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album review and artist reflectionsInterview, Review & HTML © Russell W Elliot 2002
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Last updated:25 August 2002
Grey Eye Glances albums Songs Of Leaving and Further On (both originally released under the band name Sojourn) were followed by Eventide and Painted Pictures on Mercury Records. An additional EP sold exclusively on the internet entitled One Day Soon was the band's last release on Mercury Records before it was merged into a larger label. To ensure their continued growth, the band purchased back rights to material produced while they were with Mercury and released four additional special compilations of rare and live material that were sold via the internet to their most dedicated fans. The band then sold tracks individually as downloadable mp3 files. A collection of six of these tracks was released as an EP entitled "If I Was" (review).
Fronted by lead vocalist Jennifer Nobel (also guitar), the lineup includes Eric O'Dell (bass, trumpet, vocals) Dwayne Keith (piano, organ, melodica, vocals), Brett Kull (guitars, mandolin, banjo, vocals) [Echolyn] and Paul Ramsey (drums, percussion). Their latest ten-track recording, A Little Voodoo (insert details, 2002) is the result of collaboration with producers Jerry Marotta, Kevin Killen, Peter Moshay, T-Bone Wolk, Paul Bryan, and Todd Vos. Read the story of the making of the recording and get some unique insight into the band in our interview with Jennifer, Dwayne and Eric. Our A Little Voodoo album review is also presented below. The band's website website is a one-stop source for soundbites, photos and much more.
Musical Discoveries: Clearly Grey Eye Glances have evolved over your career. What are some of the highlights?
Jennifer: I never seem to be able to put my finger on one defining moment, but there have been many special times along the way that make everything worth while. The songs on A Little Voodoo are some of my favorites that we've ever done, and they capture our live sound better than any other album we've recorded. Some of my favorites from other albums include "The Lost Coast," "Remember This," "Perfect Plan," "Days To Dust," "The Passing of the Evening," and "The Me You See." I often prefer our live rendition of these songs to the album version.
Dwayne: I feel that the band has evolved since day one completely naturally. We never tried to be one specific style of music, because we all come from such diverse backgrounds. The sound is a result of each of us putting our own signature on every song. A sum is greater than the parts thing. I think that on the new album, "Close your Eyes" and "All Because of You" show this the best.
Eric: I remember many "milestone" shows. The first one ever--just the three of us struggling to complete 30 minutes worth of music. The showcase show for Mercury Records which sealed the deal with that label--Playing Chastain Park in Atlanta to 7,000 people as the sunset over the hills.
Also the personnel changes. I am pleased that we met Brett and Paul at the first Eventide sessions. We had many drummers and guitarists before them. As for my favorite numbers--19 and 7!
And what about before Grey Eye Glances? What led you to the band in the first place?
Jennifer: GEG came about almost by accident. Eric, Dwayne, and I had gotten together to record some demos in order to sell Dwayne's songs to publishers. The sound that evolved from those sessions led to us forming a group together instead.
Eric: I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar--whoops wrong song as you can see I was into 80's music. Seriously, I was a horn player in a touring seven piece dance/rock/party band. We were based in scenic Trenton NJ. I would take the half hour drive to meet up with Dwayne and Jen to play bass guitar, simply as a diversion. The music was 180 degrees from what I was doing each night. I liked Dwayne's writing, Jen's singing, and they appreciated some low end in the songs. It just hasn't stopped since.
There has been a clear development over the last three recordings. What happened to create the change? And do you think the changes in A Little Voodoo have been in the same direction or has it been a more radical shift?
Jennifer: Our last three recordings were Voodoo, If I Was, and One Day Soon, but you might be referring to Eventide and Painted Pictures. For Voodoo, we wanted each track to have its own distinct place on the album, and we also wanted to work with as many different producers as we could.
Voodoo was created from the collaboration of the five band members and four different teams of producers and engineers. We tried to keep everything fresh and new, and limited ourselves in the amount of time we would spend from pre-production to final mix. This was radically different from the slow, methodical approach that sometimes occurs in recording an album.
Dwayne: We are still looking for our voice, and we're not afraid of moving forward. A motto of mine has always been let's make an album that is where we're going to not where we've been, or even where we are. the way the industry works, is it takes a long time from the conception of a song until it lands in someone's cd player.
