When Nick Lutsko decided to record his first CD in 2013, he did so with a relatively simple folk sound that prominently featured guitar and vocals.
These days, he says the music on "Heart of Mold" wasn't really the sound he heard in his head, but he was hemmed in by the eight-track limitations of the computer software he could afford at the time.
But for his second CD, "Etc.," he was able to get the sound he truly wanted, thanks to the purchase of Logic Pro X software, which he bought with money earned from selling and touring behind "Mold." "Etc." is a record that showcases what a musician with imagination, time and the right software can create.
Each of its 11 songs features dozens of multilayered tracks, recorded pieces that are stacked on top of each other one by one, building a dense "wall" of music. On the CD, "Dreaming of Medusa" contains the fewest tracks -- only 24 -- while "Predator" has the most with 112.
Lutsko, 24, who might be remembered from his days singing and playing guitar with Infinite Orange, a trio of then-Soddy-Daisy high school students, took full advantage of the multi-tracking capabilities of Logic Pro X and created a sophisticated, heavily produced CD that at times has hints of the trippier parts of Brian Wilson's production on The Beach Boys' "Smile" or "Pet Sounds" albums or even The Monkee's "Head" project from 1968, and even the funk/jazz/rock sounds of Frank Zappa.
Lutsko cops to the Zappa and Wilson references, but confesses to being unfamiliar with "Head," the psychedelic film and soundtrack that Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz recorded to prove to the world they weren't just a contrived made-for-television group and could actually play and write their own music, though the music is heavy on studio tricks and effects. Zappa, coincidentally, appears in the film.
"I love 'Smile' and 'Pet Sounds'," Lutsko says. "I got on a real Beach Boys kick awhile back. I love Zappa, too."
You hear those influences on songs like "Thanks to Uncle Stacy," with its layer upon layer of manipulated vocals and effects. Attempting to emulate guys like Wilson and Zappa, both known for their wizardry and experimentation in the studio, is ambitious enough, but Lutsko did just that and he did it by himself in his private studio, which actually is his bedroom in his parent's Hixson home.
"As glamorous as it gets, right?"
Advances in software have made it cheaper and easier for artists to record studio-quality music, but Liz Morin, co-owner of Showbiz-Ro Music in Nashville, says an artist still must write good songs.
"A lot of artists are able to do everything with [Avid] Pro Tools," she says. "They are able to do good demos at their house, and it sounds fine."
Morin's role is to shop clients' songs around to other artists and record labels in hopes they will pick one up and record it. Artists such as Tim McGraw, Lee Brice and Randy Houser have recorded songs by her clients.
Having been in the music business for decades, she says recording software has changed the music business in the last 10 years, and that it is now easier to make a record but harder to sell it.
"When I started in the '90s, it was booming, but with the Internet and people stealing songs [via downloads] and not buying CDs like they used to, it's harder to get new stuff cut now. But, everybody is learning how to do Pro Tools and the mixing at their house, or they might even have a little publishing company.
On "Etc.," Lutsko played the majority of the instruments, which included traditional things like keyboards, bass and guitar but also hand claps, table tops, pots, pans and anything else he had lying around. He used family members for some vocal bits as well, and Jeff McSpadden provided some drum machine work.
And everything was plugged right into Lutsko's Apple desktop computer.
"I recorded the sounds and then manipulated them," he said. "The claps and snaps don't really sound like claps and snaps. Everything is pretty effects-drenched. I'm pretty good at figuring out what I want to hear and how to make it work."
His home studio doesn't even have a pair of speakers in it, so he made the CD using headphones. Once he recorded a new sound or track onto CD, he'd take it out to his car to listen to it.
"It sounds completely different through those speakers than it did in the headphones."
"Etc." won't be officially released until the middle of March, though WUTC-FM 88.1 is playing a few of the songs. Meanwhile, Lutsko is working to put a band together in order to play the songs live.
Contact Barry Courter at email@example.com or 423-757-6354.
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