“And the piano it sounds like a carnival
And the microphone smells like a beer
And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar
And say, “Man, what are you doing here?”
© Billy Joel, from the album “Piano Man”, 1973
Almost a month to the day, but not quite from my last update and a lot has happened in the intervening time. Thankfully, my previous worst-case-scenario of having to have a fire sale of everything in order to keep going has been averted as I make yet another comeback into my chosen day job in the next few days, but it will mean relocating away from Wiltshire ultimately… so things are likely to go quiet around here for a while I make that the priority for the next few months.
But, to get back on track; the last update I put up nearly a month ago saw all of the backing vocals done across all of the tracks, with a degree of nervousness about the task ahead which was lead vocals. Well, that has all now also been completed. All 18 tracks now have their lead vocals recorded. Not necessarily comp’d and treated yet, but they’re all in the can.
And only in one case did I need to ask a singer to take my place behind the mic and that was for Elia. Mainly because I got too close to see the wood for the trees and didnt really have the deepness in my voice. So, I asked my dear friend and collaborator David Barnes to join me and he delivered a great interpretation of the melody for the song and it really has done it justice. The background vocals do exactly what they are supposed to, they support, embellish and add to the track but without getting in the way of the lead; I’m very happy with it.
The rest of the songs, I’ve had to work through myself, starting with Five Years at the beginning of July and ending with Talk To Me this afternoon. And, as I alluded to in a previous blog, it has been educational. Some of the songs have ended up with a slightly different feel to what was originally conceived; Let It Go is more MacAloon than Skellern, Stay has ended up sounding like it has been done by the bastard offspring of Gareth Gates and Barry Gibb (its not as bad as it sounds, honest it isnt!), Escape From The Shadows comes across as more Jarvis Cocker than Bernard Summer or Mark Hollis; This Time didnt get the Geldorf/Tudorpole sneery tone that I originally envisaged (couldnt quite get it) and The Fear Of Missing Out ended up being more Tom Waits/Bob Seger than Donald Fagen (try as I might, I couldnt really get Fagen’s really languid New York drawl and believe me I tried. Really tried. Just didnt suit the track, although my minds ear can still hear it as clear as day. Oh well…). Manhattan Lullaby ended up being more MacAloon than Munro (not what I had written the track for, but shooting for Matt and ending up with Paddy is fine by me, haha) – but Stars, Talk To Me, No Getting Over You, Castles In The Sky and Doesnt Matter Now ended up being very much how I hoped they would be. As did Five Years: Its not George Michael (and it never will be, in all seriousness, Different Corner was an inspiration, not an aspiration), but it has the right feel for the track.
And in each case, as it always is, the more I did it, the more comfortable I got with the process and started, to use that hackneyed old saying, to find my (singing) voice at long last. It went from taking hours with Let It Go and Five Years (and up to dozens of takes with The Fear Of Missing Out and No Getting Over You… you’ve no idea how many goes I had to have at the opening line of the chorus to pitch it properly, LOL) to doing Talk To Me in less than an hour from start to finish and then hitting the STOP button and thinking “..Bloody hell… it was that easy?”
So… there is still a lot to do. There needs to be a lot of comping done on pretty much all of the tracks and there is going to be quite a bit of minor pitch-fixing and use of some of the plug ins like Zplane Vielklang to have another look at some of the more prominent harmonies, especially in Talk To Me, The Fear Of Missing Out, This Time and Escape From The Shadows. That is likely to be very time consuming and chances are, it is going to have to be line by line, verse by verse, which means that its likely to be quite some time before we get everything to the point where mixing can be completed.
So, as well as learning to be a writer over the last three years and learning to be a singer of sorts this year, its soon time to learn how to be a mixing engineer as well, if this project is to sound as good as I know it can. Listening to some of the roughs like Five Years, Elia, The Fear Of Missing Out, Stars, No Getting Over You has given me some real lump in the throat moments (in a nice “..oh my God… I’m capable of that??” way, just to clarify, LOL) where the vision of the original song has come very close to being realised and sounding just like it had in my minds ear, which is incredibly uplifting and in some cases quite emotional.
As I said before, most of my emotional content up to this point has been in my lyrics as opposed to my musical performances, but I think that is changing now, for the better. This is something I’ve always lauded my heroes and inspirations for and while I’ll never claim to be in their league, if I’ve earned the right to walk on the same dusty roads as them, thats good enough for me.
As of Monday next week, I have to concentrate on the day job until that is stable and then move house. I’m hoping to snatch the odd few hours on weekends over the next few months to do as much of the comping as I can and will probably commence the mixing and mastering when I relocate, although I might change my mind on that over the coming months.
Its been a very educational journey so far and about 70% of it is done. The remainder may well see the tracks evolve and change again between now and the finish line, based on what other new things I learn between now and then. But as an amateur writer with a vision, I’m very heartened to have got as far as I have on this road with the prospect of finishing the project still being fully intact. No doubt there are many others who have set out on journeys like I have and abandoned them part way through for a multitude of reasons. But, doing something as a personal legacy above everything else is quite a spur to get things finished, no matter how long they take.
I’ll keep on posting updates as the project matures. Meantime, it’ll go quiet for a little while, but that doesnt mean that nothing is happening.