ooh, ahh, I must buy this record forthwith if not sooner”)”. What got me thinking is, we could do this. People who worked on our record have worked on some very cool pieces of music, and continue to do so. It’s very tempting for me, as I start to think about promoting the record in the next few weeks, to litter our PR stuff with said brackets. I could easily press the right buttons, play the right games, and impress people a great deal. There’s a big temptation to do it – part of my brain really wants me to make back a lot of money, or even, gasp, make a profit, so that i might be able to support myself, think I was stewarding my resources widely or, double gasp, have enough money to make another record. Thing is, God doesn’t really need PR does He? He doesn’t need, require, or even want me to manipulate how I present myself in order to ensure more people listen to what I have to say. Or maybe He does, maybe He wants me to make the most of the blessings and opportunities He’s given me. I really have no idea. I guess I just struggle with the idea that this is the standard way to do things. I don’t want to come off as idealistic and pretentious. I just want to honour God, and I’m not sure how to do that….So, in a few weeks, when you see our PR stuff and it’s plastered with brackets, you’ll know that I capitulated!

We’re so close to having stuff for you all to listen to now, it’s very exciting. I can’t wait for the chance for you to see/hear what all the fuss is about!

Please pray for me and for us this week. It’s so inspiring to be part of a community of faith, and to know that we’re not alone, and not doing this for our own benefit, but to serve and bless people, and to bless and thank our God. Let’s hope we all find ways to live our lives along those lines this week. 

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Ghostree EP Recording Blogs (2011)

Ghostree Goes to Nashville 4 (Ghostree Recording Blog 4)

In the fourth part of our series of guest blogs from LTTM friend Haydon Spenceley about the recording of his new band Ghost Tree’s debut album, Haydon gives us an update on the album and explains the heart behind some of the songs.

So I look out of my window as I begin to write this fourth blog entry for you about Ghost Tree’s recording trip to Nashville. It is cold, it is grey. It is raining. I must be home. It’s amazing that you can so comfortably gauge whether you’re in the UK or not by whether it looks like it might rain or not. I’m looking back over the last couple of weeks since I last wrote for Louder Than The Music and I have no idea where to start in how to describe simply how awesome, exciting, frightening and fattening the latter part of our trip has been. I suppose, as I wrote about my toilet travails last time, I should pick up from where I left off.

You’ll be pleased to know, no doubt that the only lasting damage from my brush with the bathroom was to my pride, but that was by no means the last of my hazardous health histrionics. Indeed, on the very next day, while Ben and Mark were tracking at Brown Owl (which may be one of the coolest places on the planet). I discovered a large bite on my arm. Upon inspection at the local hospital, it turns out I had been dinner for a Brown Recluse Spider. I don’t know whether I’m exaggerating, so please excuse me if I am, but apparently bites such as these are potentially fatal, so I was freaked out more than a little bit. Anyway, come 3am the next morning I was home tucked up in bed, having been treated well, but still a little bit scared, I must admit. One of the things that had scared me was the potential financial cost of visiting the hospital and paying for treatment (high). In this, as in every other aspect of this trip, God was faithful, and provided me with a route to claim on my insurance, and pay for the prescriptions I needed to deal with the problem. I am pleased to say that now my arm is completely healed and I am back to health. It was a sobering reminder of my need for God though, the kind of reminder that seemed to come for all of us who were involved in the record at one point or other in the trip.

The next day was another rhythm section day, with some keyboards for me to do as well. I took abundantly great joy in playing a couple of songs on a Fender Rhodes, and another on a wonderful old upright piano, before finishing with some time on a Wurlitzer. All great fun, especially on 4 hours sleep. We concluded at 2am with Kevin (producer) trying to work on a Wurli part that ended up requiring that he play the right hand and I play the left. Teamwork is dreamwork people! I should point out as well that Kevin and Brandon had gone well above and beyond the call of duty in taking me and staying with me all the way through my hospital experience the previous night, so we were all quite worn out by this point! 

