Deciding to make a “record” of the music I had composed turned out to be huge fun and a wonderful justification for buying a bunch of new music toys. I can hack at keyboards and drums, but guitar has for decades been my main instrument. So, I tore apart my Stratocaster and added the electronic guts to convert it into a MIDI instrument. Now, with a guitar in hand, I could do what keyboardist composers had been doing for some time. Composition software by now had matured and with a terabyte of orchestral samples installed in my Pro Tools studio rig, I could now play violin, cello, brass, percussion, etc…I became an orchestra of one! Oh, but I still could only sing like a frog (“Hello, my baby, hello my honey, hello my ragtime gal. . .” -- please, don’t let me out of my shoe box!).
Next up, hiring a few excellent players to play various lead instrumental tracks such as sax, fiddle, trumpet, trombone and drums. All of my years in the recording studio helped me accumulate a list a “A” players for these roles. Instrumental tracks done -- now for the singers. Hand picking singers was, for the most part, easy. As I was writing some of the songs, I often already had in mind exactly who would be singing the songs. The human voice is the most popular and most unique instrument of all. Each character in the play had to have a voice that matched the character’s role and personality. Every character’s voice was easy to find except one: the lead, Pilgrim. Remember my youthful obsession with Jesus Christ Superstar? Where in the world would I find a rock singer who could sing like Ian Gillan and emote the passion of these songs?
Did I mention that I was also a doctor? Yeah, my “side gig”! Well, into my clinic one day limps a long-haired fellow covered in oil and soot to have his injury evaluated. When I asked this oil burner technician what he likes to do for fun, he proceeded to tell me that he was a singer…mostly musical theater… “Oh, really? What kind of style?” Answer: “Well, I have sung the lead in Superstar five times and Godspell twice.” Gulp. Could this be my Pilgrim character? Did God really just dump him in my lap? At the time the instrumental tracks were not quite finished, but we agreed to meet in the future when the tracks were ready. What I thought would take a few more weeks, morphed into about another year of studio work.
When we next met, Steven Leighton no longer smelled like an oil burner! Soap and water is a wonderful thing. He handed me a CD recorded the night before in his buddy’s living room with a single microphone. Raw. No studio tricks. Just his voice and an acoustic guitar. Riding home, I popped the disc in and listened…Oh, yeah. Move aside Mr. Gillan. Thank you, Lord! You are so gracious!