No Wrong Way To Make it Right . . . yup, that sums up lots of things in my life, but it’s also the title of my new album.
I am so proud of this record for lots of reasons. It is by far my most personal record, touching on subjects I formerly shied away from and at the same time staying true to what comes naturally to me. It has my heaviest and most delicate moments ever caught on tape. It truly is a reflection of all the music I grew up loving and couldn’t hide from–it’s all there in these tracks. The album represents the perfect blend of all my influences.
The album is produced by Doug Derryberry, a longtime friend and someone that I admired as a wide-eyed 17-year-old taking in the local bands in the DC music scene. I wrote some of the songs alone at home and some on the road with friends such as: Jason Mraz, Stephen Kellogg, Ryan Newell of Sister Hazel, Keaton Simons, Mike Daly from Whiskeytown and Emerson Hart from Tonic.
My Journal–The Scoop on The Songs
At the end of the day each song is very close to my heart and is a very truthful extension of me. The title track, “No Wrong Way To Make It Right” could be the most upbeat and carefree song I ever wrote. The song reflects back on me as a teenager, driving my “grandmother’s 70 convertible Cadillac” to the NJ Shore to have the time of my life. I envisioned what it would be like if put into current day and I even give a shout out to all you Down The Hatchers!
“Juliet” is a song named after my 5-year-old daughter who has an extremely strong, independent personality. One day she said to me that she didn’t “ever want to relax” so I started there. The song turned into me musing of my hope and dream that she will one day deny all courting that comes her direction. It is written from the mindset of a broken-hearted and frustrated 15-yr-old boy attempting to sweep her off her feet.
For a change of pace I thought it would be fun to put a campfire-sounding spin on Hornsby and Henley’s “End Of The Innocence.” We used a very simple approach to make this perfectly written song have a different feel by using instruments that are usually reserved for folk and bluegrass. I haven’t recorded a cover song since my first CD in 1995 and felt it was time to pay my respects to the greats.
There are some fantastic guest appearances with musicians I have known for over a decade and some I just met. Keaton, Stephen and I wrote the light-hearted and upbeat “See You Again” in the spirit of The Traveling Wilbury’s. I really loved that vibe of three lead singers, and, dare I say, we knocked it out of the park on this one. On “How We Got Here,” the tune I wrote with Jason, I had always thought a female vocal part would really tell the story of the couple as they travel across the country and try and keep their relationship intact. Mraz and I were chasing a “Simon & Garfunkel” when we concocted this one. Lucy Woodward, a longtime friend and amazing artist nailed the part.
In “They Think We’re Not Gonna Make It”–possibly my favorite song on the record for personal reasons–you can hear the sweet sounds of Tim Warren of Alternate Routes fame, crushing the high harmonies like only he can. His voice is unmistakable and just cuts through like no other. This song tells the story of being with the person that you know is right for you, and it’s just gonna have to take others some time to accept it. I dig the Led Zeppelin drum sound we got on this one to go along with orchestral sounds of the pedal steel– courtesy of Jon Graboff from Ryan Adams & The Cardinals.
Throughout “Done To Me,” written with Stephen and Emerson, you can hear Tim’s and SK and the Sixer’s vocals soaring and blending like we were meant to form our own band.
The opening track “Release” showcases the undeniable slide guitar tone of Ryan Newell when he rips a solo that says it all in just a few notes that seem to go on for days. Lyrically it conjures up the moment in the relationship when you know it’s painfully coming to an end and you are afraid to face it, then down the road you have a release, an exhale.
“Take a Bow,” a song I dreamed up one night down in Georgia with Ryan and Mike, fuses country, rock and Latin grooves with the help of the smokin’ percussionist and longtime friend, Eddie “From Ohio” Hartness and a stellar brass arrangement from Michael Ghegan and the Jersey Horns. Both Eddie and Michael have been with me since the inception of my career, both in special ways. I am honored to share the stage with Ghegan night after night. I knew I’d want to work with Eddie again when he played me his drum idea for my demo of a song called “Haven’t Seen For a While,” and here we are 18 years later, still rockin together. Patrick McAloon’s pristine backing vocals are present throughout this body or work. He delivers a sweet tone through a powerful range that has been missed in my more recent recordings, and now you can hear him night after night with me on stage.
What Else Went Into the Album
Throughout this album you will hear instruments that I always wanted to include on previous recordings but never felt like they would serve the songs properly. Well, this batch of songs begs for the warm, rich tones of mandolin, banjo, dobro, fiddles and pedal steel guitar. These were sounds that I heard growing up listening to–a boatload of classic rock, jam bands and singer-songwriters. Grateful Dead, James Taylor, Crosby Stills & Nash, Tom Petty and Led Zeppelin all intertwined these musical flavors on their records, and I found the sound so captivating. I sought to do the same on No Wrong Way To Make It Right.