I also had the pleasure of coffee-ing with Chad Johnson that day. Chad is a total legend, who heads up Come and Live! and seeks God in a way which is consistently challenging to me. Come and Live! have some cool bands, and an even cooler heart for ministry. Keep an eye on what they’re doing, and pray for them.

With the rhythm section stuff laid down (with some amazing help from Chris Vicari), we were on to guitars, keys and vocals in week 3. This was last week, which went by in a total blur, as we powered through the remaining stuff that needed to be put down for the record. Allie Kelly, our guitarist, played some great stuff, and Kevin came up with some great production ideas to augment and improve on what we had. Later in the week, another new friend, Ryan Stubbs, came along and sprinkled some magic dust over various parts of the record with guitar parts that were so cool it didn’t really seem fair. I sang some of the most challenging vocals I’ve ever had to record (including one standing up, which was like my own personal Mount Everest), and then before we knew it, our parts were done, and it was time to go home.

It was fascinating to me that my songs, written (mostly) in my bedroom back in the UK, seemed to provoke such amazingly positive reactions from guys we met in Nashville. Being British seems to be cool right now, and I with my “bizarre” and “silly” chord progressions (I was accused of being Prog at one point) seem to have made an impression on some people. This was cool, obviously, but not just from a vanity point of view. It was cool because I was able to just be myself, write and sing the songs that God had given to me, and here I was on the other side of the world, thousands of miles from home, and they were resonating with people I barely knew. Quite a confidence boost that. I guess it struck me that we need to push in to the things that God has for us. Not to push past Him, or run away from His still small voice, or His leadership down the narrow path that leads to life, but to stay in step with Him, to know that His character is to be generous, abundantly, to His children, and to trust His provision. I’ve worked hard over the years, and pushed on all kinds of doors that were closed, and were meant to be closed, but here was one that was wide open, and had only been made so by the grace of God, not by my merit, or through my ability to blag my way into something. There’s a lesson for me there, and I would guess I’m not the only one! For all those times when I’ve doubted my calling, it strikes me that I’d missed what my calling actually was. I remember writing here once before that life is less about doing and more about being, that it’s not what we do that defines us, but who we are. That statement’s always been true, but it’s so much more real to me now. God made me for Himself, not to be a musician, a Church minister, or anything else. He doesn’t need me to make an album, but He gave me the gifts and the grace I need, so that, with a lot of help, I can make an album to honour Him. Really, it takes a lot of the pressure off when you look at it like that. God provides for us to do everything He asks of us, but the primary thing He asks of us is love. He is love, and it is Him in us who makes us able to love, so we need to focus on Him, learn how to love, and then do it, in whatever area of life we are.

So now, looking back on the trip, I have to conclude it was the best few weeks of my life. Not without challenges or even frightening moments, as I said before, but without a shadow of a doubt the best time I’ve ever experienced. There’s nothing like seeking your calling from God over a prolonged period of time, and then finding that you’re actually walking (or rolling) it out, something I experienced here. I know, talking to the other guys, we’ll never be the same for what we’ve gone through either. I’m excitedly waiting to hear first mixes in a couple of weeks, and already we’re itching to find the best partners to release the record with, so that you can all hear it, and can experience with us something of the beauty and power of the God that we love through these songs.

Really, this is about so much more than a record, or an experience. For me, this was an experience of God, blessing me, teaching me, refining me, challenging me, to see myself for who I am, to see Him for who He is, and to walk in His way, confidently approaching His throne of grace, as He has invited me to do, and then taking the love and blessing I have received and sharing it with the world. That is what we want to do with these songs, this band. It’s cool to have great experiences, but it’s even cooler to know that our faith is on the solid rock of Christ, and I hope that when we come to release this EP in the latter part of this year, you will be blessed as you hear it, and led to worship and the one who loves you most of all.

