If you’re a “regular” here at Rock Is A Girl’s Best Friend, or if you follow me on Twitter, then you know I prefer to do things unconventionally. Terra Naomi‘s new album, To Know I’m OK, came about unconventionally as well.
When I met Terra more than a year ago, she had a very clear vision of how she wanted this album to sound, even before all the songs were written. She knew she wanted John Alagia (Rachel Yamagata, Brett Dennen, Ben Folds Five, David Gray, Liz Phair, Jason Mraz) to produce the album. She was free from a major-label deal so she could do things differently, not beholden to anyone but herself. At the same time, she was also keenly aware that she no longer had the major-label resources to record and release her second album, and if she forgot about that for a moment, somebody was there telling her it couldn’t be done.
Photo by Ben Watts
Determined to make her vision a reality, Terra ignored the naysayers and set forth on a path to record and release To Know I’m OK, without compromise. Terra raised the recording budget via a direct to fan engagement campaign with PledgeMusic and then approached John Alagia to produce the album. Upon hearing the music and Terra’s plans for releasing the album, Alagia agreed. The result? “This is the album I’ve always wanted to make,” Terra says.
Terra is also going about releasing the album independently, partnering with technology companies and passionate audience communities. As she did with PledgeMusic, Terra continues to go directly to fans, reaching them in unique ways, and including them in the process. Terra partnered with Hipstamatic, engaging their passionate community and incorporating user-submitted Hipstamatic photos as the centerpiece of her video for “You For Me”. She’s working with Klout, providing unique offerings to their influencers, as well as partnering with music and lifestyle bloggers.
Photo by Ben Watts
To Know I’m OK will be available tomorrow, Tuesday June 21st, and I wanted to do something special in honor of its release. I considered interviewing Terra about the songs and the recording process. I thought it might be fun to drink with Terra. Actually, I knew that was fun, having done it previously. Other ideas that crossed my mind were: going behind the scenes with Terra and producer John Alagia during the recording process, posting random outtakes from the studio, sharing footage nobody knew I was recording, and posting full streams of some of the songs on the album. I even considered showing the recording process through the eyes of Terra’s dog, Elliott Osito. I’m of the belief that we can have it all, so below, you will find everything mentioned above.
I hope you enjoy this track-by-track video exploration of Terra Naomi: To Know I’m OK.
It’s time for a listening party
1. You For Me
Michael Chaves, Sean Hurley, Brad Conrad, John Alagia, Victor Indrizzo lend a hand to Terra Naomi during the recording of “You For Me”
Terra’s dog, Elliott, lends his tail during the making of “You For Me”
Listen to “You For Me” (Full Stream)
2. If I Could Stay
Terra performs “If I Could Stay” at a private house party
3. Not Sorry
Terra discusses the re-recording of “Not Sorry”
Listen to the new version of “Not Sorry” from To Know I’m OK
4. Everybody Knows
Terra, John Alagia, Brad Conrad, Zac Rae, Victor Indrizzo, Sean Hurley, and Michael Chaves working out “Everybody Knows” in the studio
Recording “Everybody Knows”
Listen to “Everybody Knows” Album Version (Full Stream)
5. Someday Soon
Terra, producer John Alagia, Brad Conrad, Zac Rae, Michael Chaves, Victor Indrizzo, and Sean Hurley listening to their initial recordings of “Someday Soon”
6. I’ll Be Waiting
Terra discusses the meaning of “I’ll Be Waiting” during our “interview” at Malibu Wines
Recording “I’ll Be Waiting”
Listen to “I’ll Be Waiting” (Full Stream)
I’ll Be Waiting:
7. Take Time
Terra does a special performance of “Take Time” for Rock Is A Girl’s Best Friend:
Inspired by a man who dumped her:
Listen to “Take Time” (Full Stream)
8. To Know I’m OK
Listen to the title track from Terra’s new album, “To Know I’m OK” (full stream)
To Know I’m Ok:
Terra’s dog, Elliott Osito, gives his notes on the album
Finally, after a long day in the studio, John Alagia and Michael Chaves had these parting words for Terra:
The secret’s gonna get out. I might as well be the one to tell you. . . But know this – I have been to several amazing events at this venue and have yet to write about it (and I tell you everything!), precisely because it really is one of the best kept secrets in LA.
A little while back (and more than once) – Ben Harper. A couple weeks ago – Brett Dennen. Tonight – Jackson Browne. Whenever it happens, whether you know their names or not, you will be treated to great musical talent at The Stronghold. The ones whose names you don’t know are often as spectacular as the ones you do know. As Jackson Browne said (in reference to his surprise appearance), “Welcome to The Stronghold – where anything can happen.”
Browne was phenomenal. He played a handful of songs including “My Stunning Mystery Companion.” Each song turned into a jam session within this intimate house-party setting. Also outstanding – Steve Postell, Amalia K. Spicer, Debra Dobkin, Shannnon Moore, Tariqh Akoni on guitar, Peter Adams on keyboards, and Mark Gorman on bass. It was a perfect night of music.
