Category Archives: Music

Reverential in Nashville Followup: Amazing

Studio E of the Sound Kitchen

As I blogged earlier, Dan and I (collectively known as reverential) were off to the Nashville area for a whirlwind one day recording session. We got back late Tuesday night, and to say that the experience was amazing is really understating it: both Dan and I are really excited about the tracks that got recorded, and while there’s still a lot of work to do before we have finished songs people can listen to, we can’t wait to have people hear them!

I’ll skip mentioning the drive down and back (12+ hours of driving, which were scenic and fun, but tiring), and concentrate on the day that matters: Monday!

We were at the Sound Kitchen, just outside of Nashville, and we arrived at Studio E a little early for our 9:30 session to start. Our producer, Jerroll, was already there, setting up with Ben, our second engineer, who worked at the studio. Shortly after, our session drummer, Scott Williamson arrived, and started checking levels. Not long after that, Joeie Canaday, the bass player for the session came and set up. An interesting side note (which I learned on this trip): there exists an entire industry (collectively know in the business as “cartage”) which involves storing musicians’ gear, getting a call for a session for a studio and time, taking gear out of storage, delivering it and setting it up for the session. Afterward, they come tear it down, and bring it back to storage. Amazing.

After all the technical hurdles were taken care of (levels, patching, loading the first song up), we all assembled in the control room for a talk through of the first song, “What Else Can We Say”. We had provided “scratch” tracks to our producer (basically rough recordings of the essential parts of the song so the session musicians had something to play to), and he played these tracks for the guys, who commented on mix (including wanting to remove different tracks) and asked questions about style. They also went over the chart for the song, which Jerroll had produced for them from the stuff we’d provided. A listen or two, and they went into studio room, and played through part of the song to get a feel for it. This first one was interesting in that Jerroll had decided to raise the key. This changed the pitch of the vocal track, so in order to give the bassist and drummer a better feel for the vocal, they set Dan up in the vocal booth so he could sing on the track (not to be recorded: that would come later).

Once ready, they ran through the song 2 or 3 times, and did a few pick-ups (certain parts of the song where they felt they missed something). And that was pretty much all that was required for the song. Jerroll would rough-mix it from the takes, and we’d re-assemble in the control room to listen, and start talking about the next one.

This was the pattern for the rest of the songs: “Grace Like Rain”, “This is What it’s Like” and “We Will Never Fear”. We had been warned by Jerroll to have extra songs ready (the plan was to do a three song demo), and we used them, and are now looking toward having a 5-song demo.

Oh, and that was the technical description of how things went, which is amazing in and of itself, but what you only get a little bit of out of that description, was how professional these guys are, and how amazing they are at their jobs. Scott and Joeie had worked together before and that showed, but they had never worked with Jerroll, nor had Jerroll worked in that particular studio before, but everything went so smoothly, with no technical glitches and no wasted time. At the same time, things were relaxed and friendly, and Dan and I could completely enjoy and take in the experience. The quote of the morning came from Dan: “I’m having trouble singing, I’m smiling so big!” The only down-side (if there can be said to be one) is something Jerroll said: as studio experiences go, this is as good as it gets: a great studio and equipment to work with, top session musicians and a smooth day, which all allowed us to get everything we set out to get. Anything else can only be just as good. Which, overall, is fine with us.

Once the session guys were finished and had left, my turn came on the piano. For the next 30-45 minutes, I worked on four takes of “Send Your Mercy Down”, the 5th song we had prepared for this. This song, by the way, is just piano and vocals (with some strings to be added later), if you were wondering why it wasn’t mentioned above with the session guys. Dan sang again to help me out, and although the first two takes were shaky (I was having problems playing to the click track Jerroll wanted us to use – on stage we do the song pretty free-form), we got some good stuff in the next two. I think if I had done a fifth take I would have nailed it, but we had enough to put together what we needed. Ah, the magic of the studio.

During this, the cartage guys were busy in the main studio, setting up gear for someone else’s afternoon session, and once I was done (around 1:30), we had the rest of the afternoon off. We were to be back there at 5:30 for the evening vocal session, so Dan and I went to check out downtown Nashville.

We arrived back around 5:15, and while we were hoping to catch the tail end of the afternoon session, they were already finished and gone (man, professionals), and Jerroll and Ben were setting up for Dan’s vocal session. For the next 4 hours, Dan moved between the vocal booth and the control room, alternatively singing and listening to rough mixes of what he had just done. He came through that experience really well, still sounding strong at the end of the fifth song, and we got some great stuff.

