Pacific Northwest, USA - Part 1

Isla's Promise - Part 1

In preparation for next week's release of the Isla's Promise music video, this is the first installment of a two-part blog post about the recording of the song and the making of the video. This week we'll focus on the writing and recording of the song.

In case you haven't heard Isla's Promise, here it is:

The story of how I came up with Isla's Promise is explained in this short video I made for a Kickstarter campaign a little while back.

Early drafts of this song were a lot different from the final product, they were more indie and experimental. I love the final draft, but it’s always fun to go back and hear a song when it’s raw and undeveloped. You find something that feels more pure and organic that you don’t get from the studio version.

Isla's Promise - Early Demo:

We had started recording Witness Protection Program way back in 2011 with Evan Kasper at Ohm studio, but Isla’s Promise was the first song that we recorded specifically for the Language of Ghosts sessions at Public HiFi in Austin with Brad Bell. We finished it at Good Danny’s with Grant Johnson in November 2013.

I wasn’t sure what direction the recording would take but I knew that I wanted the song to live up to its full potential, whatever that meant. Because it was my first time in the studio I think I got trigger happy at times and thought, “Let’s add this instrument, and that one there. Oh, and wouldn’t it be cool to have this…” So we ended up with over a hundred tracks of instruments, vocals and harmonies.

Subconsciously, I think I just wanted to get all of my ideas out of my system. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to my production team Grant, Maurice and Matt for helping edit the song down to the most essential elements. For good or bad, every second of this song, and the emotion it should evoke, was thought through.

The recorded version was originally 5:21, but we chopped out an entire verse to bring it to four minutes even, and I think it was an editing decision that really helped the song. It helped the video as well, because it makes things move a lot faster.

I felt the song's style lent itself to bagpipes. I wanted to communicate how traveling in Scotland inspired the melody and nothing screams Scotland like bagpipes. I also think the rarity of the instrument in pop music made me excited to use it. Before the song was recorded I used to sing it and tell people, “And this is where the bagpipes will go.” It got good laughs, but I was actually serious.

I searched online and found Doug Slauson, a real Texas cowboy who also happens to be a world-class bagpiper and Pipe Master of
Silver Thistle Pipes and Drums of Austin
. The first morning of the session, Doug walked into the studio and started tuning his pipes at full force. I remember how their volume made the studio swell. I think my engineer Brad Bell realized at that point that I was serious about the bagpipes. He kind of paused for a second then looked at me and said, “Welp, let’s record some expletive bagpipes!”

Next week we'll premier the Isla's Promise music video and tell you how we made it!