Recording at Rocket Boy Records

Rocket Boy GeoI went back into a recording studio yesterday for the first time in well over a year, and it was, as we used to say back in the late ‘60s, “a gas.” In mid-January, I entered a contest to win four hours of free studio time at John Natiw’s Rocket Boy Records. (For those who don’t know, besides running RBR, John is a stalwart in the Michigan music scene, and one-half of The Potter’s Field, one of the finest Folk/Americana/Roots duos in these parts and beyond.) The idea was for entries to respond to RBR’s Facebook post, describing what they proposed to do with those four hours of free time, where they to win. I thought, what the hell, I never win anything, but I can’t lose anything either, so I suggested that I’d lay down basic tracks to my song, “I’m a Hop Head.”

When the time for choosing a winner came several days later, John wrote the names of all the entries on a little lots of paper and had none other than Detroit singer-songwriter Jill Jack do the honors of selecting the lucky one. (I saw the basket with all the entries yesterday, and there were quite a few of them.) Facebook users can see the announcement as it was made here. I guess I can’t say I never win anything anymore!

In conversations leading up to the session, I told John that I’d expanded upon my original intention to also include recording guitar, harp and vocal tracks for my two latest originals, “In Dog Years I’d Be Dead” and “Little Jessie,” and he agreed that it was likely quite doable in four hours. As it turned out, we never did get to “Hop Head” during the session, but that’s OK, we can always do it next time.

John Natiw is a joy to work with, and utterly delightful to hang out and talk about whatever we happen to be talking about at any given time, including recording, songwriting, music in general, family, American military history, doughnuts or whatever. When I arrived a few minutes after noon yesterday, we spent the first 45 minutes just talking and getting to know each other. It turns out that we have much in common, musically and spiritually, and much the same m.o. in going about the recording process, so everything went very smoothly from there. We laid down guitar, vocal and harmonica tracks in succession for both songs, interspersed with conversations on the topics listed above and more. While we were recording, John took the picture shown above.

John really knows his way around the Pro Tools software that he uses, and it quickly became apparent to me that we share an affinity in striving for the same “organic” result. I’m an old folkie at heart, and as long as I’m pleased with my performance, I don’t want or need a “slick” recording. As I told him, it could sound like an old Alan Lomax field recording, as long as the songs come across as I’d envisioned them. Happily, the quality of the recordings was much better than that; I’m really pleased with our results from yesterday’s session, and even more pleased that John shares my wish to work together more in the future. A very big THANK YOU to John Natiw and Rocket Boy Records



8 Responses to Recording at Rocket Boy Records

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"In the best traditions of folk music, George’s songs evoke personal experiences and historical events, and George certainly has had some experiences, let me tell you. But the experiences of which he sings so truthfully here, while almost mundane when taken literally, are made to seem so much more meaningful, so much more heartfelt in his hands and within his voice. These arrangements are as near to the folk tradition as one could hope, are exactly all that’s necessary for each song, and when accompaniment and backing vocals are used, they feature David Mosher on several traditional instruments, as well as Bill Arnold on dobro, providing simple support to George’s already ample foundations." —Michael O'Brien, Open Mike


And George Heritier from Oak Park shared his clever songwriting, cool and entertaining lyrics and hot guitar/harmonica riffs. He got the best round of applause for the whole festival! I am a huge fan of acoustic blues and folk music and George is one of the best I have heard. I would make it a point to go see him ANY time he plays, it will be well worth the effort! —John P. Bayerl, PhD - SeMi