For the past 12 years, Caedmon’s Call has been strumming its way to the forefront of Christian music via their acoustic folk and pop-rock melodies. With five studio albums to their credit, the band found themselves inspirationally driven to give the less fortunate a voice. This urge prompted the seven musicians to record Share the Well [Essential].
“We went to India to just meet people and listen to music,” says guitarist Andrew Osenga. “The idea was to travel around and find out who these oppressed people are, and through music and lyrics try to tell their story.” Teaming with Compassion International and the Dalit Freedom Network, the band visited Ecuador, India, and Brazil to gather inspiration for Share the Well. “Most of the songs were written with a Baby Taylor and a notebook,” says Osenga. “We saw different organizations feeding and clothing these people in really poor parts of the world. We reacted deeply to what we witnessed.”
With new world beats dictating the album’s flow, the band realized the recording process had to differ from their previous efforts. “A lot of this had to do with the rhythms,” says guitarist Cliff Young. "With Western music, it’s all about the backbeat. But with this music, your anticipation has to change. The drums are more in the background. There’s so much Brazilian percussion played on surdos and cuicas, and we used tablas from India. The guitars aren’t quite as busy as they have been in the past.”
In the studio, Young and Osenga used a multitude of acoustic guitars including a 1976 Guild D-35, an Avalon S-200 Gold Series, and a variety of McPherson Acoustics that were high-strung using open and standard tunings. “I tried to play differently on these songs,” Young explains. “I wanted to let the percussion drive the songs more then ever before. The acoustic guitar allowed all of those instruments to come through, as opposed to an electric that would wash over them a bit in the mix.”
“We would typically build the percussion tracks first,” reveals Osenga, “so the songs wouldn’t be based on a Western guitar groove. It was cool; we’d lay down a guitar track, add a vocal, then kill the guitar track and build the percussion. Then we’d create new guitar tracks over the percussion. We didn’t want a feeling like, ‘Hey, there’s a Brazilian instrument added to a folk song.’ That would have defeated the purpose.”
While recording, Osenga tried to keep the process simple. “Before, I always used two mics on my guitar. On this record, we used one microphone positioned above the soundhole. This approach gave the sound more grit, and allowed us to stack more tracks and build bigger tones without phasing problems.” Even when mixing, the band drew back a bit on the production to give the disc an earthier feel. “Our sound has always been real organic," says Young, “and that’s especially true on this album. You can hear the timbre of the guitar without a lot of stuff on it. There’s something special about that.”
Travelling to India provided the band with fresh musical perspectives. “I like to think of the acoustic guitar as a symphony,” details Osenga. “I’ve always built chords by layering three or four lines. But over there, we discovered people don’t really work with chords. Instead, they play melodies—that’s how they learn guitar. It was inspiring to hear this approach, and it gave me new insights into my own playing.”•