Tomorrow I will be flying to Toronto to begin recording my new CD. Once again, it will mostly be about quilting. The last CD I recorded was 4 years ago, and much has changed in the social networking world. This time, I am going to take you through the process, step by step, by telling you what we do each day.
I’ve been recording in the same studio in Toronto for the last 3 CDs. The Millstream is in a home in east Toronto, run by my old friend Paul Mills. Paul has a long history with folk music, and he’s one of the few people I really trust with my music. He has great ears (required for a sound engineer/producer), great songwriting sensibilities, and has made it comfortable and affordable for people like me to do a CD with him. He also does the artwork! So, if you’ve liked my last three CDs, then you’ll know what we aspire to with this one. He’s pretty famous too, having worked on most of the late Stan Rogers’ recordings, as well as the children’s superstar entertainers: Sharon, Lois and Bram. Having retired from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation many years ago, he has followed his dream to help musicians bring their music to the masses. He’s very good, and very easy to work with.
There are many ways to record. Sometimes people hire big studios in remote areas and spend months living there, writing and recording. They (or their record companies) are very rich. Some people take a portion of their weekly salaries and record a few hours at a time as they can afford it, and maybe by the end of a year or two they have enough songs to put out on CD.
I like to get things done quickly. I like having a deadline, even if it is self-imposed. And I like to immerse myself in the process, doing nothing else for a short and intense period of time. And, after four years of me quilting and touring, I think it’s high time to get another one out!
So – I’ve been writing songs here and there for the last year and a half or so. Dabbling. One came to me in Charlotte, NC. One when John went to get the car serviced in Lynchburg VA. But mostly, I write at home, and I’ve been waiting to get home from our four month tour to concentrate on the songs for this project.
For the last month I’ve been tidying up the songs I’ve written, and starting new songs as well. For me, the process is this: get the idea of the song down as quickly as possible, start to finish. Then, the editing begins. If my thoughts were clear at the beginning, I’ll be lucky and won’t need to do much editing. Editing means tweaking both the music and the lyrics so they flow, make sense, are interesting (or even exciting), easy to sing, memorable, that kind of stuff. (I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night for a few nights with one of them going through my head – this is a VERY good sign! The word for that is “earworm”.)
I have 14 songs now, most of which are ready. There’s still one more that needs a whole section written – maybe I’ll do that on the plane tomorrow. I have sent Paul (the producer) digital files of each of these songs, and he has gotten back to me with his comments (needs a chorus, too busy, etc.). That process will continue when I get to Toronto. We have also discussed what sorts of instrumentation might be appropriate, and Paul has already booked the drummer, piano player and penny whistle player!
I write in a wide range of styles. Although I call it folk music, my definition of folk is quite wide. This time, it encompasses a Celtic-style ballad, a couple of swingy tunes, a jig, a blues-rock song (a la Elvis! – that’s for John to sing), one that I would call a jazz standard, and a screaming electric guitar rock song! It’ll be interesting to hear these songs evolve in the studio – it’s always very exciting.
So: the first thing is to get everything I need in Toronto packed. My thick file of songs, my digital recorder, my computer, some extra paper. Workout clothes for when I get a moment. Embroidery floss – I’m going to be working on my crazy quilt in the evenings. This may or may not be the album cover artwork. Depends – a lot depends on whether I get it done!
We begin on Monday. Look for daily updates, and I’ll lead you through our journey of making this CD. At this point, I’m calling it “Little Crazy Quilt”.