I found it really hard to get into the zone today. It was such a SMASHING week last week. I was so pumped up. Then had a terrific weekend off with loved ones. But today I struggled to get my momentum up again after taking a break. It feels strange, as a muso, to work 10-7pm Monday to Friday, and take weekends off. That’s never really been my lifestyle since gigs became my fulltime job. And Monday morning, BAM, you’ve just gotta somehow be in the zone, ready to get down to “business”.
We had 3 more tunes to play guitar on. We took a very different approach today. Instead of playing the song all the way through, doing several takes and picking the best take. We just recorded section by section, getting each section right. We kicked off with Running out of Lies, a smooth U2/Coldplay style love song, that was warming on my soul for a Monday morning. It’s a new composition of mine, so out of all my songs, I was less familiar with the guitar part when recording. So we just laid down section by section. Then came Sweet Tooth, an electric guitar rockin’ track played on a Gretsch that needs a lot of attitude. It’s hard to manufacture “attitude”….especially Monday morning. I wasn’t feeling ON. But ya kinda have to get into the zone. Somehow. Put yourself back to when you wrote song. That song was restructured by Sean to make it more impacting (I admit it was far too long), so somehow, I had to turn off auto-pilot.
Sean’s really switched on. He’ll tell you if a song needs more attitude. Or less. He’ll tell you if something isn’t right. And every now and then, guitar parts needed changing to fit with the drum parts… as opposed to the solo way I’ve always played it.
Sean whacked down some happening bass parts. He ain’t bad on the bass indeed. And that’s it. All 12 tracks now have guitars, bass, and drums! Next, VOCALS!!!!
Ahh…. Vocals. I was nervous for vocals. I’m not a “vocalist” as such. I’m a singer-songwriter. And the tunes I compose aim to join all components together – the voice and guitar tell a story. They need to be on the same page, expressing the same feeling, telling the same story. I’ve never really seen myself as a vocalist. I’m no Katie Noonan or Delta Goodrem. I don’t get in there and do warm up exercises, like I probably should. And I drink tea, and eat dairy, like I probably shouldn’t. We’ve decided my voice is best in the afternoons. So this arvo, after a li’l attempt at warm up excecises, I got into it.
We only did three takes of the songs, picked the strongest take, and made edits wherever needed. I’ve always found it hideous to listen to my voice. But ya kinda gotta block that out and think objectively. If I sat there and picked the recordings to pieces, we’d never finish the project. I took Sean’s instructions on ANY and EVERY change or approach he suggested, as I trust him to think objectively, more than I trust myself. At the same time, I know my limitations, I know when I can do better, and I know when I’ve done my best. And even when I feel my best is far from good enough, I can settle “what is” and not spend too much time criticising every little flaw in my voice. Sometimes though, if your insecurities get the better of you, the whole recording session can fall apart… I tried not to beat myself up when I wasn’t happy with the vocal take. Sean’s pretty easy to work with.
For the tech nuts out there, I used a Neumann U87 mic on the voice, with a Neve 1073 Preamp. This mic was also used when recording the acoustic/resonator guitar, along with Russian Octave pen mic. We had much around with preamps to find the best sound, and there are big differences, as there are with mics. I remember recording my Chest of Drawers album vocals. I think it was a Nuemann M149 that I sang into for the song Adelaide. And the mic picked up WAY TOO MUCH details. You could hear noises in the back of the throat. It’s TOO sensitive. The U87 was terrific today. Smooth, yet clear. Quality. Yet not hypersensitive.
I’m confused by the different ways of recording backing vocals. I’m singing my own backing vocals, cos I suppose the theory is that the voice that blends best with your voice… is your own voice (yes, watch out, there will be multiple Jennys singing to you on the album). When I did some backing vocals for Coen Dixon, Shane O’Mara corrected my approach, saying I should NOT sing at the same intensity of Coen, that it makes it sound like a duet. Yet today, Sean was telling me I need to match the intensity of my lead vocals, otherwise it will sound too woosy. I suppose there are different approaches for different songs. Once he blended the vocals into the mix, it sounded amazing. No auto-tune baby! No way!
All in all, we smashed out three guitar tracks, three bass tracks, three vocals tracks, and two backing vocals tracks. And it’s sounding amazing as Sean mixes as he goes along. The blending is incredible. Gee he is quick on Protools.
Got a lot more work to do. Hopefully I get into the zone a little more tomorrow.