(This is the 12th chapter in my autobiographical series. This chapter was initially in the form of an email sent to my music fan email list on July 14, 2020. It has been edited for this blog. All the previous chapters in this series can be found on the column to the right. Go here to start at the beginning.)
When Misfit was released in May, 2011, I wanted to play gigs and promote the album. But there were problems getting the band back together, so I decided to just play acoustic gigs as a duo with violinist Paul Ermisch. Paul came from a a classical violin background, as opposed to a country or bluegrass fiddle background, and I liked what he added to my songs. So I wanted to make a new recording that reflected how we sounded as a duo, both for getting gigs, and for the fans who liked our music.
The other motivation for the new album was that I wanted to record some of the songs that I had been playing live, but had been left off of Misfit. These songs were “Sea of Hope,” “Let’s go to the Mountains,” “The Man in the Movies” and “The Other Side of Nowhere.” I also decided to record two songs on Misfit that I was playing very differently as an acoustic duo, “Misfit” and “Falling into Heaven.” I also decided to include a rework of “Let it Go,” a song from my first album, Some Songs I Wrote. Finally, I included a cover song I had been playing, “Trouble on the Way,” written by Tim Riordan, a friend I had made at my first Song School in Lyons in 2004.
Recording The Other Side of Nowhere
Work on the new record began in 2012, about a year after the release of Misfit. I chose Sawtelle Studio at Swallow Hill, where I had recorded Me in 2009. I had been happy by the work of the engineer, Brian Hunter. This time, I engaged Brian as a co-producer along with me. Unlike Misfit, I didn’t turn over complete control over the arrangements to someone else. This time, I worked as a team with Brian, kicking around ideas, we me getting the final vote.
My initial plan was for it to just be Paul on violin and me on acoustic guitar and voice, to reflect how we sounded live. This was also motivated by cost– after spending $34,000 on Misfit and getting almost no return, I couldn’t afford another financial disaster. But Brian gently coaxed me into bringing in other instruments. The end result was a bigger sound than just Paul and me, but minimal enough that we could still honestly say it sounded like our live gigs.
Artwork and Release
I decided to name the album after one of the songs, The Other Side of Nowhere. I hired Scott McCormick for the photography and artwork, and asked him to come up with something that reflected the title. Scott photographed Paul and me, and came up with the idea of a prison with a ladder on the wall, showing that someone had escaped to “the other side.” I wanted to give Paul more than the usual credit in the list of musicians, so I put his name on the cover.
The Other Side of Nowhere was released in December, 2012. Unlike Misfit, I did not spend money on promotion. Still, it cost me $8,000, of which I never made more than a couple hundred dollars in revenue. Like Misfit, it was paid for by working a massive amount of overtime on my day job. While everyone else would be spending their Friday and Saturday nights having a good time, I would be stuck in a loud, ugly datacenter somewhere, replacing parts on a server. Not fun at all. The only thing that kept me from total depression during those times was knowing that the time-and-a-half pay was paying for my music.
You walk through this world
but you can’t find your song
Doing what you should, not what you want
And the last time I saw you,
You were drunk on despair
I’ll be waiting on the Other Side of Nowhere
What I Learned
I took a couple of guitar lessons prior to recording this album, and so my guitar playing improved. I continued working on my singing, and I think it’s better on this record than on Misfit. After recording my guitar parts first, I settled into the role of producer, learning how to direct the other studio musicians. Watching how John McVey handled the studio musicians on Misfit no doubt helped me in this regard. Finally, I learned how to co-produce with Brian; when to go with his judgement, and when to trust my own.
Reviews of The Other Side of Nowhere
Like Misfit, the new album got good reviews, both from professional reviewers as well as fans. Here’s a couple:
from Tim Wenger of the Colorado Music Buzz magazine:
“Rob Roper brings occasional violin and drum instrumentation out alongside his eloquent guitar work on his new record The Other Side of Nowhere. The title track is the most definitive of Roper’s sound: a bit slow, yet melodic; ambient, yet strangely catchy. It is acoustic rock with Roper’s own unique touch on it, and it echoes with Colorado flavor… His music sounds like what you would hear in a small high-country café, there are touches of country as well as some faster paced rock riffs that stand out at just the right times.”
from Misfit Club member Millie Phillips:
“Rob Roper tells the stories of those of us who will never be be rich or famous; stories of failure, struggle, dreams, and modest victories, often with wry humor and an unsentimental, hard-earned hopefulness. The acoustic arrangements are quite different from the electric band-based ones on his previous CD Misfit. Both styles are just as good, and this CD has the added treat of featuring some amazing violin playing by Paul Ermisch.”
You can read all the reviews on The Other Side of Nowhere page on my website.
How to Get The Other Side of Nowhere
You can buy The Other Side of Nowhere CDs at my Bandcamp site, or at any of my live shows. You can also download the album or individual songs at my Bandcamp site. Bandcamp allows you to play more than the listed price, if you want to give the artist a little extra help. CD and download purchases help me raise money to record new music.
The Other Side of Nowhere songs are also available on all the streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, etc., and I encourage you to do so. I have created a Spotify playlist of all my songs, just search for it. But keep in mind that the revenue from those services is insignificant, and won’t help me raise money for new music. A $1 download pays 1000 times more than a stream. So please consider downloading your favorite songs on my Bandcamp site.
Next: Two bands, Scupanon and Dorian