We’re quickly coming on the end of summer.
If the trees are any indication, we’ve already hit fall. If you’re a student, summer has ended as school is back in session. Which means you’re summer romance, the fling of your life has also recently dissipated or is about to dissolve into the ether.
Enter my new single “Till We Meet Again“, a candid song about those loves we’ve had in life that we hope to rekindle somewhere down the road.
The journey of this song is one of several start and stops and finally a go.
Originally the intent was to write an upbeat tune for a TV show and for a library. I pulled in a bass player friend of mine to co-write it with me. However, there was a bit of miscommunication and he got miffed about the situation, which ended the direction of the song as I had envisioned.
Next I approached another bass player friend of mine, Jesse Stern, and we started working on the music. As a direction it was still to be a library track, however as we got going with it, lyrics started pouring out. He was going thru some dark stuff and was spitting out darker lyrics. Musically as it was speaking to me it had to be a bit more positive, maybe a little more longing. Suddenly we got a song that embraced all of that along with the sounds we were laying down.
During the process of the demo we got to a section of the song and were discussing how to change one bar for it’s time signature. We spent a good deal of time trying to work out if we’d stick to the song’s common time signature (which happens to be 4/4), or go with either 7/4, 6/4, or 5/4.
Multiple different drum fills were tried out. It was a songwriter’s producing exploration into the wild blue yonder until we finally settled on one particular fill in 5/4 that provided such a sly feel to the section of the song that it was as natural as an organic ripe tomato.
Tracking the occurred in several studios. Namely mine for the acoustic guitars, synths, additional background vocals and drum programming. Yes, those are programmed drums. Jesse’s studio was were the bass was tracked and some additional synths as well. Finally the vocals were tracked at George Leger’s studio (Utopia Parkway Music) when it was located in Los Angeles.
One moment during tracking stands out to me. At one point George turned around in his producer’s chair to show me his arms. The hair was standing straight up. He says to me, while Jesse is sitting there:
“This is your Purple Rain. You’re giving me goosebumps.”
Chances are you don’t know George. He is a massive Prince fan. So much so, that he once took me to see Prince perform when I was down in the dumps going thru some tough shit in life. It was a shining moment. I digress. George was so taken aback by the vocal we were laying down and the quality of the song that he felt it would be my equivalent to Purple Rain. My reaction was “I sure hope you’re right.” Damn right, I’d love to have a song be as popular as Purple Rain. Hell, even half as popular would be ideal.
Another memorable moment came when George first noticed the bar of 5/4. He asked who the drummer was that recorded the part and who came up with the fill, he thought it was amazing. When I responded with, I programmed it, he thought I did a hell of a job. Very few people notice because of how natural it feels, it doesn’t feel like a bar of 5/4. This prompted a discussion between myself, George and Jesse, mainly because it was George who originally gave me the idea of adding an odd measure in a song.
After getting all the vocals tracked, George and Jesse also sang some backgrounds. Once back in my studio, I felt I needed some additional voices for the backgrounds, so I enlisted the help of Val and Julia to sing some more parts.
George and I tackled the mix and eventually George did the mastering (as he’s also a fantastic mastering engineer as well).
Now it’s finally been released and is ready for your listening pleasure. I hope it gives you goosebumps like it did for George. Cause that would mean you’d tell others they need to hear and playlist it, like you will.
More music coming soon.
What goes into the making of a hit song? This is a curious question. If there was one true answer, everyone would be doing it, and nothing would actually end up being a hit. Right? Conspiracy theorists like to believe that the major labels have some sort of computer algorithm that can predict if a song is a hit or not. As the British say: Bullocks. They don’t know any better than any one else, the different is, they’re in a position of power to sell something.
While recording Till We Meet Again, George, Jesse, and I get into a quick discussion about things that can help make a song a hit song. In this case, we’re talking about a little trick that Jesse and I did with a particular transition of a song from one part to another. We changed something about the song structure in such a way that it makes people take notice. Watch the video about making a hit song and find out what we did.
Making A Hit Song
Did you catch what we were talking about? Think you can go write a hit song now?
We all like to talk shop in the studio, especially if it involves name players. Talking about amazing musicians we’ve had the pleasure or displeasure of working with, playing with, or meeting. Come on inside Utopia Parkway as George Leger III, Jesse Stern and I talk about some people we’ve met. Ok, mostly George talking about some amazing players. But still step inside, walk this way, you and me…
It starts with talking about Barry Manilow’s guitarist knowing about guitar playing from over 100 years ago and then progresses into the more modern instrument of electric bass. It then quickly swings into a little chat about a very famous female bassist (big name players type) that both George and I have met, but Jesse had not.