If you want to keep up with us and our progress over the next few months, you can at @ghosttreeband – we’ll be launching our Facebook, Twitter, Reverbnation and everything else pages very soon!

Ghostree EP Recording Blogs (2011)

Ghostree Goes to Nashville 3 (Ghostree Recording Blog 3)

In the third part of our series of guest blogs from LTTM friend Haydon Spenceley, we get a progress update from Nashville on the recording process for Ghost Tree’s new album, and hear a warning on the toils of public bathrooms!

So, it’s about 8.45pm here in sunny Nashville. Today we scratch-tracked the remaining three songs for the record. These are Hope, Hallelujah and Save My Day. Hope and Save My Day are both new versions of songs that my old band, Freeslave, used to do. They’re both pretty different from the old versions, feeling like the fully formed versions of the songs that I always hoped would make it out one day. Hallelujah is a straight-up worship track which starts off all nice and British, and ends up gritty and messy. There’s talk of a Queen-like vocal ending to this one, which should be fun. As far as the music goes, I’ve had a pretty straightforward day, tracking keys and vocals for the tracks so that the other guys in the band can play over them, and so that Mark and Ben can track the final rhythm section parts over them tomorrow. As I write this, they are practicing the tracks, whilst Brandon, Kevin, Chris Vicari (a cool drummer mate of theirs) and I are listening/pointing and laughing when they make the occasional minor mistake. But these are by far not the most interesting or even dangerous things to happen today. Oh no, dear reader. Oh no. 

You see, this morning, Kevin and Brandon had a meeting about something or other on Music Row. The guys in the band and I decamped to a noted local coffee chain for an early-morning snack. All was well until I decided that, prior to going into the deep, dark recesses of the studio (where there is no bathroom, dear reader) it would be wise to, well, you know, make the most of the opportunity of, well, peeing. I did what was needed, and then I lent on the grab rail in the bathroom to transfer, and then…. Well, I kinda don’t know what happened next. Suffice to say that not only did I end up on the floor, but the grab rail came with me. And not only that, but so did the whole of the toilet.The toilet actually moved. It moved. And then, just to add insult to injury, it auto-flushed. I got wet. It was not cool. See, being a wheelchair user, I assumed that the USA would be well set for me, in this modern age. Turns out this is not the case. The manager of said coffee place was verily worried I was going to get extremely litigious. Fortunately for her, and for me, I decided against that, and emerged with a mildly bruised bottom, and an even more bruised ego. I’m also now scared to use the bathroom in public. 

As I’ve done my guide parts now, I’m free until Monday. So, Nashville types, what shall I do with my time?!

Join me next time to see if the bruise on my hip has developed into anything, whether I’ve been offered a free Mocha, and hear about our experiences tracking rhythm parts at Brown Owl.

And remember kids, don’t use a grab rail unless it’s securely nailed to the wall. 

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Ghostree EP Recording Blogs (2011) Uncategorized

Ghostree Goes to Nashville 2 (Ghostree EP Recording Blog 2)

In the next part of our series of guest blogs from LTTM friend Haydon Spenceley, we find out about some of the songs newly formed band Ghost Tree are working on as they record their album in Nashville.

Greetings friends, we’re coming to the end of another day in Nashville. In a shock move, it rained today. I missed most of it, as I and the band have spent most of the day cooped up in Viking Studios doing pre-production. We’re in Brown Owl Studios on Thursday and Friday recording the rhythm section, so we’re working hard on formats of songs, and getting stuff together. Today we’ve worked on Glorious and You They See. Glorious is a really vibey worship song for the Church, which has taken a lot of sweat, energy (and not a few tears) to get finished, and it feels great now we’re getting to the point of having a solid version for it.

