The CD Release at Rockwood Music Hall is over! I have such mixed emotions over it. I’m sad it’s over and I wish I could do it all again, relieved and excited that you all can finally hear the music, and so proud and grateful that you all came to support the event. I’m going to post some live audio from the night, and pictures soon, but for now please share this link with all of your friends:
This is where you can listen to, and purchase your digital copy of “Here’s to You” If you would like to order a hard copy CD, for now you can just email me at BryceLarsenMusic@gmail.com. I will send you a Paypal link and mail it to you. I just want everyone to hear it I am so freakin excited!
Mark your calendars everyone, “Here’s to You”, the album that you made happen will be coming out on Friday, March 29th!
I am very excited to announce that the release party and concert will be at Rockwood Music Hall in Manhattan, starting at 6:30pm. Rockwood is one of my favorite venue’s in the city and I am so honored that they would offer me their large stage for this celebration!
Everyone who backed the kickstarter will get in for free, all you need to do is RSVP by March 20th to email@example.com. I will reserve a ticket for you at will-call. Tickets are on sale now at the Rockwood Music Hall website, or at this direct link:
Whoa, it’s been a while since I really posted a blog. This process has really been a whirlwind of excitement and activity, and it’s been all I could do to remember to film as much of it as I can… let alone editing video and putting together blogs. I was planning on starting to record lead vocals today, but I am fighting some sort of sinus pressure that is really changing my vocal tone (normally I wouldn’t mind, but this is the real deal!), so I’m taking this time to write a quick recap of the last few weeks.
After the two days at Darkhorse studios, we had solid tracks for the drum loops, drum set, and most of the bass. We also had scratch tracks (meaning tracks to play along with, but not keep for the final product) of my guitar and vocals. All of these files were loaded into the computer at Freddy’s studio (The Okra Shack) and we spent the next week editing drums. There wasn’t any timing that needed editing, or missed hits. What we were doing was going into each track and removing the background noise and mic bleed from each drum, as well as running the tracks through a new system of rack equipment to thicken the sound.
When the drums were done, it was time for me to record guitar! For the most part, I was able to really knock this out quickly. In about three days, we had all of my tracks recorded and were working on editing them (cleaning the background noise and missed notes.) On the third day, while editing, we decided to re-record one section of a song, and found a new way of recording that sounded even better… this meant that all of the tracks really needed to be redone so that the album is consistent and they all have the best sound possible.
So! I spent the next day re-recording two takes (one for the left and one for the right) of each song on guitar, then we spent the next day editing those tracks.
When the guitars and drums were all done, Charlie (Chopper) Andersen came into the Okra Shack to re-record a few of the bass parts from Dark Horse. Once again, Freddy was able to get a new sound on his bass that was so much better that we had to re-record everything. Nobody minded though, because now the parts are that much better and the whole thing was really starting to sound like a professional record!
Once the new bass parts were edited, we brought in Shane Keister to play keyboards for two days. He brought in two terabyte drives full of samples and sounds that we could use, and set up his keyboard in the studio. He added a phenomenal acoustic piano track that runs through every song, we did some really cool string arrangements, and added a lot of B3 organ and wurlitzer keyboard. Shane put down at least three “passes” or takes, for every instrument on every song. We have a whole lot to work with, it’s going to be really hard to choose the parts to use!
Now that the keys are edited (which took more than a day because we had so much to choose from), It’s on to vocals for me! I just gotta get my voice in shape… so it’s off to walgreens for a steamer and a neti pot. It was pretty smart of me to leave all that at home…
By the way… if any of this is confusing, don’t worry because I’ve been confused too. Freddy has been really awesome about explaining things to me, so when I put the videos together when we’re done, I’ll be able to make it all as clear as possible.
I have had quite a few experiences with recording. I have worked in finished basements that look fantastic and sound awful, unfinished basements that look terrible and sound fantastic, top of the line studios with huge sound rooms and a whole lot of the in between, so I thought I had an idea of what to expect when we went in to record the drums and bass for “Here’s to You”.
…I was wrong.
