By Barbara Bullington
Many know the feeling of being unwilling or unable to give up a day job to pursue passions or other areas of interest. But, perhaps the happiest people are those who manage to prevent those dreams from slipping away in spite of time limits and other obstacles.
A prime example of how there can be room in life for both the day job and the dream pursuits can be seen through the efforts of a couple of guys from North Carolina and their new album “Close the Club.”
“Close the Club” is described on the duo’s website as a “new approach to songwriting, production, and collaboration between musicians, combining elements of progressive rock, improvisational jams, dance music, and even a touch of Broadway.”
Roger Brandon and Glenn Hubbard (“Rog & Glenn”), both originally from Boone, N.C., had written and recorded dozens of songs together beginning in high school and continuing over the ensuing years but had come to accept their lives as “regular guys with day jobs” – Hubbard as a Communications professor at East Carolina University and Brandon as an auditor at Appalachian State University.
A songwriting weekend in March of 2012 was when the pair hatched an idea that would take their music off the back burner. It also meant a radically different approach from the “quirky” combination of progressive and pop rock that had previously been their staple. Although they laughed at the idea of “two guys like us” creating dance music, the joke quickly turned into a collection of songs with a similar theme and a mixture of influences.
“We knew we were coming up with something different, and we knew we liked it right away, but we had no idea how it would turn out,” Hubbard said. “We never thought of ourselves as producers of dance music, so the idea of writing songs along those lines struck us as funny. I guess that inspired us, because the songs are unlike anything we’d done before.”
The duo credits much of the album’s inspiration to an unusual approach to songwriting, which they stumbled upon accidentally.
“We used to write one song at a time, starting with a seed of an idea and working on it until we had a complete recording,” Brandon said. “This time, we came in with hardly any song ideas, so we just jammed.”
Common themes emerged among 10 or 12 of the songs, and the creative duo realized they had come up with something akin to a Broadway musical or concept album, according to Brandon.
Hubbard is a veteran multi-instrumentalist, engineer, and producer who has worked with some of the top musicians in the Southeast. For many years, he played bass and keyboards with the variety bands Cloud Nine and Laditude in western North Carolina. More recently, he has served as keyboardist in the popular eastern North Carolina act The Shake Doctors.
Brandon has a background in the business side of the music industry, having worked in the management of a western North Carolina concert venue and interned at a record label while in college. He also has two albums to his credit as a songwriter and performer.
“Roger is singer who doesn’t miss and a songwriter who comes up with stuff I wouldn’t have dreamed of in a million years,” Hubbard said. “His influence on me is enormous, because he opens my mind to ideas and approaches I otherwise would have been afraid to try.”
Other musicians on the album include Jeremy Cayton on drums and Shawn Roberts on auxiliary percussion. Two songs feature lead guitar work by Rusty Blanton, whom Hubbard credits as one of his greatest musical influences. “He’s a western North Carolina guitar god,” Hubbard said. “We’re so lucky to have him on this record.”
Hubbard is not only thrilled about what’s on the album but by how the album cover looks as well. He describes the creator of the cover art David Davis as “unbelievably talented.”
The album was completed with a day of mixing at Echo Mountain Recording Studio in Asheville, N.C., using a Neve console, analog processing, and a tape machine to achieve a high-end and somewhat vintage quality. The album was mastered by Grammy award-winning engineer Brad Blackwood at Euphonic Masters.
The entire process involved rallying talented contributors, recording and refining songs, and basically putting together a musical collection in the off-hours of demanding full time careers. Still the experience never seemed to turn into a stress fest. In fact, Rog & Glenn emphasize the element of fun in the album’s creation.
“We often jokingly say that we’re our biggest fans, but there is some truth to that because we both really enjoy the album and hope others will as well,” said Brandon.
“Close the Club” is available on iTunes and many other online music sites. For more information or to preview all of the songs, visit CloseTheClub.com.
As for success in finding an audience, things are looking good. A video of “Good as Advertised,” was posted on YouTube on Jan. 23, and by Jan. 27, it already had close to 800 hits.
”Not Bieber numbers, but not bad!” joked Hubbard.