Sam Carradori is originally from New Jersey. I am originally from New Jersey. This qualifies us to work on an album together.
I first heard Sam’s voice sometime in 2011. Her brother PJ floated me a copy of Destruction Creation, an album from Sam’s NJ band Fairmont. Sam’s ability to find harmony and color is eerily impressive and precise – she’s a musical painter.
Nearing the end of the album and already mixing a few songs, Sam arrived for our first session. When we recorded “Wires”, I realized Sam could double-track, even triple-track her own voice with ease. Capturing her was incredibly tranquil and always a fun experiment. If I suggested two things, she would deliver along with several additional options.
From there we returned to some of the finished songs and layered in her harmonies. Her vocal solo on “Hell Is A Place” - an accidental first-take sketch we recorded as an example to ‘think about’ for another time - ended up on the record.
My advice to anyone around Sam – press record and pray you don’t miss it.
Wires | Box of Bells
Hell is a Place
Joan Childress Wilkerson
If the album has a Paper Brain, then Joan Childress Wilkerson is the beating heart. Our friendship grew from evenings in dark bars, through honest conversations, our shared love for hashing out life’s unfortunate circumstances and ‘peeling away the clovers’.
She was the first person I approached about this album, and throughout its process she became a trusted confidant, a nurturing ear for advice and direction, and most of all, a true believer in what I was trying to accomplish.
She’s an incredible collaborator, a critical perfectionist, and incredibly selfless – all a result of the amazing person and advocate she remains to the community of Wilmington and those in her life.
Her moments on this record are the grit and bone. She’s a fiery punk whose voice is often a solid punch in the face tempting you to hit it back. She captures the bittersweet irony, darkness, and anger I sought after – she sings from a true place and becomes the kind of narrator who can easily switch masks but always and unmistakably remains Joan.
Cuts Like a Song | Box of Bells
Tested | Hell is a Place
I first heard Whitney Pearsall’s voice in the summer of 2014 at Towne Tap & Grill.
Though we did not meet that evening, her powerful delivery always stayed with me. Upon completing the music to “Far Away,” I knew her vocal contribution would be remarkable, but it required reaching out to a stranger about a very personal song – thankfully, I did.
Fast-forward to a humid July morning, Whitney arrived at my makeshift studio and immediately put me at ease. We talked about the song, traded compliments, and after a few minutes I set up the mic.
Her first take coming through my earphones nearly reduced me to tears. Some singers discover a path into the bones of a lyric – Whitney is one of those singers.
Working with her was incredibly warming as a songwriter. Hearing my lyrics come to life in a way that exceeded my wildest expectations was an incredible moment.
Far Away | Wires | Box of Bells
Messenger | Hell is a Place
I knew Jennifer Reid and her fiancé Tony Ronca from our shared lordship at Cape Fear Wine & Beer in Wilmington, NC. But in those evenings of hopped-blurriness, Jen never mentioned she’d grown up in a family of church singers. After some conversation about the project, she agreed to lend her vocals on “Messenger”.
The first time Jen dropped by for a session, we recorded all of the spoken dialogue snippets on “Cuts Like A Song”, “Criminal”, and “Box Of Bells”. Toward the end of the evening, I played an instrumental mix of “Messenger”. Jennifer listened attentively, read over the lyrics, and worked out melodies in the background.
Two weeks passed. At our next session, the song just became hers. Her ability to make you feel what she’s singing is incredible. She effortlessly became the narrator I’d heard in my head.
Working with her was an absolute joy—she is an absolute joy.
Box of Bells
Messenger | Hell is a Place
Addie Wuensch’s voice is a warm embrace, an alarming siren, a soothing wave, a playful flirt, and maybe even a serial killer. She toys with verses and wordplay in ingenious ways. Sometimes she’s flat-out possessed and then lovingly holding the listener in her arms – and the crazy thing is, whenever I threw out descriptors or scenarios like this, her voice would act accordingly.
She slithers on “Hell Is A Place” and sets fires on “Criminal”. She’s a fearless vocalist. Her improvisations at the end of “Wires” and her childlike innocence on “Box of Bells” ground these tracks.
I knew Addie was the lead singer for “Criminal” before I really knew Addie. We’d met only a handful of times in passing, but I knew her ‘voice’ and hoped she’d be onboard with this project. Since our sessions together, I’ve discovered the incredibly warm and gracious person behind that bold, sweeping siren.
Recording with Addie was a great experience. We often talked about the various moods of songs, her art and passion for music. And sweet Lord we drank a lot of wine along the way.
Criminal | Wires
Box of Bells | Hell is a Place
When I was a graduate student in the creative writing program at UNCW pursuing my MFA in fiction, I was first introduced to Clyde Edgerton and his banjo.
During the many events, parties, and readings, it wasn’t unusual for students and faculty to pick up instruments and play together.
As the years passed, Clyde and I traveled in outer circles, but when I messaged him out of the blue this past summer, he invited me over to his house the next day to mic him up and show him the chords. That’s the kind, decent, and playful spirit of Clyde Edgerton.
“Far Away” birthed an irrevocable mood when his banjo entered the space around Whitney’s vocal. He delivered an unforgettable atmosphere. Now, it’s impossible to think of the song without him on it.
Mike Phillips brought ‘the metal’. And I needed moments of ‘the metal’.
Normally Mike and I geek out at bars conversing about our love for heavy progressive bands like Dream Theater and Queensryche. But this project gave us the chance to work together for the first time.
He’s incredibly disciplined and we collaborated well. I would mime, yell, and sound things out – he could translate my lunacy and bring his own twisted inventions. We must have toyed with feedback for an hour at the end of “Hell Is A Place”. His solos on “Criminal” and “Wires” added the necessary icing.
Mike’s ominous chords, like an eerie music box, open and close the record – he sets the tone for everything about to happen.
Criminal | Wires | Hell is a Place
Mike Ruwe does not post much on social networking sites, but when he does, I often comment with a random link to one of many Air Supply songs – it started as a joke, but now I seriously can’t stop.
His guitar work provided all the quiet atmosphere needed in the verses of “Far Away”. He graced the song with a gorgeous acoustic guitar solo and then we cranked the amps to ‘11’ for the finale. Some of his unintentional feedback also found its way into “Hell Is A Place” during post-production.
Mike is a meticulous player who captured the landscape nicely and added the essential light.
Guitar: Far Away | Hell is a Place