Q&A with Jene Caster

We were instantly introduced to Jene Caster’s music, and were immediately fans. We liked it so much, we felt we HAD to go and find out more about the main man himself, straight from the horse’s mouth. Here Jene tells us about how he came to be a musician, and why he’s love to meet Jimmy Page…

Where does your love of music come from?

When the question contains an expression “love of music” I face a notional conflict. Music is my language of expression, conversation and communication. I do love to express my feelings, keep a conversation or a meaningful communication with people. But music to me is just a tool, a mean to an end. I don’t have love of music in terms of a tool. I was very surprised how music came to me. I was forced to deal with music by the “internal sound generator” that actuated each time I ran downstairs or heard a regular hammer beat or when I focused on the sound of my own heartbeat. The latter though was very irregular rhythmically. So all of these flooded my consciousness incessantly making me mad and forcing me to start organizing what I heard. Then my music teacher when I was in the 6th grade of school gave us listening experience of greatest music works of all times… Mozart, Bach, Beethoven. Much later in high school and university my friends began to share with me vinyl of Led Zeppelin, the Beatles, AC/DC, Elvis and many others. I began listening to a lot of music, collecting classical music on vinyl. I was in quest for discovering musical truth that each meaningful piece of art came about when somebody really had something to say and developed an excellent way of doing it. I was more drawn to lyrical side of music – The Poetry. Although I am Russian, for no particular reason, I began writing poems in English right from that 6th grade. So I would say that my love to the beauty of the English language preceded my fascination with music. And I never pursued a musical career as such. Yes, poetry is what ultimately made me musician.

What would you say was the biggest inspiration for your new album ‘Turn Faith To Love’?

The biggest inspiration for Turn Faith To Love is the very idea behind it expressed in the title and explained by the last song in it. Songs in the album were written over a period of almost 20 years (earliest song was written in 1995, and the latest came in 2013). It could appear to be a compilation of the best songs from my total collection, but in reality songs were carefully selected and tested to fit the album flow. This album would not be recorded without faith and financial contribution on behalf of Alex Izykov. Also we have together generated everything related to physical realization of the Jene Caster project.

How was the recording process – you travelled all the way to Nashville, right?

Yes, we travelled to Nashville together with Alex, just the two of us. We took it one step at a time. I knew of Nashville that it was the capital of Country music and some even say the world capital of music. I discovered it personally to be true. There were many mentions of Nashville by musicians I looked up to in my growth, so we decided to record the album there. I did the web search for a recording studio in Nashville and I chose one of the oldest. Also there we samples provided by each studio of the way they mix music. I was looking for a country style, balanced overall sound, not biased by any particular musical genre. So I found one that answered all my expectations. And luckily the correspondence went well too. John Nicholson from Hilltop Recording Studios selected for us a team of finest Nashville musicians.

I had no idea of how they worked in Nashville. So I requested John to provide me with recording process details. The most surprising thing de facto for me was that the demos I provided were available only to the sound engineer and the guy who was responsible for laying out a song/music structure on paper for musicians. So musicians came to the studio and they hadn’t listened to demos in advance, they see the paper and listen to the demo one song at a time. Then at once they played it, with me somewhat singing in a separate isolated booth. They call this initial recording a master track, and then it takes them about an hour to polish the master track with additional overdubs or punch-ins (I was lucky to know some of the studio slang to properly communicate with everybody).

The recording started at about 11a.m. on the 22nd of January 2013. Before it started I was introduced to musicians, and I requested the director to let me say a couple of introductory words about each song, brief on its meaning to me. Each demo was played once before the recording of master track and in most cases the demos were able to set the right tone for the “band”. By the way the musicians didn’t even know in advance who they’d play with, which was another surprise for me.

One of the greatest joys for me in the recording process was the amount of musical understanding of the demos by musicians. Lead guitarist Jeff King (he is well known to tour with Reba) was once in a while checking with me on interpretation of the song by asking me for influences which sometimes seemed too obvious. For example in case of Look he said: “Oh, it smells Zeppelin!”, and in case of ‘That Is Not True’ he checked with me if I was getting something from B.B.King. That is so fulfilling that we could exchange those meaningful clichés and stay on the same page in developing the instrumental palette of the tracks.

I will mention the session musicians who helped me to record the songs.

Drums – Wayne Killius; Bass – Jimmy Carter; Electric Guitars – Jeff King; Keyboards, Hammond organ – Gary Prim; Pedal Steel, Lapsteel, Dobro – Bruce Bouton; Violin, Mandolin – Aubrey Haynie; Acoustic guitars, Nylon String Classical Guitar – Joel Key; Background Vocals – Chip Davis, Billy Davis.

Recording schedule was the following Jan, 22 – day 1 – master tracks, total 9 tracks were recorded in one day. Day 2-3 – my vocals were recorded, day 4 – background vocals, day 5-6 mixing, mastering, engineering. On the 26th of January we had a final product in digital and hardcopy form.

I could talk much more on this but let me stop here for now.

What’s been the biggest highlight of your musical career to date?

Of course this recording trip to Nashville was the biggest highlight. Nothing came to this level of excitement.

If you could meet any musician, who would it be and why?

I would like to meet Jimmy Page, I was inspired by him to pick up the guitar and start making music.

What are your plans for the future, and where can we find out more about your music?

I will keep writing songs, especially that I’ve discovered a wonderful way of realizing them into albums. I am in the very beginning of my musical career; I’ve spent more than 10 years playing randomly in clubs and restaurants, doing little recording. I haven’t yet built a lot to make more of my music available professionally. Give me a little time to come up with new albums! There will be lovely stories behind them.

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