Several years ago, a band called Seeker & Servant reached out to me and told me that they would be recording in Orlando. They wanted to know if I would do a guest vocal on their record. To be honest, I had never heard of them. But I was impressed because they told me why they write, record, and perform music—namely to share the hope of the gospel through doing what they love. They didn’t try to sell me on all the awesome stuff they’ve done and tell me their street cred. I didn’t even really know what their music sounded like. I think they told me it was something like a mix between Mumford & Sons and M83, which honestly sounded confusing and horrible to me. But I really liked these guys and their hearts, so I said I’d do it.
But by the time they were in town to record, my father had just died, I had just started my second masters degree, and I was overwhelmed. I told them it was not going to work out. They were very understanding. Months later, I received the finished CD for Into Your Love, I Go, and a hand written letter. Again, I was really impressed by their sincerity, and I put the CD in my car. It didn’t leave my CD player for weeks.
Seeker & Servant are a worship band. That’s a broad category, and it probably brings to mind Hillsong or something like that. They are definitely not that. I’m not sure they would classify it this way, but I think they write songs that are meant to be contemplative rather than corporate worship songs for the big, white screen on Sundays. I could really connect with them on my own as I was driving around. Their lyrics were sparse, simple, and earnest. There was a minimalism that I could really latch on to. I found myself singing along a lot. In so many ways it was what I needed right then.
To be honest, I don’t listen to worship music very often. It’s just not my thing. But this was different to me. And knowing the story and the hearts behind these songs made it real to me. This wasn’t some guy in Nashville cranking out songs that he could demo and play in front of some record executive. These were young guys, fumbling through their faith, compelled by the ridiculous grace of God through Christ, and singing about it as they figured it out. That’s something I can relate to.
(Oddly, that album does sound something like Mumford meets M83. I didn’t think that would work, or that I would like it, but it does and I do.)
Several months later they were coming through Orlando on a short tour. They didn’t play in Orlando, but I met up with them at a coffee shop. (Those dudes are serious about their coffee.) It turns out they were in Orlando staying with Brandon Shattuck, the guy who produced their record. They said he was also from Nashville and that I should meet up with him.
The next week I met up with Brandon for coffee. It turns out he’s from the same small town my dad is from. He went to college in Nashville and worked at different studios in Nashville. We had mutual friends, but somehow we had never crossed paths. He moved to Orlando because his wife, Elissa, had taken a job leading worship at a church down here. I really liked Brandon because he was super played back and far less pretentious than a lot of producers and engineers that I’ve known and worked with. We talked openly about faith, marriage, music, and the restaurants we missed in Nashville. Over the next several months we met periodically. I was thinking, “Man, it would be cool if I could work with him.” Then one day he asked me about joining him as a producer at a studio he was opening.
I’m skipping a lot of details, but in June of 2014 Parafonic Recording Studio opened. It’s a little house from the 1920’s that Brandon worked hard to convert into a studio. So, for the past two and a half years or so, Parafonic is where all of my gear has lived. I teach drum lessons out of there one day a week. When I want to write on piano, I go there. Brandon still does a lot of editing and mixing for people back in Nashville who he has maintained relationships with. It’s a full time job for him. For me, I get to work there periodically when I’m producing a record for a band or artist. In that scenario, Brandon is engineering and I’m producing.
The cool thing is that Brandon and I had the honor of being able to work on the next Seeker & Servant record at Parafonic together. It sort of came full circle. And now I really think of the Seeker & Servant guys as friends and brothers. That record is called You Alone Forever.Then they recently recorded at Parafonic again for an EP called Sojourner. I didn’t produce it, but I did get to play drums on it.
Brandon and I have worked on a lot of cool records together that we’re really proud of. Rachel Cohen, The Quiet Science, Pathos Pathos, and Reverist, to name a few. We have learned how to work together, learned our strengths and weaknesses, and become a really good team. In Greek, para means “alongside of” and phon means “sound, noise, or voice.” We called the studio Parafonic because we want to come alongside others’ sound and help them fulfill their vision.
I’ve worked with a lot of engineers over the years, and Brandon is by far my favorite. He is the perfect mix of artist and geek. What I mean is, he understands the science behind his gear, the physics of sound, the theory behind why a certain chord does or doesn’t work, and all the stuff that is over my head. But he’s also a really talented guitar player who knows a cool sound when he hears one. So, he knows the “right way” to mic a tom and the “right” way to EQ a bass. But he also knows how to dial in a nasty fuzz tone that just sounds amazing. And he humors me me when I say, “MORE DELAY! MORE REVERB!” He has never told me, “No, that’s not the ‘right’ way to do that.” He’s always willing to experiment, and he usually knows a better way to get to a sound than I do.
For well over a year, Brandon has recorded my songs when we’ve had spare time. He has done it just to help me out. And he has put a lot of time and energy into it. Brandon played all the bass and guitars on the new record. He also engineered it, and he’s mixing it right now. I can say he has done a killer job on every single part he has contributed.
When I finally sat down and said, “Okay, I think I’m making a record here. I think it’s going to be a new Cool Hand Luke record.” He was onboard and has given a lot to help me see it through. For the majority of the time that we were working on the record, Brandon’s wife Elissa was pregnant with their first child.
We finished tracking on December 5th. The next day, Cora Rowe Shattuck was born. She is beautiful. As soon as Brandon sent me the first picture of her, I knew that the album had to be called Cora. So, now the album has a name, and I’ll refer to it by that name henceforth. I’m excited for you to meet Cora.