Big Name Players In The Studio
Because the song was done in the 1800’s.
He wanted to play it, like they played guitar in the 1800’s. He knew enough about the history of music and guitar playing, to know what kind of chords they would have played. How they would have played the part. I was like. I talked to him after. I asked him, you know that stuff?
Yeah, I have to know that stuff.
How do you know.
I mean, do you?!?
Some. Yeah, I studied, I studied guitar for many years.
But I mean like…
And and classical and and history for different parts of the world.
That’s where I started too. So I could technically say the same thing, but I don’t go around spitting that kind of information out.
Well and I also…
He, but he, I mean this guy, I mean I couldn’t believe what he’s played. How complex it was and there’s no little fret “icks” or nothing. I mean the guy is just like a fucking machine, what he was playing was unbelievable.
The history of bass, of electric bass is a lot shorter.
Than history of guitars. So.
But boy is it ever cool.
The first guy that I studied, like that I really studied not just learning the notes, but learning how the notes were played and how the tone came and all that stuff was Roger Waters.
Oh, well there you go.
And so, and then, you know from there I kinda learned, I kinda went back.
Do you know who I met and talked to for about a half hour?
Yeah, at NAMM two or three years ago. She was sitting there all by herself.
Was she nice.
But was she nice?!?
She was awesome.
You know why we both ask that question?
Because she’s not known to be nice. She’s known to be very very mean.
She has a reputation for being very very bitter and having a chip on her shoulder.
Not with me. She was so cool.
I’m glad to hear that.
We talked about making records an’ shit and everything.
She’s a, I mean, obviously a phenomenal.
And I have pictures of her and me, from the NAMM show. She was so… Really?!? She’s like that?
Oh yeah yeah.
That’s what people say. I’ve never met her.
I’ve met her.
She wasn’t like that with me man. She was just like, be just like I’m talking to you. So tell me ya know, I know you played with so and so, can you tell me what was it like when you guys first started playing. I mean you’re a girl, you were playing. You know and she was like, yeah, you know I was there sometimes, just taking care of my family is really what I was doing. You know and I was really grateful to be doing that stuff. But yeah she was just like yeah I’d show up in a dresses and sessions and stuff like that and people would look at me and then I’d play my instrument and then they would look at me totally different.
Well, it could…
She was just such a sweetheart.
Well, it could very well be that maybe she’s mellowing a little bit now. Because when I met her…
It could also be me. Cause I’m pretty respectful of people like that. And I’m also really, respectful of their experience.
Nothing is more annoying than a noisy mouse in the headphones. Recently in the studio while getting ready to start knocking out vocals for American Mayhem and we had an issue with a hum type of noise going on in the headphones. This makes for unpleasant recording. Not to mention that it also can be an issue if it’s being recorded on to the track in question. Adding noise from an unknown source isn’t always a great idea.
Find out what was causing the noise to occur. A kind of noise that flares up when the mouse is being moved. Nothing like a bad noisy mouse, however, that was a result of the issue, not a root for the cure. We did find it!
Noisy Mouse In The Headphones
What are we up for George? What are we looking at?
I just hear some weird hum.
Yeah, it came and then it kinda went.
I can kinda hear your mouse moving.
Mouse noise is what I’m saying. Not like the actual physical noise. I’m hearing in the system.
Somethings tweaked in the system.
That seems a bit quieter.
Yeah, well the transformer was on the audio cable.
Sittin right on the cable? Yeah, that’s bad. Studio badness. Do not put your audio cables right on a transformer.
Oh yeah. Much better.
Ok. We’ll be recording now. Shhhh.
Red light ‘s going on.
No squeaky chairs. No nothing.
I’m usually a hermit in the studio, but I’ve opened up a little and had a little episode of backseat producing that led to a discussion that involved Manolo Blahnik shoes. In the past, I rarely let people in the studio while I’d be singing. Hence the reason why I’d produce them myself. I’m changing things around. Especially since I’ve been having George Leger III producing vocals for me.
Another first happened during the vocal recording session of American Mayhem. I allowed my buddy Greg Nicholson and his girlfriend to sit in while I was recording vocals with George at Utopia Parkway studio. Greg and I have written songs in the past. But he’s never sat in on recording with me as the artist. George has one rule – which quickly gets reminded to Greg as he offers up some advice.
