In 2009, Robert made friends with Nate and Noble Jolley, who Robert met playing in a U Street club in Washington, D.C. Robert was immediately struck by how they played together: they were so in sync. Robert was later to learn they were not just brothers, but twins. Noble is an amazingly gifted pianist and jazz musician. Robert asked Noble if he would be willing to give him piano lessons, which Robert began in 2010. Robert was hoping to learn the basics so he could utilize keyboards and synths in his own musical efforts.
Over the years Nobel, Nate and Robert became friends. Nate would stop by his home studio from time to time, and they would talk about recording, studio gear, etc. Nate would also check out Robert’s songwriting drafts and attempts at recording.
In August 2012, Nate suggested they do a project and record six songs Robert had been working on. They began recording at Blue House Productions in Rockville, MD on Labor Day Sept 2012. They worked with four other musicians (whom Robert never met before and who had never heard his songs) for 10 hours. It was quite a session…they are all full-time, very accomplished jazz and gospel performing and session musicians.
Once they had the basic tracks, they took the project back in to Robert’s home studio where, over a period of two weeks, they re-tracked his vocals and selected guitar tracks with recording engineer Jason Chimola. They then added background vocals with Christie Dashiell (D.C. jazz vocalist) and Alison Carney (D.C. R&B singer).
One evening, while reviewing Morning Light, it felt like it was missing something. Jason remarked he knew blues guitarist Johnny Gave (who lived nearby) who could lay down some resonator/Dobro guitar. Johnny came over that night, and he jumped in cold to deliver some really nice tracks. It was a real-time event: within two hours they had Jonny’s guitar tracks down and in the mix.
The songs Forgiving One and Charles B. were completely tracked at Robert’s home studio. Noble Jolley laid down the keyboard tracks in one night while Robert manned the console. Tyler Sherman laid on the bass part for Forgiving One that same night and later did the bass track for Charles B. at his home. Nobel brought in the amazing cello player Caleb Vaughn Jones, who was able to create and lay down the cello parts within two hours.
When it came time to mix the project, Nate brought in Horace Ward. Horace is an amazing front-of-house sound engineer who has done live sound for Usher, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Prince. Horace would stay at Robert’s home and mix the project for two to five days at a time. Horace made about six trips in 10 months to D.C. to mix the project.
Once Horace settled in, they realized his system was not up for the task. Horace and Robert decided they had to upgrade to a Pro Tools HD system, and they started the mix process again. When Horace started mixing and adding plug-ins, he brought the system to its knees several times. Logan Park, with the string sections added to the base tracks, had around 45 tracks. Once Horace started mixing Addy’s Song–which he said was like mixing “air,” as it is very sparse in instrumentation and vocals-he knew they had an album.
Horace said to Robertt one day “You need 12 songs for a solid release. You need to go write some more songs.” Robert went upstairs and started writing Play for Me that day.
The album was completed in December 2012 with nine songs. Later Robert wrote Tell Me Now, Circle of Clowns and Who Will Testify, and decided to delay the album release until these songs were finished. His friend and bass player Tyler Sherman helped produce the last three songs over June and July of 2013. They tracked the bass, drums, piano and Hammond B3 at Bias Studios in Sterling VA. Who Will Testify was tracked at Bias also. They purposely kept it simple with the just the acoustic guitar and single vocal track. Horace came back down in July and mixed the last three. At that point, they had completed Exposed.
About the home studio:
It has a high quality signal chain from Mic to Digital D/A interface. It runs a Pro Tools 10 HD system with two HD DSP cards. The signal chain includes all tube Avalon class A tube amplifiers, compressors and EQs, A Design’ tube EQ, Neve EQ, Universal Audio LA610 MkII PreAmp, and Apogee Symphony Audio Digital/Analog interface. Robert’s mic collection includes Royer 122 Ribbon mics, Mojave MA100 mics, a Brauner Velvet mic, and Lauten Oceanus mic. The monitoring and mix was done on Genelec 8040As and a 7270A Sub Woofer.