This year couldn’t have started better. The first week I headed off to Cornwall to record with The Company of Players. We were at Cube Recording and had just under a week to get our debut album together.
It was such a great experience. My admiration for the other band members again rose, my own knowledge of the recording process grew, and I can’t tell you how great the songs are sounding and how incredibly proud of this record I feel – and it wasn’t even finished when I left.
Couldn’t fit all my thoughts about it in one blog but some of the things I wanted to chat about in my blog/ things I have learnt this week…
This maybe sounds pretentious and high maintenance but a big % of making a great record is about feeling great when you go in to the studio, about that being the only thing you have to think about. I have had some great recording experiences but I have never had the luxury of being able to hire a studio and live on site for consecutive days. My recordings have always been about when I can afford to get in the studio – often a spread out process that involves working lots of hours to save the money and then finding snippets of studio time to try and get in and get stuff down. My last album was a great experience but it was also a substantial amount of time on the M25 in rush hour, taking that out of the equation and replacing it with waking up in a beautiful cottage, eating, showering in the nicest shower ever, throwing on some comfy pyjama-like clothes and walking a few feet over to the studio was just wonderful.
Recording over a few days in the studio without having to run off to do something, or have the producer have to finish up for another client at some point was a great process. It felt like a musical retreat that I came away from feeling all zenlike 🙂
The Studio itself was out of this world. The Microphone I sang in to was worth more than my car, guitars and other worldly goods put together (although not quite as much as my house!) It managed to record my voice perfectly with a really lovely up close sound but somehow didn’t pick up all those weird lip movements and over breathiness that you often get when you try to get such a close recording (although this may have something also to do with Sam and Ross who were driving the good ship that was the studio – I’ll get on to them later)
The set up with little sound-proof booths meant that we could all track songs together live but there wasn’t the pressure of thinking “Gah if I mess up I mess up everyone’s take” because we were all being recorded separately. As a 10 piece band this was so important to us to get the live feel as a big part of our record – oh and as a 10 piece band it was kind of important we could track more than one instrument at a time or we may have been there for quite some time!
So this was one of the best things about Cube but not only do the booths allow you to track “alone with the band” (best of both worlds) they also have clear double sided doors in them so that you can SEE your band members. I am the queen of visual cues and really like to be able to “jam” with my band members – the set up for this is perfect, you get the feeling this place was designed by a musician or someone who has been around musicians their whole life. It is no exaggeration to say that this studio is perfect. They’ve thought of everything.
There’s space to practice, to drink tea, there’s headsets which allow you to control your own guide track separately to anybody elses, you can control the level of your own backing track throughout a take – I didn’t even know that was something I wanted in this life – but it is 🙂
You probably know how I feel about the other 9 members of the band so here I shall just wibble on a bit about the people who helped record our Album.
Gareth – Gareth owns Cube Recordings. He designed it and made it what it is. The studio has some pretty impressive clients and achievements. It is fair to say he is kind of a big deal. He is also really down to earth, goofy looking in photos, welcoming, funny, friendly and has a magical way of making you feel like you’ve known him for years and you should instantly make yourself really comfortable in his studio.
Ross – Ross was our engineer for the week. He too had a really good way of making you feel like you’d known him ages, for that week he kind of became a band member and I will miss him not being part of our shenanigans. He was funny and sarcastic and enjoyed an unhealthy snack – all good traits of a Company of Players band member. He is also really really talented. I am not good with ages but looking at how comfortable he is as an engineer, as if he’s had years of experience, and just listening to him talk about his life experiences so far, I can only assume he is somewhere in the region of 108? or perhaps he is in his twenties and is just one of life’s over achievers? either way we were lucky to have his skill and his personality with us for the week.
Sam – Sam. Sam Kelly. Sam F**ing Kelly. I don’t. I can’t. I struggle to sincerely put in to words my admiration for Sam after this week. Sam is seemingly the most effortlessly talented musician you will ever meet, see, hear. Good sounds and songs seem to just flow from him in an almost annoying way. He once played a Company of Players gig a little worse for ware. Before we went on stage I honestly have to say in my mind I was like “Can he do this?” but being a musician is as easy to Sam as breathing and he didn’t miss a beat. He is magical to watch and to listen to. He is a dream to play with. He is also a wonderful band mate who makes room for everybody.
Sam is producing the Company of Players album. Having seen him work this week I was blown away. Having seen him put in hours upon hours to support everyone to get their best performance, keep everyone happy, pay acute attention to the same track even after listening to it for the 800th time. He never once waned in his enthusiasm. He is so passionate about music and so wants to get this album right. I think he should be really proud of it. We all contribute so much to this band but I think we all left feeling like we owe a great debt to Sam for making this album come together. He’s as humble as he is talented so I will tell you how much work he did on this because I doubt he ever will.Actually he is still their now as I type this. We have all left but Sam’s there (with his beers left by thoughtful members of Said the Maiden) he’s there crafting all our takes into something wonderful. Music is as easy to Sam as breathing. But I don’t know anybody who works harder at helping other people to be their best and at finding ways of sharing that music with other people. I feel lucky to have worked on this project with him. I will remember it for a long time. I am a better musician for it. Thanks Sam, you big melon head 🙂 x
The Magic Moment
There was so much laughter and many memorable moments of the week. The Company of Players are a wonderful group of humans and I can Wax Lyrical about them forever but to save this blog from becoming even longer than it needs to be I will just tell you about one moment.
Kelly Oliver was laying her vocal track. It was quite late in the evening by this point so watching from the control room all I could see from the lamp light she had on in the booth was her hand. Her face was in darkness but I could see her hand as she waved it up and down following the melody of the words she was singing. She did several takes – although she could have used the first with no editing if she had wanted to – and each time she sang I actually didn’t even breathe. Maybe this sounds really over the top but I felt in that moment I was probably in the presence of somebody who is likely one of the best folk musicians of our time and one day I would be telling my Grandchildren how I sat on the floor of a control room, hot lemon in a mug, spellbound and mesmerised by her. And I imagine my Grandchildren would be crazy impressed because they probably have her poster on their wall and her records on CD – because my Grandchildren listen to CDs in an ironic retro way?!
I think we made a little bit of folk history. I am really proud of my part in it. I can not. Can not wait to share it with everyone 🙂 x