Dix is a do-it-yourselfer, musically and in how he promotes. It’s how business gets done for the gargantuan and the independent musician alike. So when Dix reached the point where he wanted to record, he picked five songs and put his trust in his friends and fans, starting a Kickstarter campaign with an aim of $2,000, an amount that would allow him to cover the cost of distribution. Sixty-eight hundred dollars poured in, an amount that Dix realized had expanded the project past his expectations.
“I was going to make this album anyway,” said Dix. “The Kickstarter allowed me to extended the project, and it allowed us to delve into a deeper production, more instruments, and to focus more on each song, and it increased the overall quality of the project.”
Dix used Northern Tracks Studio to record the album, a place where he began to learn the ropes of musical production working for owner and album co-producer Gary Henry. With years of history between Dix and Henry, communication was often reduced to a wink or a nod as their creativity often met without a moment’s notice. The production of the album took songs both recent and over a decade old and set a version of them in stone. Dix knew the framework of each tune he had chosen, but deciding the individual sounds to add to each track was no easy task, and one Dix felt no need to rush.
“You have to know when to say ‘When,’ when to edit, and when to say ‘No’ to things,” said Dix. “That’s what Gary is so good at. He’s good at taking things away, because it’s easy to throw everything, including the kitchen sink at any one song when you’re working on it in such a meticulous way.
“We made a conscious effort to not be too precious about the way the songs existed before. Whether instrumental parts or whatever, it was about being able to stretch it in different directions and that’s why it’s so rewarding, especially with the older songs.”
Every song on “I am. It is. You should be,” is noticeably personal both lyrically and musically, emphasized by Dix’s performance of every instrument and vocal track, except four songs where Henry lent his drumming expertise. Musically, Dix keeps the listener expecting the unexpected. While individual songs may begin with a specific note sequence, by the end, they often take on new life through an element you did not see coming, and in some cases even change moods. “One” begins with a spacey guitar riff brought back down to earth by a lower progression, which draws it into a meeting with the vocals as a verse drops off. But an explosive guitar solo toward the conclusion, ala Ween’s “I Don’t Want It” (happier sounding though), takes the song to a new place before it can end. “Too Far” shows a multitude of time signatures from creeping along to grooving, and ends with a bluesy Gilmour-esque guitar solo that itself disappears as the song seemingly floats away.
Dix shows a consistent guitar prowess. The decisions he makes on guitar come from a knowledge of what works with him, a trait he has developed over years working solo with a loop station. “34” provides a dark folk song, while “I know I know I know,” is stripped down to one voice and one guitar. Dix provided all of the vocals for the album, harmonizing with himself in both the soft and the stressed.
The lyrics often come from a cryptic, dark, or personal place, and are often quizzical in their nature. Other times they are more simplistic as in “I know, I know, I know,” where Dix sings “Same as I love, you always love me too, this love isn’t good unless it’s me and you.” A verse that many could apply to their own lives.
“To find a way to define an emotional space for the song is the goal,” said Dix. “I like to mess around with words. It’s not so much a storyteller in a song as I’m trying to leave room for interpretation for the listener. There’s an impressionistic feel to the phrase ‘I am, it is, you should be.’ It’s fairly undefined and it’s meant to leave you room to ask questions. That’s how writing is for me.”
The four months allotted to the album’s recording gave Dix and Henry time to tinker, and time to focus. For Henry, this open door policy for ideas made the recording process a great experience. “It was probably the most enjoyable recording I’ve ever done,” said Henry. “There was no element of having to watch the clock Yes he wanted to get it done but we felt, let’s not shortchange anything, and because we knew each other for so long, to some extent it was a dynamic process. The fact of not having to waste words explaining or trying to get on the same level - we’re already there, we’re both thinking the same thing.”
Dix is not restrained by the mellow. He’s found creative outlets in a rock trio called Mr. Dix, playing in a comedy-rock group called Touchpants with John Fishman, and has filled in at rhythm guitar for bands in Burlington, where he often plays Nectars Restaurant and bar.
But recording an album was something in the back of his head for years. Not nagging him, he was simply biding his time.
“Where I’ve gotten to in my life emotionally, personally, and beyond, to be doing it at this point is very powerful,” said Dix. “It was a lifelong dream. I always wanted to have an album, but if I really wanted it earlier I would have done it earlier.
“It’s about finding balance where you’re happy and comfortable with the album. I joke about if this album was on at a party or if this album was on around a group of friends at a dinner, I didn’t want to have to cough during something in a song because of something I didn’t want to hear. I want to do things that not only I’m proud of, but that in the future my son will be able to realize it’s absolutely OK to put yourself out there.”
Dix will be holding a CD release party on Saturday, December 21, at 8 pm, at One More Time in Dover. Dix is offering $2 off his album to those who bring a food item to donate to the Deerfield Valley Food Pantry. To buy “I am. It is. You should” go to Colbydix.com, iTunes, or Amazon.com.