Ursa Verde - Available now on Spotify, Apple, and everywhere else!
 Art by the amazing Christine Mitchell Adams

Art by the amazing Christine Mitchell Adams

I'm very pleased to announce that Ursa Verde is now available for purchase and streaming everywhere. Be sure and check out the store to pick up an mp3 download, and maybe a shirt & sticker too. 

TBH, this wasn't the solo album I envisioned putting out first. The last album I worked on was released in 2006, so it's been a long time coming. I've been working on another album that I thought would be my first as a solo, but life gets in the way (that one is coming eventually).

Ursa Verde is the result of an experiment. Every February, thousands of musicians participate in the RPM Challenge and write and produce a complete album in a month. This year I decided to give it a go. I really didn't think I could do it, but the songs came (slowly), and the recording came together (slowly), and in the end it didn't sound like garbage. This is a unique collection of songs. They came together quickly, are a little more raw, and really feel like a snapshot of this point in my creative life.

I have a hard time putting new material out there - I get self conscious, and definitely suffer from imposter syndrome, so I really want to thank my friends and family for their encouragement. I am grateful for the positive feedback I received. This kindness led me to look into releasing this as an official album. I enlisted Tank Studios in Burlington VT to mix and master (and get everything sounding all around great!) and my dear friend Chrissy Mitchell Adams to come up with some cover art (her stuff is amazing, right?). 

I'm thrilled with how this came out, and I really hope you enjoy it.

Andrew Grosvenor
Ursa Verde

Here we are at the end of February and the RPM Challenge album is complete. I'm very happy to introduce Ursa Verde.

AndrewoftheNorth.UrsaVerde.jpg

I had very mixed feelings about this project until the last day or two, when things really started to click. I've posted all tracks to the RPM jukebox, but I am planning to polish them up a little more before an official release. I really expected this to be a "practice album" that I wouldn't release, but I'm feeling proud of it and shooting to put it out this Spring. 

I am so grateful to the insanely talented Christine Mitchell for the cover art (ewww dude!). Thank you to my amazing wife Sarah for the steady, loving support and for putting up with me being holed up in the basement every evening for a month.

Here are some quick notes on each track:

Aditi - this song grew out of a conversation I had with our 2 year old son. He likes to pretend we're in a boat a lot. I'll sometimes ask where we're going, and he usually tells me "Nana's House" or the "Chicken House" (which is a house we stayed in on Block Island). One time he told me we were going to "Aditi" which, as far as I can tell, is somewhere he invented. We had a pretty detailed conversation about it, and it planted the seed of this song in my head. In filling it out, I was thinking a lot about what it means to be a father, and whether I actually know enough to give any kind of useful guidance to this tiny human.

The Standing Song - I have a lot of songs based in dream-like escapes from everyday life (Go North is about choosing to just keep walking North, for example). The Standing Song is one of these. I started to think about what it would mean to just kind of "check out" and find true stillness and just kind of be reabsorbed into the earth and the natural system.

11 at 11 - This one is for the NPT crew, circa 2003-2004 😉

Crescent City Limit - the chorus to this one came to me right after our first trip to New Orleans in 2014. The city is just intoxicating. In our time there I started to trace these threads of all of these inspiring cultural pieces of my life (jazz music, spicy foods, parades, laissez-les-bon-temps-roulez) and they all traced back to New Orleans. I started to feel like the city was the source, the original point, of something essential (and wonderful) in modern American life. This song is kind of about that.

Holler - the first two lines of this song have been floating in my head for years. I finally filled it out with a few verses. The names in the first verse are all pets that we’ve had over the past few years. I recorded it in about five minutes using layered claps, my wedding ring against a coffee cup, and one of my son's toy drums.

Mossy Faces - I've had the chorus to this one for a while. Originally I had written more of a rock song about creatures that lived in an old stone tower, but it morphed into being a little quieter, creepier, and swampier (this could be some of the Louisiana influence). The song is literally about swamp monsters, but the chorus (to me) is also about resisting all of the frightening, horrible, awful things that can take up residence in the back of your mind if you're not vigilant.

Tell Me - I had the chorus to this song a while ago, and I wrote the rest of the lyrics on a plane ride last year. This song is really about trying to break free of a monotonous existence however we can, and finding the courage to express yourself (no matter how scary it is).