You They See is a trippy, rhythmic rock song about who God is and what our identity is, and can be, in Him. I felt like I didn’t have a true sense, or appreciation of who God was, and what His character is, and neither did I really understand who I was, who I had been, who God has made me, and what God’s plan for my future is. The song comes all dressed up in a “British-sounding” slab of minor key goodness. Kevin and Brandon (our producers) seem to like this one a lot! It certainly grooves a lot. It fascinates me as a writer. Glorious has been a real struggle to write, taking a couple of years, and only getting finished with a final re-write on Saturday of last week! You They See took half an hour. It just shows that it’s not all about graft and stress when writing songs. Sometimes it can be fun and come easily too!

There’s nothing like the sight of a room full of head-nodding, grooving musician-types to tell you that a song is getting somewhere near the point where it feels pretty great. I really enjoy this one, I get to let rip a fair bit vocally. Often when I’m leading worship at home I get told I shout a lot (can’t think why). Well, here, it seems being loud is a good thing! We’ve got Hope, All For You and Hallelujah to push through tomorrow. Hopefully the heat, the thunder storms, and the fireflies will allow us to get through what we need to. I’m still debating whether to regret having my head shaved on my birthday. It’s certainly good to have a bit of a draught going up there now! 

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Ghostree EP Recording Blogs (2011)

Ghostree Goes to Nashville 1 (Ghostree EP Recording Blog 1)

In the first of a new series of guest blogs from LTTM friend Haydon Spenceley, we join his newly formed band Ghost Tree on their journey to record an album in Nashville. Consisting of members of former British band Freeslave, Ghost Tree will keep us in the loop as the album progresses.

So, my name’s Haydon Spenceley, and I sing, play keyboards, and write the songs for the new worship band Ghost Tree. We’re in Nashville right now, recording our debut EP. The other members of our band are Ben Lewis (bass), Mark Halliday (drums) and Allie Kelly (guitars). Ben, Allie and I used to play in the band Freeslave, and I’ve done a couple of solo records too, but this is the first time that we’ve stepped over to this side of the Pond to make a record. Dave and Jono from LTTM asked me if I would blog about some of our experiences, so here’s my first attempt….

Howdy y’all. It’s July 4th here in blistering hot Nashville, TN. I had hoped that we would celebrate the day by watching Team America: World Police, but that idea was vetoed by the other guys in the band. As it is, we appear to have spent a lot of the day watching Bob The Builder with Jack, who’s the son of our producer Kevin Bruchert. In America, Bob is American. This is wrong.

We’ve been here for five days now. These five days have mostly involved: recovering from the stress of clearing immigration, recovering from the stress of a lost guitarist, 2 of the longest rehearsal days any of us have ever experienced, some cracking moments when the songs started to come together, and some brilliant learning opportunities from Kevin, and his co-producer, Brandon Perdue. We’ve spent some time teaching them our language, and they have reciprocated. Everything is now “awesome.” I would also say that we’ve all put on some weight too. The food here is amazing, and cheap. A bad combination when you like food as much as I do! So far the clear winner is Thai Phooket (it made us snigger too). You should go if you’re ever in Nashville. (can I get a free meal now?!)

I’m excited to be here, it’s been a long journey, and it’s amazing to see how God has moved and orchestrated things to bring us to this point. It’s such a blessing to be given the opportunity to see music, and business, from a completely different angle than what we see at home. I, for one, am having to modify my view of Nashville “Christian Music” and all the stuff that goes with it. There’s a lot of awesome stuff here. We in the UK could actually usefully learn a lot from the scene over here.

Had a great day yesterday (which was also my birthday) which culminated in playing keys in the band at Anchor Nashville. A great experience, but also highly stressful. Everyone here is a musician, and most of them are amazing. Never played in a Church band like it! We’re here for two more weeks, recording five songs, and then we’ll be into the process of trying to find the right route and partners for releasing the album, and getting the songs out to Churches and to radio and all the other stuff that comes with making a record. I’ll be blogging again through this week and next, and next time I’ll talk about some of the songs and how I wrote them, and what they’re about and all that. If you think of it, pray for us, we need it!

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