Little Orange Room Sessions is a one-take, one-shot, “living-room”-style performance video series recorded in Eugene, Oregon. Each two-song session is recorded in the 125 square feet that I use for mixing, producing, and sometimes even recording entire albums. Little Orange Room Sessions grew out of my crazy love of music and mixing, a growing curiosity about film and cameras, and a deep-seated passion for performance and the art of song.
*photo: Matt Kennelly
Session #6: Bart Budwig
Bart Budwig is a prolific singer/songwriter, producer, and mixing engineer. In addition to releasing six albums since 2010 he has also produced more than a handful of projects for other artists, notably John Craigie, Shook Twins, and TK & The Holy Know-Nothings. Budwig’s seventh full-length album Another Burn on the Asto Turf is due out January 24th, 2020 via Fluff and Gravy Records. Our session features two songs from the upcoming album, “Human Again” and “Sock Song.” Bart recently took the time to answer some questions via email.
LORS: There is a quote by Sean Jewell of American Standard Time calling you a “cosmic country lawn gnome.” There is no question here. I just love that quote and want to acknowledge it. Anywho. The latest singles “Human Again” and “Sock Song” sound fantastic. I look forward to hearing the rest of the album. All your albums feel so distinct to me. Like they all have their own vibe and are very much their own thing. When I listen to Springsteen records I have a similar feeling. Do you write with albums in mind? I’m curious if Another Burn on the Astro Turf was approached any differently in terms of writing and recording than your previous works?
BB: I don’t normally have an album in mind when I write songs but I do think the albums I’m listening to that are influencing have a huge effect on the way I write and what is in my mind for full band production when I’m writing. So, normally when I’m writing my songs have a similar feel to what is inspiring me. On a ten song album there might be 6-8 songs I wrote that fit with the concept or production of the album. When I get to that point I’ll decide if I need to add one or two older songs that need to be recorded in the style of the album, and also consider what covers might work well. For Another Burn on the AstroTurf I went with 7 new originals, 2 old originals and 2 covers (one well known, one written by a friend).
Whisky Girl and The Moon & Other Things were influenced by Sera Cahoone, Willie Nelson, and Waylon Jennings. The artists that introduced me to alt & outlaw country. The latter album also being informed by lo-fi sounds of the 60s and cassette recording like Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska.
Fast Forward to Paint by Numbers Jesus. This record got groovier with a lot of my listening tastes shifting to music from Muscle Shoals, and Memphis Tennessee. Notably Frazey Ford’s album Sepetember Fields, Al Green, and Mavis Staples, as well as the Muscle Shoals documentary.
Over the past 10 years I’ve worked with a lot of great musicians with hubs being in Astoria OR (where a lot of my buds moved) and Moscow ID (where I grew up). It’s like I’ve got a NW coast band and an inland NW band. For Another Burn on the AstroTurf I threw all these musicians into the OK Theatre for a week of live tracking. Recording live with 7+ musicians created my most dynamic and interesting record to date. Stylistically you will hear a lot more Grateful Dead (Jerry Garcia), John Scofield, and Rolling Stones influence thanks to Ben Walden on lead electric guitar.
LORS: They say doctors make the worst patients and that’s kind of how I feel about producing my own albums/songs. I often don’t take advice that I would typically give artists I’m working with. Do you struggle with this yourself? How do you stay objective when you’re knee deep in Budwig songs?
BB: My main approach to recording is live, in a comfortable space, with a group of my favorite musicians. Normally the session are just two-three days long which shifts the production to each musicians skill, intuition, and ability to listen to each other and the song. Putting the focus on getting the record done live in three days forces a more instinctual and collaborative record. There isn’t much time for getting over ambitious with editing or arranging.
LORS: Producing. Writing. Performing. Could you rank those for me?
BB: For a band record I think all of these things are extremely important. How I spend most of my time in those categories: Performing, then Recording/Mixing/Producing for other, then writing songs (I do this the least but would like to spend more time exercising the songwriting muscle, including practicing instruments).
LORS: Guy Clark sings, “Some days you write the song / some days the song writes you.” Which line best describes you?
BB: The song writes me. I’d like to get better at writing songs when I’m not feeling inspired or emotional.
LORS: Any music you’re listening to (old or new) that I should put in my ear holes? Or any good books you’re currently reading or just finished?
BB: I already mentioned some bands above. Lately I’ve been enjoying Erin Rae as well as diving in to groovy African music like Mahlathini and William Onyeabor.