a little zen
MICHAEL SPRIGGS: Acoustic Guitar, Baritone Acoustic, 6 String Gryphon Villette, Nylon String, High 3rd
MIKE SEVERS: Electric Guitar
JIMMY CARTER: Bass
DOUG CARTER: Keyboard, Synths, B3 Organ
PAUL SCHOLTON: Drums and Percussion
TODD BRECK: Vocals, Harmonica (The Longest Road, Writing Songs, Snapshots)
WYATT EASTERLING: (I Am Just A Man, A Little Zen, If I Knew Then, Snapshots)
LISA BROKOP: BGV (On The Stage, I Love The Rain, Lazy Day, Holding Hands, Driving Country Roads)
JESS KLEIN: BGV (Snapshots)
THOMAS ANDERSON: Dano Guitar (Driving Country Roads)
MAKING THE ALBUM A LITTLE ZEN:
I sent my usual scratch videos and lyrics (25 this time) to Wyatt. He selected 10 with 2 extra in case we had time. Some songs date back to 2016, but many were so new the final tweaks were made right in the studio. Beth, my photographer, commented the album sounded “grateful”, which does echo my sentiments after 85 years on the planet.
“Writing Songs”, “The Longest Road”, “If I Knew Then”, and “Driving Country Roads”, all composed in 2023, offer insights into where I've been and who I am. “Snapshots” emerged from a chance meeting at the supermarket, capturing the essence of old friendships. “I Love The Rain” explores life’s rhythms and the beauty of nature. “Red Silk Stockings” is an unusual love song. “A Little Zen” was inspired at a songwriting retreat prompting deeper introspection. “Lazy Day” just makes you want to lay back and chill out. “On The Stage” is a freefall through my consciousness, dreams, and memories.
It’s my impression that men have had considerable gender pushback from a myriad of directions. They may also deserve it when viewing the ongoing circus in the national media. “I Am A Man” is my tribute to those resilient, honorable men navigating life’s pressures and complexities. I’m again deeply grateful, finding myself in awe while my amazingly talented musician friends participated in the creation of this album. They are identified in the credits. My wife, son, and daughter are a constant source of support and a continuing well of material for many of my songs as I wander through my musical journey.
Special thanks of course to Wyatt who makes sure each song reflects its essence, Jen and Dustin for their artwork and creativity as the album hits the road, Candy whose digs are my home away from home, and Beth, photographer extraordinaire - each photo shoot is an adventure. Back from Nashville at the end of September ‘23, I felt the relief and excitement of creating this album. Then to my surprise, it became necessary to increase the already considerable hardware in my body: a pacemaker - set at 60mph so that I can live on at full speed. Pretty exciting! May you enjoy the journey this album offers.
MICHAEL SPRIGGS: Acoustic Guitar, High Third Guitar and Classical Guitar
MIKE SEVERS: Electric Guitar
JIMMY CARTER: Bass
DOUG CARTER: Piano, Keyboards/Synths, B3 Organ and Calliope
PAUL SCHOLTON: Drums, Congas, and Percussion
TODD BRECK: Vocals, Harmonicas, BGVs on on Shout Out My Love & Light Me Up
WYATT EASTERLING: Classical Guitar solo on Old Friends, BGVs on Titanium, Old Friends, Willow Tree
MICHAEL SPRIGGS: Electric Guitar leads on Can’t Keep A Secret
LISA BROKOP: BGVs on Carnival, Just A Little Kiss, Feather, Wrong Turns, Queen of Hearts
PAUL JEFFERSON: BGVs on Can’t Keep A Secret Special Guest Artists:
CANDY FERNAUX: on Shout Out My Love JULIANA MACDOWELL: on Light Me Up
MAKING THE ALBUM CARNIVAL:
The song selection as always is a puzzle. 27 songs were narrowed down to 17, so over the spring and summer, I did write a bunch of songs, 2 of which made it to this album (I Used to Want to be a Cowboy and Titanium). so we ended up with the lucky number of 13. This time we also added some songs in excess of 10 years old category that I reworked (Willow Tree and Old Friends) combined with a sprinkling of newer works that came out of the numerous singer-songwriter retreats over the past few years. Three are cowritten, are a departure for me leaning toward rock, and were sparked by the collaboration of my talented musician cowriting friends (Light Me Up, Can't Keep A Secret, and Shout Out My Love). Carnival, the album title song, reminisces about my summer as a kid traveling with a carnival in the 50s. The remaining 6 songs run the gamut from a love song (A Little Kiss), to a political satire (Queen of Hearts). My Kaleidoscope is cultural, Wrong Turns was a phrase given to us as a free-write exercise turned into a song several months later reflecting on what a wrong turn is. Feather exposes the behavior of my feral cat and Titanium is a current discussion of the now.
