Long Fuse Burning: Ignition

NEW MUSIC FRIDAY: Long Fuse Burning is officially available today on all your favorite streaming platforms, and for purchase!

https://open.spotify.com/album/7LJ7w8Cob4qvCVEGrgG7YM?si=RY_ccxRSSFOcajwfKS-dXw

We'll be celebrating all month long with shows in Gloucester (Andrea Gillis North Shore CD Release Party w/ Magen Tracy), Salem (Lonely Leesa, MTMC, Future Carnivores), and then back home in Boston for Bust Out Boston the first week of September. Then we'll wrap it up with an album release show at at Atwood's Tavern on 9/28!

Thanks and congrats to everyone who worked so hard to make this possible! Check out our 10-Day Countdown


Long Fuse Burning 10-Day Countdown: The Studio Team (Day 1)

With one day to go, today's the day I give some love to the studio teams who made this album possible (and amazing.) Earlier in this series, I talked about the powerful work we did at Mortal Music (Revolution Sound Studios) in Charlestown, MA, with Andy Pinkman and Craig Small on "Harder Girl" (2016 single). I've also talked about "Color the Air" and "Sweetheart", both produced by Small and recorded at Q Division, with additional recording at A Small Studio by Small and Henley Row by Dan Nicklin. Boston has a wealth of great studios and fantastic engineers and producers, and it was a rare pleasure to get to explore so many as we pulled this project together.

Ed V. and James Bridges at Q Division Studios. Photo by Fuel Heart Productions.

The bulk of the album was recorded at Q Division Studios in Somerville over the past year and a half, produced by Ed Valauskas. With 2 singles under our belt and a third pending, we realized we had enough new material for a full-length. Ed worked with us on the 6 remaining album tracks, as well as the live track of my mother's tune we recorded last February. Working with him was a complete joy, from the musical ideas to the attention to process and detail to the warm, calm bedside manner. I've always found tracking vocals terrifying, but found myself actually enjoying it this time (whiskey helped.) I love Ed's sense of collaboration in the studio; of listening to and guiding us through all the ideas that popped up; and of getting out of a song's way to let it breathe and be the piece it wants to be.

James Bridges and Caitlyn Bongiovi shared engineering duties throughout, and the calm, capable energy they bring to a session is an artist's dream. It was also a boon to have both these talented engineers able to move seamlessly between each other's sessions; another great advantage of the Q community of professionals. Shout-out also to Pat DiCenso, who engineered "Sweetheart" and "Color the Air" and mixed all 10 tracks on Long Fuse Burning. With so many different people involved in the project, Pat was actually one of the only consistent elements on the album. He and Ed did a masterful job of sequencing and unifying the album and tying the piece together into a cohesive whole.

Missed Connections on our last full day at Q Division. Photo by Fuel Heart Productions.

The final piece of this Q and Q-adjacent dream team (hai, Moontower!) was Mike Quinn, swooping in at the end for mastering. Mastering is something of a dark art to the rest of us, and having an expert like Quinn in your corner can make all the difference when it comes to the final product. The masterful way all these folks were able to work together to see our album from early stages to completion, and the support we received from the studio throughout, was a great thing to be a part of. Our Year at Q was a total blast. We were all sad to wrap it up (Stud: "I'm gonna be so sad when I don't get to hang out with Ed V all the time anymore!); and encouraged to write more so we can get back in there as soon as possible!

Long Fuse Burning will be available on August 16 for purchase and on all streaming platforms. Pre-save or pre-order today.


Long Fuse Burning 10-Day Album Countdown: The Guest Stars (Day 2)

Another great thing about playing in multiple projects as a side-player is that in addition to tricking people into joining your band, you can convince some amazing artists to make guest appearances on your tracks as well!

I can fake my way through an organ part on stage, but when it came time to record on Q Division's Hammond for Dirty Little Secret and Miss the Life, we decided to bring in the big guns. Josh Kantor is well-known in our community as Fenway Park's beloved organist–and as and all-around talented player and great guy.

Watching Josh work on these tunes was a masterclass in inspiration and execution on the instrument (which I barely know how to turn on), and I love what he did on both songs. Fun fact: the organ part for "Dirty Little Secret" was first played on the Fenway Park organ during batting practice, because that was the only time he had during the day to run the tune! We threw a third song at him in the studio ("Is It Enough"), and I can't wait for you to hear him on all three tunes–it's revelatory.

It was Ed V.'s idea to bring in Juliana Hatfield for backing vocals on "Move a Crowd" (which I've already written a bit about, and Vanyaland did a great piece on as well). He's worked with her for years, and they pulled me in the year prior to play keyboards with her on a run of shows that included her Olivia Newton-John covers album release and her Bed 20th anniversary show. "Move a Crowd" had no harmonies on it initially, so we just gave it to her and let her do her thing–which is completely unique, moving, and takes the song to a very special place.

