I've had the good fortune to work with top music engineers and studios here in New Zealand, and to a very small extent have experienced working with a renown English producer.
Every time I go in the studio I am confronted with myself - meaning that the microphones hide nothing.
One of the best experiences I have ever had was working on my latest track,
Hope Is A Universe.
Here is the story of that song - in advance of its release..
I wrote Hope Is A Universe as part of the wonderful annual musical creative week named Outland Sessions. This is a full residential song-writing week for NZ songwriters and musicians at Pahiatua in the North Island.
The brainchild of Ian Moir (Dark Divinity, Into Orbit/Moirtellica) – a metal drummer – this is the latest iteration of annual song-writing sessions now in its eighth year or so. It was previously run at a different venue and was named Riverside Sessions due to its location.
The week is all about collaboration and I was fortunate indeed to again work with Keighty Maught’n (April Fish) – a pianist/composer/arranger, to pull the song out of a kernel I came up with at the time. Keighty is patient, massively competent and a real gem to work with in terms of reading just enough to give you a heading - but not enough to take control.
Having teased the guitar, piano accompaniment and vocal melodies out, I then had the privilege of having the immensely skilled applications of Bruce Wenzlick on drums (Heavy Duty/Headbutt/Days of Twelve). I think I told him think "Norah Jones ballad" and that's all the guidance he got..
Bass player Chris Fursdon (Wink/Blue Lotus/The Julie Lamb Outfit) has impressed me on both occasions I have been to Outland Sessions. He is a really laid back player yet very knowledgable and with a great touch across many genres.
Alex Aylett (Bad Sport) was kind enough to engineer this for me during this time - winning the prize for all around good guy as she did it - doing an outstanding job in spite of my best efforts at messing it up! Finally Ian Moir got his hand on the rudder in recording the strings which Keighty very kindly monstered in there for me..
This week is pretty high intensity – I wrote and performed the song entirely within a span of some 4 days; so there is not a lot of time to knock the rough edges out – indeed, the original strings take was on the last recording day. All up I think about 12 (?) hours of recording was involved in getting the first version down.
Having taken away a solid but rough performance, I then worked with Luke Finlay (Primal Mastering) to tighten up the underlying rhythms and sounds, prior to a full vocal expression day at the famed Revolver Studios, Waiuku NZ. I was fortunate indeed to work with Kenny Mac as engineer for the day as we worked and ‘took’ the full and dynamic vocals.
I then sent the track to Stuart Epps at his studios Epps Music Productions in Berkshire, UK. He thoroughly developed the voices and mix you (will) hear on the song; and completed mastering on the track.
This is my preferred version of the final track.
An alternately mastered track by Andy Baldwin of Metropolis Studios, London UK, is also available for those situations where a different balance of the instruments versus vocals, is desired.