With Isolation Drills, MAGNET has been checking in with Philadelphia-area musicians during the pandemic, while Where We Belong shines a light on our beloved local venues. Now that our city is opening again, MAGNET has launched Philadelphia Freedom to explore what happens next with our music scene, post-quarantine. Photos by Chris Sikich.
What were you working on at Studio 1935 when we did these photos?
Mike “Slo-Mo” Brenner (co-producer, pedal steel): I was co-producing songs by Rich. I co-produced and played on his last record. We were working on laying down backup vocals by Meaghan Kyle and accordion by Dan Nosheny. We have seven tunes in progress.
What project it was for, and how/when are you looking to release the music?
Rich Adams (vocals, guitar): It’s a Rich Adams solo record. The album is titled Fragile Little Seeds. Currently, we’re working toward a November/December release. That may shift if this pandemic heats up again.
How did your approach to writing and recording change as a result of the pandemic? How did it impact how you worked in the studio?
Adams: There is something magical about being in a room with other musicians. Even with advancements with Zoom and other collaboration platforms, it just doesn’t feel the same. But where there is a will, there is a way, and we’ve gotten a lot done here in the last few days. During the pandemic, I was fortunate to work on several film projects, which kept me engaged and sane. After a year, the urgency to work in the studio rose to the top, and I’m glad we were able to coordinate this all safely and track some great stuff here at Studio 1935. Working with Pete Rydberg, Mike and his talented cast of musicians (John Cunningham, Mark Schreiber, Pete, Dan Nosheny and Meaghan Kyle) has been a blessing and a real life-saver for me. I don’t know that I could have cut another tune alone in my home studio without losing my mind.
Brenner: I did tons of remote work during the pandemic, and I was grateful to be able to continue to work. But it really is a different thing being able to bounce ideas off each other in person.
How much time do you plan to spend—or have you spent—in the studio working on this?
Brenner: We already did two days in-studio to cut drums/bass and some guitars. Other work, like my steel-guitar tracks, was done remotely and flown in. We probably have another two or three in-studio days, and then Pete can start to mix, which will take about a week, give or take. We’re entering the home stretch as far as the recording goes.
Adams: In addition, I spent a few days prior demoing the songs and working through some arrangements remotely and bounced ideas off of Mike as we narrowed down the song selections. I think I have another day or two planned in the coming weeks to finish up some last overdubs and a vocal or two. Then we’ll mix and get ready for release.
Anything else you can think of to give MAGNET readers a behind-the-scenes look at your process, offering them a better understanding of what you’re working on?
Brenner: When musicians prepare for sessions and really know the material, sessions are a breeze and very positive.
Adams: Couldn’t be more thankful for that. These folks make it really easy to get the songs down, and each person brings a unique approach or part that elevates the song. I’ve worked with a lot of musicians over the years, but this crew really puts the song first and is generous in that respect.
Musically, what are you looking forward to as restrictions are lifted in the city?
Adams: As an independent musician, it’s been difficult to get the audience out and into the clubs. I’m hoping that changes over time, but it’s getting more and more challenging as the pandemic heats up again. The StageIt and YouTube shows can be fun, but not being in the club onstage is a drag. I do miss playing in front of a live audience. Hopefully, by the time this record is released later this year, we’re in a better place to achieve that.
Brenner: I’m allegedly touring with Wild Pink from September 12 to October 10, all around the U.S. I’m very curious to see what it’s going to be like. A tour seems dicey to me, but so far, we’re going.