- Fallin’ (Turn It Around) 3:48
- Stronger 3:34
- What A Day 3:39
- Long Day 4:44
- So Inclined 4:41
- Tiny Girl 4:22
- Bound 4:20
- No Motivation 3:33
- Bonsai Kitty 4:04
- Music Box 3:23
- Holy Water 4:43
- Fall of Gabriel (Carry On) 2:48
With Make It Mine behind us, and a new line-up for Champagne Sunday, we were ready to get into the studio again. Because of the abundance of songs written between us, and the demand from quickly accumulating fans for an album with some of said songs on it, we knew the new album was going to have to be done well and right!
At the time of album conception, Champagne Sunday was a three-piece. Jessi and Jared (of course) and Thom Thomas on bass. After losing Tom Stanton on lead guitar and Art Tipp on drums, right before our 2007 tour, we had to do a bit of reassembling to acquire the CS sound that we needed to make the new album. We had interviewed an excellent studio drummer named John Lacques, several months before, and knew he would be perfect for the job. Coincidentally, John was close friends with an awesome music producer in Pasadena, CA, named Marc Doten, who, when asked by John to help with the project, readily agreed! We found a beautiful studio in Ojai, CA called Zircon Skye Studios, ran by two, music-loving hippies that was reasonable priced. We booked it for 3 days and were off!
Marc came up to Ventura for a couple of practices, to critique the song-structures, length, song order, and general issues we might have faced going into the process. Marc also used this time to get to know us and get a feel for how we operated as a unit. This was an exciting time for CS because we really were having fun together making music. All inside drama aside, we really believed in these songs and were certain this album was going to be a real jumping off point for us. In general, the band relations were good and we all seemed to have a common goal and desire.
As for the songs themselves, we were very proud. We had really honed in on what was important and what would ultimately always set CS apart from other acts, the stories. We chose pieces that our fans and complete strangers had continued to have very real, visceral responses to. Songs like, the emotionally charged, “Tiny Girl”, exemplifying the child’s desire to be like their parents and hero’s, the controversial “Holy Water”, challenging the uber religious to look deeper into their versions of “Jesus” with poignant lines like, “Heaven knows… what YOUR Jesus thinks of me!”. Also, the whimsical “Music Box”, reminding adults to keep imagination alive and not lose sight of how important the little things are. Not to be left out, the rousing crowd favorites like “What A Day”, “Fall Of Gabriel” and “Fallin'”. Time and time again we were given testimonials about how these songs were changing the way people thought, helping some get through tough times like divorce and death, and becoming the soundtracks for joyful occasions and celebrations. We were so, so proud.
As for the instrumentation on the album, because we were in a studio and had pretty much all the time we wanted to complete the cd, we wanted to take advantage. Jared had picked up where “Little Tom” left off, and started the foundation of what was to become a very unique, clean, and melodic style of lead-guitar playing. Remaining true to the songs, and within his limitations of the instrument, Jared carefully wrote lead parts for the album that he still proudly plays today, because they are perfect for the songs themselves, regardless of how much further his skill set has come on the instrument. His technique and conviction to these guitar parts is another aspect of what has set us apart as a band. Jared has never been a “showy” player. Instead, letting the lyrics and melodies take focus while the lead guitar parts add richness in flavor and texture. He maintains a sort of magician-like presence in the songs, carefully bringing the ear to where he wants you to focus, rather than pouring a blanket of sound all over the whole thing. A trait sought out by many a guitar player.
Jared also played piano for North (as well as trombone, harmonica, and glockenspiel). Too bad we couldn’t have gotten someone talented to be part of the band… While we wanted to remain fairly accurate to what you may actually see at a CS show, we also wanted to utilize some unique talents we had met over the years as a band. If you listen to the album, you will hear hauntingly beautiful violin parts on songs like “Bound”, “Tiny Girl” and “Bonsai Kitty”. These were provided by our amazingly gifted friend and fellow musician from the band “Fiddle and Pine” (formerly “Fear Mia”), named Jesse Olema. We were blown away at the effortless way he wrote the parts, came in ready and layed down his tracks. Such a joy to work with, we actually had him play live with us several times. Marc Doten switched hats from “Producer” to “musician” during the overdub portion of the cd, adding stand-up bass, piano, and “toy box” percussion. This last feat was accomplished with John Lacques one day in Marc’s studio, when they dumped out a box full of random noise-makers to add a delightfully weird ambience to “No Motivation”, a track that was recorded in one take, AND as an afterthought for the album altogether!
