Secrets with Strangers

Project preview

My old band had taken an extended hiatus after kids entered the picture. Sometime after, I met Kirk Kiefer through an old friend of mine - quickly bonding over a mutual love of Batman comics. As it turned out, Kirk was also a well-rounded musician, playing bass and singing in the alt-country band Yardsale. After attending one of their shows, I got the itch to start playing music again.

I revisited a few un-used Sad Bastard demos, and then started writing new material for the first time in over a year. About a month later, I had enough songs written to fill a new album, but had no desire to record it by myself. Brad and John (of the Sad Bastard Brothers) were far too busy to do any heavy lifting in a studio, so I asked Kirk to help out. Luckily for me, he agreed.

Since our schedules were so hectic, we decided on a focused set of goals outside of the usual band dynamic. We would record one album and play one release show, knowing up front that this was a finite project. With those rules established, we rehearsed and arranged fourteen songs in a month or two, then started recruiting other musicians. Colin Garcia played drums for Yardsale, so Kirk and I politely asked he join us for the project. Colin’s creativity behind the drum kit added a new dimension to songs I had played by myself. Martha Manuel had sang backup vocals with the Sad Bastard Brothers a few times, and offered to contribute to the new album.

Our newly formed group learned and arranged twelve songs in total. Every Wednesday for several months we’d get together above a Scuba shop in town to rehearse. It was a very different process from what I was used to with Sad Bastard Brothers, but it worked out well. We had lots of laughs and many great, unused band name ideas,

I decided to call the band Secrets with Strangers. I felt it described what songwriting is to me: telling secrets to complete strangers without knowing how they’ll interpret it. The songs I wrote for From the Bar to the Bedroom center on the sea-change of you go through while exiting your twenties. I had hoped people could relate the awkward growing pains described by the lyrics.

Once the songs were in a good place, we booked studio time at FLD Studios, run by Jordan Forst. Kirk played bass for Jordan’s band Adventure at the time. The drums and bass were recorded digitally in under a weekend.

From there, Kirk and I recorded the rest of the tracks at my apartment. I spent several weeks locked in my bedroom, playing my guitar loudly, to the exasperation of my neighbors.

Album Design

Chris Humphreys took some photos inside of the bar closest to my bedroom, Seidenfaden’s, which I used to design the sleeve. Martha contributed the artwork that is printed on the actual disc. Although the project started mostly as an experiment between Kirk and I, several people helped us finish it. Jordan was a huge help, mixing the album after we finished tracking. Kevin Ratterman (of the Funeral Home) stepped in to master the album.

Soon after, I had a shrink-wrapped album in my hands. Kirk, Colin, Andrew (the keyboardist from Yardsale) and I got together and played a CD release show at The Rudyard Kipling. I billed it as my first show with Secrets with Strangers, as well as my retirement from music. It felt good to finally play those songs for an audience made up mostly of good friends.

Several years later, I’m writing songs again. In the near future, I’ll release new music under that name.

Listen on:


  • Colin Garcia, Drums
  • Kirk Kiefer, Bass, Guitar, BG Vocals
  • Martha Manuel, Vocals
  • Shawn Coots, Guitar, Vocals, Songwriter