Firstly, thanks so much to everyone who turned out on the wet, windy night in Galway last Wednesday, and everyone who showed up in Dublin on Thursday for the gig in the gorgeous, intimate venue upstairs in Twisted Pepper. It brought a smile to my face to see so many familiar and unfamiliar faces coming out to help celebrate the album getting out into the world.
Secondly, thank you to “The Meadhbhs” and “The Sullivans” for adding their voices to the shows. I named the two little groups after Meadhbh Sullivan, who provides most of the additional vocals on the album, but unfortunately wasn’t able to be a part of the launch gigs due to a show she is acting in this week in Cork. (It’s in The Granary in Cork all this week. Go see it.)
The Meadhbhs (Galway choir): Deirbhile Ni Bhrolchain, Elise Karlsson, Fionnuala Connolly, Kevin Brett.
The Sullivans (Dublin choir): Jo McNamarra, Dearbhla Kelly, Sally O’Dunlaigh.
That idea worked out pretty well. I had one rehearsal with each group before the show, and I’d emailed them the parts and the tracks they were singing, and I was just hoping that it would come together pretty easily. But it really did, and they added so much to the songs they were singing on.
The album got a little mention in The Ticket section of The Irish Times today, and yesterday on Jim Carroll’s “On The Record” blog too, which was rather lovely to see, to be honest. I nicked a copy of The Ticket from a café today after I spotted it.
I realise I’ve not posted any photos of myself from the studio days, but then Charthouse Studios themselves posted some shots of me today. So, thank you Ian, for taking some photos of me pretending to play the piano. I’m sure it looks dead natural. These were actually from the last day that I was tracking piano and vocals for the record.
I’m back in the studio next week for a final day to fix the little niggly things that aren’t quite right with the mixes just yet. The mixing days were long, but were really interesting to be honest. It brought so much clarity to what we had tracked, and really cleaned up the tracks so much by refining and shaping the songs to sound the way they should. We covered a lot of ground in a very short space of time, but really, it’s still a record being made on a very tight budget, so that’s to be expected. That said, I’m really pleased with how it has been turning out and I can’t wait until it is all finished and I’m able to share it with people. It definitely has been the best use of my summer possible.
The last little pieces of the recording plan fell into place this week, as I got a double bass player, and some of the additional vocalists into the studio. I’m spending a few days not listening to anything now, so I can go back with fresh ears and hear what I’ve done over the 11 days in total that I spent tracking in the studio. Perhaps fresh ears will point out something I need on a track that I’d not previously planned on, or thought of, or will pick out something that was recorded that maybe doesn’t work or fit as well as I thought it would. Regardless, I’m taking a break from it all, and listening to other music that I love.
Meadhbh was up on Tuesday to do her parts for me and even managed to remind me of a harmony part that I’d completely forgotten which she had demo’d for me nearly three years ago. I also added her voice into the mix where I’d been building up a choral texture of my own voice. I wanted an additional vocal timbre in the mix to better clarify some of the lines and to highlight some of the detail in the arrangements that I thought were getting a bit lost with just one multi-tracked voice.
Later that afternoon, some of the :fund:it backing singers landed in to track their parts. There had been a few cancellations over the previous weekend, but at that stage the studio time had been arranged and worked around all the dates and times that had been sent to me. It’s a pity that some people had to cancel last minute, but those who arrived and sang had a great time in the studio. I made a last minute change to what I wanted them to sing on one of the tracks, and wasn’t fully sure myself if it would work on the song or not, but the part sounds really wonderful and makes me smile so much. They got to see the studio, and have a look around the control room. Tracking some parts for a second track they really got to see how some parts are put together in the studio, and see how I put together some of the vocal arrangements.
On Wednesday George was in the studio to add double bass parts on some of the tracks. Damn, but that is a sexy instrument. It really helped add some more depth to the tracks it was on. Prior to this, the only bass notes have been from the piano parts, and I wouldn’t say my left hand is my strongest to be perfectly honest.
One of my favourite things about this whole process has been hearing what other musicians have brought to the songs – I’ve had ideas, or parts, or rough notions of what I wanted, and seeing how they interpreted all that was nerve wracking and exciting at the same time. Sometimes frustrating too, but always rewarding in the end. At times it was just sheer great fun.
Last week I had the pleasure of having two talented guys in playing on some tracks for my record. Aongus from Henrietta Game came in do some cello work, and Karl from The Young Folk was in on drums. It was a bit nerve-wracking for me initially, as it’s the first time I’ve had other people playing on my songs, aside from some friends singing with me or whatever.
I also don’t speak drums very well, and found it much harder to have a clear sense of what I wanted from the drummer. As opposed to the cellist, who I could deal with in terms of notes, pitches, and melodies, and felt way more at home with. Drumming is all about rhythms and textures or timbres – the different qualities of sounds used to create the rhythms and atmospheres. It really was a learning experience for me – the limit of my experience with drums was when I played with a rock band briefly in the UK as a session pianist, and then when Sweeney Lee had a drummer in her live band which I was the pianist for. It was always other people’s material, and never my own. But it was great to have the help of the engineer who was able to be a sort of translator between the two of us, and Karl brought some brilliant ideas and suggestions for songs I’d not even thought of having drums on.
When it came to the cello day, I had clear ideas of what I wanted him to play for some of the songs, and then just vague ideas of what I wanted and where I wanted them for other songs, so it was a mix of me quite explicitly telling Aongus what to plan and when, and giving him free rein to come up with a part for other sections. But even so, if there was something I liked better than another idea, or if he needed chord charts, that was all a musical language I was familiar with – notes, chords, keys – and I could express what I was looking for far easier.
Heading back in for the last few days of tracking tomorrow. There’s a bass player coming in, along with Meadhbh who is adding some beautiful vocals for me. The :fund:it backing singers are in too, to add their parts into the mix, and then we should be finished tracking the record at that stage. I’ll update after the next session, and I’ll definitely know where I stand at that point, but I can start to see the finished project coming together at the moment, and it’s quite exciting to see things taking shape.
Confirmed my next few days back in Charthouse Studios now that my Fund:it campaign was successful. It’s a bit of a relief to know that I can afford to go back in and get back to work on the track that I’ve been recording. I got a bit distracted this past month by working on the funding campaign, and trying to get it off the ground and get the money raised that would facilitate going back into the studio.
Interestingly, I’ve already had a few chats with people I know about the campaign, how I ran it, and what tips or advice I would give people about how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign. It’s something I might come back to and post about when I get a full breakdown of the pledges, but for now I’m happy just to know that I crossed the line and that there is a base of support out there that are willing to help get involved even on a small scale to enable me to finish off the work I’ve been doing on this album.
The next round of days in the studio should finish off all my piano and vocal tracks, and then the following time will be dedicated to any other players or singers I’m bringing in on the tracks. I’ve a plan formed for the studio time, which I will probably adapt slightly as I go along, but I have tended to be overly prepared in advance of any time in the studio, as I know all too well just how costly it is, and how well you gotta manage your time when you’re working on a tight budget.
As it is, I can’t wait to get back at it. I’ve been really enjoying working in the studio, and I’m already making plans for what I want to do studio-wise after this project. But for now, the focus is on finishing the album and getting it out for people to hear.