When personnel changes at Columbia Records delayed the release of his second album for the label, Ari Hest decided to familiarize himself with Apple’s GarageBand software.
The end result: an EP he recorded at home that Columbia released first.
“It’s been a strange couple of years,” the Brooklyn, N.Y.-based singer/songwriter/guitarist says
It began innocently enough around March 2006, when Hest teamed with producer Mitchell Froom to record the bulk of his second Columbia album at Froom’s studio in Santa Monica, Calif.
“I was there for the better part of two months,” Hest recalls. “I came home and came to the label with the record. The label liked the record, but they were not ready to put it out. Nor were they really in a position to know who was going to be in my camp because a lot of the people who were in my camp the first time around had either been fired or left on their own.
“Columbia wasn’t sure what to do with it right away. And it made me feel insecure about the relationship with them. But at the same time, I felt like it was a bad situation that I had to make better on my own.”
So last June and July, Hest — who admits he’s “not very gifted” when it comes to computers — decided to take a crack at learning GarageBand.
“I had this room at the time in my apartment that was empty and I moved a lot of my music equipment into it,” he says. “The acoustics were pretty good in the room. I got myself a microphone and a little pre-amp and learned on my own how to do it. It was a challenge to figure out how to record myself in a constructive way and not just like a demo.”
Hest recorded about 11 songs using GarageBand, and he wasn’t about to let them collect dust. Once Columbia decided to put The Break-In, the album he made with Froom, on its release schedule for this year, he suggested releasing an EP of his home recordings first as “a bit of a stopgap.”
And that’s what Columbia did, releasing The Green Room Sessions, a five-song EP, in late 2006.
“I was blown away thinking about how much money and equipment goes into making a record that usually comes out on Columbia,” he says, “and meanwhile, I’m sitting in my underwear at home making an album and spending less that 300 bucks on the whole thing.”
The Break-In, in stores now, also features two songs Hest produced himself in New York. The album opens with “When and If,” a track he recorded with Froom that is from the perspective of a soldier yearning to return home from the war in Iraq.
“I don’t know what touched it off, but it was not a personal experience,” explains Hest. “I think I’ve become a little more socially conscious than I was a few years ago. I have met some servicemen and women at shows, and whenever I see them, I often wonder what their life is like.
“I just felt like I wanted to write something about someone who could not wait to come back, but wasn’t sure if he could make it. And with this album there are a few songs that are not as personal as what I usually do. They were about experiences that other people had that I felt were pretty poignant, and I kind of ran with them.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Ari Hest on tour (schedule subject to change):
* May 10: Triple Door — Seattle
* May 11: Berbatis Pan — Portland, Ore.
* May 12: Mobius — Ashland, Ore.
* May 13: Bottom of the Hill — San Francisco
* May 14: Troubadour — Los Angeles
* May 15: The Casbah — San Diego
* May 16: Plush — Tucson, Ariz.
* May 18: Granada Theater — Dallas
* May 19: The Parish — Austin, Texas
* May 21: Soul Kitchen — Mobile, Ala.
* May 22: WorkPlay — Birmingham, Ala.
* May 23: Mercy Lounge — Nashville, Tenn.
* May 24: Smith’s Olde Bar — Atlanta
* May 25: The Map Room — Charleston, S.C.
* May 26: Tremont Music Hall — Charlotte, N.C.
* May 27: Outer Banks Brewing Station — Kill Devil Hills, N.C.
* May 29: The Jewish Mother — Virginia Beach, Va.
* May 30: The Birchmere — Alexandria, Va.
* May 31: Gramercy Theatre — New York
Photo of Ari Hest by Chris M. Junior
March 2007/Austin, Texas