Things Worth Remembering is the second album by pop/rock band Clandestine Amigo. Recorded in pure high-resolution Direct Stream Digital (DSD) and mastered using Octave Records’ DSDDirect Mastering process, the album finds singer/songwriter/pianist Jessica Carson, singer Giselle Collazo and the band stretching their musical and lyrical boundaries with the addition of vocalist Katie Mintle and an expanded ensemble sound. Carson noted, “when I’m writing, I usually start out with a feeling and try to find chords, music and lyrics that match that feeling. And people’s feelings and experiences are complex.”
Things Worth Remembering was recorded at Animal Lane Studios in Lyons, Colorado in pure DSD using the Sonoma recording system. It’s available as a limited-edition release of 1,000 hybrid SACD discs with the master DSD layer and a CD layer. In addition, the album can be purchased as a download bundle including DSD64, DSDDirect Mastered 192kHz/24-bit, 96kHz/24-bit and 44.1kHz/16-bit PCM. In the DSDDirect Mastered process, the mastering occurs at the same time as the mixing, thereby eliminating a generation of audio processing to maintain maximum sonic purity. Things Worth Remembering was produced by Jessica Carson, also the executive producer, with Giselle Collazo as co-producer. It was recorded and mixed by Jay Elliott and mastered by Gus Skinas.
Vocalist Katie Mintle adds a smooth, sultry element to Clandestine Amigo. “Her lead vocals really fit what the songs are trying to say,” said Carson. Mintle is featured on three tracks, “I Wish,” “Things Worth Remembering” and “Let It Be.” In addition to the core band of Jessica, Giselle, Michael Wooten (drums) and Kyle Donovan (acoustic and electric guitar), the record features guest appearances from Octave Records artists Gabriel Mervine (trumpet), Bradley Morse (upright and electric bass), Tom Amend (organ, flute), Jonathan Sadler (vibraphone), Eben Grace (pedal steel) and Jay Elliott (tambourine).
Jessica recorded her piano parts on a Yamaha 7-1/2-foot concert grand piano and the basic tracks were recorded live in the studio using a Sonoma digital audio workstation (DAW) in pure one-bit DSD. A variety of Neumann, Coles, Sennheiser, AKG and other mics were used, including a C24 custom-modified by Tim de Paravicini, along with Manley, Forsell, Grace Design, Summit Audio and Neve mic preamps. The result is a warm yet detailed, spacious yet inviting recording.We interviewed Jessica Carson about the making of the album…and went off on a few tangents.
Frank Doris: The album’s lyrics and themes seem a little darker than the last Clandestine Amigo album, Temporary Circumstances. I also get a feeling that you appreciate what you have in life more now, and want to hang on to it.
Jessica Carson: These songs are actually two or three years old. The album kind of built over time. There are songs that are in the same vein as Temporary Circumstances, but this is an album that has a sense of closure on those earlier songs.
FD: You used a lot of other Octave Records artists on the album. For example, Gabriel Mervine’s trumpet solo on “Stay” is just gorgeous. How did that come about?
JC: A huge part of my job [as a producer] at Octave is bringing in artists, and since I now know all these amazing musicians, I thought, why wouldn’t I bring them in and make this album shine? Also, I knew I wanted it to sound a little more “produced” than the last one.
FD: How did you find Katie Mintle, and what made you decide to hand over the mic to her for lead on three of the songs?
JC: I found Katie on Instagram! I saw her and thought, wow, this woman has such a beautiful voice, a smooth kind of sultry voice that really lends itself to jazz. We met, and hit it off. I feel like she really gets it, especially for the more emotional kind of softer songs.
FD: I feel like the music is something Dionne Warwick or Dusty Springfield would do. How do you come up with the chord changes and melodies? You’re not just banging out C, F and G.
JC: If a chord progression takes me by surprise, I like it. When I’m writing, usually I start out with a feeling and try to find a chord progression that matches that feeling. Then I’m able to start getting lyrics that describe my state of mind or the experience that I’m trying to process.
People’s feelings and experiences are complex. Humans are complex creatures. So, finding a chord progression that expresses that complexity is really what I go after.
FD: With a lot of songwriters, the lyrics come first, or a title or an idea.
JC: There’s no wrong way to write a song.
FD: Some of the images in the lyrics jumped out at me. “I need to learn how to walk, ’cause I know I can’t run forever,” from the song “Run Forever.” Where’d that come from?
JC: I have a tendency to think way too far ahead. I’ll running be so far ahead in my mind that I can drive myself crazy with trying to [solve] problems that are really not relevant in the present moment. I was seeing this big life change on the horizon, and was trying to figure everything out and solve everything [about it] overnight, and just realized, you know, I can’t predict the future. I need to learn to mentally slow down and appreciate the moment that’s right in front of me. Then I could be a much more peaceful person, you know?
FD: “Doubt inhales me like a cigarette.” (“The Over-Thinker”). Leonard Cohen would be tipping his fedora to you for that one.
JC: I do like to play with imagery. There’s something that feels very nostalgic about watching somebody smoke a cigarette in the rain. I know it’s bad for you. But there’s something about seeing the end of it burn. That feeling of being sucked in.
FD: It’s a reversal. You’re not inhaling the cigarette; the doubt is burning you up.
JC: This tendency to overthink things and jump way too far ahead is a [recurring] theme [on the album]. That’s why [there’s also a song about] finding a place where I can just let it go!
FD: The album sounds very “finished” and “produced.” How was it made?
JC: I do a lot of pre-production, especially with our drummer, Michael Wooten, who is kind of the foundation. He and I will get together and play for hours and hours and get tight before we bring anybody else in. Then, when I get into a studio, if we have to do more than three takes on something, I’ll just move on and come back to it later.
We did the basic tracks live. Michael Wooten and I played live together and Brad Morris, the bass player, was in an isolation booth, just to have a little bit of separation. Katie was in another room and sang all the songs while we recorded. Everything else was overdubbed later.
FD: How about the line from the title track, “when I die, I hope to leave a black hole and the people that shared my love will pull towards each other.”
JC: When we lose somebody, when that light goes out, there’s a hole left. And all the people that cared about them turn their attention, whether it’s a day or a month or for the rest of their lives, toward the hole that was left, and [then] there’s nothing to be found except for the other people who also loved that person.
And the best thing that could happen is that the people that I loved, that shared love with me, all find each other and remember the best parts about me, or someone [who they’ve lost]. And those parts will live on in those people.
Every piece of you turns into something else.
FD: You’ll give life to something; your molecules will be reinstated somehow. I didn’t think we were gonna get this profound! Maybe this album will inspire people to think about these things more deeply.
JC: We should think about these things because when we don’t, we ignore the facts of life. [We] should be grateful and should appreciate every day that [we] get to have with the people that we love.