The NPR Music Tiny Desk concert series started in 2008 when All Things Considered host Bob Boilen invited Laura Gibson to play a concert at his work desk following a bar show where the crowd was so loud he could barely hear her. Since then there have been almost a thousand Tiny Desk concerts, all of them with a musician or group gathered around Boilen’s desk playing for about twenty minutes. I’ve never seen a bad one, but here are two of my favorites from opposite ends of the musical spectrum: Nickel Creek and Wu-Tang Clan.
In 2014 NPR started the Tiny Desk Contest where independent musicians from around the country submit videos of them playing an original song in front of a desk (any desk). NPR chooses winners and invites them to DC to record an official Tiny Desk concert. (Tank and the Bangas’ 2017 submission is my favorite of the four winners)
Central Florida’s NPR affiliate 90.7 WMFE also does a local contest every year where they share the submissions from local artists and choose a few for a live taping of Intersection with Matthew Peddie.
We recorded our 2019 submission on Tuesday so I thought I’d do a little historical tour of our Tiny Desk experiences over the years.
Also, I would be horrifically remiss if I didn’t give a huge shout out to Antoine Hart, who has recorded all of our Tiny Desk videos (among others) and has always done an awesome job.
2016 – Take Me Home
Sound: Will Snyder
Video: Antoine Hart
We recorded this at UCF Art Gallery (extra special thanks to Gallery Director Yulia Tikhonova for letting us invade.) We also recorded Jennie, My Name is Beemo, and It’s Been Five Minutes. It’s Been Five Minutes was a complete train wreck so we pretty much just deleted it and pretended it never happened. The other three all came out well with Take Me Home having a slight performance edge. (I didn’t actually express this at the time but internally I worried that submitting a song for a contest that had our band name in it might be a little…. tacky?)
The My Name is Beemo video is on youtube here, but we never did cut a video together for Jennie. To be honest, I think it just fell through the cracks.
Historical note: as of this writing, this is also the only full band recording of Take Me Home there is. (The version on our first EP pre-dates both Tony and Justin and has no bass or percussion)
2017 – Back Again
Sound: Adam Winter
Video: Antoine Hart
The desk was so tiny this year that it’s invisible! Hence the lazy add on of the still pic of us around a desk at the beginning. I’m sure that was the reason we didn’t win that year….
Also Recorded: The Long Sleep
Historical note: We were idiots and didn’t use a desk in the video.
2018 – February Morning
Sound and Video: Antoine Hart
In 2018 WMFE invited bands to come in and use their studio and desk. We did February Morning, which was more difficult than it should have been. The sound from our PA was recorded on the camera, with no post production and no mics other than Dan’s vocal.
I struggled mightily with the chorus backing vocals. They are in the extreme high end of my vocal range and couldn’t project enough to hit the notes well without overpowering the lead vocals since I was closer to the camera. So I got caught in a sort of half falsetto and was generally not super pleased with my performance. (Fortunately when I’m performing my face always looks kind of not super pleased so it probably doesn’t stand out.) At least the mandolin part of that song is easy?
Historical Note: WMFE’s Jenny Babcock, forced to listen to us play February Morning over and over again, ended the day knowing the lyrics better than Sean.
2019 – Crusader
Audio: David Godber
Video: Antoine Hart
This was an experiment with instruments. Sean played the Cigar Box guitar like he did on the album (three srings, tuned to open G) which left me to play his normal part on his dobro. I pretty much knew the part, but there was a mad rush of frantic practicing in the days leading up to the recording session. The dobro was fun to play, but an instrument I’d only touched one time before plus a part I’m not too familiar with meant Crusader required more concentration than it usually does. (I will not be surprised to see video and find that in all of the footage I’ve got a furrowed brow and my tongue out).
Historical note: For the first and likely only time, Sean played a tiny guitar while I played the shiny guitar, potentially confusing those of our fans who have face blindness.
So, anyway, keep an eye out for our and other CFL artists’ Tiny Desk videos.
P.S. If you know any original musicians who hasn’t done a video yet, please browbeat them into finding a desk and doing one. Last day to submit via youtube is on Sunday, details here.
P.P.S. If you are an original musician who hasn’t done one yet, I’d tell you to stop wasting time reading this and go record one, but you’re already at the end so just finish this sentence and go record one.