It's always interesting how a song comes together and why. In particular, the co-written songs all came out of a songwriting retreat. Light Me Up came out of Bob Klein, Juliana "Jules" McDowell, and myself being paired up to write together. Jules needed another song for her new album, so Bob and I committed to helping her come up with what has turned out to be this high energy song. She has recorded it in her own inimitable style on her new album, and I liked it so much that I did some rewriting and turned it into a duet with a different beat and talked her into singing it with me. I invite you to enjoy both renditions. Can't Keep A Secret started as a pairing with Marc Baker and myself. Marc came up with the idea and then Paul Jefferson dropped into a chair next to us, and within a couple of hours, the song was born. The song was too short so before recording it I added a verse and Paul, a BMI award-winning songwriter graciously agreed to sing background vocal on it. Shout Out My Love is another song written with Candy Fernaux. We have written numerous songs together over the years, 2 of which are on previous albums. This is the 1st duet together and all I can say is that we laughed a lot putting this one together.
This last year has been hard on many and I know we songwriters all miss the opportunity to spend those long weekends together thru both Wood and Stone and Song Travellers hanging out and creating music.
Thanks as always go out to those who help me, guide me, support the effort, and have become good friends thru this process of creating an album. In particular, Jen Smith a singer-songwriter who handles all the details for my albums and adds her creative graphic artistic talent as well; and Kathy Bucklew photographer par excellence, and Candy Fernaux who makes sure I have a home away from home. Until Next Time.
Todd Breck - Vox, Harmonica
Doug Carter - Piano, Keys, B3, Rhodes,
Jimmy Carter - Bass Guitar
Michael Spriggs - Acoustic Guitar, Bouzouki,
Mike Severs - Electric Guitar
JT Corenflos - Electric Guitar
Jeff Taylor - Accordion
Paul Scholten - Drums
Jim Hoke - Brass, Sax
Glen Duncan - Fiddle, Banjo
Jeff Taylor - Penny Whistle
Johnny Waken - Saw
Wyatt Easterling - Background Vocals
Lisa Brokup - Background Vocals
MAKING THE ALBUM Infinity Hotel:
Making the decision to create another album came before the “Welcome Home” (Album 2) was complete. I still had some older songs that weren’t recorded and a bunch of new songs that were begging me to be added to the new album, so what could I do? The first 2 Albums had 11 songs each, so I thought consistency. But after selecting 10 songs, there were still 2 that were vying for air time. After a brief struggle, I gave in and and just added them both. Luckily it turns out because Infinity Hotel (one of the 2) became the title track.
In August 2018, I sent Wyatt a list of 29 songs. By November 2018 they were whittled to 19, with a date set toward the end of January 2019 for recording sessions. I figured that would be plenty of time to clean up the loose ends and be ready. I forgot all about Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years and all that these holidays entail. Needless to say, the album prevailed because here it is. As in almost any endeavor the last couple of weeks and then days are a blur. Musical and lyrical changes were tweaked right up to the day of and including the day of recording.
As with past albums, I could not suppress all the doubts that bubble to the surface: are they the right songs? Are they polished enough? Do the lyrics tell the story? Does the music support the lyric story? Will it measure up to the past albums? ..etc, etc. In my experience, a song is never done. There’s always a word, a note, an inflection that points the listener closer to the experience.
