My year prior had been very much full to the brim with music. It’s my job… it’s what I do; writing, playing, recording and mixing.
Projects are always ongoing and there are deadlines to meet, but in January 2013 I set aside the whole month to concentrate on writing this one project.
I sat down in my own cozy studio watching the snow fall outside, loaded up a cup of tea and a blank canvas, and set out to write a collection of tunes influenced by the kind of music that shaped me as I was growing up.
Having not come from a particularly musical background; my parents nor brother are musically inclined, I never had anyone at home opening me up to different styles of music. Exposure to what was out there at the time, & what had gone before, came more from my friends at school & the radio. There simply weren’t any bands in my school and no real musicians to speak of, certainly not that i was aware of… so my early influences were picked up not by someone saying ‘here… you MUST listen to this’ but more by my Saturday afternoons spent in record shops looking at what was out there & spending my hard earned paper money on what I thought might prick my ears musically.
So why am I telling you all this?
Writing music for a living enables me to travel in all sorts of different directions sonically… Heavy Rock, Classical, Vocal Pop, Quirky… You name it, I’ve done it.
Every project is special & has the utmost time & attention paid to it. The company I write for require nothing short of the best & that’s what you strive for every time.
This project was to be no different from any other in that respect, except for it was going to be in a musical style very close to my heart & centred around the music I listened to as an easily influenced budding musician – a style from yesteryear yet with all the modern pop elements you’d expect, but with that comes the fact that I knew with the style and direction I was taking these songs in… it was going to be a long, long road to travel to get this project to where it ultimately needed to be.
‘Art is never finished, only abandoned’ – Leonardo da Vinci
On watching the ‘Sound City‘ documentary recently, I heard Mick Fleetwood reflecting on why Fleetwood Mac chose that studio to record the album ‘Rumours’ rather than do it in their own studio – ‘I can have fun doing this on my own, or I can have fun doing it with others’.
He has a point… The studio can be a very lonely and solitary place… unless you’re there with others… then it becomes fun.
Barrie Gledden has been a very close friend and a work colleague of mine since 1991, when I first met him as part of a support act for his band at the time ‘Brazil’. We’ve worked together ever since through bands & other musical ventures, and like me, Barrie is a writer for AudioNetwork.
Before Christmas 2012, I mentioned to Barrie my plans for January and that I was going to start this mammoth project. In the cold February of 2013, I took the tracks to his studio and played them to him. We chatted about where we thought the songs needed to go musically and planned how best to get them sounding and feeling as good as possible.
I’d mocked up the whole project using virtual instruments; keyboards, drums, bass, strings, piano, synths, guitars, acoustics… all triggered digitally from within the computer… a band in your pocket & an easy way to get your ideas from your head and into a permanent, recorded form – you can work fast & efficiently before the moment and idea is gone forever.
Virtual Instruments can be ground breaking and breathtaking, they can produce sounds that are very hard or impossible to emulate in the ‘real world’.
However, everything I’d used to create these tracks was ‘mimicking’ real instruments… and, more than anything, what this album needed was real… real everything… real drums, real piano… and a real string section.
What I’d taken to play to Barrie felt very polished yet needed more input… the ideas were there but they needed arranging, additional vocal lines writing, string arrangements scoring and everything needed replacing with ‘feel’ and ‘interplay’ with instruments from the ‘real world’. Of the initial 8 tracks, there were 6 stand out songs we chose to focus on first.
Let the games commence…
First up… replacing the drums… here’s a video of what we did… (skins tuned so low they were close to wrinkle point & tension rods dropped out during recording takes)
Barrie wrote a more in-depth blog about re-recording the drums for this project here.
Next mini blog – The String Recording…..