Recording Diary: Day 1 – Guide Tracks

I couldn’t sleep last night for the excitement and anticipation of recording. My songs are like seeds…. And a producer is like water and nourishment for the seeds to grow and flourish. I have an idea of where I want some songs to go. But I like the mystery and anticipation of bringing them into fruition. What ever shall grow from my seeds…..?

I’ve been waiting months. And today finally arrived.

Bang, straight into it!
I rocked up to Sean Carey’s studio in Camperdown, Sydney at 10am today (I’ll get used to morning’s soon enough). He showed me my “happy place”, the room in the studio which will be my home for the next two weeks. I dumped my collection of guitars in the corner, and we began setting up.

I’ve been in a few recording studios for several projects. Every experience is different. Every producer has their different techniques. For Chest of Drawers, the producers and I worked on one song at a time; we laid down my guitar/piano and voice, and slowly built the songs up, taking over 6 months to craft the album. Little Treasures was a one-take live-in-the-studio album using 10 hours of recording time that I’d won. There was little or no “producer” role. Just me, playin’ my tunes.

Album #3 is different again.

Today Sean and I laid down “guide tracks” for 10 of 12 songs. In Chest of Drawers, I recorded the guitar separately, then a guide voice, then later came back to re-do the voice. This time I recorded the voice and guitar together, but BOTH will be scrapped. It’s a weird feeling going in there thinking what you are laying down will just be scrapped soon enough. You kinda wonder what the point is. But at the same time, it relaxed me, knowing this is not the be all and end all. The idea of the guide track is so that the drums, in particular, can be laid down early in production. Then we can come back and lock everything in with the drums. Plus, later, when we come to lay down the guitar parts again, it won’t be so weirdly separated from the voice, cos the guide voice will be there. Mind you, I’m sure I will pull some constipated faces trying to mime and not sing while recording the acoustic guitar part.

The most CHALLENGING part of recording so far is that I have to THINK and PLAY DIFFERENTLY to how and what I have been doing for years. As a solo performer, I’ve developed a playing style that attempts to make ONE person sound like multiple musicians, to make it more interesting for the audience (and for myself). I incorporate percussion, bass, single melodic notes, chords, fills….. etc. I try to make the guitar part as interesting as possible, and to compliment the lyrics, add different chord voicing, and get a groove happening. But for the first song we laid down, Sean came and sat beside me to mentor me on how to play the guitar part. I know he’s right. And I’ve just gotta let go of how I always play the song, and give it over to him. I can’t be super percussive and thump the guitar, because ultimately it’s going to clash, BIG TIME, with the drums. Today I had to get into a different head space. I had to learn to play my songs in a more “flowing” way, and leave space for other instruments to work their magic. It proved to be a hard task, and I mustn’t let autopilot pull me his way.

It’s super exciting seeing Sean thrilled about particular songs. It pumps me up more! He’s amazing. He’s so passionate, and efficient, quick, hard working, talented, knowledgeable and experienced. Most importantly, he’s on the same musical wave length as me. He sees the songs going in a similar direction. I’m gonna love working with him.

One of the things I regret about my previous two albums, is that I didn’t mix up the guitar sounds as much as I should have. To create diversity in sound in an album, this time I’m keen to try different guitar, get some different sounds happening in the foundations. Today I got to play with a whole bunch of guitars – Barnie (Maton), Ann Marie (self-made acoustic) and two different resonators, and two different teles. Mmmmm yum! Guitars!

I’m in heaven. I could spend every day of my life in the studio.

It’s gonna be a smashing album! I can feel it. I love Sean’s enthusiasm and love the way the songs are heading. I’m sure every day won’t be this easy, and we’ll hit challenges and times of weariness, but for day 1, we’re off to a smashing start.

Will keep ya in the loop.