In my recording days I’ve had many a crazy situations happen. I’ve told some of the stories already, but there were more!
As much as I have had a dislike of recording rock bands, I have had a soft spot for family bands. Most of these were of the blue grass flavor.
If I never hear the name ‘Alison Krauss’ again it won’t bother me a bit.
Every family band had their favorites.
Problem was is that I had to deal with the preconceived idea that these fledgling family bands were some how at par with their self proclaimed idols.
Well, after a take or two, one of the prepubescent members of the group would say something like ‘that doesn’t sound like FILL IN THE BLANK’ …. And some how some way I would have to explain that though your family group is very talented and has great potential, the fill in the blank person or group has been doing it for way longer and has a few years ahead of the family band.
OH YEA, they would say… I play with (So and so) every night with my boom box and I can play as well as they can.
They are doing what they love to do.
‘Oh’ I say, ‘I’m sorry’, I’m not sure how to say the professionals are professionals for a reason. But I do encourage them to keep going and they may well indeed reach the status that they so intently desire.
My wife has been a saint through out my recording endeavors.
Many of these recording artists would spend quite a bit of time with us. Some would stay at our house, others would park their motor home or bus in our driveway. This was when we lived wayyyy out in the country.
Thus, my wife would by default be the cook of the day for many of the recording sessions. She really didn’t have a problem with that so much, but when the musicians would hover over her and try to tell her how to cook the meal, it got a bit complicated.
Terri and I really liked the folks I recorded, but sometimes, when it came to who could eat what, it was a bit much. And the problem was that there was sometimes no alternative food source close. Did I mention I lived in a very remote area.
But, we were all doing what we loved.
Many of the folks I recorded were health food advocates and had very strenuous dietary restrictions.
Terri and I, while being what we would consider healthy eaters, did not have some of the very stringent eating habits of some of the families that I recorded. We tried, but hey…
My old friend Lou was a breath of fresh air in that regard… He would bring the stuff for ham sandwiches and potato chips, or we would get in the car and go find a cafe some where.
Sometimes I would go record at peoples residences. The logistics were sometimes a challenge. Once again, the food situation was a bit of a wild card. Some times , I would get regular food, but at some of the other places, it was a toss up.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciated every meal I received. Period. And I tried to look at it as an adventure.
But my pallet was a bit different than some of the clientele I worked with. I once lost quite a few pounds when recording with one artist. And this was over a five day stint. When I got in the van to go home i had visions of a big burger and a cold beer etched into my mind.
I got to the point that if someone came to me to record, (by this time I wasn’t located in such a remote location) they had to get a hotel room and deal with their own meals. If I went somewhere to record someone, I wanted a hotel room and the ability to deal with my own meals. Yes, it added an expense to the final cost but I had to have some autonomy.
And to be honest, it was a big expense to a family band that sometimes tipped the scales which meant they couldn’t justify using me for their recording. Those of you used to working with larger budgets in metro areas might not understand but to a family band forking out three grand for some recording days, mixing and mastering and another grand for the first duplication of a thousand units, an extra five to eight hundred dollars was a big increase.
Recording family bands also makes you privy to some of the inner workings of the family.
I’ve had parents ask me about how to deal with their very stubborn and insistent children. Mom and dad were creating a what they thought was a good and creative outlet for the kids, and they were…
But the youngsters were moving at break neck speed. Mom and dad couldn’t keep up. There were times of strife in the studio.
It could be a big bowl of difficult….
But there were family bands that were so cool. We worked together and they had specific ideas but would work with the situation.
I enjoyed that.
Other instances happened from time to time out there in the woods. We had a situation once where the artist was intent on staying in the studio for the whole of the project, using the studio couch and camping out on the floor. It was no problem to me, and we would feed them. They awoke the next morning declaring that they could not stay in that building another night. They could ‘feel’ the electricity in the room attacking their bodies. Scary.
Another time I had a singer who wanted to stay on site for the project, but couldn’t get a camper or RV. A dear friend of mine said we could use his camping trailer. He hadn’t used it for quite a while and he was even gracious enough to tow it there and back home.
Well the singer and her husband came and the trailer came but somehow someone at some point during the storage of the camper had used the commode while there wasn’t any chemical in it. And apparently it never got found and cleaned out. If you just walked in looked around and walked out, the smell wasn’t obvious. But if you hung in there for a while, well… I felt bad for the whole situation. Especially for the friend who loaned the trailer. It gives credence to those who say ‘chivalry never pays.’
In a small community, talent contests were always a big thing. Over the years I’ve recorded my share of talent contest hopefuls.
Moms and dads wanting their son or daughter to be included in the next big contest. It was always exciting and a little nerve racking.
There is nothing more exhilarating than a youngster wanting to ply his or her talents on to an eagerly awaiting crowd of devoted followers.
I’ve recorded many of these I want to be first at the contest youngsters. The commissioning bodies, usually wanted to hear a tape of the fledgling singer to make sure the fledgling could actually sing and no one would be put in a compromising position. Fair enough!
But what could have been done with a home boom box was eventually brought to me to create a somewhat semi professional karaoke recording. But you have to give an A for effort.
Every singer /musician wants to be appreciated. Period.
I love the complexity of the musicians I’ve worked with over the years. It gives life and reason to the work.
Many of the youngsters that I worked with have gone on to be teachers, bankers, farmers or something else. But they sing every week at their local church, or their local watering hole or at a family get together. They have fantastic voices and musical abilities.
Some of them form local music groups.
And that is cool, and they are doing what they love.
Which brings me to the next subject…
The affordable home recording phenomenon.
When I started my recording adventure, my first batch of recording gear was a Tascam eight track recorder, an Ensonic keyboard/sequencer, studio monitors and amps, microphones, headphones and headphone amps, a recording console and because of the investment, a lot of incentive to learn how to use it and get to a certain proficiency with it.
Not very many people had the where with all to take that on unless they were really committed. The investment in time and money was substantial. Thus, if a local musician needed to record some of her or his songs, they would search out these small recording stalwarts, strike up a deal and usually walk away with a usable product.
Each of the parties was doing what they love.
But now a days, you can be recording on your home laptop for less than $200. Some folks can pull it off, others can’t.
At the end of the day, it is hearing, style and a sense of taste that makes or breaks a recording. Being able to hear things that are out of tune and not in time, or not mixed well and being able to correct them.
Having an understanding of style, resisting putting in the severely distorted electric guitar part into a traditional bluegrass song… (you might like it but understanding style let’s you ask if anyone else will)
And taste, which usually comes down to knowing that the simpler and more precise the arrangement is the more accessible it will usually be.
Simple and near perfect is always greater than complex with issues.
As long as you are doing what you love, you’ll strive to get it to be the best it can possibly be… And you’ll be okay.