“Songs Are Like Children”

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Ever wondered about the process a musician goes through in order to record their music? To be honest, I’m sure that, much like the process of actually writing the music in the first place, everybody’s is different. Usually my approach is to book some studio time with Andy Yeadon (engineer, musician, all round nice guy) to work on a couple of songs that I’ll have had lying around.

I’ll start with the guitar riff, playing it through for him a couple of times before telling him which drums and symbols I’d like him to hit. Andy will then work out a rhythm and we’ll start jamming, trying to hit upon the tempo that I have in my head. Once that’s established, we’ll try and get it down, usually in no more than 2 or 3 takes. I’d then take the end result away, listen to it for about a week and work on my vocal.

The second session is where I’d get my vocals down, usually double tracking. Normally, I’d be in and out of the booth, desperate to hear everything back but Andy will try and stop this (knowing that I obsess over even the most minor of imperfections) by telling me that it’s those quirks that often sound great once the two takes are meshed together. It’s only now that Andy would look to put the bass down as he likes to bounce off the vocal melody when writing this part, to ensure that the two don’t clash. We’d then look to add whatever other embellishments I had in mind for the song, whether that be synths, piano etc. I’d normally leave this stuff to Andy but on my most recent EP I started writing these parts myself which is probably a sign that, if anything, I’m becoming even more obsessive about the whole process.

It’s usually around about this time that we’d be ready to start mixing. This entails me explaining to Andy, very much in layman’s terms, the type of effects (if any) sounds and volume levels I have in mind, whilst he goes about trying to make it happen. I have to admit that my concentration is usually waning by this point as I have absolutely zero knowledge or interest in the recording or production side of things (Sometimes Andy will jump in the booth to put a backing vocal down and ask me to hit record, which is a stretch I can assure you) However, with all that technology and gadgetry at your fingertips, spending too long on this process can easily suck all the life out of the music, so this is actually one of the rare occasions where my extreme technophobia (and strong desire to go home) actually works to my advantage.

And that’s pretty much it. Andy and I would each then take a copy of the finished product away with us to listen to through different systems (it never sounds quite the same as it does coming through those massive studio speakers does it?) and we’d exchange texts to discuss whether or not any final tweaks need to be made. After that, what becomes of these songs once they’re no longer just mine and mine alone is out of my hands. Hopefully, they won’t be derided, ideally, they’ll be loved and cherished but ultimately, just to have them listened to and given the time of day will be enough. How come? Well, perhaps this passage from the great Neil Young’s autobiography, ‘Waging Heavy Peace’, sums it up best;

“(Songs) are like children. They are born and raised and sent out into the world to fend for themselves. It’s not an easy place to be, the world, for a song. You might find yourself on a tape in the garbage, or on a CD someone threw out, or you may even be in the bargain bin……However, someone had to create you.”

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