While waiting for George we get into a discussion about the Apollo by Universal Audio and shoes by Manolo Blahnik. All of this prior to Greg and his girlfriend are about to go watch the World Cup football (soccer) between USA and Portugal. See, he’s for USA and she’s for Portugal. I’m sure that was an interesting match for the two of them. As we all now know, that was a moving match.
Backseat Producing And Manolo Blahnik
Are you’re P’s coming out okay?
Pah. I don’t know.
‘Cause you had a lot of P’s. So I was just wondering how.
Oh yeah, they’re not popping in the mic.
Ok. Cause sometimes I have to like turn my head just a little bit when I’m singing a P even with a pop filter.
Ha ha ha.
You’re a guest. Not a producer.
No side, no backseat driving.
Exactly. Please. We have work to do. Okay, here we go again. Ready?
Mumbo jumbo. It makes people go really?
In other words…
Why do you need this?
It’s like so when you start updating your studio and she’s living with you at some point in the future. I’m projecting here. And Greg’s like “I need to buy this.” and you’ll be like “Really? Really?”
Remember, that’s what George and Jody said.
This stuff does make a difference.
Do I get a pair of Manolo Blahnik’s?
I don’t know what that is.
Really nice shoes.
I don’t even know what the hell that is. But like, Okay.
A pair of nice shoes is that what that is?
Yeah. They cost quite a bit.
Alright. So, you get the toys in the audio gear. She gets the toys in the shoes.
That’s only fair.
I believe in this. I believe in being fair.
But here’s a question. How much are those shoes?
Between $300 and $500.
That’s totally fair.
Per pair. How much is what you want to get?
The Apollo? How much is that Apollo? About $2500?
That one? $2799 plus tax. No. $2500 plus tax.
I was thinking between somewhere between $2500 and $3000. Yeah, that’s what I was thinking.
I was like, we already shook, we already negotiated this deal.
I did not know how much that cost!
I don’t know how much your shoes are, but I’m thinking my thing is 10x of what we just negotiated.
ha ha ha ha.
Fair trade. Fair trade.
Well, now I have to get the most expensive pair of Manolo Blahnik’s now.
No I think it’s only fair that you would get at least a dress.
Ha ha ha.
To go with the shoes.
That’s only fair.
It’s not often where you’re in a studio talking about a drum fill. At least not often where you’re proclaiming you love it. This is precisely what happened during a moment in the recording process of Till We Meet Again, a song written by myself and the awesome Jesse Stern. We’re in the studio doing vocals with George Leger III when George blurts out something entirely unusual for an engineer / co-producer.
Talk about getting caught off guard, especially when drumming is like ESL. I remember wanting to be a drummer when I first wanted to learn an instrument. However that got nixed by my mom due to saying it would be too noisy. Instead I got a guitar and an amp. How much noise did that make? A whole lot more.
Imagine my surprise when a drum fill part I created elicits a response like what I get in the video. Of course the most polite response is what I gave, but seriously, in my head I was like – hey! I did that. Maybe I should have been a drummer first. What a different world I’d be in if that had been the case. I might not be the songwriter I turned out to be. Who knows, I could have become an on call studio or touring drummer. Ah, who am I kidding – I love the musician I am, but there are times. Times when I do wish I were a better drummer.
Drum Fill Love
I said I love that drum fill!
Fuckin’ love it.
It’s a cool drum fill.
It’s totally cool.
I done did that.
Totally fuckin’ cool.
I have to make that a Phil Collins thing somehow.
Get it to sound like it’s in a fuckin’ glass room or something bizarre.
Aw, c’mon man.
Have you subscribed to my YouTube Channel yet?
One of the things an artist will discuss during the recording is how they will go about singing a breakdown. Which is exactly where I’m about to take you in the following video. George Leger III (co-producer), Jesse Stern (co-writer) and I take a moment to figure out the correct way for me to be singing the breakdown in Till We Meet Again. Jesse takes charge to give a mental picture of an example that should give the right vibe.
What would you do?
Watch and enjoy!
Singing A Breakdown
This is the breakdown where you go out onto the key, that like goes out into the middle of the crowd. And you like, hold the mic stand.
And the band.
You hold the mic stand in your left hand and you get down on your knees.
And you’re just like…
Well then I should the carry on… Right?
Don’t. Do, do, what you would do in that situation.
I’m thinking, carry. Well I, I think it. A softer version of what the original was.
