Project name:

Hot Southern Mess – Forever & A Day

Project description:

Hot Southern Mess is a brand new country music trio consisting of Katie Doffing, Kristen Thomas, and Kayleen Goettsche. HSM approached me to help them do some songwriting, production, and recording back in February of 2011. At that time, they were working on a few songs but didn’t have anything fully completed yet. Katie and Kristen are great singers. When I first heard them, it was obvious that they had done a lot of singing together and they had a blend difficult to achieve. Kayleen was contributing to the songwriting duties, and they all had fragments of songs – some more comprehensive than others. We spent our first session just going through all their ideas and demos. The girls showed me a wide range of styles and genres they were comfortable and capable of doing, but didn’t feel too strongly about any particular direction. I took notes and presented some ideas of my own. We actually started with a demo that was more in the direction of Top 40/Dance music rather than country. But in the end, the girls realized that country felt the most at home. I think they made the right decision 😉 The following year, we slowly pieced together 5 songs that we’re proud of.

In order to give them some more time to cultivate specifically country-oriented songs, we started recording a cover, “Material Girl” by Madonna. Kristen and Katie had performed this song for years and already had strong vocal parts prepared. We laid down the basic rhythm track with session drummer Timothy Java first. I recorded an acoustic guitar part and then Katie and Kristen put in their parts. Once we had the framework completed, I started to get creative on how to countrify this well-known pop song. Some pedal steel, harmonica, and blue guitar did the trick.
After “Material Girl,” we chose to work on a song of Katie’s called “You Were the One.” Katie and I took a session to collaborate on the song together. I added a few new sections and lyrics and together we crafted the first original tune for their project. After that, the girls really dug into their songwriting talents and progressively needed less help from me in order to complete their songs.
The last song we recorded, “Forever & A Day” is the title track, and I’m particularly pleased with how that one turned out. We combined the country and folk elements of Kristen’s piano playing with an anthemic attitude of U2 influenced delayed guitars.
It was a pleasure working with Hot Southern Mess and all the session musicians involved were fantastic as always. Mark Puder also contributed some drumming, I played bass, Ian Lew added electric guitar, and Joe Savage layed down the pedal steel. The resulting 5-song EP “Forever & A Day” is a great collection of mainstream country music that I know you’ll enjoy.

Produced, mixed, and recorded by Stephen Helvig
All songs arranged by Hot Southern Mess & Stephen Helvig
Assistant Engineers: Drew Schmalz and Nick Schmidt
Mastered by Greg Reierson
Vocals: Katie Doffing & Kristen Thomas
Piano: Kristen Thomas
Acoustic Guitar & Bass: Stephen Helvig
Pedal Steel: Joe Savage
Electric Guitar: Ian Lew
Drums: Timothy Java (Blue Eyed Baby, Material Girl, You Were The One) & Mark Puder (Waiting at the Door, Forever & A Day).