I've been spending a lot of time in the studio lately. Ironically not as the singer, but as the vocal producer! It's definitely a fun role to be in--because usually I am the singer and someone else is tweaking everything I sing--but this time, I get to do the tweaking!
Before I launch into what vocal producing is, I feel that I should shatter all your expectations about the vocals you hear on the radio. They do not sound like that in the first take. They do not sound like that in the second take. They performed their "flawless" vocals over a two-hour session where different takes were cut and pasted to make everything seem effortless. On top of cutting and pasting, the engineer of the session can put a filter on your voice to make it sound however he or she wants, as well as correct every pitch in the song! I know, I know, your dreams are shattered and this whole time you thought your favorite singer just rolled out of bed sounding amazing--and maybe they do--but even the best singers take multiple takes to get just the right emotion on every line of the song.
Every vocal producer has a different approach, but my main focus as the vocal producer is to make sure the emotion is coming across from the singer. To me, singing is not about how you sound, but how you make the listener feel. If the listener doesn't feel anything, than what is the point? Hopefully the artist I'm working with is already feeling something while singing, but I can also coach them to draw more emotion by how words are pronounced, dynamics are used, voice inflection is nuanced, etc. Additionally, I am there for standard technique purposes, such as intonation (staying on pitch!) and advice for hitting those scary high notes!
The past few weeks I've been in the studio with Erin, an artist who wanted to make a demo. We tracked three cover songs and recorded the band first. Then, we recorded her vocals separately. We did each song on a different day, because one song of vocals alone can leave you mentally, emotionally, and vocally drained. In typical studio fashion, we started off with Erin singing through the whole song twice. Then, we worked on just the verse. Erin would sing the verse over and over until we had all the right takes to cut and paste, and then we did the same thing with the chorus, second verse, etc. When you're singing a verse or chorus over and over, you not only have to sing, but also have to play out that emotion over and over--on top of thinking about your rhythm, pitch, volume, etc.--it is a multitasking nightmare! (hence why it is so draining!) But, Erin was a champ and she took every note I gave her with ease and we ended up with a "flawless" vocal!
This week I'm pulling out another Basement Sessions song we recorded. This song is called, "All Your Days and Nights." I wrote this song about 2 years ago with a writer named Andrew Rollins. Andrew has had a lot of recent success with writing songs for the TV show "Nashville," and one of his songs from the show was Number 1 on iTunes for a while!
Before the write started, I was talking to Andrew about how I can only write at night because of my day job, and Andrew said, "Well then I want all your nights!" We both looked at each other and nodded in agreement that that was a great song title! So, we started writing the song. Another songwriter named Steve Pasch popped his head in the room and said, "You all need to say something about 'days' in there." (Songwriters are very into opposites in songwriting--if you have "nights" you have to have "days," if you have "first" you have to have "last," etc.) So thanks to Steve, we had our hook! We built the song around the line, "I don't want much from you, just all your days and nights."
The song is about a love that is fading and the singer wants her love to give her everything he's got. She wants the passion back in the relationship and wants to go back to when the love seemed new and exciting.
This song definitely hits home for me (well, I hope so, I wrote it!). I remember being in a relationship that was fading and years seemed to go on where it wasn't new and exciting. Every time I sing this song, I try to go back to how I felt during that relationship.
Here are the lyrics:
You don't look at me the same.
There's no spark, we've lost the flame.
Your hand feels different in mine.
Has this love run out of time?
It never used to be so damn hard.
How could someone be so close but seem so far?
I don't want us to be something we don't believe.
A temporary kind of love that leaves us incomplete.
I want to feel that fire, that passion and desire,
That only the two of us can make right.
I won't want much from you
Just all your days and nights.
You used to send me flowers.
We could talk in bed for hours.
Now it's just silence in my ear.
So much can change in just a year.
It's weird how life speeds up all of a sudden. Overnight, you realize you have crossed into the threshold of becoming old. I started noticing how old I was becoming this past weekend at a wedding shower. The things that came out of my mouth took me by surprise! I had to stop myself and think, "Did I just have a full conversation with people about landscaping and milk glass?" I tried to remember the good ol' days, when all I talked about was new music (and didn't say the phrase "good ol' days"), but then found myself surrounded by people who also talk about landscaping and milk glass! Father Time has snatched me up and won't let me turn back the clock!
Now, before you start worrying that you are becoming as old as me, I have come up with a little quiz that will tell you if you've crossed over into the "becoming old" threshold. I based these statements on my recent personal experience with getting old-- but don't think age has anything to do with it! Whether you're 13, 23, or 82, you can still be "becoming old!"
