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Cody and Tyler’s Luau Beach Wedding

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Sometimes my job consists of playing ukulele on the beach.
 
Sure, performing music is not the most lucrative career path, but come on: ukulele on a beach! Play enough beach uke and you’ll probably live to like 120.
 
In September, I had the great privilege of adding the sweet sonority of the ukulele to the beautiful wedding ceremony of Cody and Tyler on the beach at Fort Fisher, NC. The crowds were sparse, the vendors were great, the rain held off, and the wind was tame, although I did have to chase down the marriage certificate at full sprint when the wind blew it out of the officiate’s hands and down the beach after the ceremony.
 
The photo above is by Jess Stephenson Photography, who captured some magnificent sunset shots later at the reception.
 
The reception and ceremony were luau-themed, with the groomsmen dressed in printed Hawaiian shirts and straw fedoras. I was actually a surprise for the groom, Cody, who didn’t know his ceremony would feature an actual ukulele player until he set foot on the beach.
 
I played Richard Wagner’s wedding standard “The Bridal Chorus” for Tyler’s walk down the sandy aisle. Here it is performed on ukulele:
 

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Virtual Recital No. 1: ‘Ob La Di, Ob La Da’

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I remember going over to a friend’s house in high school to check out some of the homemade hip-hop he was creating on his desktop PC, layering beats, samples, vocals, and instruments across multiple tracks in a program called Mixcraft to create the illusion of an entire ensemble playing together.
 
photo 1.PNGIt was my first encounter with “multi-track recording,” a concept pioneered by Les Paul, Mary Ford and Patti Page in the 1950s when they began enhancing their session recordings by overdubbing vocals and instruments. For them, and subsequently, the entire recording industry, it was a chance to achieve higher fidelity by recording each instrument individually. For me, it was a chance to make the music I wanted to make on my own. I went home, downloaded Mixcraft, borrowed my mom’s headset microphone, and began experimenting, writing and recording sloppy, but original songs by tracking electric guitars, acoustic guitars, percussion, baselines and vocals.
 
Last October, I introduced six of my younger students to the process of multi-track recording when I arranged the Beatles’ “Ob La Di, Ob La Da” into multiple parts. They each practiced their part with the photo 2.PNGdreaded metronome – a necessary evil in the process of multi-track recording, as the metronome, or “click track,” glues everything together to create the illusion of multiple performers playing in one room.
 
For all I know, Millie Bennett (age 8 at the time, pictured above) and Ethan Sikka (age 11, pictured above right) have never been in the same room together. Our arrangement of “Ob La Di, Ob La Da” begins with Ethan on fingerstyle classical guitar accompanying Millie’s syncopated ukulele melody. Millie passes the melody off to her brother, Charlie (age 10, pictured right) and Chase Bonhotel (age 12). Matthew Messenger (age 14) provides a lower harmony of the melody, while Will Brite (age 12) strums along on acoustic rhythm guitar.
 
After some digital touch ups in Logic Pro, I added MIDI bass and drums, and voila: “Ob La Di, Ob La Da,” performed by a virtual band that never even rehearsed in the same room together. Check it out:
 

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Love is All You Need

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On August 16, I had the privilege of performing my own arrangement of The Beatles’ “All You Need is Love” as Richelle Davis walked down the aisle on a quaint Pennsylvania farm to wed my good friend and former room- and bandmate, Adam Powell.
 
Throughout our trip, fellow groomsman Andrew Zucchino and I learned a lot about PA culture. We saw Amish riding horse-drawn buggies, and we ate at a buffet run by Mennonites (it’s important to distinguish that it was Mennonite-run, not Mennonite-cooked). Above, Andrew expresses his take on the PA life with an approximation of what a Pennsylvanian Mormon might look like serenading two brides-to-be.
 
All PA-religion jokes aside, it was a beautiful day for everyone involved, and I was thrilled and honored to participate as a groomsman and performer. Per Adam and Richelle’s request, I arranged this Lennon/McCarney song – though I gather it’s mostly Lennon’s – specifically for their ceremony, timing the verse out to accompany the wedding party, and the chorus to accompany the bride. I tried to anticipate Richelle’s arrival by placing an appropriate Wagner quote in the pre-chorus. See if you can catch it:
 
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Happy Birthday, Brittny Roller



Today is Brittny (a.k.a Rox) Roller’s birthday, and I can’t imagine a better day to thank her for designing and developing www.JustinLacyMusic.com
 
Brittny is a graphic designer, but she also throws pottery and draws comics. Her work is palpable – she makes things you can see and touch. I make music, an intangible medium that, unless recorded, can be ephemeral, drifting off somewhere up in the ether.
 
But over the past four years, Brittny helped ground my music in the visual realm, giving the Swimming Machine and me a more perceptible identity through countless hours of editing photos and designing posters, show fliers, album art, logos, business cards, stickers, and all kinds of various Internet propaganda.
 
Every musician needs visuals to promote their art, and if it’s done right, the audience doesn’t even notice. All that iconography gets wound up into the brand and identity of the artist, as if it’s always been there. It’s behind-the-scenes work, and in a lot of ways, it’s sort of thankless work.
 
So, happy birthday, Rox Roller. And let me take this opportunity to thank you for making my aural efforts visible.
 
Below is a gallery of some of the best work Brittny’s done for the Swimming Machine, including the 16 x 24” poster she illustrated for us (available in the store), and the Overgrown album cover she designed for CD and vinyl (also available in the store, wink wink).
 
View Brittny’s portfolio of web work, design work, and art work at www.RoxRoller.com

 

 

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Moon River

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In March, I met Adam and Austin of Blueberry Creative in their studio, located in an old downtown Wilmington building once owned by Dennis Hopper, to film my fingerstyle arrangement of “Moon River” (check it out below).  We got it done in two takes, but not before Austin doused me in a heap of streaming gold confetti so Adam could shoot the above photograph — part of a series of portraits shot on film in which Adam limits himself to just one snap of the shutter.
 
The first time I ever heard “Moon River,” singer/songwriter Sean Thomas Gerard of Onward, Soldiers was performing it on a Monday night at the Duck and Dive, a British sports pub with a clientele far too concerned with Monday Night Football to care much for delicate Henry Mancini melodies.   I was supposed to be accompanying Sean on lead guitar, but I quickly gave up navigating the chord changes to let him sing it on his own, using Johnny Mercer’s lyrics to paint an Americana landscape centered around a “wider-than-a-mile” moonlit river bend. Huck Finn was there too:
 
        Two drifters, off to see the world
        There’s such a lot of world to see
        We’re after the same rainbow’s end,
        Waiting, round the bend
        My Huckleberry Friend, Moon River, and me
 
While arranging “Moon River,” I tried to recreate Mercer’s magical air by employing plenty of open-string unisons and a bell-like ending full of artificial harmonics. In the video below, there are no effects on the audio – just some good ole, all natural Dennis-Hopper-Building reverb.

 

Thanks, Mr. Sean, for introducing me to one of my favorite songs, and thanks for shooting it, Adam and Austin. You guys always paint a pretty picture.
 
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