Eric: Each album has it's own thing. In Eventide we had a lifetime's worth of music from which to choose. Our producer leaned toward the more "ethereal" aspects of what we did. Painted Pictures was done about a year later. We wanted to get more of a "live" sound--not so heavy on the keys--more guitar colors. Jen is a tremendous songwriter, yet she was not in a writing stage at this point, so, I feel, the record misses her compositional element.
Voodoo was created out of the most fertile period of writing the band ever had. We all had LOTS of material to share. We would round robin meet at each person's house each week--that person had to present musical ideas--whole songs, parts of songs, etc. We made A LOT of demo tapes, and therefore had much to choose from to make the disc. Also--having multiple production teams kept the sessions fresh and vibrant. Two songs apiece-you choose! The producers would come in excited about the two tracks they chose. That came off in the recordings. I think Voodoo benefits from the unique way in which it was made; not a radical change, just a maturation of GEG music.
What tracks stand out from the previous albums?
Jennifer: That's a great question, but I think it comes down to personal taste! What might stand out for one person may be background music for another. The songs I mentioned earlier stand out for me for many different reasons. Some represent a very specific place and time, some I just love because of how they went down onto tape, others are great fun to play live.
Dwayne: I'm a big fan of the "Lost Coast" from Painted Pictures, because I like listening to story songs. I've always liked "Hard" from Eventide because it is so specific to a moment of my life, and so many people have told me it helped them through similar situations. "Float" as well.
Eric: That changes with time. I thought "Angel" from Eventide should have been on a soundtrack or something. It's quite lush and dynamic.
Please tell us a bit about your musical training.
Jennifer: While we were in pre-production for Eventide, our producer suggested we each take some singing lessons in order to improve our overall quality, but especially to gear up for a lot of singing in the studio. Since Eventide was our first Major Label release, we hadn't had much experience with endurance singing. If I hadn't taken those few lessons, my voice never would have lasted through production. Other than that, I haven't had much in the way of formal training. I did start taking piano lessons two years ago with a wonderful teacher. I've been wanting to take them since I was a little kid. It's really a lot of fun, and helpful!
Eric: I was a trumpet player since the fifth grade. Played ALL styles of music through college. Picked up the bass guitar on my own. Never had a lesson--just love to play it. Sang leads and backups in the aforementioned rock band, so I enjoy singing in this group.
Dwayne: I have only formal training in the choral world.
Where do you draw on the inspiration for the lyrics?
Dwayne: Where don't I find lyrics? I'm working on a book about this question. I think that lyrics are at their best when they are honest and true. I constantly keep a journal in my head, and I write down words that inspire me or lines I read. Travelling to new places help my perspective. I think writing is easy, but getting to the propper place mentally to write is painstaking.
Jennifer: My lyrics come from daily experience and observation, and from reading a lot.
Please tell us more about the vocal arrangements.
Jennifer: We wanted to get a lot of harmonies on Voodoo, and in the live show we have four-part harmonies going throughout some of the songs. Each singer in the band has a different vocal texture, so we like to play around with different parts and just see who works well together, depending on what the part requires.
Eric: Obviously Jen is the best singer so we all try to complement her. Brett is starting to sing with us too, which gives another texture that's fun to work with. We try to be careful not to have "gang" vocals too much. We try to have different people sing with each other throughout the show, that gives a freshness to the sound.
Please tell us about the recording process.
Jennifer: The recording process for Voodoo was a wonderful experience. We worked with so many great people. Our four production/engineering teams were: Jerry Marotta and Todd Vos, T-Bone Wolk and Peter Moshay, Paul Bryan and Kevin Killen, and Grey Eye Glances and Brett Kull. We let each production team choose the songs they wanted to work on, and set a goal to record two songs for each one week session.
Because everyone was on different time schedules, the album ultimately took four months to record. Primarily, we would cut rhythm tracks first, then over-dubs and vocals. We did try to work during pre-production at getting the vocals to feel great with the rhythm tracks. By the time we went in to record, we already had a sense of where we wanted the vocals to sit in the track. I think this also helps to set Voodoo apart as more of a full band album, instead of just having the vocals dumped on top at the end.