A few factors that completely changed the experience were: a professional engineer doing solely the job of an engineer, a studio assistant qualified enough to be an engineer, an unbelievable producer who I trust having the freedom to do his job as producer (thanks to the engineers) and of course the talent and experience of two nashville session players that can latch onto a song and rip it apart in one take. I’ve also never worked with analog 2-inch tape before.
First, on tuesday night, Freddy’s assistant Dustin and I spent some time in the studio setting up for the session. Dustin was working on calibrating the 2” Tape machineand setting up mic lines, while I spent the evening in what would soon be my recording room, writing out charts (sheet music that includes the chords and timing for the songs… see picture) to the best of my ability. I’ve written chord charts and lyric sheets in the past, but in my experience, everyone I give them to usually has a different style and I have yet to find an accepted way to do it. I did it by writing out measures with chord names in them. When we bring in Shane on keyboards, he will chart the songs in the accepted nashville style so I’ll show you those and you can see how different mine are!
By the time my charts were finished, my managers Gabe and Brian had arrived in town, so they helped me to make the photocopies and packets for everyone involved, then we went to dinner in Franklin. (We ate at the Red Pony, and it was phenomenal!)
On Wednesday morning, I got up like any other day of studio work, and went through the motions of preparing my voice for a long day of singing. I drank lots of water, did some yoga, vocal warmups, etc. Then I headed out to Dark Horse, stopping at the supermarket for a big party tray for the guys for lunch. When I got to the studio, Charlie was pretty much set up, and Brian was getting his drums put together, I met Chris and we got some sounds on my acoustic and vocal mics for the scratch track. The drums and bass were set up in the large sound room, along with a headphone mix and stand area for Freddy to guide the guys through the session. I spent most of the time in a separate isolation booth from which I could see Gabe and Brian Cano hanging out in the piano room listening, and Dustin working, but I couldn’t see Brian Pruitt, Charlie, Freddy or Chris. That was ok though because my headphones were amazing! It was as if everyone was standing right next to me when they spoke or played their instruments.
We started with Here’s to You, the title track from the album that was once called “Here’s to Hoping” before we re-wrote it. The first thing we did was listen to my demo, or “work tape” that I recorded on the porch two weeks ago, and read through the charts along with it. Freddy would say a few things to Brian and Charlie while we listened, then we’d get into position and run the song. Just like that. No clarification, no practice, nothing. When Brian turned on the loops and counted us in, I just started playing like I had practiced, and just watched as the song transformed in front of me. Having heard it acoustic for so many years, I didn’t really know what to expect when the whole band came in! Brian not only played the drums and percussion for the session, but he also took time beforehand to come up with digital drum loops inspired by my love for african percussion and the rhythms of New Orleans, that we would record to tape as well. These loops were unbelievable with djembes and talking drums, bongos, and shakers of all sorts, along with digital sounds and crazy bass drums. Freddy and I will be able to use them as we see fit later because they were recorded for the entirety of each song.
This happened for song after song, “Cigarettes”, “Healing Love” (which by the way we recorded in one amazing take!), “Take the World On”, “Disappear” and “One” were all recorded in the same way by 4pm. I had been searching for an arrangement of “Take the World On” that really worked since we wrote it years ago, and now I finally feel like it is ready to …uh.. take on the world! I watched the guys make changes on the spot, then roll tape and nail it song after song. It was unbelievable.
By the way, working with analog 2” tape was a really crazy experience. There was no monitor with waveforms to show Chris where the mistakes were, and no protools tricks to fix up little mistakes. Each track recorded to one of the 24 tracks on the tape, so it was possible to go back and fix the basslines with a punch, or my guitar and vocal, but it was almost impossible to punch in an edit (punch means to start recording in the middle of the song to record over a mistake, real easy on a computer) for the drums because of the mic bleed, meaning a little of each drum’s sound went into all the mics on the drum set, making it very hard to make a smooth edit. Chris and Dustin would mark down the points on the tape that begin each measure of the song, so that we could go back and make edits smoothly by typing in the location on the tape. the machine would then do this awesome high speed rewind thing and find it’s spot with a cool record scratching sound. He couldn’t just click on measure 12 and hit record like you can in protools, Chris and Dustin really had to be on top of their game, take notes all day and be ready to go to any point in any song for an edit. I was absolutely amazed at what they could do with no visual aid.
