From the blog...
Ok, now I have some time, after the relocation to London, I’d like to report the latest recording session with Will.
The guy is prolific. Too much maybe. Good stuff is constantly pouring out his musical self. Recording time.
We decided to get together again in his awesome place in Long Beach Island, right on the beach, that for the occasion was white with snow (culture shock. Beach. SNOW???)
Actually one day we’ve been snowed in, and that contributed in a way to the vibe of the session.
Last time we meet up we produced seven songs that ended up on “Nightbirds 1.0”.
The overall vibe of the first batch, at least from my point of view, was mellow, laid back, R’n B-ish, almost funky in places.
This time around the vibe of the songs called for a much more muscular, alt-rock environment. Of course, being classic american songwriting one of Will’s main inspirations, there is also a couple of pensive, acoustic based numbers.
Now, you have to know that Will works (wonders) as a worship music coordinator in a local Church (I don’t remember the exact confession; as a former italian catholic i grew up knowing that there was CATHOLICISM and then a bunch of other stuff for the infidels, go figure).
Well, calling it a Church is quite reductive. It has a big stage with a fully mic-ed drumkit, amps and keyboards, plus a control room on a mezzanine over the main room. It’s more like an Hallowed concert hall. Sweet.
We decided to follow the path we used during the first session: we cut bass and drums live (Will is also a very good drummer) on the stage (or should I say Altar) then we move to the apartment to record everything else.
If you look in any respectable music production manual, the chapter titled “what not to do” should reportedly say: “What Will and J did when they recorded Nightbirds”.
Having decided that a “live” (read: not to a click track) approach would have benefited the sound, we recorded the songs without any scratch backing tracks. We’d sit one next to each other, me with my sweet Ibanez and him behind the drums and we’d imagine the song in our heads, silently mouthing the words and the guitar parts.
We’d rehearse the song for a while and then we’d just record it three or four times, start to finish, no editing (I’m tired of wimpy sounding hyper produced records. Musicians used to be blood thirsty beasts in the studio and now they’re all “can we time quantize – auto tune those four bars pleaaaase?).
After a six hour session, we decided we had enough, drum and bass laid down, so we moved to the second stage of the production.
This time around we worked with more sounds, a bit of keyboards, electronic drumloops and different instruments including a banjo (!)
We ended up recording six more tracks, that added up to the other seven make for 50 good minutes of awesome music (shameless plug:you can enjoy by going to my “music” page)
NOTHING AT ALL:
This was a surprise for me. Will sent me the pre-production arrangements when I was in the hospital in Italy (long story). It shows Will’s love for indie rock and Foo Fighters flavoured power pop. We had a blast working on this. Nice wall-of-guitars approach and stellar vocals. No wait. All the songs feature stellar vocals. from now on just assume I always say it
WHAT IT TAKES
Mellow song with great Lyrics. We had a lively debate about the feel of the verses. I wanted them to be bouncy and upbeat, he preferred them to be more refined and laid back. He was right, this song will make for a nice third single off the album.
Check out during the last section there is an hidden “every breath you take” guitar that carries the song to the end.
OPEN YOUR HEART
Similar in feel to the songs we recorded during the first session, it shows Will’s love for the Dave Matthews Band. Far from being a clone, he borrows Carter Beaufort’s drumming style from the second chorus on, giving the groove an nice lift. The guitar work is very solid and unusual and there is some interesting polyrhythmic stuff going on. Can I blow my own horn and say the bass groove is cool?
TOO MUCH TO DRINK
Stellar songwriting for a people’s favourite. Every time he grabs a guitar somebody wants to hear it. AWESOME powerful lyrics and melody. We decided to keep it mellow, without any percussion, but we enriched the arrangement, based on a simple but beautiful acoustic guitar with some fender rhodes, cello, glockenspiel, bass and in the last part of the song, accordion and banjo.
GREAT DAY TO BE ALIVE
My favourite of the batch. Will didn’t even want to record it 😀 I asked him to trust my vision for the song and he’s been very gracious and let me mess around with his stuff. He wrote his song for his father, you see. I went for a Vertical Horizon style arrangement, and I actually play drums on this one. For some reason, maybe a strike of luck, I played what he called the “bad-ass bassline” during pre production, so I kept it. The guitar solo is from the pre production as well. Check out the amazing guitar part under the third verse, it’s pure genius!
LOVE WILL SET YOU FREE
Will sent me the demo for this song stating it was one of the best things he’s ever written. I didn’t like it 😀 Then we started working on it and it grew on me. I don’t know what happened. The structure of the song remained the same, we went for a stripped down “lonesome cowboy” sound. Awesome acoustic guitar solo. Handclaps. I managed to sneak in a Mellotron. Ain’t life good? 🙂
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