Photo by Joshua Pickering.

She ended up joining Stud on "This Goodbye" as well, adding and ethereal high harmony to what Stud was already doing; and adding a third part to the vocal bed Stud and Mike were laying down on "Is It Enough" on the day she came in. I'm hugely grateful to both these amazing artists for giving their time and creativity to our project, and for making music with us!

Long Fuse Burning will be available on August 16 for purchase and on all streaming platforms. Pre-save or pre-order today.


Long Fuse Burning 10-Day Album Countdown: Secret Trio (Day 3)

Yesterday I gave some love to the Missed Connections's rhythm section. So today's the day I talk about the front of the stage: Stud Green (violin, mandolin, acoustic, backing vocals) and Mike Oram (guitar, backing vocals).

Stud and I met at Girls Rock Campaign Boston 6 years ago, as instrument instructors and band coaches. I knew Stud had a background as a classical violinist, so we met up at a practice room at Berklee to try out violin on some of the songs for the Fiercely EP. It was then that I realized Stud also plays guitar, mandolin, and bass–and has the voice of an angel. While Stud spends a good portion of the year touring with the folk duo, Humble Tripe, it was only a matter of time before I managed to pull my patented "trick-you-into-joining-my-band" move (wanna play just this one show? How about another one? One more?) These days it's hard to imagine the band without Stud's gorgeous instrumentations and harmonies (sometimes referred to as our "secret weapon"), or my life without my partner/confidante in all things music, GRCB, 90's-lesbian-folk-rock, and CW television shows.

Photo by Fuelheart Productions.

Mike Oram is the most recent addition to the Missed Connections; originally a fill-in, he stepped up to join us in the 2017 Rock-and-Roll Rumble. Early on, Stud, Mike, and I realized how much we all liked singing together. We played a stripped down show at Atwood's for a Girls Rock Campaign fundraiser, and Secret Trio was born. Their harmonies are in full effect throughout Long Fuse Burning, showcased particular well on our first single, "Dirty Little Secret".

Mike's ear and guitar playing have also brought a ton to the band and to this album. On songs like "Fall" and "Is It Enough", he was a huge part of the arrangement and production, both in songwriting practices and in the studio. (Most of the synth parts you hear me play on these tunes are his or Ed V's–or most likely some Miller Lite fueled mind-meld of the two). These days Mike's one of the most sought-after players in Boston, playing with with Juliana Hatfield, Abbie Barrett Band, Eric Salt & Electric City, Andrea Gillis Band, and Cujo. We're thrilled to count him as one of our own, and I'm lucky to call him one of my closest friends.

Photo by Joshua Pickering..

Long Fuse Burning will be available on August 16 for purchase and on all streaming platforms. Pre-save or pre-order today.


Long Fuse Burning 10-Day Album Countdown: The Rhythm Section (Day 4)

One of the great things about being a side player for years before going solo, is that you’ve already built up friendships with amazing players who are more than willing to help you out. For the next few days I'm going to talk about the current Missed Connections, as well as past ones and album guest stars!

The story of the Missed Connections really starts with me and Sam Spencer. We've been friends for years. One of my first times on stage in Boston was actually sitting in with his former power trio, Sera Del Fuego at Harper's Ferry. In 2014, Sam was just moving back to Boston from Brooklyn and I had a recent breakup and a ton of inspiration. I had songs I wanted to try out and he had a newly acquired upright bass he wanted to take out for a spin, so we met up to shed through them. These songs became the foundation of Fiercely, our first EP, released in May of 2015.

During this time we played a number of shows as a duo, and started to expand to include other players (shout-outs to Travis Richter, Christie Prince, and Carolyn Castellano!), before we formed the first iteration of the Missed Connections with Nate Leavitt on guitar (and the EP's producer) and Ned Gallacher (on drums). Our very first show as the Missed Connections was at the Paradise Rock Club opening up for national artist Lissie–quite an auspicious start! From the beginning Sam has been a solid support, a committed friend and bandmate, and a fantastic player and musical collaborator. He's the backbone of this group, its most consistent member, and someone I've shared so much with in life and in music over the past 5 years.

Photo by Joshua Pickering.

Tamora Gooding (aka T. Goodie) falls into the category of: Amazing Musician I Tricked Into Joining My Band. My secret is seeking people out and asking them for one show at a time until they wake up one day and realize–surprise!–they're a full time Missed Connection! With T. Goodie, that show was a benefit for Yes All Women Boston at TT the Bear's in January of 2015. We'd met earlier at aWomen's Rock Brunch, and I'd been a fan of her drumming with Gene Dante and the Future Starlets since I first say them in the 2008 Rumble.

