Last week Rachael and I got to work on her album. Nothing was recorded, no musicians were brought in, no studio time was used. What we are doing now is called preproduction.
I imagine that some famous bands with extensive recording budgets can simply rent out a studio for six months wherein they show up with an artistic blank slate and proceed to write, rehearse, and record their album. Most bands, however, don’t have the luxury of renting out a studio for that length of time.
As anyone who has recorded an album knows, most of the work is (or should be) done way before you book studio time. This is not only a practical or economic matter, it’s also an artistic one. While everyone goes about writing songs in a slightly different way, most of the musicians I admire spend a lot of time with their material: they write things, rewrite things, put parts together, take them apart again, realize that something is really working well, realize that something sounds terrible, scrap songs, resurrect scrapped songs, and so on.
This process takes time. It takes time to learn to like a song, to discern when it is ”done.” It takes time because through the process of writing a song it’s easy to lose objectivity about it. When you hear it too often you get sick of it, even if it’s a good song. So sometimes you have to put it away for a day or two and come back to it again with some fresh perspective.
Once you’re happy with it, then there’s the process of involving other people: producers, studio engineers, other musicians, etc. It’s a tiring and nerve-racking experience and it’s one that I want to make as profitable as I can for Rachael.
This is the first time that she has ever had an album produced by someone, and it’s my first time producing her. My job is not to ”fix” her songs, or plug her material into the “hit machine,” or wax eloquent about ”hooks.” My job is to give her my undivided attention, invest in her, encourage her, challenge her, give her honest feedback, and ultimately contribute to her growth as an artist.
My job is to lead her in a direction that will result in her becoming a better musician and songwriter, and ultimately increase her love of music. So again, a lot of this has to be done outside of the studio, way before we ever press “record.”
This first meeting was really good in some ways, probably really hard in others, but hopefully productive. We spent several hours listening to the songs and talking about what they were about, how they should be arranged, what was good about them, and what was bad. It was pretty exhausting, but I’m very proud of Rachael and her response, and I know that if she endures this refining process that it’s only going to make her album that much better.
We’ve got a lot of work do before we start tracking. I’m very excited to see how these songs are forged, improved, loved on, and ultimately recorded. Here’s to many more productive meetings.