As you could see from part one, I’ve started recording my new album, Dare, and I’m sharing the journey with you because you know how singer-songwriters are – we can’t help talking about ourselves. Here’s another post about me. Hope you like it.
Day three in the studio and I’m so ready to lay down my permanent guitar tracks that I’m afraid I’ll play everything double time. Fortunately, I was able to abstain from coffee and it helped. That and I’d practiced with the drum tracks so my time would be as good as it could be.
You might be wondering why we’re recording the instruments one at a time instead of getting them all together in the studio. Back in the day, that’s how recordings were always done — bands would stuff themselves into one room and play the song over and over again until it was as perfect as it could be. If the bass player makes a mistake, everyone would have to play the song over. If you record the instruments separately (and it’s easy with computers), the one making the clam is the only one who has to play it over. Also, you get more control over the individual elements and don’t have to worry if you can hear the drums through the vocal mike. Or the drums through the guitar. Pretty much, the drums through anything because they can be damn loud.
I did an album a few years ago where we did some of the tracks live – ie, with several instruments at once – and while we got a cool live sound, we ended up with mistakes that we couldn’t fix. I’m not so anal that I have to take out every string squeak, but I don’t want to have to deal with that huge off key note in the first chorus, just because there was too much of the drums in the mix for us to get rid of it.
After slamming out six songs, we took a break.
Every once in a while, we’d have to stop and turn on the AC. It can’t run when we’re recording or the mikes will pick up the hum. Since we’re in North Carolina in June, it can get pretty steamy. Sometimes Chris and I would talk, but during this break, I felt like I was in the lounge of some classy restaurant:
I went on that day to finish all of my instrumental parts. Mostly, it was guitar but I also recorded a mandolin for “The Dream” and a ukulele for “The Boy Who Wanted to Fly.” I played my dad’s uke on the latter because it’s about him. It didn’t sound bad for an instrument that’s at least 50 years old and covered in scratches and cracks. The pitch is a little wonky. Usually I’m very careful with stuff like that but for this, I’m choosing to believe that the slightly off-pitch notes makes it sound charming.
My housing was in downtown Asheville so for a late night dinner, I had my pick of restaurants. It was such a beautiful spring night that I chose one with an outdoor patio, the Mellow Mushroom. I enjoyed the food, but was dismayed at the demonic hippie jam band music playing on their stereo. Distorted guitars and strange lyrics don’t fit with my vision of something with “mellow” in the name. Being in a studio gives me supersonic hearing so I doubt the other patrons even noticed the music. Or maybe they liked it and I’m just too middle-aged to appreciate it.
Afterwards, I had a chat with one of the patrons. He looked suspiciously like he belonged at a different place, one with a giant yellow “M” outside, but he was painted in psychedelic swirls and spatters and sporting a very stylish pair of specs so he fit right in. Didn’t have much to say, though.
The next day, it was Eliot Wadopian’s turn to sweat behind the mikes. He’s one of the finest bass players I know. His string bass added a lot of personality to several of my songs. Here he is on “Bellydancer,” playing a samba beat on a song with Middle Eastern percussion and a Spanish-flavored guitar, written and sung by a folk singer. And yup, it works. You can’t hear the rest of the band, but he can because they’re in his headphones.
He had to re-tune to play with that charming ukulele on the song about my father. As he turned the keys, he commented, “With bass, you have four excuses to be wrong. With guitar, there’s six.”
After he finished most of his acoustic bass work, we stopped for a few minutes and turned on the AC. We got to talking about music, as musicians often do, and he started going all classical on us, somehow incorporating the phrase, “rip your face off.”
When we recorded his electric bass parts, we could turn on the air because the sound was recorded directly into the computer and wouldn’t pick up the AC hum. By this time, it was the afternoon and poor Eliot needed cooling down. Not only was he playing some hot parts, but this is a man better suited to life in a colder climate. (Funny, we started the day talking about Canada. He’d really like to move there. I offered to marry him, but remembered I was already married. And a lesbian.)
Here he is, playing a groovy part on the title cut, “Dare.” The song really gained some bite with his contribution. I love what he’s playing.
By the end of the afternoon, he recorded 14 songs. Two of the tunes are alternates, though, in case I run out of time or money and could only release 12 songs. When I told him “Menopause Mambo” was one of the alternates, his face fell. “I’ll record that one for free, just put it on the album,” he informed me and then smiled.
It would’ve been nice to end the day that way. It was my turn again, though. I recorded lead vocals until Chris and I ran out of steam. Here I am on “Hold Me.”
I didn’t haul my tired body out of there until 10 pm. I tried to find a late-night dinner, but gave up after even the grocery store had closed its doors. The dark chocolate bar I’d left in my room would have to suffice. It wouldn’t rip my face off, but it would do.