Sam Cavanaugh created his first multitrack home recording studio while he was in the sixth grade.
It consisted of two audiocassette players. His technique was extremely basic. First record a piano part on one tape deck, then play it back at full volume while playing the trumpet at the same time. The second tape deck would record both parts.
"It was awful," Cavanaugh says, who, at 27, is a member of the youngest demographic group in America to have used cassette players on any meaningful level.
These days he records on a far more sophisticated set of equipment. He still records at home, and he's still obsessed with composing intricate songs and building them in the studio out of multiple layers of sound.
"It's most of my day," he says. "When I'm not at work, I'm recording."
Cavanaugh, who grew up in Sitka, Alaska, and moved to Central Point seven months ago after four years in Arizona, received a solid, traditional music education built around piano lessons at an early age and playing the trumpet in his middle and high school marching bands and jazz ensembles. He took up the guitar at 13, and says that the multi-instrument approach helped him in every aspect of his playing — that each new instrument he learned seemed to make him better at the ones he already played.
When he moved to Sedona, his talents landed him a spot in a touring band called decker. (That's "decker.," with a lowercase "d" and a period at the end.) The band's tours took its self-described "psychedelic desert folk rock" as far north as Seattle, as far south as San Diego, and as far east as St. Louis and Shreveport, La.
The touring was constant. For the better part of a year, decker. members would go out on the road for a month at a time, come home and rest for a week, and then head back out for another month. Wearying of the grind, they eventually scaled it back to just a week or two on the road at a stretch, followed by a week or two at home. They slept where they could, often announcing from stage that they were looking for a place to stay and was anyone in the audience willing to bring them home and let them sleep on the floor? Cavanaugh says that in these cases the routine was simple: get up really early, wash whatever dirty dishes their benefactors had in the sink, and hit the road.
Playing a new room every night to a new group of strangers provided Cavanaugh with the flip side to his work as a recording artist. He recognizes that the two enterprises are quite different — and necessary. Playing live, he says, is largely about feeding off of other people — both band mates and audience members. In a studio, extra people can be a distraction. In a live setting, small flaws and imperfections in the sound aren't necessarily a problem.
Since moving to Southern Oregon, Cavanaugh has launched an ongoing musical project that he calls Buddy Price. The idea is not that Buddy Price should become a pseudonym for Sam Cavanaugh, so much as it should be used as the over-arching umbrella name for all of his continuing musical projects. It's closer to a band name than it is to an alter ego.
"Basically," he says, "I wanted to stay as far away from naming a band The Sam Cavanaugh Project as possible."
The name also comes loaded with a double meaning. When he sells his records or charges a cover at the door to one of his shows, he wants to make it as affordable as possible — he wants to offer everyone the "buddy price."