Add up how many statements apply to you and see what score you got!
1. You know there's a difference between a comforter and a bedspread.
2. You've had conversations with people about grass seed.
3. You know more plant names than flower, bush, and weed.
4. You have said or thought, "I really want succulents in the kitchen."
5. You spend your weekends doing housework and then you're too exhausted to do anything fun.
6. You have fake fruit in your kitchen.
7. You know the difference between crystal and milk glass.
8. You actually have crystal or milk glass.
9. You enjoy watching HGTV.
10. Your friends are talking about childbearing techniques at your get-togethers.
11. You call things "Get-togethers."
12. You've said the words, "What are kids into these days?"
13. You've started a sentence with, "Back in the day..." before.
14. You've stopped using whiskey bottles as decorations.
15. You are mortified when anything starts after 8:30pm-- and even more mortified if it's on a Sunday night!
16. You spend your Sundays making your lunches for the week.
17. You go grocery shopping on Saturday because you know Sunday is a busy grocery day.
18. You are saving up for a new mattress.
19. You go into home goods stores by choice.
20. You are part of a neighborhood online forum or have attended an HOA meeting.
Score of 16-20 = You are ancient.
Score of 11-15 = You are elderly.
Score of 6-10 = You are over the hill.
Score of 1-5 = You are becoming old.
Score of 0 = You're still becoming old because you're reading a blog.
Well, the time is drawing near to my wedding day because I just had my bachelorette party last weekend! Being a bachelorette is pretty cool. You get to wear a bedazzled sash and no one can judge you for consuming a myriad of beverages or doing other stupid things. People even buy you drinks to console you about your impending loss of freedom!
I was a little weary about doing this whole bachelorette thing at first, as I don't particularly like large crowds and don't even really drink (unnecessary calories-am I right?!). But, my Maid of Honor, Jeana, made it awesome because she created a scavenger hunt! So, instead of just standing there drinking and getting hit-on by scary old men, we had a purpose! And even better- it was boys vs. girls (the bachelor party vs. the bachelorette party), so there was even more incentive to win!
The girls started the night strategizing at my favorite restaurant, Burger Republic, where we consumed spiked milkshakes and many cheesy tater tots. I also thoroughly hydrated for the night, as my naive body can't take much alcohol.
Then, we wanted to take this scavenger hunt very seriously, so we sent the boys a serious voice message that said (in my deepest mafia voice), "Meet us on the bridge!" So we went to the pedestrian bridge and met up with the boys to start the scavenger hunt!
Then, at 8:00pm sharp, we started the scavenger hunt! The scavenger hunt had different things on it such as, "The bride/groom must be carried through the threshold of every bar" and "serenade a random stranger with a song" and "order a shot called a Blow Job and yell at the top of your lungs 'I need a blow job!'" (See, I'm telling you...Bachelorettes can get away with anything!)
Me, being carried into the threshold!
Taking a pic with a bachelor party!
Then, 2 hours later, we met up with the boys on the bridge. We went to Billy's and tallied up the scores and....drum roll.....THE GIRL'S WON! BOOYA
All in all, it was a successful night. I think I was even too hydrated to feel any drinks, but I definitely felt the satisfaction of winning! Thanks to all the ladies (and Anthony, my bridesman cousin) who helped us achieve greatness!
I started a blog for this week - a feminist rant on how it's unfair for men to be vocally aggrieved by your haircut - but I decided to save that for another day!
In lieu of the feminist rant, I decided to start a live video series with some members of my band called "The Basement Sessions." These sessions are aptly named because we record the videos in my basement! Our plan is to record a series of acoustic covers and original songs, and hopefully grace your ears with beautiful sounds. Live videos are like live theatre- someone could mess up at any moment, I could sing a wrong note, the viola could start playing a different song- who knows what could happen!! So, you'll just have to watch and see!
This week we decided to cover the song, "Thinking Out Loud" by Ed Sheeran. If you've stepped out of your house in the past 3 months, you've heard this song! It's a catchy love song that any girl would die to hear sung to her. (I hope boys want it sung to them too- because in our cover, I am singing it!) Our version includes a lovely viola solo by the fabulous Katherine Holmgren (a fellow blogger!).
Now sit back, grab some popcorn, and enjoy our version of "Thinking Out Loud."
Sometimes I think I'm crazy. But sometimes, I think I know exactly what I'm doing.