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Editor's Notebook
April 7, 2020

3/9/2020 1:15:00 PM
Cousins team up to create studio magic
Duo's talent is obvious in their newly released original album
David Ertel, left, and Logan Ertel put in countless hours on “Moonlighter,” an album of original pop songs written by the two cousins.—Photo courtesy of Allie Tyler Photography
+ click to enlarge
David Ertel, left, and Logan Ertel put in countless hours on “Moonlighter,” an album of original pop songs written by the two cousins.—Photo courtesy of Allie Tyler Photography
David Ertel, foreground, and Logan Ertel work on their album “Moonlighter” last year in David Ertel’s make-shift studio in his Indianapolis apartment.—Photo courtesy of Allie Tyler Photography
+ click to enlarge
David Ertel, foreground, and Logan Ertel work on their album “Moonlighter” last year in David Ertel’s make-shift studio in his Indianapolis apartment.—Photo courtesy of Allie Tyler Photography
They could have called themselves the Long Distance Cousins Band. The name they chose, Odie Ray, has a much better ring to it, if you ask me. More on that perfect band name later.

Cousins David Ertel, 29, of Indianapolis and Logan Ertel, 28, of Tampa have recorded quite a wonderful album, "Moonlighter," containing 11 original songs in the alternative rock genre.

"It was wild when we got to the end of the recording process," said David Ertel, a North Vernon native. "There are 39 minutes of music on the CD. I don't know how many hours we put into it, but it was a lot. We worked on the songs just about every single day for two years."

The result is a superb collection of pop songs with a dazzlingly full sound of both instruments and vocals, amazing considering that the two cousins live 1,000 miles away from each other.

"That's modern technology for you," David said with a chuckle. "We wrote a lot of the lyrics over the phone."

The lyrics are neat and in the love song mode, the tunes catchy and toe-tapping and the sound is impressive. "Moonlighter" harks back to the classic pop-rock songs of the 1960s, 70s and 80s that are ageless.

Odie Ray's influences range from Billy Joel to, no surprise here, the Beach Boys. David, keyboard player, is also a founding member of Sounds of Summer, a Beach Boys tribute band formed in 2015 that includes another cousin, Connor Ertel, along with Eric Wernke and Matt Hurley, all from North Vernon.

David Ertel is the son of Andy and Jennifer Cone Ertel of North Vernon. When not playing music, he works as a registered nurse. He's also currently studying for an advanced nursing degree with the goal of becoming a nurse practitioner.

Logan Ertel, 28, a guitarist, is a Seymour native, the son of Paul and Debora Baker Ertel. He is a full-time musician who performs under the name Logan Grant at clubs and other venues in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.

Both David and Logan often work late nights. That is how they came up with the album's name of "Moonlighter." Ironically, most of their efforts on the CD were done during the day when both were off from their regular jobs.

"I've flown down there multiple times and Logan has come up here a lot, too, to work on the CD, but most of the time we've done it by long distance," David related. "There was a lot of back and forth. Every song had its own obstacles and it was grind to finish the CD, not an always enjoyable process. But we're very happy with the finished product."

The tunes are rich, full and melodic, with a highly professional sound. The songs are so good they sound like something you'd hear on a pop radio station.

"We're pretty proud," David admitted. "There is a lot of intricate parts. We laid down something like 130 tracks on some of the songs."

All of the vocals - which are outstanding, too - and most of the instrumentation were done by the two cousins, though they were accompanied by other musicians on all of the songs. Justin Rowland, who did the mixing and engineering on the CD, contributed guitar on five of the songs. Jim Bailey plays drums and percussion and Connor Allen bass on all of the tracks. Ben James adds saxophone and Collin Eads synthesizer pads, each providing accompaniment on one song.

"They're friends both Logan and I have met through our music circles," David said of the collaborators. "They add a lot to the album."

A couple of the songs on "Moonlighter" were written as long as eight years ago.

"Logan and I started playing music together when we were in high school and we were always writing songs together," David said. "We came back to a couple of those songs for this album, and changed a few things in them to make them work better."

The songs work great, in my opinion. "In-Between," the sixth track on the CD, is my favorite.

"That's a song Logan and I wrote years ago, but we had to change it and it went through the ringer," David said. "One day I was getting off work from night shift at 6 a.m. and Logan called me. He can't sleep and he says, 'Let's work on that song.' So we did and we finished that song in an hour right there."

Then came what David Ertel calls "studio magic."

"Allie Tyler was taking photographs for us in the studio. Logan just kept singing so she could take pictures. It was spontaneous, real studio magic, and we kept that vocal track on the end of the song," he said.

The band's name of Odie Ray comes from a combination of the names of the cousins' paternal grandparents, Rosemary "Odie" Miller Ertel and the late Ray Ertel.

"I don't know if Grandma Odie has heard the CD yet, but she is a big fan of Sounds of Summer," David chuckled.

For now, Odie Ray is a studio band but the cousins have plans to perform live.

"Some of the songs probably need a 22-piece band to do them live, but we'll work on arrangements to do live versions, kind of like the Beach Boys did," David said. "We hope to set up a show sometime in the future, maybe even in North Vernon."

For those who can't wait, and they shouldn't, "Moonlighter" is available online at odieray.com and elsewhere.

"The album is on every single streaming platform out there, including Spotify, iTunes and Amazon," David said.

The cousins are not making any real money off of "Moonlighter," but that's not stopping them from already starting work on a followup album.

"The new album is going to have more pop songs that are a throwback to the 1980s sound," David said. "That sound never gets old."

The sounds on "Moonlighter" don't either. It's a classy collection of music that sounds great the first time you listen to it, then grows on you even more through repeated listening.

"If you don't like it, you can always use the CD as a coaster," David quipped.

Don't let him fool you. This album is too good not to keep in a CD player or streaming from the Internet on a stereo.

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