What do Silent Sound Studios and Mount Everest have in common?
So there I was at Silent Sound Studios, in Studio A. Multiplatinum engineer Thom "TK" Kidd and his trusty assistant presided over its massive SSL console. This s--- was getting real.
The liner notes would read like a Who's Who of GRAMMY®-winners and recording artists. Our old friend Scott Patton (Sugarland, Jennifer Nettles) played on many of the guitar tracks. The producer (and keyboardist), my friend Bradford Rogers, was finishing up a four-year stint as Recording Academy governor.
The room fairly oozed gold and platinum; and records from Fergie to Elton, T.I. to Springsteen lined the walls. We were there to hear the mix for the album's title cut, "Birds Had Flown."
I forget who it was. It might have been Kory Aaron, Silent Sound's "secret weapon." (He actually mixed the tracks 'Return To Groove' and "Wake Up' on the album.) Kory was always cracking us up with his interpretations of the lyrics...some of which I probably shouldn't repeat here.
Or it might have been Captain Kidd Himself. Or possibly Miles Walker (Rhianna, Katy Perry, Wiz Khalifa), who we'd bump into from time to time, since he moved his "Mixed by Miles" suite to Silent. I greatly appreciate Miles' kind words about the tunes he'd occasionally happen in on.
So, anyway, I forget who asked...but the question was "What's "Birds Had Flown" about?"
Well, for starters: Does anyone remember Sir Edmund Hillary? Sir Edmund Hillary and his partner, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, were literally the first two people to stand on the highest spot on earth: the summit of Mount Everest.
"Birds Had Flown" was inspired by a trip I took to the mountains of North Carolina one summer. I was out for my morning hike when I rounded a corner on the deep forest path, and encountered a spectacular and surreal scene.
Suddenly in the distance before me loomed a great mountain. The morning sun, as it warmed the evening dew, created a slight mist around the high mountain peak; and within this mist was a group of hawks circling.
As I gazed out at this majesty I thought about the Cherokee, and about the early explorers and pioneers. They must have asked themselves, “I wonder what is beyond that?" and "What will I encounter if I attempt to go there?”
As the song started to take shape later, the lyrics spoke to what went through the minds of explorers like Livingston, Hillary, Earhart, Armstrong, and others.
We all encounter situations where something substantial is required of us. It may be the relocation to a foreign place, starting up a new business; or something as simple as being the first rider on a newly created carnival ride. All are a trip into the unknown and all require a certain amount of inquisitiveness, preparation, and courage.
Early man in his migrations surely looked out over that next great peak “where only the birds had flown,” and summoned the courage to go there. Sometimes with horrific consequences. Other times to great reward.
It's no coincidence that I was met with a feeling of awe and wonder as I entered Silent Sound Studios. Not just as a drummer anymore, but now as a singer/songwriter, performer, and (notwithstanding the amazing tribe that helped birth this baby!) the one who'll receive your praise or your criticism.
Sir Edmund Hillary once said, "You don't have to be a fantastic hero to do certain things — to compete. You can be just an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals. The intense effort, the giving of everything you've got, is a very pleasant bonus."
With the album complete, my personal Everest has been scaled and I’m just immensely grateful to my team, and awed at the result...but I’ll let you decide what you think.
It is not about the destination, but the journey.