Marc truly was a God-send on many levels. During the latter part of the process of recording North, Thom Thomas decided to take a 3 week vacation, during which time a lot of clarity came about between Jared and Jessi. Upon Thom’s return, he missed a couple scheduled overdub sessions, fell back into some very disturbing life patterns and became more of a hinderance to the future of CS than a help. We had a hard and potentially paralyzing decision to make for Champagne Sunday, we and to let him go. Only because Marc was so confidently able to pick up all the additional bass parts and vocals were we able to seamlessly complete the album. It made the transition time really bearable. Speaking of additional vocals, If you listen carefully to the end of “Fall Of Gabriel”, the “hidden” track on “North”, you can hear a high-pitched scream come from Ruby, John’s 2-year-old daughter. I’m pretty sure it was her debut!
We had to name the cd at this point. As a band we had made several trips touring up the west coastline, all the way into Washington and back and found a curious thing. The further North we traveled, the better things seemed to get. The people responded different to our music up north. They seemed more open to the friendliness of our songs and the warmth that we brought as people and artists, a HUGE contrast to the cold and calculating “make-it” formula that L.A. seemed to try and implement upon it’s artists. We felt rejuvenated and refreshed each time we returned home. We also backed strongly the image chosen for the front of the album, the heart and compass. Being that we write from our hearts, all decisions are made passionately and, when all else seemed lost around us, head North. Always move forward. The title was fairly easy to land on, “North”.
After all the recording and overdubs, etc, “North” was then taken to a mastering studio in Hollywood called Pacific Mastering. The mastering process is traditionally very boring was made exciting for 3 reasons. 1. Just the day before, Jared’s all-time favorite band, Blind Melon, was in the very same room getting their newest cd mastered, 2. Jared let me draw mid evil swordsmen on his toes to pass the time, and 3. We got to hear the whole album played at a ridiculously high speed to the point where all our songs sounded like chipmunks. This brought us great joy and made the mastering guy wonder if he’d made a huge mistake in taking us on as clients…
“North” went several places after that, none of which brought us any “real” fame. But we have realized that wasn’t it’s purpose after all. The album continues to outsell our other 3 because of the songs on it. The songs that are everyone’s. The stories are not ours anymore, and maybe never were. We made this album for the fans and it really is theirs. With every cd we record, so much is put in, so much comes out, and sooooo much is learned. “North” was no exception.
Jessi Fredeen – Vocals, acoustic guitar, squeeze box on “No Motivation”, harmonica on “Holy Water”
Jared Fredeen – Vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, piano (except as noted), harmonica, glockenspiel on “So Inclined”, trombone on “No Motivation”
Thom Thomas – Bass, backing vocals
John Laques – Drums, percussion, tone chimes on “Music Box”
Marc Doten – Bass on “Fallin”, “What A Day”, “Long Day”, “So Inclined”, and “Bound”, upright bass on “Bonsai Kitty”, piano and tonette on “No Motivation”, organ on “Holy Water” and “So Inclined”, backing vocals
Jesse Olema – Violin on “Tiny Girl”, “Bound”, “Music Box”, and “Bonsai Kitty”
Produced by Marc Doten
Recorded by Jeff Evans and Ken Eros at Zircon Skye Studios (Ojai, CA)
Mixed and overdubs recorded by Marc Doten at Trend Coma Bootlegs (Pasadena, CA)
Mastered by Chris Landen (Hollywood, CA)
Artwork: Concept and Design by James Graca, GracaDesignGroup.com
Photography by Allison Knox, Jessi Reems-Terrell, Jared Fredeen, Doc Rogers, Carmen Alexander, & Glen Thomas