Oh, how I’ve missed the studio. It’s truly a great experience that I wish you could all partake in. The creativity, pressure, performance, and goofy antics that are unique to studio sessions make the long hours in a confined space well worth it. Well, that and obscene amounts of beer and whiskey. I’ll try my best to communicate the three day, 30-hour weekend below.
Patrick and Dan, brothers and banjo players, have both lived in NYC for over 5 years. Fortunately for us, this time has allowed them to build several relationships with musicians in and around the city. As of a couple weeks ago, our banjo, mandolin, harmonica, and cello players all reside within travel distance of Galaxy Smith Studios in Brooklyn. It was a perfect storm.
Although our Kickstarter budget wouldn’t support a trip east, I decided that this session was something I just couldn’t miss. Adam, my wife Kara, and I all personally purchased flights to NYC to brave the wintry cold and partake in the festivities.
The fun began at 2:00pm Thursday, as Adam and I arrived at the studio with a couple six packs. Dan and Dave (harmonica) we’re already there and warming up with our studio engineer, Bella Blasko. Dan was up to record first, and his performance experience certainly showed. I admit to having a bit of stage fright, especially when the pressure is on, but Dan is a great musician and pounded out tracks with no problems. To ease the stress, he alternated tracks with Dave until Patrick arrived at about 6pm.
Working with Dan and Dave was great, though. As director, I did give high level suggestions for general feel, style, and obviously, when they should come in. But that’s about where my input stopped. They each had written their own parts, had new suggestions, and even added parts that I had never before considered. It was awesome to have contributions from such talented musicians! Especially ones who understand musical theory, something I lack completely…
Unfortunately, Patrick arrived with a cold and couldn’t really sing… not a good situation for our lead vocalist. However, we discovered that with a shot of whiskey, Patrick’s scream was dead on. We threw him in front of the mic, made sure he didn’t see the bottom of his glass, and we got some great results. Patrick could also play his banjo parts, so the day wasn’t much of a loss.
One thing that was tricky for me was figuring out how to give feedback for each musician, as they all had different preferences. There was the sensitive type: “oh, that take was only just fine?” Or the no bull guy: “don’t patronize me, just tell me what I need to do.” And then there are times when something sounds off, but you have no idea how to verbalize it… At the end of the day though, I think we had minimal drama (except for one misdirected harmonica solo) and all felt great about our progress.