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2012 Update to Interview with Todd Boston
Master Seven Interview by Tom Beninate
Copy Editor: Susan Castellano
July 10, 2012
Congratulations on completing your outstanding and new CD, Touched by the Sun. In the past you wrote, produced, and engineered your records. With this one you were able to focus on songwriting. What freedoms did this allow and what challenges did it present in your desire to reach a new level of writing?

Thank you Tom! This project allowed me to completely immerse in the creative aspect of writing and leave behind (to a certain degree) the critical view points that are required when you are producing and engineering. Working with Will Ackerman (producer) and Tom Eaton (engineer/co-producer) gave me such a sense of peace because I knew I was
truly in great hands.
That left me to play my heart out and be totally in the creative [mood]. I spent two weeks at the beginning of the project living on Will's property at Imaginary Road Studios. I went in with some solid compositions and also with a degree of improvisation and openness to allow the inspiration to happen in the moment. The writing process was inspired by the nature around us.
I would say it challenged me to go deeply into the dynamics and compositional elements of these songs and really get the most out of the music. Will really pushed me. He wasn't afraid to tell me that my past music was nice and, well, kind of safe. He wanted me to push the edge more and really explore the dynamics. This was the gift of a great producer.

The caliber of artists on this record is world-class. Did you give them creative leeway with your songs? If so, do you feel their contributions broadened your songwriting capabilities?

For a long time I have heard this music in my head with orchestral arrangements and ensembles. To work together with folks like Eugene Friesen (cello), Charlie Bisharat (violin), Jeff Haynes (percussion), Ramesh Kannan (tabla), Tony Levin (bass), Michael Manring (fretless bass), and Snatam Kaur (vocals) allowed the music to rise to such an exceptional level and really bring it to a higher place. I have to give these musicians credit because they all came to this project and played their hearts out. There was a lot of inspiration flowing in those sessions.
We provided them with the framework of the compositions and essentially let them "go for it." Sometimes it worked great and sometimes a little more guidance was needed. Ultimately we wanted the musicians to shine and add their personality and voices to the music. They all did so brilliantly while still being supportive which is a credit to the quality of the musicians who played on the album.

Your producer, Will Ackerman, said to me (about working with you), “I had to essentially ask him for more trust. I needed him to let go.” He went on to say about working with artists at Imaginary Road Studios, “This is really a tight environment. It’s really a family.” What musical and emotional accomplishments did you get working with Will and the others at his studio?

Working with Will was a real growing experience for me. I had essentially produced and engineered my albums in the past and I had to relearn how to be in the studio. I had to let go. Before we ever set foot in the studio Will sensed I was having a hard time letting him do his thing. I was gripping tightly to the steering wheel and didn't want to let go; I was so used to doing it myself. Will did in fact say that I needed to trust him more and let go.
That was a big deal for me and became a crucial life lesson at that time. Letting go, trusting, surrendering, surrounding myself with brilliant people, and letting them do what they do.It became a meditation where I would wake up in the morning and just pray to let go, trust, and surrender. I believe I was able to do that and really play from the heart, allowing the inspiration to come through instead of forcing it. That is in large part due to the incredible environment Will Ackerman has created at the Imaginary Road compound. It is a very special place to record where nature and creativity really are connected. There is a sense of family because Will is such a personal guy and also you are basically at his house playing with his toys …tractors and all. Plus the facility has some of the best gear in the world.

Was this your first experience playing Froggy Bottom Guitars? What special qualities do they have as compared to other professional standards?

Yes, that was my first time playing them. To be perfectly honest, the guitars I had at the time were not great studio instruments. Especially to the ears of Will Ackerman who has recorded some of the best acoustic guitar albums of all time.
Will handed me one of his Froggy Bottoms and my jaw dropped. I absolutely love these guitars and hope to own one soon. The tone is so deep and rich, so many harmonics and layers. At times it sounded to me like a grand piano. These have to be some of the finest sounding instruments on the planet!

Tom Eaton has quickly made an enormous impression as chief engineer at Imaginary Road Studios. How would you describe your experience working with him and his contributions to your record?

Well Tom and Will have this amazing connection which is no surprise because they are both such great people, brilliant and experts at what they do. I believe Touched by the Sun was their first full project together but it was like they had been working together for years. Tom is a great engineer and knows the gear inside and out, literally. He also has the experience of being an excellent musician and brought some great creative ideas to the table. By the end of the project we realized Tom had co-produced the album with us.

In the past you performed live using loops. What changes will be made to incorporate Touched by the Sun into your live performance?

My live performances will still contain elements of live looping to support the compositions when I play solo. One thing that working on this project with Will did was give me more confidence as a solo guitarist so these days I am really trying to get the most out of the instrument first, then turning to the effects for support. I also continue to play in ensembles in certain gigs. My longtime friend and musical partner Ramesh Kannan knows the music so well and is such a great tabla player and percussionist. I also am blessed to play with a number of other talented players including Michael Manring (bass), Matthew Schoening (cello), and others that can bring the songs to life on stage.

You recently performed at the Summer Solstice festival in New Mexico. What were some of the highlights for you?

Wow, the Summer Solstice event was an amazing time! I played there with Ramesh Kannan and singer Snatam Kaur. Snatam is amazing because one of her gifts is to have everyone sing with her. So imagine you are in the middle of the desert of New Mexico, the Sun is coming up at 5am, and 2000+ people are singing together. It was a truly incredible experience.

What are your marketing plans for this record?

We have launched an extensive radio campaign worldwide. We also have been connecting with folks on the web that do reviews to have them listen and help share the music with their readers. Of course there are some reviews in traditional print media we are working on and then there is the social media with Facebook, YouTube, etc. You have to hit it from a lot of angles. [
See the video:] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hzv_aonidWE
On July 20th we are creating an album release concert in the San Francisco Bay area at the Throckmorton Theatre with Michael Manring, Snatam Kaur, Ramesh Kannan, Jeff Oster, Shambhu, Matthew Schoening, and even Will Ackerman!I really wanted Will to be at the release event so we are flying him out to play and be a part of the night. [
See the video:] http://www.142throckmortontheatre.com/event.php?eventid=1680
Other than that I will continue to get out to share the music live with as many people as I can.

What projects do you have in store for the second half of 2012?

When I was in the studio working on Touched by the Sun I decided that it was wise to capture some of the "lightning in the bottle" so to say. So instead of only recording the compositions for the album, we recorded an additional two plus hours of improvisational playing. My concept was to have Tom roll the tape for about ten minutes at the beginning and end of every session and just see what happened.
There are some nice moments in there and I will go back and listen and hopefully release the second album from these sessions. It would be a more simplified production and really be about the meditative quality of the music and the guitar. My whole intention was to be in a meditative state for those sessions and create music that would inspire that in others.
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