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December 2023
Vol. 23, No. 3

Zen of Recording

This Old House…

by Sven-Erik SeaholmDecember 2014

This column is late. My editor is livid. That was the actual word she used.

Who can blame her? For over ten years now, I have occupied my little corner in this fine publication. I have endeavored to honor this privilege (and I believe it is one) that has been bestowed upon me; a unique platform from which I have pontificated, mused, and hopefully amused from. And I’ve almost always been late.

I have also tried to keep things from being too “me-centric.” Although I speak in the first person and can be quite self-referential in my POV, I never wanted the subject of my rants and relations to be overshadowed by my own ego and personality, although I have taken the most flagrant liberties with that concept. From writing about my sons to swimming naked at Black’s Beach, let’s just say we’ve been some places together.

We’re going to go some more places together in 2015.

The reason my column is late is because I spent all day negotiating and then signing the lease on my new home in Morgan, Utah.

That’s right, San Diego. After 25+ years of writing, producing, and performing music here in my hometown, I’m stepping into a new chapter in my life and career. A new adventure. I’m stepping into snow.

“Utah looks forward to seeing you soon, Mr. Seaholm,” said the pleasantly voiced realtor as I hung up the phone and turned to survey the space where I have recorded hundreds of projects over the course of thousands of sessions over the last 20 years.

I am currently recording my 455th project. All but 18 of them were recorded here in this very room. I even recorded 10 albums of my own here, making it the birthplace to hundreds of my songs as well. This has been my laboratory, my headquarters, my muse, my albatross, my friend, and, yes, even my enemy.

I have lived a significant portion of my life here, cohabitating with various combinations of a wife, a baby mama, two sons, and a stepdaughter for nearly all of it. Love was made and dishes broken, but each of us learned (amazingly) how to live in a recording studio without killing each other and I think we all feel richer for the experience.

And the music… oh, the music! The Farmers grinding out the coolest rawk grooves as if they were gonna saw right through this place! Muggles Meshugana Lounge and their horn-inflected mambo-take of “Misralou”… Jason Yamaoka’s near-perfect solo acoustic performance in the absolute quiet canvas of night… playing Isaac Hayes’ Hot Buttered Soul for a young Via Satellite on a lunch break, who then returned to session and banged out their finest work yet… Peter Bolland’s mere presence and Buddy Blue, who really launched my careen as an independent record producer. Over the course of seven different recording projects, he not only gifted me with the opportunity to work with some of the finest musicians (Dave Alvin, Craig Doerge, Lee Rocker, Billy Zoom, Judy Henske, Steve Poltz, Joe Marillo), but he introduced me to some of the most fun, unorthodox production mayhem ever!

One day, Buddy decided that what we needed for his song “Lady Mekong” (a tribute to his favorite rice rum) was a bunch of Thai people partying in the background. Kinda like an Asian version of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?”

Anyway, it’s the day of the session, and the background vocalists arrive right on time, in perhaps the smallest car I’ve ever seen. In what I can only describe as a perfect “clown-car-like experience,” eight people simultaneously exploded out of the car, each of them carrying a large box. The five men were holding beer and Mekong in theirs. The three women were carrying the absolute best Thai food I have ever eaten! As they set up this bounty of vice and sustenance in the kitchen, I went about setting up mics in the living room. Toasts were raised, new friends were made, and, within two takes, we got what we wanted, which didn’t stop us all from partying on well into the night. That magic day is still one of my favorite highlights from a creative residency rife with crazy escapades!

This place is thoroughly mojo’d. All that music, all the vibe is deeply permeated into all the paint and plaster, the wires and the wood of this place. I have no doubt that its next residents will feel that presence surrounding their lives each day, just as I have in mine.

I love you, San Diego. I always have and I always will. But it is time for reinvention, it is time for change and it’s time for travel. All of which are waiting to begin again in Utah, along with my son and his mother.

I am not going out of business. I will still return to San Diego to work and visit regularly, just as I will reach out to Ogden, Park City, Salt Lake City, and well beyond in the coming months. The internet will keep us closer then ever before, too, as it already comprises almost half of my current client base. Reach out if you need or want anything, even if it’s just a question:

Like I said, we’re going to go some more places together in 2015. Stay tuned for The Zen Diaries.

Sven-Erik Seaholm is an award-winning independent record producer, singer, and songwriter. Come to the Best Garage Sale You’ve Ever Been To on December 6. Live performances, album previews, and some great buys on musical instruments, furniture, CDs, books, and clothing. 5621 Charter Ave., San Diego 92120

Publisher’s note: I believe the word was “pissed off,” not livid. We are happy that Sven will continue his column in the Troubadour, despite the fact that he’ll be far away!

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