Neither this album or my predecessor albums evolved without the talent, experience, and sensitivity of Wyatt, my producer and friend. Also a gifted singer songwriter he magically crafted the production of each song, including tweaks and changes to the lyrics and music throughout the process. In short he was affectionally referred to as my vocal nazi. He also added his background vocals to several songs. In no way does this praise diminish the talent and teamsmanship of my studio musicians and production engineers who Wyatt pulled together to create this album. Additional thanks go to my cowriters who had to actually pay attention to what I was trying to say and guide me to clarity. Jen Smith (singer songwriter with her husband Scott of Naked Blue) has been my graphic artist who has designed this album (and all the others). Her patience and creative talents have all come together again to conjure up another stellar album, and to make sure that the i’s and t’s were respectively dotted and crossed. Thanks to Candy Fernaux, my singer songwriter friend and past cowriter, for making her house my home for a week in Nashville during the making of this album. Also, thanks to my mentors and my friends (you all know who you are). And of course, to my family who support my passion.
I did not conceive this album as one with a theme but rather as it has turned out more like the old expression “something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue”. Without getting too sticky defining an old song, I loosely think of “old ones" as being around for more than a decade or so. I borrowed some themes and blue, of course, does not mean the color. Most of the songs need no preface as the lyrics and the tunes just place themselves quietly in your face. Yet, a few with my preface below allow you to visit with my thoughts as I wrote and edited them endlessly.
"Infinity Hotel" was inspired by a YouTube video entitled “A Universe From Nothing” by L Krauss. I invite all to see if you can make the connection between the two. "Saddle Made of Lace" is a fantasy of any young man alone in nature, a bit bored, hoping that something exciting would happen…. and it does. I was lucky enough to attend college in southern Tennessee at The University of the South, Sewanee, TN, and while the story of how I got there is still untold in song, the fact is that going there was transformative for me. "Mountains of Southern Tennessee" is a reflection on that time. One of the many magical aspects of Sewanee was the practice of symbolically pulling a Sewanee Angel to travel with you and protect you as you left the “Domain” (the campus and environs of over 13,000 acres). Of course we had to release her when we came back to the “Domain”. The song “A Toast” is for my friend Bill from Texas, long since gone, and a classmate at Sewanee where I allude to many events we shared together. Since Sewanee was an Episcopal school, there were requirements for us to record our attendance at church services regularly. We affectionately called these "God Points”. “Chuck” is a remarkably talented singer songwriter friend I had just met and knew little about when I started writing this song. It was more my impression of the man rather than any facts. I knew he was going through some physical challenges so I came to him during one of our singer songwriter retreats and asked him to help me finish the song. He wrote the hard stuff I just couldn’t.
"My Guitar" came out of being late to just about everything, which I blamed on the guitar.
“Wind in the Willows” is one of the songs that came out of a retreat exercise in 10 minutes. I changed it to the 3rd person at the suggestion of my talented and thoughtful friend and musician, John Frink.
Please enjoy my musical journey and may it bring you insights of your own.
David Henry Cello and violin
Wayne Killius Drums
Michael Spriggs Acoustic guitar, Dobro, Bouzouki, Nylon String, High Third
Piano, B3 organ, and Keyboards
Mike Brignardello Bass
Todd Breck Vocals and harmonica
MAKING THE ALBUM WELCOME HOME:
Again, I enlisted Wyatt Easterling to produce it and Jen Smith to create the album graphic design. While the 1st album was recorded in January 2016, it took until November 2017 to pull all the pieces together to do it again. The sounds created by the Nashville musicians with me on the album are creative and poignant.
The songs range from brand new ones (”Take Us Down to the River”, “The Old Table”, “Bad Decisions”) to songs 40 to 50 years old (”Shawnee” and “Tanya”). There is no overriding theme to the songs as a group, but they each evolved out of some event which triggered a recall which got crafted into a song. The events around “Eternity” showed up on my road trip to Nashville to create the 1st album. “Twilight at Antietam” is a piece of music by the same name written by David Poland. He was playing it one night when I felt compelled to put words to it.. “Tanya” and “Shawnee”, for those who don’t know me, are my daughter and son; each song written when they were quite young. “Take Us Down to the River”, started with the music and the words, just fell into place. “The Old Table” came out of a co-writing workshop. Candy Fernaux had just bought an old table. We did take some liberties interpreting the table’s autobiography. “Bad Decisions” also came out of a recent workshop while co-writing with David Hanson. “Praise the Stars” was born out of a religious discussion with a friend. “Welcome Home” emerged out of that sentiment when that special someone opens their hearts to you upon your return. “Birthday Gifts” showed up after another of my many birthdays and is a sentiment of thanks for being able to hang out on the planet for so long. “Many Some Odd Year Ago” was created after my wife and partner of 45+ years finally told me when she fell in love with me.