Dwayne: We recorded with teams of producers on this record. Two songs over two weeks. It was the best way to record because nothing ever grew stale. We concentrated on the rythm and vocal melodies on this CD, and built around them.
Eric: The multiple producer thing is very cool. Different teams with different approaches. We all came out with a leap of knowledge as well as good recordings. Everyone works hard to get their parts right in the allotted time--which isn't much when you are paying over $2,000 a day! So there is a stress element combined with excitement and panic ... lots of emotions boiled into these sessions. We all try to take a good vacation after an album gets done.
It was interesting to hear the variability in the tracks on A Little Voodoo and we'd put this down to the different producers you used. What led to taking this direction?
Jennifer: Oftentimes, when you work with a single producer, several songs get put on the back burner, and they may not get the attention you would like. We wanted to try an approach we hadn't used before, and we wanted each song to have it's own place. We thought this would help flesh out all of the songs to their fullest potential.
Eric: We did it simply because we could. We sent out demos to nine producers. All nine wanted in on the project. We got to hand pick each team. I was a freedom or luxury you can't get sometimes when you are with a major label. Who wouldn't want to work with as many people as possible?
Dwayne: Working with a producer is among the most rewarding, learning experiences in our world. Working with several just made us grow all the more. It was awesome to work with these guys.
The style of the material has evolved from the progressive folk sounds found on the first two albums and is today more varied and polished. How would you describe GEG's style?
Jennifer: Our style is constantly changing. We try to remain true to the things we think we do well, but in a creative sense, we find it necessary to stretch out and try different sounds, different approaches. We have a large demographic of listeners, from all age groups and backgrounds. I guess our music fits in wherever these people are!
Dwayne: I think we've always been a pop band. We have progressive leanings, but we've always written songs that people get stuck in their head and sing. I think we fit in with people, like us, who grew up on music that was melody based, and interesting.
Eric: I think, because all of us grew up with pop music, that we have leanings to past pop routes, but with our own vastly different personalities intermingled. It's like when you walk into another family's home. Sure they have TVs and kitchens and the walls are decorated--like everyone else; but the feeling or vibe one gets is very different from home to home--it's the spirit of those who live there. That's what a band is like when they work together as a band. There is a collective spirit that is unique to that group. I feel that is our strength.
And what about side projects? What have you been involved with?
Jennifer: We're STILL waiting for Paul to contact us for the McCartney-GEG tour. Really, we haven't thought much about side projects, as there's always so much to do with GEG.
Dwayne: I really don't have the time for side project to this point. GEG is my life 24/7. I am working on a book, that will come out next year, including my poetry, prose, and lyrics. It is fun, but has definitly taken a back seat to GEG. Right now, things are so great with the band, we're riding the wave.
Do you work outside of music?
Jennifer: This is full time for us. It really leaves little time for anything else, like eating, sleeping, etc.
Is there any bonus material that will emerge from the Voodoo sessions?
Jennifer: We set out to record ten songs, and all ten are included on Voodoo. We did start off with about fifty songs, that we had to narrow down. Of the other forty, who knows - perhaps they'll make another recording someday.
Dwayne: We demo'd over thirty songs getting ready for this album. Although nothing else was recorded in a studio, I do hope that some of those songs are released by us before we go in to write the next project. I think we have another CD worth of quality songs just waiting to be recorded. Right now, our focus is on promoting Voodoo.
The artwork for Voodoo is a new look especially when compared to the earlier albums. What is the inspiration behind the album name and the artwork?
Jennifer: A Little Voodoo is taken from the third track: "Oh No". In the context of that song, it refers to all of the voices in your head that tell you that you're incapable of doing something--the things that make you say "I can't." Being in the music industry for this long, and hearing everyone tell us the odds, it makes you wonder, and it can make you reconsider doing this for a living. We depend on our belief in ourselves, each other, and our music in order to keep moving forward and loving what we do. This album is a testament to that, and we feel very fortunate that we were able to release it independently like this. The photos of the band on the front just made sense within that context. The folks that did our artwork, Ox and Company in Haddonfield, NJ, did an amazing job of putting the whole project together.