Matter - This song came out really quickly. The first verse came to me in the shower last week (I'm learning to always keep my phone close by so I can jot down ideas) and I wrote the rest of it later that day. I'm still figuring out what this one means to me, but I think for now I'll say that it's about finding a way to resolve the tension of finding meaning in an often incoherent and overwhelming world.

Quinn - These instrumental songs just kind of happen (Braggadoccio, Islands II, etc.). Quinn is the newest in that line, and the sections emerged from noodling around a few months ago. The noodling grows into sections, and these songs tend to evolve a lot over time (Quinn likely has a long way to go). This song is name for Matt Quinn, my first jazz piano teacher (he passed away a few years ago). Jazz lessons changed my life, I wouldn't have kept going without them. Thank you Matt.

Andrew Grosvenor
RPM Challenge Week 3 - We’re Gonna Make It

This week I got everything into good enough shape to be confident that I’ll get this thing done. Whether or not I can put together something I really like is another story...


I’ve settled on 9 songs, which should end up around 38 minutes.


Aditi

11 at 11

Holler

Matter

Crescent City Limit

Quinn

Tell Me

Mossy Faces

The Standing Song


No track order yet, and only one instrumental (which is a big shift from the Woodshed days). Adding bass tracks with a real bass instead of keyboard bass has been a big boost - I think it forces me into a different playing style and adds some variety. I may still add some rhythm guitar too, most of what I’ve tracked so far is all keys.


Doing this entirely by myself has been a major challenge - it’s so much more work than just tracking with a band, and it’s hard to bring variety and a conversational tone into the playing because I’m the only player! I’m starting to feel good about these tracks, though it’s hard to really tell - I find I need to take a few days away from a track and edit it with fresh ears before it’s done.


Regardless of whether it’s something I’ll officially publish or not, this has been a serious learning process. I’m feeling good, I’m going to make it. A few days to go...

RPM Challenge - Week 2 - This is hard...

Week 2 of the RPM Challenge was rough for me. Essentially I had 6 really unproductive days and 1 good one. I was traveling last weekend in RI, so I was away from my home studio. I tried to take a pass at recording 11 at 11 in my Mom's home studio (she's a musician, and the song is about my hometown of Newport RI, so I thought it would be appropriate to record there), but no luck, I couldn't get anything I liked. 

Generally, I've just been sidetracked or unwilling to put in the time that I need to put in to this. Also, the Olympics starting up has been a big distraction - I love the Winter Olympics. In my one productive day I got tracking done for 11 at 11, vocals for Tell Me, and fully structured Aditi. It was a solid day. I'm going to need to light a fire if I'm going to get this thing done by the end of the month.

Andrew Grosvenor
RPM Challenge - Week 1

I recently made a new friend at a bar (which has pretty much never happened to me). We're both parents of toddlers, and we hit it off on a number of fronts. He's a musician as well and told me about the RPM Challenge. It's like National Novel Writing Month for musicians, and basically you try to write and record a complete album in the month of February. I'm giving it a try.

Considering that I've had a half-baked album in the works for the past 18 months, this seemed like a daunting prospect, but also a challenge that could push my work flow in the right direction. The stalled out album is still trudging forward, but I wanted to approach this challenge with different material and a different mindset. I decided to scoop up all of the half written songs that I have and try to push them through the process. Looking through my notebooks, I came up with a list of promising prospects:

  • Tell Me
  • Mossy Faces
  • Bitbitbitbitbitbitbitbit
  • 11 at 11
  • Aditi
  • Holler
  • The Standing Song
  • Lonesome & Blue
  • Round the Bend
  • Alaska
  • Louisiana Shakedown
  • Matter
  • Tyrannosaurus
  • Quinn
  • Kerfuffle

I'm sure these song titles don't mean anything to you. They are all ideas that haven't been fully worked out yet - some need lyrics, some need structure, some need everything beyond the name!  They won't all make the cut, but there's enough there for me to meet the 10 song / 35 minute minimum requirement. 

This week I decided to start laying tracks down and get some momentum there because it takes me a long time. I tracked out Aditi and was able to come up with a really nice Wurlitzer solo that I'm happy with! I also began laying down tracks for The Standing Song and drafted lyrics and sections for Mossy Faces, Alaska, and Holler. 

There is a ton of work to do, and I'm not sure I'll finish. I'm excited to start sharing these soon.