Don’t tell us. Just do it.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
What could be more out of wack than three white men discussing rap music? That’s right. Jesse Stern starts us off with an off the cuff remark about rap music and George Leger III takes over discussing the state of modern rap in Southern California. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a lot of rap I like for it’s originality, it’s beat, it’s wild-blue-yonder approach. Yet listening to George talk about the artists he’s hearing about from the youth group he works with, is definitely an eye opening and mind expanding situation for myself and Mr. Jesse Stern.
Find out my expression and how I react to a group that I’ve never heard of. Actually all the groups that George mentions are groups I hadn’t heard of until he mentioned them. Jesse takes it all in stride. What ended up happening afterwards is that I’m now more aware of some of the new modern rap coming out of Southern California. Not necessarily a bad thing.
What say you? Who is rapping stuff so awesome that you can’t believe they’re not uber famous yet? Give me some names so I can flesh out my measly commercial rap collection.
White Men Discussing Rap
There’s a lot of really cool rap out.
Productionwise it’s so minimalistic.
That I… it’s like driving on ice.
Do you do a lot of rap?
I do where I work ’cause the kids, that’s what they want to do.
That’s what the kids are doing these days…
They’re not producing music. They don’t even know what music is. Well, that’s not true. I can’t really say that, ’cause… You know. They. It’s been really intriguing with them to try and turn them on to other kinds of music.
And other stuff because they’re so into this ridged little clique of music. ASAP Rocky, fuckin’ ah, SPM, South Park Mexicans. Yeah.
Is that a band or a style.
That’s a band.
I was about to say if that’s a style, it’s way off my radar.
There’s a band down in Orange called FUNK.
They’re just called FUNK?
They’re just called FUNK. And like all the gangsta kids love ’em. They’re all like, I want FUNK man. I hear it. Like who the fuck is FUNK? FUNK is the they’re a band man.
Funk is that guy right there. He got the funk.
Well, they’re, you know. Eh, South Park Mexicans, SPM, there’s like four or five guys, that’s all they talk about when they talk. ASAP Rocky is one of them.
Give me some more rap to check out in the comments.
Enjoy your day!
One thing these days that lots of people have complained about is extremely loud mastering of music and how it tends to kill the song. I’m someone who has heard many a song released where the mastering and/or mix was so brick wall limited that it ends up sounding distorted, lacking dynamics, and it’s disappointing. It destroys the vibe of the recording, all in the name of attempting to stand out above all others when broadcast to the world. The end result of these loud mixes that are overly compressed and limited is one of making the song sound small and shitty. Small and shitty is not necessarily the result any self respecting musician would ever want for their releases. However, many record labels now force this concept of “make it LOUD” to the mixing engineers and the mastering guys.
Once in a while, a mistake can lead to a new discovery about how to approach doing something. Said mistake can end up starting a new way to look at a problem. Such is the case with an approach George Leger III stumbled upon while putting his mastering skills to the test for my song Touch. I have a version of Touch that has been mastered by the great John Rodd. But before I end up releasing the song, I’ll consider going with a second master based on George’s new technique. To put it simply, it’s mind shredding loud mastering, without sounding distorted or compressed.
Watch as I get George to discuss the process of super loud mastering he stumbled upon, to my buddy Jesse Stern, who is also the co-writer on “Till We Meet Again.”
So we can get the low down on all this trickery.
Well really all it is… is this is a 32 bit hard… uh, software mixer right.
But because it’s 32 bit, you can crank the crap out of the levels internally. So I can take this fader and ride it up to say +9. And it won’t clip.
It chops the top off, but it does it in a way that it doesn’t sound dynamically compressed.
Like a soft clipping type thing?
So you can push it up and it sounds loud without sounding [distorted] compressed. Or distorted. Jody was just like: I don’t know what you did man, but the file you gave me, the mastering… It’s the loudest I’ve ever heard and it’s like doesn’t sound bad at all. It sounds great.
Well, yeah. He did a master of Touch.
That he gave back to me and I was like it was just… what did I say? Mind shredding loud?
Yeah. It was super super loud. [it was so loud…] I didn’t even realize I had done this when I did it. Until I went back and looked and I went, oh wait a minute I didn’t go through this whole thing that I thought I was going through.
And I’m looking at the meters of my thing and my meters are still going up and down with all the dynamics. I’m like how the F^#$ is it so God damn loud!
Yeah. And not like: Phhhhfffftttt! Like crushed. Normally you do that and it gets crushed. What I discovered is that you can actually use this internal little mixer to jack the heck out of your levels, but it doesn’t distort.