The Guest Artists
I was blessed to have the raw talents of some amazing musicians on this project. From The Punchbrothers, Gabe Witcher laid down some of the most inspiring fiddle playing on two tracks that I have ever heard. Jon’s ethereal pedal steel work can be heard on four songs, each one with a totally different take on the typical country western tones–it nearly sounds like a symphony. Brien Brannigan’s dobro work is the perfect match to the bouzouki and mandolin parts cut by Doug, all while keeping my acoustic guitar up front. I really feel like we captured some very authentic guitar tones across the entire album, sometimes using old amps with every knob turned all the way up. I played my Gibson, Fender, Duesenberg and PRS guitars on songs, each of which called out for a distinctive tone that brought the ultimate vibe to the song. The warm acoustic tones are from my vintage Gibson, Martin and Lowden guitars, all with just a single microphone in front of them to give you that “I’m sitting right next to you” feeling.
The Producer & My Studio Mates
Doug rocked so many things on this record it would be hard to list them all here. He is truly a madman with anything with strings, keys or knobs– which I’ve known since I was 15 watching his band tear up clubs in Georgetown and later as the guitar player for Bruce Hornsby. His work with Dave Matthews and John Mayer has earned him platinum records for his walls, and I hope this record does the same. We both sunk our teeth into this one for sure. We wanted to make an album that when listened to on head phones, brought you to a special place and offered you surprise musical treats along the way. From the hidden handclaps on “Juliet” & the slipping in of my brother Hugh’s backing vocal, to all of the creative harmonies throughout this CD, I hope you discover something new with each listen.
The rhythm section for this album consisted of two gentleman, both Virginians, that I have watched rock stages since I was 15, wishing that one day I could do what they were doing. Nate Brown, the drummer from Everything, worked with me on “These Days” (2008) and I knew he was the perfect man for the job . . . nobody lays it down quite like Nate–it’s a beautiful and nasty thing. Nate was friends with my late drummer Chris Williams so he knows how much it means to me to have the “right” guy behind that kit.
Long before we were label mates at Warner Brothers, Andy Waldeck was the first “rock star” I had ever been able to get close to. Watching him play bass in the DC-based band Egypt, I learned more than he could ever realize. Those shows inspired me to take up the guitar and give it a go myself. Their guitarist Joe Lawlor, now employed by Dave Matthews Band, offered to give me guitar lessons in 1989 (OK, I begged). I was allowed to enter the Egypt lair in Fairfax, VA and it was there I met Andy and tried to soak it all in with a few lessons. I was learning WAY more than guitar scales, trust me. Coming full circle, Joe was the assistant engineer at the beginning of this album, which was wild for me to have him make ME feel like the star for a change.
The Rough Beginning–Losing A Friend
The road to recording this latest album started on an exciting path that suddenly turned to a very dark place and eventually came to a cradle of comfort that I previously had never recorded in. The original producer slated for this project was my old friend and accomplished musician, Will Owsley. We had recently reconnected after being label-mates at Warner Brothers in the late 90’s, and we were now focused on working together on a project. We were both newly divorced and shared the understanding of being a proud dad while being a working musician. We both knew the struggles and challenges that came with that gift of this profession. A few weeks had gone by, and I hadn’t heard from Will, which was out of the ordinary. I was heartbroken to learn that Will took his own life and left so many of us with endless questions and deep sadness. I am grateful for the time we had just spent together and look back on the WBR years as such a hopeful time for both of us.
Back Home To Virginia
Knowing I had a batch of tunes that must see the light of day, I picked up the pieces and moved on. I needed a producer. I called the one man I had always wanted to work with since he pressed “record” on my first demo in 1991–Doug Derryberry. Doug agreed to take on the project, and weeks later we were at the Dave Matthews Band studio, Haunted Hollow in the hills of Charlottesville, VA. This amazing studio offered a relaxed vibe & calming support. It felt like I was making a record with my family. I thank the entire DMB camp for playing host to me and my gang. We finished the record in Brooklyn, NY at Doug’s home studio, which I have named “Jane’s Justice Studio” after his adorable children, who you might hear on the vocal track if you listen really closely. I am already planning on recording a few more tracks for the Internet release of this album. So I’m sure I’ll be back down there soon! A special thanks to David Bergman who took all of the photo’s you see here and in the record packaging.
So, as you can see on this album, I worked with many people I had long admired and who had over the years become my peers and friends who I greatly respected. I am a very fortunate man, and I hope you enjoy this album half as much as I did making it, Pat