Some Tunes

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Studio From a Distance

I thought I'd document my first "real" studio experience as a songwriter as it progresses. I spent a number of hours in the studio years and years and years ago (damn, I'm old), but this was with bands and as a performer - different stuff this time around.

I did some research and talked to some people and have opted, on this first adventure, to spend a little more than I had anticipated and go with someone who has a strong track record as not only a songwriter, but as a studio technician or producer. Great credentials for sure. Gary Earl has been Grammy nominated and has won a Kennedy Center Award.

The first email contacts were amazing to me. Very quick feedback and very in-depth. We discussed where I could see placing the song, what instrumentation and why based on those decisions. I'm going for a contemporary country crossover-type song that could be picked up by a film/TV producer as well as an artist. To do this, I figured let's do a full master and this way, the sound should stand above most of the material a prospective interested party would hear. There is certainly additional cost involved, but I thought I should dive in head first and then see if the pool's full of water or not. Hell, not even sure I can swim, but no time like the present to find out.

I have just decided on a vocalist from a list of possibles - Gary's wife and business partner is the vocal expert. Robin sent me samples from three different male vocalists that they use and feel good about. After listening to some samples, I asked for a few more and made my choice. Never did that before, so off we go into Wonderland, Alice. Next is going to be a little bit of a waiting game, but probably not long. Gary should start the track process in a few days, then it'll be off to the races. We should be in close contact through all the steps with some approvals, etc. as we go, but I absolutely trust his judgement - better than my own. Rock on.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Songwriting Critique Balance

This post really feeds off of a number of earlier ones, but I thought it would be appropriate to jot down my thoughts on receiving critiques and criticisms. I'd been working on about 5 songs at the same time (new and a bit overwhelming for me), but one emerged for me as having some strong potential. So what I did after an initial write was to submit it to a song critique for some feedback through SongU.

Allan Roy Scott did the review and gave me some direction to pull it out of what he thought was an 80's feel in the chorus (and I agreed with that eval). The rewrite took a lot of repetitiveness out of the chorus, changed some lyrics and melody line in spots. I then took it to a songwriting workshop in Eugene. The feedback there was that it wasn't repetitive enough in the chorus (and, of course, I agreed with that too). I found some middle ground that I really liked - best version so far, I felt.

My next step was to take the new "improved" version to a feedback class at SongU with Helen Darling. Her feedback was mostly very positive, but she said the lyrics confused her a bit. I struggled with that one. I spent some time trying to figure out why she felt that way as she had a hard time pinpointing the issue. I discovered what I felt the reason was and opted to not make any changes, especially since that was the only time I got that feedback (and this time I didn't agree).

One last run through, with no changes, I took it to another feedback class, this time with Allan again, but in class this time instead of a written critique. He loved the changes and basically told me he thought it was ready to demo and then pitch. I had no choice but to agree - good news is sometimes hard to come by. Now, some others in the class had change ideas, but I'm confident in the current version.

Here's the rub on this process. I think you have to listen to all the feedback. It doesn't mean that you make changes unless it makes sense to you as the writer to do so. I've heard back from industry experts as well as want-to-be professionals (I'm in that category) and have gotten way different opinions and observations. Some worked for me and some didn't. I think that no matter who the person listening is, they view a work from their current perspective. They can hear something one day and have a different opinion on a different day depending on what's going on in their lives. As a songwriter/artist, you have to be able to filter, but understand what the opinions are in the process. Other than craft being askew, there really is not wrong or right, but there is works and doesn't.

By the way, I really felt good about all the reviews and that in itself is a tremendous move forward for me. I'm going to shop a few studios and get this puppy done by some professional studio musicians and see what develops from there. It has been an eye opening positive journey on this one. The title is "Convince Myself" and I'll have it available to listen to once I get a demo completed - soon I hope. On to round 56B . . .

Monday, March 7, 2011

Co-Writing - Part Deux

Just felt the need to show off my ability to count to two - by two's - in French. Wow, great stuff.
What I really wanted to do is do a quick update on my current co-writing adventures. I am in the midst of deux of them. One, as I wrote about in the previous blog, and another with a local writer that I connected up with a month ago.

I sometimes attend a Eugene based songwriters' workshop. I went this past month with the specific idea to see if someone might be interested in working together on something. Interestingly enough, this writer named Luke asked me if I wanted to try a co-write together. We had a bit of direction that seemed to be following similar paths. I hesitated for a second, then thought to myself, "why would you possibly even consider saying 'no' when the stars have aligned for some reason?" So, I said "no." Okay, not true. I accepted, and this past weekend we sat down, laid out a plan and agreement and started out.

We decided to start with choosing either a title or topic and work from there. We found a topic from a story that happened to me about 6 months ago. We laid out a potential format, discussed what each verse, chorus and bridge would discuss and, I think, came up with some great ideas. It was a very rewarding start to a project.

So, my apprehensions are starting to fade away. I have 2 projects that I will eventually report back on in this blog. The online project will take another month, but is progressing well and I'm enjoying the interactions and thought exchanges with both. Very fun and creatively stirring.