Grateful Friendships Lead to ‘Soothe’

The friends we keep are important. Good friends motivate, guide, inspire and nurture. When I arrived in San Francisco in 2008, I soon found four friendships that changed my life.

In San Diego in December 2008 I was playing a show and in the front row was a gifted photographer, Mario Covic, who chatted after the show, touched by my music. He generously offered to photograph me the next day at Swami’s Beach in Encinitas. We became friends, we did a few shoots together, and Mario suggested I should meet an amazing Bay Area guitarist named Todd Boston.

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photo by Mario Covic at Swami’s Beach in Encinitas, CA

Around the same time, I attended the San Francisco Music Tech Summit, a seminal music business conference launched by entrepreneur and friend Brian Zisk.  After the morning session, I was headed for a quick lunch when another attendee, Ann Licater, asked me if I wanted to join her – which I did. Turned out Ann is a progressive world flutist who was also there to learn the music biz and promote her beautiful album, Following the Call. A few days later we met at my place to listen to my tracks and learn her story. I played her the songs I was working on and she said I needed to meet her friend Jeff Oster who had recorded with Will Ackerman, the Grammy-winning producer and Windham Hill Records founder. Jeff is a new age/smooth jazz flugelhorn player with a sound like Miles Davis meets Enya and he’s released several terrific and award winning albums.

Sometime later, Mario flew up to San Francisco to photograph at an event where Todd was performing. He invited me. Todd’s music was soulful, tasteful, and inspiring. We met after the show and exchanged numbers. Six weeks later on a breezy afternoon we did some acoustic guitar jamming, and then caught a jazz show at Yoshi’s in San Francisco. We became fast friends and Todd connected me with many amazing musicians in the Bay Area.

Turns out Ann and Jeff jammed music on the Friday Ferry from San Francisco to Alameda and Ann invited me to join them as a way of meeting Jeff. We all had a blast that night and started meeting in Alameda for dinner and music sessions. And when I mentioned that I had a show planned for Maui in December coming up, they wanted to join and we did a wildly fun show over there.

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On Maui with Jeff and Ann – fun and adventure. “This is how I roll,” I said to Jeff.

A few weeks after Maui (February 2010), Jeff set up a dinner for me to meet with Will; I was in awe about the opportunity to work with Will and Corin Nelsen on Sacred Love. Will said he could elevate my work and by October we had released my first solo album to warm reviews, a #1 ZMR ranking, and a video series on the Making of Sacred Love. During the recording, I introduced Todd to Will at a session in Los Angeles, and they ended up working together on Todd’s landmark album, Touched by the Sun.

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Life changing moments working with Will Ackerman and Corin Nelsen on ‘Sacred Love’ at Imaginary Road Studios.

Over the past years, Todd, Jeff, Ann and I have collaborated on many projects. Ann also introduced me to percussionist David DiLullo who was producing music shows and building community around Global Drum Circles. We did a show together in 2011 celebrating Sacred Love.

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Global Heart Concert (2011) at East-West Bookstore (Palo Alto) with Troy Arnett, Jeff Oster, David DiLullo, Michael Manring and Todd Boston.

I released Dreaming of Now in 2013 which was co-produced with Will Ackerman and Tom Eaton, and we were thrilled by the reaction to the album, which won a ZMR Music Award for Best Contemporary Instrumental CD.

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Dreaming of Now — Eugene Friesen, Will Ackerman, Shambhu and Tom Eaton after a recording session at Imaginary Road Studios.

David and I joined together for a 2013 event in Palo Alto celebrating the “Dreaming of Now” release. I had an amazing band, including Jeff and Dave…and a special guest — Will Ackerman!

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Global Heart Concert with Shambhu featuring Will Ackerman in Palo Alto – Frank Martin, Celso Alberti, DeWayne Pate, Premik Russell Tubbs, David DiLullo, Shambhu, Will Ackerman and Jeff Oster.

After the show, I moved to San Diego and continued writing. I made it back to San Francisco in the Fall of 2015, when I was hired to help rescue a San Francisco tech startup and online publisher. So I was back to work in SF Bay and once there I reconnected with Jeff and Todd.

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I had more than enough material for a new album. Jeff was writing songs for ‘Next’ and we went on to co-write and record “On Mother’s Day.” Ann was recording her next project. David was expanding his Drum Circles. Todd had built up his Magic Cottage Studios while turning out several exceptional productions. We talked about the idea of recording my next album at Magic Cottage.

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This is where we came together for the first real production meeting for Soothe. I played Todd the songs and nine months later we had an album.

I was fortunate that Todd’s wife Andrea was videographer and photographer for the project. She made our entire recording experience an absolute delight. Enjoy Andrea’s photos and videos (below) from the Soothe sessions.

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