So, selecting the album title, Welcome Home, was a bit of a challenge. The album was totally complete before I was able to sit down quietly and for long enough to hear what the title should be. All of us at some point have made an odyssey that, upon returning from our adventures, we find ourselves under the care of those we love and visa versa. So, may this album heighten those sentiments of appreciation, caring, awareness and understanding of everything and everyone around us while we happily leave those unanswerable questions unanswered, even though we are bold enough to ask.
Todd Breck Vocals and harmonica
David Henry Cello and violin
Jimmy Carter - Bass Guitar
Pat McGrath - Acoustic & Classical Guitar, Mandolin, Bouzouki
Doug Carter - Piano, B3 organ, and Keyboards
Jeff Taylor - Penny Whistle, Accordion
Wayne Killius - Drums
MAKING THE ALBUM INSIDE JOB:
I have been writing songs on and off for 50 years as a way to explore the way I feel about pretty much everything: relationships, emotions, belief systems, the cosmos, and general everyday absurdities. In June 2013 a singer-songwriter network emerged sparked by a singer-songwriter couple, Jen & Scott Smith (Naked Blue) from Baltimore who host the 5 day Wood and Stone Songwriting Retreat every year in Crisfield, Md. It has been this network of new friends that helped me make the decision to create an album. I realized their experience could help me make it a reality.
I knew I needed some help sorting thru my songs: edits, arrangements etc, and looking back I see how unaware I was of the overall process of how a professional album comes together. My producer and now good friend, singer-songwriter Wyatt Easterling, (also a teacher at the Wood and Stone Retreat) in true puppet master fashion, assembled a talented gathering of Nashville musicians, singers, and sound engineers who, in 6 days, every day, helped create this album (one day less than the universe). I started by sending him 28 scratch vocals to listen to and make suggestions about which ones should go into a first album. We thought 10 songs was our target, we actually created 11. Wyatt booked the studio and the musicians and set a schedule to DO this the last week of January 2016. You may just remember the East Coast was gifted with a major snowstorm which pretty much closed the normal routes from Delaware to Tennessee. Undaunted, I left a day early and drove West to Pittsburgh, to beat the storm, before turning south through Louisville, KY, and then rolling into Nashville - right on time. Wyatt brought his long time friend Bill McDermott of Dog Den Studio to engineer and kibitz on the album. It was an honor and way too much fun to participate in the long hours and hard work with such talented professionals and to end up with a great collection of songs. Jen Smith took on the task of creating the album cover and all the diverse elements that go along with it including the numerous registrations, social media, websites, etc.
While all my songs have some point of reference, some bear mentioning. Wyatt has been so instrumental in making this album that I wanted him on it vocally as well. His harmonies are on “Fond Farewell”, which honors past friends. “Debor” was written in 1972 at the beginning of our now 45-year partnership. I honor my mother, my first inspiration, in “Mama Was A Dancer”. She started singing and dancing for a living at 15. “Girly Girl” evolved out of a songwriting exercise at the Wood and Stone Retreat. Candy Furneaux, my co-writer and a singer-songwriter, as well, flew in from Texas to sing background vocal on that song. Co-writing became part of my process thru these Retreats. You can see in the song credits that my co-writers are diverse and numerous and my sincere thanks go out to them for their patience and guidance. Freebo, from the first Wood and Stone Retreat, opened up a new musical vocabulary for my writing by teaching me new tuning voices for my guitar.
aka "fun playing music with my friends"
Playing 2nd and 4th Wednesdays
and 1st Thursdays and 3rd Tuesdays
at Hideaway: Forge Drive off Ebright Rd in North Wilmington
Gunpowder Lane is Todd Breck, John Frink and Rob Tietze: 3 accomplished musicians who have come together to create an acoustic musical experience for the listener by combining tight harmonies, intricate instrumentals, and strong voices accompanied with the varied mix of guitars, mandolin and harmonica. They have developed their own unique sound and arrangements in the acoustic roots genre for their original music and cover songs alike.