Sunday, April 25, 2010

Studio Blog: "Calling You Out," day 2

Going out to Mark's studio this past Wednesday, I had, for the first time in a while, this amazing Zen-like feeling that everything was where it should be in my life. I mean, let's not even get into my dating situation -- that's always a mistake, and no one should ever ask how that's going, because like I ever know. Still, it's nice to be working on something again, and to have that feeling that this time it's going to be different, better.

When I showed up, Mark and Abby were rehearsing for her Living Room residency (which I haven't been able to go to because my Rover gig conflicts, which is I guess show biz, but it's really great that she has this opportunity and I hope it finishes well), and I got to zone out listening to her and a few of the finest vocalists in NYC work on harmonies for the final blowout set they have planned for week 4. Great stuff. We all shot the shit a little as they were on their way out, and after a little while I remembered each of them from some thing or other and we talked about how much fun that is, then we all moved on.

After a few listens at my rough draft, and a conversation about dynamics, we started work on the piano part. I'm proud to say that I played most of it, except for a figure that Mark suggested go a different way, which sounded so good I was like, "Well, play that then." We stripped down some of my ideas, fleshed out a few others, then moved on to drums.

When Mark does drum tracks, he pulls out only the pieces he's going to use. In this case, he started with just kick and snare, then played through once and said, "I think one cymbal." Then he pulled out some brushes and went to work. He's a completely vanity-free drummer -- the fills were present but not fancy, lots of space given to what was already on the track. A couple of times, we talked through some sections, me going "how about boomDAKboom instead of boomDAKKAboom...."

On one note in particular, we auditioned a series of zzzzzing sounds from his cymbal until I realized that the reason we weren't getting the one I was hearing was that he was holding the handle in such a way as to prevent an attack at the top of it, so I showed him what I meant, and he recorded the Tik-zzzzzzing that I had been going for. It was a cool moment.

Last, we worked on guitar. I did a standard open-strum background to thicken up the sound a bit, as I tend to do when I record at home, then dropped in the lead phrase from the demo with some minor revisions, and some harmonics to sweeten up the breakdown. My favorite part was adding lead bits to the second verse. Because I wanted the guitar to sound as open as possible, and because I'm an inexperienced lead player whose ideas don't always translate well to performance, I used the capo in two separate positions to get the little interjections. All in all, we got a lot done on this track -- all that really remains is to do some vocal bedding (which I longed to do and never got to do on the last album), and we can move on to the next song.

I love this process, so far, a great deal more than the one on the last few albums I've made, which have involved rehearsing a band, going in, doing basic tracks, then fleshing those out. Building a track from a straight acoustic performance is how all of my home recordings were done, and I missed that method so much. It's gonna take a little while, but I think we're going to have something good at the end of it.

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