Week 1: Pete Eisenberg and Tom Holmes – “A Penny Around My Neck”

I kicked off my challenge to record a new artist each week with Tom Holmes, my friend from Valley Access Channels, and his friend Pete Eisenberg. Without further ado, here’s the song we recorded.

Audio MP3

A Penny Around My Neck
by Pete Eisenberg

A penny around my neck, a place for you in my heart
Time and Life proceeded to try to tear us apart
Life’s funny like that, it will never cease to be.
I will always be there for you, you’ll always do the same for me

What if we never met? How much different would we be?
Sometimes I think about that and laugh, it helps me to believe
That we were brought together, a family to the core
It reminds me of this penny from 1964

It was the year we met the Beatles and surrounded by candles
Dylan taught them all how to turn on
He said “The national bank at a profit sold roadmaps for your soul”
Everybody was diggin’ that rock and roll

We convicted old Jack Ruby for killing a patsy
Malcolm left the nation of Islam
Mandela he was sentenced to serve his life inside
And Martin Luther King he won a Nobel peace prize

To Kill a Mockingbird won an academy award
And three Civil Rights Workers brought tears to our eyes

Have we come any further since that year?
A lot has changed between us but keep this one thing clear
I want you to know what this penny means to me
Hanging around my neck constantly


A penny around my neck, a place for you near my heart
Time and Life proceeded to try to tear us apart
Life’s funny like that it will never cease to be
I will always be there for you, you’ll always be my lucky penny

I will always be there for you, and you’ll always be my lucky Penny!

Behind the Scenes

Here’s a short video that explains the story behind this song.

We recorded in a music room down in Pete’s basement. After turning the A/C off, it was actually a pretty good-sounding room. Between the carpet, the couch, and things on the walls there was very little echo.

My portable recording setup.

We started the song off by recording Pete’s guitar, the driving force of the song. His rhythm was really on, so against my usual instincts I decided to not force a metronome on him. I used two identical mics (Audio Technica 4040s), one over the sound hole and one over the fretboard. That way, I could later pan the two tracks left and right to give the guitar a fuller, stereo sound.

Pete recording guitar

For Pete’s vocals, I used the same mic as the guitar, but with a pop filter. I didn’t do any EQing to Pete’s voice, it’s just naturally super rich and awesome sounding.

Pete steps up to the mic

Looking back, it would have made much more sense to use a metronome from the beginning, because next I had Tom record the drum track. He could have easily looped his drum machine had we used a metronome.

But in the end his drum machine worked out great. I recorded both analog and MIDI signals, and I ended up scrapping the MIDI track in favor of the drum machine’s sounds. Tom recorded three separate drum tracks. First was a shaker, which I panned to the right in the final mix. Second was a ride cymbal, which I panned to the left. And third was the kick and snare drum track, which I kept in the center.

Tom and his drum machine

Next we recorded Tom’s bass line. To even out the bass volume from note to note, I used a lot of compression, much more than any other instrument in the song.

Tom getting into "serious bass player" mode

Next, we recorded two mandolin parts, mostly just because Pete has two of them! One was a standard mandolin, and the other was an octave mandolin. I swear, all you have to do to make an acoustic guitar song sound more sparkling and professional is put a mandolin part on top of it.

Pete and his octave mandolin

After I left Pete’s place and went to my producer’s cave in Minneapolis, I recorded a couple more tracks – the acoustic guitar solo and the vocal harmonies for the second chorus. It’s funny, my vocal track by itself sounds kind of flat and wussy, but blended with Pete’s voice it morphs to take on his inflection.

I had a lot of fun recording with these guys, and hopefully one of these days I’ll make it back out to Pete’s house to jam with them!

4 thoughts on “Week 1: Pete Eisenberg and Tom Holmes – “A Penny Around My Neck”

  1. Make No Mistake. Charlie was a influential part to the quality of this song . Not was he a true proffessional before, durring, and after the recording , but keeping us updated to changes and ideas were greatly appreciated. Pete and I are Humble and Thankfull to have worked with such a great musician and a even better friend ! Thanks Charlie and Best of Luck on Song A Week.

  2. Outstanding! Great job guys! Knew Eisenberg was a talented business professional, but who would have thought he could sing and play like that as well! Excellent job with the recording work as well.

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