Great talent at The Stronghold
Now imagine you’re a teenager (unless you are a teenager, in which case you don’t need to imagine) and you climbed out of your bedroom window, sneaked over to a barn on a neighbor’s property and stumbled upon all of these great musicians jamming. You glance over at your friends and the stylish people in perfect-fitting denim, and give each other knowing looks – “this is where it’s at.”
The evening winds down as the morning approaches. You say “goodnight,” scurry back home, and slide back into your bedroom, undetected, just 2 hours before your alarm is due to go off. The next morning not a word is spoken, but you know – and those who were there know – you were just part of something very special. That’s what it’s like at The Stronghold, and you feel it the morning after.
Without going into much more detail because I think you get the idea, it is important to mention that everybody at The Stronghold is exceptionally nice. They’re not scary-nice, nor what-can-you-do-for-me nice, nor I’m-high nice — they are simply genuinely kind, good people. When a venue’s team treats people well, they attract a generous and respectful audience, exceptional talent, and loyalty amongst both performers and fans.
As with all the amazing music experiences noted above, I found out about Brett Dennen’s performance at Library Alehouse via Twitter. Dennen announced this show with a Tweet, at 1:43pm today. I re-read the Tweet a few times because Library Alehouse is not a music venue (not that all shows must take place in a proper venue, but. . .). Library Alehouse is one of my favorite pubs slash restaurants in Santa Monica. They have an amazing selection of beer on tap, including a few that are hard to find elsewhere (I only know this because I’ve been there with some guys who know this). They also have a great year-round outdoor seating area in the back (I know this because that’s where I like to sit).
Brett Dennen at Library Alehouse
So when Brett Dennen Tweeted that he was going to be performing at Library Alehouse for a Carson Daly taping, I thought perhaps he had one too many glasses of really good beer. Yet the Tweet was very specific and Library Alehouse was on the way home (as “on the way” as anything is in LA), so I decided to stop by. Good thing I did because Dennen was entirely sober and indeed performing at Library Alehouse tonight.
I first became aware of Brett Dennen several years ago (2004-ish), at The Hotel Cafe. Marko, who co-owns and books the venue, told me I had to come down and “check out this guy Brett Dennen.” I remember it was a late show. . . No, actually. . . Whoever had played before Dennen started late (or ran over time) which pushed Dennen’s set back. It was approximately 11:43pm on a weeknight, after a very long day, and with an early morning ahead of me. If anybody else told me I needed to be out that night, I would have ignored them. But when Marko tells me I need to see someone, I show up.
Consistently, 0n any given night, The Hotel Cafe has a solid line-up. It’s the kind of place you can go, even if you don’t recognize the names of the artists playing, and be guaranteed to hear some good music. In fact, I often go there “on the way home” because I’m certain to hear something I like. Marko doesn’t call me every time an amazing musician is playing at Hotel Cafe (if he did, he’d be calling me four times a day). So when he does say, “you’ve gotta come check this out,” I don’t question it; I just show up.
In the case of Brett Dennen, that meant I was one of approximately 8 people in the room when he performed what are now some of his most requested songs. He was, without a doubt, phenomenal which left me thanking Marko profusely and questioning where everyone else was. It also reminded me of a time when I was one of only 5 people seeing Jack Johnson perform at The Mint several years prior to that. In both instances I wondered how long it would take for people to catch on. And in both instances the answer was: not very long at all.
Brett Dennen at Rothbury 2009
The next time I saw Dennen perform at Hotel Cafe the room was packed. The time after that it was sold out. After playing a few sold-out shows at Hotel Cafe, Dennen graduated to larger venues, but he’d often come back to Hotel Cafe and play special shows. The last time I saw Dennen perform at Hotel Cafe, not only was it sold-out, but people hovered outside the window on Hollywood Boulevard, with their ears pressed against the glass, straining to hear as much of the show as possible. Most recently I watched (or rather, danced) as Dennen performed to thousands of fans at Rothbury Festival.
So that’s Brett Dennen – nobody knew about him, then everybody knew about him, and now those who know him on Twitter are the ones who knew to show up for his Carson Daly taping this afternoon. And just like old times, we were among the few (40 people) who got to experience this show.
Dennen began by playing a brand new song, “Dancing At The Funeral.” It’s not as morbid as the title may lead you to believe. “Dancing At The Funeral” is a song about celebrating life, an important message to share. Next, at the request of the audience, he played “Desert Sunrise,” a song off his debut album. Dennen spoke about his fond memories of the Bay Area and how he weaved a break-up storyline into the song prior to playing “San Francisco.” “It’s really a love song,” Dennen said. “I love that city.”
Next, he told a story about recording “Heaven” with Natalie Merchant. Like several artists, Dennen likened the song to a child. But unlike other artists, Dennen’s “child” had a different upbringing. Hopefully they leave that story in the show so you can hear it for yourself (I’d only f*ck it up if I tried to repeat it). Dennen finished the set with “It Could Make You Cry,” another ironically happy tune.
And with that, the show slash taping ended, and some really good beer was the substitute for an encore.