So when we finished all of the drum and bass tracks, Charlie was done for the day. Next, we took two passes through each song, one for me to re-record my acoustic, and one for me to record my vocal parts, so that we have separate tracks to work with for the rest of the process. While I was playing the guitar, Brian was listening to see if there was a need for any auxiliary percussion (or “perc”). Then, on the second pass, while I was singing a new lead vocal part, Brian would be in the main room recording his percussion parts like tambourine, shaker, bongos, and more. I was really glad I had spent so much time practicing over the last few weeks because I was able to solidly play through all of the songs, even the difficult ones without many mistakes.
Once we were all done, it was about 7pm. exactly when Freddy said we’d be done. This is the first time I’ve ever had a studio session go according to schedule… Anyway, I headed into town to go to dinner with Gabe and Brian on lower broadway and check out some of the Nashville live music. We hit up Jack’s BBQ and had a great meal, then bounced around to a few of the fun venues on lower broadway taking in the southern sounds that are so hard to come by in New York.
On Thursday, we got an earlier start and were recording by 9:30am! I had had a rough night of sleep, I guess because I was so excited about the whole thing, now that I’d seen what it’s like to work with true studio professionals, and seen half of my songs turn into radio hits before my eyes (or ears). I finally fell asleep at who knows what hour, but then I ended up sleeping in, and waking up tired and clogged with allergies and quickly got ready and went to the studio.
The second day was just as surprising and amazing as the first. I had spend some time on wednesday trying to clean up my charts because we ran into a few issues where the guys were making mistakes because my charts were wrong, so I handed out new copies to everyone, and still we found problems in every one while listening down! The good news is, that this time I was able to point them out and correct them before we got into position. We had a few more one or two take songs, (we started with “So Like Me,” and Sting, which went really smoothly) the went through “Wanderlust” in one shot, and then sort of got stuck on “Man Like Me”. I have been playing “Man Like Me” for a few years now, and I really love my timing changes that are in there. When I was able to step back and really see the song from a listener’s perspective, and especially when the drums and bass were in there accenting the timing changes, or trying to smooth them out, we started searching for other ways to get through the verse. The final product is an upbeat, energetic rock song that is going to be a really great part of the album and I am really excited about it. There’s still a part of me though that misses the cool factor of using 6/4, 7/4, and 4/4 and leaving no space between the lines of the verse. Again though, I really do like the new version a lot for the full band. When I play it acoustic though I might still use the old way… I’m not sure. That being said, one thing I need to work on is making decisions quickly and not taking weeks to mill over which idea I like better.
We were done with everything by 2pm, and moved on to percussion and the two passes for my guitar and vocal tracks. When it was all over and I was packing my guitars, I had a really hard time leaving! It was such an amazing experience. It really opened my eyes to the reality of this situation. This album is going to be like nothing I’ve ever done before. It took me this long to be ready, and it took all of your support to make it happen, but this is going to be a record that will make us all proud.
Well, almost a new song. Yesterday we started by reworking a short hook idea that I had, and fleshing out the concept for the song. The short hook was: “Isn’t it so like me…”
There are so many ways that we could take that hook and build a song around it. It could be a sweet song about “forgetting everything but loving you”, it could be a song about habits that make loving me difficult, or easy, it could be a sexy song, you could turn it around to “isn’t it so like you…” and another can of worms will open up.
So, we spent the day settling on a concept, then writing, and drifting to another concept or back to an old one in the process, and by the end of the day we had 6 great verses written, but none of them truly fit together in one song. I was starting to get frustrated around 4pm, but I couldn’t get the hook out of my head and I just wanted to hear the song finished! Freddy took a break and I continued to work, moving from the porch, to the hammock, to the swing, to the bench, back to the porch, back to the hammock. I wrote verse after verse and erased them all. Finally I gave up, and realized that my mind had been a little off all day after playing on the bridge for four hours the night before and sleeping only 5 hours. I took the rest of the night to read my book, listened to Freddy’s stories of the early music industry, and went to bed early. I’m feeling a lot better this morning and I can’t wait to get started again on “So Like Me”!