“Open the Doors” is a collaboration between my partner, Ola, and I with banjoist Hilary Hawke. Hilary is probably best known as the banjoist for the 2018 and 2019 Broadway revival of Oklahoma, but she is a mainstay of the NYC folk/bluegrass/oldtime music world. She and Ola have been friends since attending music camps together at the Crane School of Music as high school students and they both attended Crane for their undergrad music degrees. I knew them both at the time but Ola and I were years away from partnering up.
This collab was born out of the pandemic, with Hilary sending us her banjo parts, Ola composing her piano parts, and me seasoning with my modular synth and Monotron Delay. We all grew significantly in our home recording skills and I confess that it really helped me get over years of stubbornness about using a DAW, coming from a hardware history of reel to reel, ADAT, and DA-38s.
As I was picking up steam as an early-career mastering engineer, we gifted Hilary a pair of Eris 3.5 monitors and coached her on mixing, with lots of feedback and back-and-forth revisions. This afforded a bit of distance between the mixing and mastering stages, though we took our time with the pieces as life kept happening, even as the pandemic did its best to slow everything down.
Somewhere along the way Hilary landed us a NYFA NYC artist grant to travel the seven hours south to the city to perform the album live at Shapeshifter Lab after a few days of intense rehearsals. We were joined by shadow puppeteers Dorothy James and John Manjuck and it was positively magical. I did resort to using a little Akai MPX08 sample player for some key elements which would have been a royal pain to patch on the fly and some field recordings Ola incorporated on some of the tracks.
As for the music itself, it veers into what I might call “contemporary classical”, but I would love a more apt descriptor if anyone is inspired. The process was very much additive, fleshing arrangements out for Hilary’s sometimes elegantly spare banjo lines. There are plans for a follow up to begin work this summer, which will likely be its own adventure as Ola and I are now navigating the care of my 87 mom who is suffering from dementia. Fortunately, we now have some experience with distance collaborations!
We also had quite a nice time this summer as Hilary made the trek up to the far north of NY state to visit and we shot some “promo” photos:
So, llllllll, that’s the quick gist. Thanks for listening!