And it doesn’t sound compressed.
It is really cool. Cause it’s like you can add 6 to 9 db of limiting without it sounding at all like that’s what you did. The nice thing that I like about the master that I did is… The attack of the kick and the snare are still there. Dynamically it’s like BAM BAM it just sounds so good. I couldn’t believe it. I was like, what the hell.
Okay, are we ready?
We’re ready. We’re ready. Anybody ready?
Have thoughts on loud mastering for your music – chime in in the comments below. I’m happy to discuss.
Back in the studio. This time some video was captured that pulls back the mystery of vocals. Where George Leger III, Jesse Stern and I were discussing the fine points of doing multiple takes of the same line, using different emotions. All in the name of creating the best vocal to tell the story. What comes out is a frank discussion between the three of us. I make fun of a movie. Then George really runs into an electric speech about vocals. Jesse (the white hat at the bottom left of the video window) provides a little comic relief along with giving George something cool. Followed by myself relating a story from a recording session with a large songwriter’s organization. Watch what we said and did. Why? Because we’re having a good time talking about what goes into a great vocal recording.
Studio Vocal Mystery
Sometimes it reminds me the movie La Bomba. Dude that sounded great twenty takes ago.
That’s you know. No I’m not arguing that I know you gotta do and every little bit and piece, I’m, I’m fully there. I just think it’s funny that the brother was like he had no concept of like, it sounded the same man. It’s like, no it didn’t.
I sometimes joke when I’m comping vocals and like go in between a few different takes, how about this one, and this one. and I just look at ’em and they’ll say, they all sound exactly the same to me. I don’t know.
We all comp different, right? Like I could give you the same data, you would come up probably… well maybe we will come up with the same. Cause it seems like we’re thinking the same way I can… sense that. But some people I mean I’ll give them a track, you comp it and I’ll comp it. I’ll come back and their comp will be totally different. You know either I go for one that has a lotta little bitty edges and stuff. Little character bits and I’ll fix, I’ll tune it if I have to. But, try to get the character stuff that makes, to me makes a vocal personable; have personality, right? And I have people that just absolutely like want the note to be perfect. That’s what they’re after. That’s all they look for. Yeah. It’s like, there’s no… Cause you can fix… today we have the technology it makes it really easy to fix the note. You can fix the pitch. But you want to get that, you know you just started to do it. Your voice broke up a couple times in the first two lines. Which is exactly what I wanted to get.
Okay. So, anyways. I go for the feel like whatever makes me feel something. Yes!
Or what makes me kinda feel like I, I don’t have words anymore. Yes. And you get that little buzz too, I get a buzz when it happens it’s like I can feel it.
Well, you’re a really good producer. It’s fun to watch you work. Oh, thank you. That’s why I like doing vocal with the man. Yeah, I wanna do vocals with him.
I, I love working. I just love producing. It’s great fun. One of the things I was actually gonna say back to the vocals n something and stuff from movies and TV shows. In Canada, when they did We Are The World here. We had a song in Canada that was produced by David Foster. You know who David Foster is right Okay, do you know who Anne Murray is? yes she’s like… She’s a Canadian superstar, right? Exactly! She’s the Canadian Stevie Nicks. Yea. Sorta. She’s an… This woman has been singing her whole fucking life. She’s a perfectionist. And she can usually do it on the first take. She’s just that good. Well he goes and the same thing kinda happened with him. She got in the first two, first or second take, but he missed it. And they had this on the video that they did of the making of the thing, right? And, in the end it was like he he basically turned to her after he went 20 takes in. Listened to the first two takes and went: I’m so sorry. You did it already, I’m didn’t even hear it. And he was embarrassed.
And it was just like… Wow. It happens. Yeah. Even to the best of the best. I mean Foster is…
You’ve heard heard of Harold Payne right? Do you know who Harold Payne is? He’s a big time songwriter. And he helped write a song for Just Plain Folks. Which is a songwriters organization. Cause they did like a We Are The World. They brought in a bunch of different artists to sing different lines. And they had Alan O’Day producing, in the studio. Who’s no slouch of a writer. He’s had a couple of #1 hits. And Harold was sitting right, standing right next to me in this vocal booth. You know, to go over my line, do all this stuff. I go in. I do the first take. And I do it kinda bluesy. That’s how I thought it came across. And Allan is just going take after take and I hear Harold pull my thing back and he goes. Dude, you nailed it on the first take. I’m sorry.
Stay tuned for more peeks on the inside.