Day One – it’s all about the songs

I’m tired.  Just finished my first day with Paul at the Millstream. The first stage is called pre-production, and we go through all the songs.  We listen for everything: structure, boring or inappropriate melody, lyrics that stick out or are too busy (my personal problem).  I sing the songs as they are to Paul, who is learning about them at the same time – he has heard them, but not in their current form.  Since they are almost all new songs for me, they are still quite changeable. He makes suggestions sometimes of lyric changes, or chord changes, or even structure (where the verse, chorus, instrumentals and bridge sections are).  Then he writes the charts: the musical map of the song.  That’s what the other musicians will use to record their parts on it, and it’s just the chords, timing and structure, no melody and no lyrics.

This morning we spent the time on Panguitch – the song I wrote about the Panguitch quilt walk in Utah.  I’ve actually performed the song quite a few times, so it’s in pretty good shape.  We decided on a string trio would be lovely on the song, along with my guitar, bass, lead guitar and accordion (possibly).  Paul is really good at string arrangements, so he took the time to write that chart now.  It’s the actual notes that each player will play. It’s going to be lovely.

After lunch, we went through 5 other songs in the same way.  We “tweaked” a few chords that we think will make the songs better; I played him the changes I’ve made based on his previous comments via email.  It’s all good.

We’ll be using many musicians on this, as usual.  I’m excited to meet a new bass player, and to work again with the same drummer (Al Cross), piano player (Tom Leighton) as last time. We’re also adding saxophone on the African-style song (the story about Martha’s Quilt for Queen Victoria). “Little Crazy Quilt”, the charming little song from Patti Page’s repertoire, will have clarinet! “Treat it Right” is sort of a bluegrass song, and so will have banjo, mandolin, fiddle and and bass. We’ve decided “Buzzing at the Bee” will have Andrews’ Sisters’ style backup vocals on it!

At this point, it’s all in our imaginations, but it’s very exciting.  Just having Paul add his guitar to my playing somehow makes the songs more real to me.  I’ve been playing them all by myself (or even just in my head) for such a long time. On every recording I’ve done, the day the bass and drums arrive and I hear them add their magic to my songs, I get very excited. I think “Hey,  I can actually hear a real CD starting to happen!”  And I mean, every time – from then on, the music is solid and important to me, and I carry that along to the performances. 

Tonight I’m going to take myself out to dinner, then come back and start the hand embroidery of the crazy quilt.  I’m still working on one section of my song about the Quilt of Belonging – it’s the last one, and it’s almost done.  Tomorrow we should finish the first go-round of the songs.  Two days of pre-production.  Then, I’ll be starting to record.

More later.

3 Responses to “Day One – it’s all about the songs”

  1. Barbara Tricarico Says:

    Paul sounds like a genius! I’ve seen how the experts can tweak songs (on American Idol for example) to make them sound compatible to the artist’s style. Sometimes, it just takes someone else to hear it since you’re very close to your own material!

    Hang in there & enjoy your dinner. You deserve to relax a bit. Can’t wait to see the crazy quilt and hear the CD!

  2. Jennifer Says:

    Hope you enjoyed your dinner – you’re probably in bed by now! That’s interesting ‘stuff’ about how you make your recordings.

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