Behind the Scenes at Junior’s Motel

Music is a big part of what makes Iowa Learning Farms and its sister program Water Rocks! unique.   We used original music scores in all eight videos in the award-winning Culture of Conservation DVD series.  Original songs like “We All Live in a Watershed,” “Wetlands Have Real Important Jobs To Do,” “Itsy Bitsy Spider Rap,” and “Everybody Poops” are woven throughout our classroom visits to help youth better understand soil and water quality issues (and the students have a great deal of FUN at the same time!).

But how does a song get from idea to paper to the recording studio?   Join us in taking a behind-the-scenes look!

Our newest song, “Interesting Things Underground,” comes courtesy of the NRCS’s Marty Adkins.   Marty wrote the lyrics and tune to help students better understand and appreciate all of the “millions and billions and trillions and zillions” of interesting creatures and processes going on in the soil right under our feet.   He did a quick home recording of the song, which then came to me.  With some good ol’ fashioned elbow grease and a little help from the music software program Finale, I transcribed the music (wrote it out musically on paper), composed a piano part, and rewrote select sections to turn it into a duet.  The music then went to Marty and Jackie (Comito) for their review and so each could pImageractice their own parts!

Jackie, Marty, and I went to the recording studio last Thursday, October 24, to pull it all together.  All of our music recording is done at Junior’s Motel, outside Otho, IA.   The studio itself has all kinds of stories – Kirk Kaufman, formerly of The Hawks, built the studio out on the farm, converting an old chicken coop to an amazing recording studio.   Fun fact – Slipknot got their start at Junior’s Motel!

In the studio, each person is in their own room and is recorded on a separate track.  So as we were recording “Interesting Things Underground,” Jackie, Marty, and I all recorded simultaneously, but each part is its own track for mixing and balancing the sound.   Once the vocals and piano were recorded, we added a few more parts to the mix, including a bass track and Marty also brought along his ukelele.


Finally, we listen to the song and adjust the levels of each track to get just the right balance.   Kirk converts it to digital and we get to take home a CD that day!


Click HERE to listen to “Interesting Things Underground” and a sampling of other Water Rocks! tunes.

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