At the start of the pandemic, Longmont-based musician and program director of the Longmont Chamber, Jessica Carson, took to Facebook Live to perform songs and garner up funds for herself and service industry workers who found themselves unemployed. Later this month, her band Clandestine Amigo will release its debut album “Temporary Circumstances” under Boulder-based Octave Records — a newly established label by PS Audio, a company with a 40-year history of producing hand-crafted, high-end home music reproduction systems.
“I hadn’t seen sound engineer Gus Skinas for some time and ran into him at Ozo Coffee in Longmont one morning,” said Carson, vocalist and piano player of the rhythm and blues-inspired rock band. “He told me about this high-definition label he was helping create in Boulder, educated me on DSD (Direct Stream Digital) and asked me if I’d be interested in checking out the studio. By August, we were working on the album that will release soon.”
Skinas has worked on projects for The Rolling Stones, Nat King Cole, Pink Floyd, Aerosmith, Sheryl Crow, George Harrison, Joni Mitchell, Frank Zappa, The Police and many others.
“This is a unique opportunity to reach a new audience, but not just any audience,” Carson said. “Octave Records is part of PS Audio and their demographic is audiophiles, listeners that seek the experience of music so well recorded, you feel like you’re in the same room. You can hear every little breath, chair creak and pluck of a string.”
The high-resolution audio that possesses the warmth of an analog tape recording is achieved by using the world’s finest studio equipment, based around the acclaimed Sonoma Direct Stream Digital recording, mixing and mastering system that Skinas helped create.
“We tracked piano, vocals, drums, bass, horns and strings and this process was challenging and rewarding,” Carson said. “When the shelter-in-place order came through, guitar was the last instrument that we had not yet tracked. Luckily, our guitar player, Kyle Donovan, is an exceptional audio engineer and has worked on multiple albums. He was able to record his own parts on his own time and send them in to be edited and mixed.”
For seasoned musician Carson, the superior sound quality is unlike anything she has heard.
“As we put the finishing touches on the masters and album art, I can feel my excitement building,” Carson said. “I’ve never heard my own music sound so clean and clear. It’s sort of like seeing your own face on HDTV for the first time. The experience of hearing every little nuance feels strange at first, but it leads to a whole new level of self acceptance and creativity.”
Not only is Octave Records producing high-caliber albums for artists, the company is also committed to helping signed groups earn much-deserved proceeds for their artistry.
“With the advent of music streaming services like Spotify and Napster, revenue possibilities for musicians have gone from scratching out a living to non-existent,” said Paul McGowan, founder and CEO of PS Audio. “A good friend of mine who once made his living as a musician playing with Sheryl Crow and Rosanne Cash had framed his first royalty check from Spotify for 1 cent. Yup. One cent. So our mission became clear — set up a label that produced great recordings and paid musicians a living wage for their work.”
Octave Records premier recording was “Out of Thin Air” by world-renowned Denver-based pianist Don Grusin and it was released last month.
“We plan on signing as many Colorado and other musicians as we can,” McGowan said. “We have a built-in audience of 50,000 hungry audiophiles eager for new well-recorded great music. If we find talented musicians with something to musically say to our audience, we sign them. We cover all expenses so musicians don’t pay a nickel. We then handle everything and wind up giving musicians a nice fat check from their album’s proceeds.”
“It’s very exciting not only to have signed with a record label, but one that is dedicated to preserving the art of high-fidelity recordings and supporting the efforts of the musicians they sign,” said Giselle Collazo, Clandestine Amigo’s keyboardist who co-produced and co-mixed the album with Carson. “The contract deal is very fair and is set up per album. We’re hopeful to do more and we’ll cross the next bridge when we get there. That flexibility feels right to us.”
Fans of Clandestine Amigo who have seen the group perform at breweries and venues throughout the Front Range will soon be able to experience the intimacy and connection from the band’s barroom sets right at home.
“Listeners can expect a high-fidelity, high-res, gorgeous recording of Jessica’s vocal- and piano-driven soulful, poignant and groovy tunes with tight harmonies,” Collazo said, “and the ace lineup of the Amigo musicians involved — all sounding like they’re right there in the room with you.”
The album’s name is coincidentally very apropos for the uncertain and chaotic times that have dominated 2020. Yet, Carson admits the title was born out of her own experiences pre-pandemic.
“I chose this song as the title because I feel that it captures the time in which I wrote the collection of songs,” Carson said. “I moved three times in two years after a 13-year marriage ended and I felt displaced and oftentimes alone, even though I had friends and love all around me. Songwriting has always been therapeutic and it helped me process the complexity of thoughts and emotions that came up during that time.”
Stellar musicianship, beautiful songwriting and layered vulnerability shine on “When I Feel Lonely,” and “On Your Own.”
“My circumstances felt temporary after experiencing a long relationship and the illusion of security,” Carson said. “It taught me that all circumstances are temporary. If I want to feel a sense of home, it comes from within, not from a house, a relationship, a job or any other element that is ultimately out of my control.”
While the band has no plans to perform any in-person shows just yet, fans can keep up with ongoing livestreams on Facebook.
“Jessica Carson is one of the most talented composers I have ever had the privilege of working with,” McGowan said. “Her songs touch deep inside. They’re not just good, they are extraordinarily good and I don’t mean for a local girl. I would put her songwriting and performing talents up against anyone else in the world. And, from a performance standpoint, she and Giselle (Collazo) just kill it with their vocal duets.”