Category Archives: Producing

Singing is Believing

Been in recording sessions where the producer (or the engineer) seems ambivalent towards the singer and inattentive to listening for the emotional content (isn’t that the singer’s job description?). With printed lyrics they’re ready to correct the singer about a forgotten word or ensure the verses are in the right order otherwise they act like their watching tv – worse a rerun.
Even singers sometimes act blasé or perhaps sidetracked by criticism about their pitch or phrasing – maybe they got a parking ticket, whatever – they’re not in the best mood. Woe be the singer who’s attention wanders from what the song is about.
My favourite part about producing is the part where it’s just the singer, the person representing the ideas of the song. Sometimes asking where they were/ what happened when they wrote the song leads to best takes.
When I listen to Sister Rosetta Tharpe singing This Train or I Want You (She’s So Heavy) or Ballad Of a Thin Man or The Revolution Will Not Be Televised or Mississippi Goddam I believe every vowel.

Chubby Checker

There is an idea out there in the world that when recording you should forget about the fact that you are being recorded. That to get the real you you need to fool yourself…something like that.
When you weren’t being recorded you did something brilliant so now with a microphone you try to do it again but it didn’t happen, remained illusive. You think if only it had been recorded the first time…because the first time you did something special but now that you are trying to capture the something special it isn’t happening – must be because the presence of the microphone throws you …or so goes the usual wisdom.
What if altering ones performance is a good thing? What if knowing you are being recorded and knowing you are inclined to perform differently because the lights are on people are watching yada yada was an advantage, was something to use creatively? Instead of planning to pretend you aren’t aware  (when you actually are) you planned to take the altered state and enjoy it for the purposes of making a recording – enter into it knowing it can’t be what you had without a microphone. Maybe that’s the way to fool oneself?
Probably not.

whoever is producing

whoever is producing the record has to

  • be the song’s best friend
  • surround yourself with collaborators who don’t make a hissy fit if you disagree.
  • listen to every vocal take as if you were the singer, same goes for all the other contributors parts especially the drummer. Consider every fill every cymbal ping or bash and why they felt it that way even if you later mute it you have to be interested in understanding how each contributor tries to sculpt their part.
  • lie reassuringly to anyone connected to the project who speaks negatively about the artist or speaks manipulatively about what should be on the record because producing a record is either about you helping the artist make a great work of art or it’s about helping yourself be part of that club of power brokers.
  • review the songs so many times people avoid asking you what you’re working on.
  • mix it with intense attention to detail or with someone who is even more insane about attention to detail.
  • when it’s over as long as the artist is impressed don’t cry if it doesn’t become the next big big deal. the reward is the work and it has it’s own lifespan. Bach and Van Gogh both died with nobody sitting them down to say what you do changed my life. it’s amazing. don’t stop doing this. and the future figured it out. time is much longer than our little ride on the subway.

here are 3 records i’ve done in recent years that felt right about these conditions