Since then T. Goodie has done such amazing things for the music and for the band. Aside from being a hugely talented drummer, she's got a theatrical sense of performance and dynamics that I absolutely love, and a drive to "rock up" even my most mellow of songs. She also makes sure we start and end every practice with hugs all around, and keeps us all going with her infectious energy and smile throughout every set. When you make a mistake? T. Goodie just smiles even bigger.

Photo by Joshua Pickering.

She's also become my drummer-buddy for dozens of side projects: we've covered Prince (O Sheila), Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac (Stevie Chicks), and most recently she joined me in Band of Their Own (our Hot Stove Cool Music super group with Kay Hanley, Tanya Donnelly, Gail Greenwood, Jen Trynin, Jen D'Angora, Hilkin Mancini, and more.) I'd play anything with this woman, and hope to get to play tons more!

Long Fuse Burning will be available on August 16 for purchase and on all streaming platforms. Pre-save or pre-order today.


Long Fuse Burning 10-Day Album Countdown: The Title Track (Day 5)

I’ve said in the past that I have a long fuse, that ends with a big explosion. My plans, grudges, dreams, aspirations have always been slow burns–managed, grown, researched, and grown into a full blown explosion, creative or anger. When I went to name this album, this idea seemed to encompass both the simmering rage I’d been feeling politically and socially in recent years, and the careful growth and planning I’d been nurturing creatively over the years as I grew from a shy folk singer to a confident side player in rock bands to a bold, self-actualized frontwoman.

The phrase "long fuse burning" comes from the album’s penultimate song, “Sweetheart”, an anthem I wrote about second-wave feminism and my reactions to being told to smile more and lean in at the same time: “I’ve got a long fuse burning with a brighter light / she said lean in, you’ve got another side / I’m a sweetheart, baby, til they cross the line.” I think this speaks for a lot of people I know these days–our sweetness and easy-going natures have been pushed to the limit, and we’re all waiting to see what happens when that big explosion comes.

This title track had its own long fuse. We initially tracked bass, drums, and piano for it in 2016 along with "Color the Air". It was another year or two before we recorded lead vocals at Henley Row in Stoneham, and throughout that time producer/guitarist Craig Small was laying down multiple layers of guitars, backing vocals, and percussion. We held one final session at Q Division for Stud's backing vocals, along with the rest of the album bvox in late 2018.

As I've outlined over the past few days, these songs span 3 years of recording and 6 years of writing (not even counting my mother's song, the final track on the album). When I first thought to put these all on the same album, I had concerns about the time span. Would they hold together, and work as a group? It wasn’t until I hit on the title that I realize that what ties them together IS that time span; it’s reflective of the way I approach many projects: planning, research, obsessing, until I’m finally ready to pull the trigger. 


Long Fuse Burning 10-Day Album Countdown: The Newbies (Day 6)

In an early L Word episode, Shane tells a hookup: "I like you. A lot. But I like a lot of people." It's a great line, and one that resonated for me both at the time, and for years later. I'd kicked around the idea of writing a song based on it for years. Midway through 2017, as part of the flood of writing I talked about in yesterday's post, I started to put these together with a chord progression I'd been playing around with. This turned into "Is It Enough?".

(Because one friend has already called me out on this: Yes, the song is called Is It Enough? even though, on the recording, at least, I never actually say those words. I say "Is that enough?" on two of the choruses, but I left the title as is for two reasons: 1) Sometimes I still say "is it enough?" at the end of the first chorus, even though the take on the recording doesn't have that, and 2) I like to justify think of it in terms of the whole song: in each chorus I sing about a different aspect of the crush/fling I'm describing and ask, "Is that enough?", but by the end of the song what I'm really asking is "Is all of it enough?")

The newest song on the album is our second single, "Move a Crowd." I finished this one just a month or so before we were set to start recording, and included it on a whim with the rehearsal recordings I sent to our producer, Ed V. He was enthusiastic about the tune, and it really came together in the studio (having the gorgeous Q Division grand piano to work with definitely helped.)

This song is a very emotional, visceral one for me, about the highs and lows of music-making and relationships, and of the extreme ups and downs that come when you're combining the two (not that any of us have ever done that. Ever.)  I've always felt that to be a musician you need to be at least somewhat comfortable with the roller coaster of emotions that go along with it, and with the intensity of sharing that with other people. Relationships, like shows, start and end, and leave you wondering - were the highs worth the crash? They must be, if we get up the next day and do it all over again.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lh9Q111-fhc

Long Fuse Burning will be available on August 16 for purchase and on all streaming platforms. Pre-save or pre-order today.


Long Fuse Burning 10-Day Album Countdown: The Second Wave (Day 7)

In early 2017, the band was playing regularly and working on our new video and single, but I was having something of a dry spell in terms of writing. I've never been a terribly prolific songwriter, or a disciplined one, but I do often find that when I put time into sitting down regularly with a keyboard or guitar, a few will start to pour out at once.

