this week's rock&roll studio adventure

You might recall a blog I posted a couple weeks ago regarding a "work for hire" song I was commissioned to write. Here's how that whole thing panned out:

I submitted my initial idea (the slow, Celtic-esque tune) to my editor, and he liked my acoustic demo of it. Then, the evening after I sent in the demo, I took my pre-bedtime shower, and as I shampooed my hair, I thought of a completely new and different song dealing with the same theme. So I jumped out of the shower, dried off, threw on my jammies, and jumped downstairs to the studio where I demoed a second idea....this whole new song came spewing out of my brain and into a finished acoustic demo recording in about 45 minutes. Now THAT'S what songwriting is supposed to be like!

This second idea was one of those magic songs that happens to songwriters occasionally. Simple, hooky, interesting, completely fresh, challenging, yet insightful, with that inexplicable "zing" of inspiration. I knew that THIS was the song to submit, and when I sent the new idea to my editor, he knew it, too....he told me in his email that when he first heard it he couldn't stop giggling (in a good way). That's how to do it.

SO, my original slow folky idea has been put on the creative shelf...maybe I'll use the melody and chords as scrap metal for the construction of a different song sometime. I'm thankful that I spent the time on that first idea, 'cause it greased the wheels and allowed me to vomit out the final product.

SO, knowing what song was the official project, I knew I had to turn in a final listener-ready recording of it by November 1st, so my editor could have it prepped for the consumer by early 2008. This past Wednesday I went in the studio to record the song, and I got to work with a couple local artists who I've been looking forward to utilizing for a long time.

Matt Patrick was the engineer and bassist, and is the owner/operator of a lovely new studio in South Minneapolis. Drums were provided by my Chicagoland pal Jimmy Olson...Jimmy and I lived in Chicago at the same time (and both of us have played music with Chi-Town heroes Dolly Varden), but we didn't get to hang out or work together until we both moved here to Minnesota.

First of all, Jimmy got his drums set up and organized down in the lower iso-room (seen in the above photo through the low window). Matt plugged in a bunch of cables and set up mics. I made a cheat sheet for my lyrics. Matt played bass and engineered simultaneously, and I sang a scratch vocal and played a scratch guitar part while standing in the control room. We banged through the song a few times to figure it out, and did three takes with the "tape" running. Take three was the magic one, and Jimmy's awesome fills and Matt's shifty bass playing had really nailed it. Then it was my turn: I went down into the isolation room and played a couple rhythm acoustic tracks (using my 1952 Gibson LG guitar), and then stood facing the corner to sing lead and harmony vocals.

It was the first time I really have sung ANYTHING since getting my tonsils removed about a month ago, and I must say, I felt a difference in my vocal ability. Even though I was a bit fatigued from weeks and weeks of not singing, my voice was more accurate than before! AND, I could easily sing up to the E above middle C, a note I used to have to "work for" back in the tonsil era. Engineer Matt even noticed the difference, commenting on how my vocals weren't nearly as thin as they were before. YAAY....I'm hoping that this is a reality: that now that my mouth has been detoxed, I'll have a more accurate, wider-ranged, and beefier singing voice!

After about four hours of work the basic tracks were done. Matt's gonna add an electric guitar track, and maybe some maracas, and then he'll have it mixed by next week, and I'll submit it to my editor ahead of schedule. Ahhh...a good feeling. And I'm really thrilled with the song. I've been playing it at home this week, and Paavo already knows how to sing along. He's the best focus group a pop songwriter could ask for. Come see me next month on my East Coast tour, and I'll be testing the song at every show.


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