Eric: The band photo on the front was my idea. I figured after seven records I should have my face on the front. The name is from the second track "Oh No." We just liked the sound of it.
Tell us a bit about your latest live performances. Are you going to make any video available?
Dwayne: We felt we stepped up our music with this new CD, and therefore have spent a great deal of time stepping up our live performance as well. No video discussion yet.
Jennifer: Our latest performance was for KINK 102 FM in Portland, OR. It was a lot of fun flying out there and getting together with them. We did an evening performance at the Aladdin, and then we performed for the KINK staff at their Live Performance Lounge the next day.
Eric: The live show is more fun than ever--a good mix of old and new. As for videos we are working on that.
How has the internet helped Grey Eye Glances thusfar and do you think the website will continue to expand your audience?
Dwayne: The internet has really enabled us to keep going. In the past, the hardest thing to do was get your CDs into stores. Now you just have to convince people it is worth buying.
Jennifer: The Internet has been invaluable to us. We had our website up and running many years ago, before it was a popular thing to do. I remember going for my first tour of this thing called the internet and I was blown away by the potential. We continue to try to create new ways to communicate with our fans and to spread the word, and the internet is the most cost-effective method of doing that.
Eric: The website is a great way for fans to interact and be updated on the goings on. It literally kept us in business after the mercury days, as our discs are sold worldwide.
A Little Voodoo Album Review
During the writing phase, a series of rehearsals were held at each band memberís home, the stipulation being whoever hosted the session had to bring something to the table--be it a lyrical snippet or a finished piece of work. The resulting burst of creativity produced 50 songs with a variety of musical perspectives. The group whittled the list of songs down to 19, and sent them to a wish list of producers. An overwhelming response prompted the thought: Why not work with all of them?
So the albumís working concept was born: Record the album over a six-month period, spending two weeks at a time with the various production teams at their favorite studios. The album includes three tracks written by Jennifer Nobel, four by Dwayne Keith with the remaining three being written by Dwayne, Eric and Brett. With a stunning lead vocal and lush harmonies, the album opens with the upbeat track "Close Your Eyes" which also introduces the band members' individual virtuousity.
The album's title is extracted from the everso accessible "Oh No," penned by Jen with lyrics a collaboration with Dwayne. Produced by Jerry Marotta and mixed by Todd Vos, the vocal work is right up there where Musical Discoveries' readers like it. A new version of "If I Was" produced by T-Bone Wolk is equally strong with harmonies adding to the accessibility of the swinging tune. With ballad style verses and upbeat choruses, Jen's "The One," is certain to appeal to a broad audience and the ballad "Good Folks" is most reminscent of the band's earliest material. The Marotta Vos production team has added a new lushness to this sound.
Grey Eye Glances' roots are further echoed in "Big Red Boat" but are indeed enhanced by Wolk's and Peter Moshay's attention to the production and engineering of the song. Raunchier electric guitar provides a rocking texture in the rocking number "He And She" and "Even," like "Good Folks" is reminscent of the moody singer songwriter style so characteristic of Grey Eye Glances. Peter Moshay's mixing has again put Jen right up where our readers like it.
Produced by Paul Bryan and engineered/mixed by Kevin Killen, "Keep On" is a well arranged and lightly rocking tune. It must be wonderful to see performed live. We especially enjoyed the way that the power of the instrumentals and Jen's soaring voice worked together to such great effect. The album concludes with "All Because Of You," a heartfelt yet progressive ballad blending vocal and instrumental solos with harmonies and lush arrangements; the various movements, assoicated tempo changes and familiar themes make it an album standout.
A Little Voodoo, like Grey Eye Glances' earlier albums, is certainly an album for female vocalist enthusiasts. It will certainly appeal to those that enjoy the music of Karnataka with Rachel Jones and October Project now with Marina Belica, both reviewed at Musical Discoveries extensively.
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order A Little Voodoo from amazon.com here. Grey Eye Glances albums Further On, Painted Pictures and Eventide are also available at amazon.com and can be ordered at the same time. The latest project from the band is certain to delight a broad audience and is worth a cross-country journey. Catch the band live and order their album. You'll agree with us that it is a must listen!
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