Travels with Charlie | Release date : 23 June 2017

Album cover, The Sick Leaves

What can I say? Thirteen years since starting my musical alias, The Sick-Leaves, my fifth full length studio album is about to be released. To say it has been a war of attrition would be a gross understatement. This was the ultimate project in DIY home studio recording.

Setting myself the task of producing any record for the first time, work started in April 2013. Whereas my previous albums were written and recorded in relatively short spaces of time (Tunnel Vision [2006] took six recording days, Stone the Crow [2008] took ten) I’d have to say that producing was the main culprit for taking so long this time round.

All the songs bar one were written by the end of 2013. The grind was learning how to record. You’d think having had experience in the studio four times before would have made a difference but in the end I learned that there is no substitute for experience and hands on graft.

This was also the first album where I wasn’t a full time musician anymore. This was probably the biggest frustration…to build recording momentum.

Life got in the way of recording big time. In this period I moved town twice, from Pretoria to Nelspruit and then White River. I started a new business; which I hated and had no passion for, and sold it two years later. The irony is that it led me to my other passion, photography as well as my soul mate and fiancée.

My father was diagnosed with cancer in late 2013 and passed away in 2015 after a brave battle. I don’t wish it on my worst enemy to lose a family member or friend to cancer. Psychologically and emotionally those two years were by far the toughest I had ever experienced. Six Inch Valley (a.k.a. CANCER) was inspired by these events.

But in between distractions I kept plugging away. What the extra time afforded me was to endlessly listen to and work on these songs. And what encouraged me was that I didn’t tire of them.

In June 2015 Wayne Pictor (who also drummed on LAST DANCE OF THE SUGARPLUM FAIRY and BREAKING AWAY) over two days laid down thundering drums at Openroom Studios in Johannesburg.

The drum tracks gave new energy and impetus to the songs. To edit them was another huge learning curve…and time. After more tinkering and overdubs it was at last time to call a halt to recording mid- 2016. No more could be done, added or subtracted.

Up next was mixing. The recording was dense and I had no appetite or the skill to do that as well. I found Matthew Dougherty from Chicago via the brilliant Soundbetter website and we were able to work out a deal. It is astonishing what difference a pro mix engineer can make to your recordings. He beefed up the bass and clarified the guitars in a way that I could only dream of. I salute you sir…it was pure pleasure to work with you.

Mastering was done by the proficient Rogan Kelsey who also mastered LAST DANCE OF THE SUGARPLUM FAIRY.

The last hurdle was the sleeve design and artwork. As always there were a few things to be learned but as I am now a pro photographer it was nice to be in control of this process and combine my two favourite passions…music and photography.

After printing I at last had the final product in my hands. To finally be able to sign off on the creation process was a huge relief and accomplishment. Marketing only starts now but it feels great to have something that I’m immensely proud of and would love for you to hear.

A special thank you goes out to my family who puts up with me and to my future wife, Netta. You make the sun go round. Also a big thank you to Matthew Fink and Rob O’Brien at Justmusic for making a worldwide digital distribution deal possible.

Now please go and buy it. ;P #rocknroll #indie

Front and back covers, Eksteen Jacobsz


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