Something like this happened in March of 2017 when I got back from SXSW newly inspired by new bands and old friends. "Dirty Little Secret" was a rare song for me–one that I wrote start to finish in just a week or two. It's about the late nights and bad decisions of my late 20s, and looking back on them 10 years on.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vkePI_WMhA

Once "Dirty Little Secret" came together with the band, a second tune I'd been playing around with for a year or so crystalized as well: "Miss the Life". This one has some of the same themes of looking back at an earlier time, but in a more contemplative, resigned way: "I'm not sorry for the way I left / Won't weigh the memories with regret / Romanticize a troubled past / But I miss the life I thought I'd have." In a sense, it's an ode to the life I gave up to make the bad decisions of "Dirty Little Secret", and the acceptance of that fact that I wouldn't be who I am today without both.

Long Fuse Burning will be available on August 16 for purchase and on all streaming platforms. Pre-save or pre-order today.


Long Fuse Burning 10-Day Album Countdown: The Singles (Day 8)

Long Fuse Burning encompasses not just 6+ years of writing, but almost 3 years of recording as well. "Harder Girl" and "Color the Air" were originally recorded and released as standalone singles in 2016 and 2017, respectively. I wrote quite a bit about each on this blog at the time, and I wanted to give some more love to each tune and their place in LFB this week during the run-up.

Both tunes were produced and arranged by accomplished producer, guitar player, and Airport frontman Craig Small. Craig was our full-time guitar player for 3 years (before he went on to open a wildly successful School of Rock in Natick), and these recordings are a beautiful encapsulation of that period of intense music-making and collaboration. They mark the start of when the album's fuse was "lit", so to speak.

"Harder Girl" was recorded almost completely in one day at Mortal Music (now Revolution Sound Studios) in Charlestown, MA, engineered by the fantastic Andy Pinkham. It was one of the first times I'd done a one-song-in-one-day session, and I love the unity that comes from pulling together a track like that. Of course, that doesn't touch on the hours of guitars, backing vocals, and additional percussion Craig added in the months that followed, giving the track its rich, layered sound.

https://soundcloud.com/magentracymusic/harder-girl

" Color the Air" was recorded a year later at Q Division Studios, engineered and mixed by Pat DiCenso. With this one, Craig took that same layered approach to new heights, with an absolutely breathtaking vocal treatment; the lead vocals swimming in a dense pool of ethereal backing vocals by Craig and Stud. We used this track for our first video, featuring dancer Whitney Hoke, and directed by Leesa Coyne, which received a Boston Music Award nomination for Video of the Year in 2017.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rgKxR9bWof4

Long Fuse Burning will be available on August 16 for purchase and on all streaming platforms. Pre-save or pre-order today.


Long Fuse Burning 10-Day Countdown: The Oldies (Day 9)

Welcome to Day 9 in our 10-Day Countdown! For the next few days, I'm going to write about the songs on Long Fuse Burning.

Back in 2011, before the Missed Connections were a thing, I went through a rough breakup, and dealt with it in a variety of ways, as one does: crying, drinking, surrounding myself with friends, hitting up every rooftop pool, boat, and body of water I could find. I'm also proud to say that, unlike some of my previous dark periods, this time I threw myself into writing. It was a far more productive outlet than some of the others, and led to the 5 tracks that became Fiercely, my first EP, as well as the formation of the band and the beginning of my focus on my own music.

Two songs from that period didn't make it on to the first EP: "This Goodbye" and "(Even the Good Guys) Fall". The first is a moody ballad about saying goodbye not just to my ex, but to his children, who I'd grown close to. Dealing with this loss was a whole new kinda of heartbreak for me, but I also think it helped me grow up a bit, and make decisions about how I wanted to approach my own life and potential family.

Album Insert Artwork by The Secret Bureau of Art & Design

(Even the Good Guys) Fall is one of the first tunes I brought to Sam Spencer, in the days when the Missed Connections was Sam with an upright bass and me with a borrowed keyboard in a practice room in Charlestown. And it was Sam who suggested dusting it off again a year or so ago with the band; it really came together with this iteration of the Missed Connections, and especially in the recording process. Mike Oram's reharmonizations, and the layered guitar and synth parts that he and Ed V. added during the recording made a song I originally considered something of an outlier in the set one of my favorite tracks on the album. I'm also in love with Tamora's drums here (especially what I call the "sexy toms" on the bridge), and Stud and Mike's lush harmonies.

Album Insert Artwork by The Secret Bureau of Art & Design

Long Fuse Burning will be available on August 16 for purchase and on all streaming platforms. Pre-save or pre-order today.