It's been a great week so far here with Darren and Stacy. Looks like we may have finally come up with a name for this project, but I will wait until it's official to announce. They got here on my birthday (best gift ever!) but as the first day of working went on, my ever so slight ear-itation turned into a full fledged ear infection. Mostly better now! As always, I've been taking lots of pictures of our process. Here are a few from yesterday:
Back to work! By the way, I'm posting lots of this stuff in my Instagram as well. Thanks for reading!
Last week when I was in Memphis, I heard some new music that I got really excited about. I bought the _____ album and immediately started getting new ideas for how to process/record drums, harp, strings etc. As soon as I got home I started putting these new ideas into practice by starting a new song for my project with Stacy and Darren. I spent an entire day tracking drums and bass. The next day I recorded 70 tracks of strings, then piano. This idea was carrying all of my momentum forward and I had impressed myself with how much I was getting done in such a short time-span. I bounced a copy of it down, and emailed it to Darren and Stacy. Then I went through my usual routine of refreshing my inbox every few minutes to see if they loved it.
I know that they could tell that I had worked hard on this idea. I know they could tell that I had just gone through a marathon of tracking to get it to them. But the reality was this- It was all wrong. It sounded nothing like the rest of the songs on the album. It had abandoned all of the principles we laid out in the beginning. Darren was very gentle in letting me down, but he was firm. This is one of the most important parts of collaboration- the proper letdown.
That was a long winded intro, so I'll try to keep this next part straight to the point.
The most frustrating part of collaboration with someone, is not the example above- that example is your saving grace. The worst, is when you work on an idea that's no good, but everyone tells you it's "good" and "it just needs a little work". When this happens, it's all hands on deck working on an idea that's a 2 out of 10, trying to bring it up to a 5 out of 10. In the end, the idea's gonna get thrown away anyway. Get tough (but kind) with yourself and your peers. Letting someone take a wrong turn while driving is not "polite", it prolongs and increases conflict.
On the other hand, the BEST part of collaboration in my experience, is when you have checks and balances. Left to my own devices, I will record layer after layer of instruments, until the vocal disappears. A big part of my process working with other people, is having them chop through all the weeds. I may write an idea with 10 things going on during the chorus. It usually becomes the duty of my peers to narrow that down to a simple two or three, and improve on those ideas.
Most bands are a collaboration of some kind. It's a big part of growing up to learn to speak honestly and gently with each other. Musicians can be emotional people, and it's easy to respond emotionally to criticism. When someone says, "that drum part is too busy for that section" your brain will run it through a filter, and it gets interpreted as "that drum part is too busy, and you're looking chubby". Be mindful of this emotional filter. Learn to be the one that looks to his/her peers for improvement, not just validation.
Thanks for reading.
PS. I know I've been talking about this project with Darren and Stacy for quite a while now. It may even seem as though it's simply a "hobby" that will never be completed. But we are close! We WILL finish this, and we WILL release something in the near future!
I now have confirmation that "They Reappear" will officially be released on iTunes on November 15th. Along with it, there will be an instrumental version of the album, and an instrumental version of my previous album "Salvation Club". A few days before the release, I will be launching a new website. The site will have streaming versions of all of these, a place where you can watch BOTH live DVD's, view all of my lyrics, plus tons of other fun stuff. I'm SO excited to share this with all of you!
In other news, it looks like Darren and Stacy will be spending some time in Springfield in the coming months to work on more music. I won't go into details at this point, but I will say that we have high hopes for the progress of this project. Possibly even the release of a name for this project… We will see. Hope your week is off to a great start. Thanks for reading.
I'm a little late on blogging this, but this past year, I produced an album with my good friend Trey (Ski Lift). It was a long distance collaboration that was done mostly through email. He would send me tracks, and I would add to them. For most of the songs, he had written and recorded the core of the song already, but wanted me to hype them up a bit, and then mix them.
Oddly enough, this has become the norm for how I work on projects. Bands will send me an Mp3 of an idea, and then I try to fill them out. The benefit of this, is that I get to keep my own schedule, and work the hours that I want to alone. I'm a lot less self-conscious when I work alone, and I usually feel a lot more inspired. But it takes a lot of courage for a band to give me free reign over a song. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the client who is able to hand over control to someone who lives in another state. The process can be very rewarding when it works. As a self proclaimed micro-manager, I have a very hard time handing my stuff over to anyone, even for mixing or mastering. Trey is a micro-manager as well, and I commend him for letting go of some of that for this project.
Above, is the song, "Give It Up" (you have to skip ahead to track three). Some of you might remember this from the first Red Velvet dress line promo video.
Most of what you hear was already written and recorded before I got my hands on it. Trey is a great songwriter, but he also has a great mind for production. Most of the parts were already great. If memory serves, Trey had some temporary electronic drums in there as a placeholder for the time being. I wanted to make the song much more "vibe-y", so I deleted them and started recording some drum ideas of my own. I remember that I wrote an entire blog post about working on these drum sounds, you can read that post here.
Here are some of the drums soloed:
You may or may not be able to tell, but there are actually several full drum takes blended together. Many times I will just record a bunch of ideas separate, and then stack them. This allows me to get a more "layered" sound on the snare- which I like.
Bass and Crumar were added, but I won't spend time on that right now.
The EP is both fun and epic. You can listen to it here:
I'm very proud of this collaboration, though the greatness of it lies more in the songwriting than in anything I contributed. Give it a listen! Thanks for reading.
PS. If you are interested in hiring me to do this type of thing, you can email me at email@example.com . When the new site is up, I will post a price sheet for collaborative work.
(The title of this post is a hint to myself later so I can remember what I was working on tonight)
Most of my day was wasted. I sat and tried working on some parts for a song, and I hated all of my ideas. Around 5 this evening, I switched gears and started working on an old demo that Stacy sent me back in March. I just want to say for the record, that the music I created tonight was probably the most beautiful thing I've ever written. I felt in love with music again. I chased this idea all evening, and left my studio about 15 minutes ago. It felt like a first date- I didn't want it to end. It would have been easy to work all night on this, but I'd rather save some of this inspiration for tomorrow.
One more thing. As I was driving home, I had the thought, "Wow, no one's music moves me the way that the music I wrote tonight does." Then, I thought, "Don't even say that internally. It's incredibly arrogant". But I fought back. I said to myself, "If I can't write music that moves me, then why should anyone else's music?". These are my damn feelings coming out through the strings. My music should move me more than anything else. And I'm not ashamed to say that it usually does. (I haven't forgotten that this is actually Stacy's song by the way…) My hope for anyone reading this, is that you are able to say the same with the artistic ventures in your life. Sleep well.
Thanks for reading.