Singled Out: Sharif (With Old 97's Rhett Miller)
"Dark Side of the Dawn" is a song that I described to Rhett Miller before I even began writing it. I had developed somewhat of a rapport with Rhett, being an avid concertgoer and fan of the Old 97's. Rhett had listened to some of my previous records, and appreciated what I was creating. So after a solo Rhett gig at the Troubadour in Los Angeles (and after about 9 beers), I walked up to Rhett and said hi. He immediately recognized me, and asked what I had been up to. We chatted for a few minutes, just catching up on odds and ends. I asked what his plans were for April, and he said he was just working on a new record, and playing SXSW; nothing too time consuming. So I mentioned that I was working on a new record too. I had this great new song that was very Old 97's influenced: rockin country guitars, harmonica intro, group harmonies, and clever lyrics. I knew Rhett lived on the East Coast, where I would soon be recording, so I asked, "Hey. Any chance you'd be willing to sing on this track with me?" Rhett, being the humble musician that he is, said "Sure. Send me the demo and I'll check it out." We exchanged email addresses, and I went on my way.
Only thing was, I hadn't written one word or one note of the song I had just described to Rhett Miller. This guy was one of my favorite artists, so I didn't want to blow the opportunity to actually record with him. I went home and immediately started writing. I had a general idea of what I needed to write: something similar to an Old 97's song. And the lyrics needed to have that clever twist to match those of Rhett Miller; something Rhett would be proud to sing. I kept writing and rewriting; lovin the song when I went to bed, hating it when I woke up. Finally, after about 3 or 4 days, I sent an email out to Rhett with a rough home demo.
Fortunately, Rhett was happy with the song I sent him. Now the only issue was figuring out how to get Rhett, up in New York, to my studio, down in Virginia. I checked into Rhett's touring schedule, and luckily he had a gig in Baltimore around the same time that I would be in the studio. I talked to my producers, and we decided that we could track Rhett's vocals with a mobile Pro Tools rig. So I told Rhett I could meet him in Baltimore, and we could just record there. As an added bonus, I offered to cover Rhett's hotel room for the night. I knew if I had the keys to his room, he wouldn't really be able to bail on the session.
So after recording for 2 weeks in the Virginia studio, I headed up to the Waterfront Marriott in Baltimore with my producer. I checked in, grabbed an extra key for Rhett, and helped set up the mobile studio in Rhett's soon-to-be room. We turned the closet into a vocal booth, and ran all the cables to my laptop on the balcony. After about 2 beers, I heard a knock on the door, and sure enough, there stood Rhett. He came in, gave me a big hug, and told me how excited he was to do this. He was excited? Ha! I couldn't believe I was recording with Rhett Miller.
We cranked through his part in about an hour, listened to the track, and then just sat around playing guitar for the rest of the day. Rhett could not have been more open, honest, and humble. Like we were old friends just catching up. A great day of recording with one of my heroes.
Hearing is believing. Now that you know the story behind the song, listen for yourself and learn more about the album and find out the other big name stars who appear on the album - right here!