Finished! (Sort of…)

9 03 2008

The background vocals are finished!  (And so are we!)  We completed background vocals on Thursday morning and brought a close to our portion of the recording process.  We had an early celebration on Wednesday night at Taste of Texas where Scott professed to having perhaps the best steak of his life.  It’s such a pleasure to see months of planning, hard work, and creative energy come to fruition in this project.

The final songs to be finished were Thunder Roll, These Precious Minutes, One, and Face of God.  We had to be careful, particularly on Face of God and Thunder Roll, to not create background vocal arrangements that drew attention away from the vulnerable, sensitive lead vocal and lyric.  I think we walked the line rather well, creating a mixture of counterpoint and vocal stacks that support the lyric and fill sonic space without becoming a thing unto themselves.  On several occasions when we were unsure of what to put in a specific section of the song we just found a simple part to start with and then began to build and improvise on the fly, adding and subtracting layers to the stacks until they just felt right.  I think this created a very pleasing effect.  At times the voice leading isn’t textbook, there are notes that aren’t technically in the chords, and the rhythms occasionally fail to match precisely, but the overall sound is remarkably full and richly-layered.  The vocals sound natural and subtle without being forced, rehearsed, or structured.

And so at this point the rest of the process is out of our hands.  Scott returned to Nashville with the music and is beginning to mix in his home studio.  On Friday our guitar player, Greg Hagan, will work with Scott on adding a few guitar parts that will help fill out a couple of the songs.  Then Scott will be able to finish the mix as his schedule allows.  After the mix process we’ll master the songs, which gets them ready to be put onto a CD.  Then it’s off to the manufacturing house to get the product made and ready for your CD player.  The end is in sight! 


BGVs Day 1 and 2

4 03 2008

It’s the end of another day of background vocals and we are halfway through!  Scott returned to Houston on Sunday night and we got to work on Monday morning, spending the day on BGVs for Be Glorious and Light of the World.  Today Jess did most of the work as we finished up Shout it Out and Undone.  On most of these songs it is taking longer to complete the background vocals than it did to finish the lead vocal, but it has been great fun figuring out the parts and being creative with how we use the vocals.

The process of recording background vocals is perhaps the most collaborative and open-ended of all the things we’ve done on the record.  While the lead vocal has been written and, for the most part, is set in stone, the background vocals are a blank canvas.  We begin by heading to the logical places a song might need background vocals – the chorus and the bridge typically.  We listen through a section of the song a few times trying to decide if that section needs background vocals at all, and if so what kind.  Some places call for a counterpoint line, a harmony part that mimics the melody.  In other places a vocal stack or pad that fills in rhythmic and sonic space is more appropriate.  In some cases these collections of stacked, weaving vocal lines may not even be recognizable as voices when we’re finished.

Once we make a decision on a direction it is time to figure out the actual part – notes, words and rhythms.  This part of the process would probably appear rather comical to an outsider as we all listen through the section humming things to ourselves and then trying to teach each other the part we’re hearing in our heads.  After a few tries the decision is made and one of us goes to record the track, after which we start all over again with the next section.

We continue to find great fulfillment in the creative process.  There seems to be an echo of our Creator-Savior in the way we can bring something small from nothingness into existence.  How much greater the loving creativity of the World-Maker.  It is a humbling, perspective-giving thought.  We look forward to finishing the recording process this week – and perhaps even finding a day of rest somewhere on the other side! 

Vocal Days 3 and 4

22 02 2008

The lead vocals are finished!  We completed the last two songs, Shout it Out and Face of God, on Wednesday and then went out for a celebratory dinner at Carrabba’s.  It was a rewarding week as we dug into each lead vocal and tried to get the best performance possible.  Scott brought a fresh perspective to the songs that helped us think creatively about the melody and delivery.  Now we turn our attention to background vocals, which we’ll cut with Scott in the same fashion on March 3-6. 

On a sad note, Scott left early on Thursday to attend the memorial service for a friend in Nashville who passed away unexpectedly on Sunday.  Jackie Street, one of Nashville’s legendary bass players, slipped into a diabetic coma over the weekend from which he could not be awakened.  Though we had originally planned to work on Thursday, the fact that we were well ahead of schedule made it possible for Scott to catch an earlier flight and attend the memorial service in Nashville.  It was a small but meaningful blessing for which we thank God. 

We’ll continue with the background vocals in a week.  Thanks for your continued prayer and support! 

Vocal Days 1 and 2

19 02 2008

Well our home is now a studio…of sorts.  (By the way, we’d be happy to take your suggestions for what our home studio should be called.)  We have two extra bedrooms connected by a short hallway, one of which is now our vocal iso booth and the other of which is now our control room.  In the first room, our newly redecorated guest room, acoustic baffling surrounds two vocal mikes in the space between the bed and the closet.  In the second room, which functions as our computer room/study, our card table is set up next to a desk creating a workspace for the laptop, pre-amp, hard drives, mixer and converter.  Two studio monitors sit on speaker stands augmented by extra bricks from our backyard to achieve the optimum height.  It’s certainly a far cry from the professional studio we were in two weeks ago.

However, in spite of the seemingly endless tangle of cables and the gear placed wherever there was space, we are actually accomplishing something.  These days have been surprisingly productive and relaxing.  We have finished eight lead vocals already, leaving two left for tomorrow.  Then we’ll start on the background vocals that will complete each track.  We’ve even had time to take leisurely lunches and dinners and take breaks to enjoy clips of Brian Regan on YouTube.

Yesterday we began with Undone and Restore Me, then worked on Be Glorious and Light of the World.  Then today Jess put in most of the work, completing the lead vocals on Thunder Roll, These Precious Minutes and One.  In the afternoon I gave her voice a break and stepped in to do One in a Million.  That leaves Shout It Out and Face of God for tomorrow.  I’ll get some pictures up and describe the vocal process in a bit more detail later, but in the meantime we are moving along very well and getting some great performances on tape.