As I finish writing this, the process is far from over. We’re about to get the first drum, bass and vocal mixes so we can record our parts, and get those back to Jerroll for final mixing and mastering. But this one day had us more excited about our music than ever before. This really was an amazing experience, and we have some top-notch pros to thank for that. So Jerroll, Ben, Scott and Joeie – if you happen to stumble on this – thanks for a great day!

reverential In Front of the Stage: Going to See David Crowder in Philly Thursday!

My friend and band-mate, Dan, just told me he got tickets for us to see David Crowder at the Electric Factory (they don’t seem to have a website of their own? What’s up with that!?!?). This is cool for a few reasons, the first of which is the band and their music, and the fact that both Dan and I are fans. Second, while we try to do our own thing musically, these guys are probably at the top of the list when it comes to influences, and it will be great to see them live (a first for me). Now I just have to listen to the new album a few more times before Thursday!

Update 1: the concert was great! More (probably) later!

Update 2: updated link for the Electric Factory’s website (turns out they do have one! Why I had to find it on Wikipedia and not Google, I’m not sure…).

Sunday Night Gig Update

Sunday night we played at the Bayside Chapel, a very cool place about an hour away in Barnegat, NJ that was fantastic to play at. That has to do with both the facility and the people, and I look forward to playing there again for both reasons! They made us feel welcome, they were an appreciative audience who seemed to genuinely like our music (not that that doesn’t happen elsewhere!), and they were great to talk to afterward.

Usually around the time we’re packing up our gear after a gig, I’ll make some comment about getting just big enough to hire roadies. So you know it’s a good gig when I don’t mind moving the small mountain of gear Dan and I have. Sunday night was one of those where I was so pumped that I didn’t mind at all packing up, which was a little weird, because the gig itself was pretty laid-back. But everything was just so good that night, it makes you feel good about what you do.

1.5 Gigs Done; 1 To Go

Yeah, I know I wrote earlier that we only had 2 gigs this weekend. More on that in a minute. Last night was the first gig in Burlington, NJ. We were the inaugural act for a new coffeehouse starting at the Broad Street United Methodist Church. It wasn’t a huge crowd, but they were appreciative, and it was a fun night. The only major mishap was my main controller locking up right at the end of the penultimate song of the first set. It’s connected to my laptop via USB, and when a USB device goes away in Windows/Usine (yes, yes, I’m using Windoze – Usine is that good!), there’s no getting it back without rebooting. Fortunately, Dan has no problem filling in the spaces with his ability for extemporaneous speaking! I was able to reboot fairly quickly, and we closed the set.

Also, my friend Ben was there in the capacity of official band photographer. Thanks, Ben! Looking forward to seeing the results (even if it turned out to be more of test run – who knew what our backdrop would be?)!

And now the “.5 gig” explanation: Dan’s father is the senior pastor of our church, and he and his wife came to the gig last night. He heard one of the songs, and realized it would be perfect for the service the next morning, so he asked Dan if we would do it. This proved to be interesting, as we don’t have enough time to set up our entire rig Sunday mornings (although we do have some gear there: Dan and I play on the Worship Team for the first service), so we needed a “B” rig. For Dan, that meant one guitar (which happened to be the one he uses Sunday morning), using a clean sound (ie no pedal board), and his laptop and MIDI pedal board. For me, that meant my Korg Karma (which I usually use Sundays), my X-Station and my laptop. The laptop provides the environment, and any number of soft-synths, and the X-Station turned out to be the hub. Not only is it the audio interface for the laptop, but I ran the audio of my Karma through one of it’s inputs, and thus only needed to run one input (going mono here) to the sound board. I also needed to make a second copy of Usine (one of the things I like about it is that there’s no install, and nothing in the registry), with a separate config (Windows/Usine tends to freak out a little when all of the devices it’s expecting aren’t there – I’ve had some re-mapping in the patches going on, which wasn’t fun to recover from).

We got home from the gig last night about 10:30ish, and unloaded the truck, and then I spent the next little while programming the laptop software, imagining in my head (I didn’t want to get everything out and set up) how everything was going to hang together. Dan and I got to the church this morning a little earlier than normal, but were still up against the clock. Somehow, we managed to set up, debug, sound check (which doubled as a quick rehearsal), and get through the other practice (the regular service stuff), and still have some time left over for other special music to get in some practice time. Amazing. It all went perfectly, too. Well, OK, maybe not perfectly – I couldn’t hear myself very well for our one song (I had a headphone monitor, but it needed more gain than I could give it – I’ll have to work on that), but I got through it OK – I even nailed the solo!

A regular gig for us is 12 songs, so technically this was 1/12th of a gig, but I’m adding the other 5/12ths for all the work that was needed to get there. Hopefully, as it’s pretty inevitable we’ll be asked to do more things on short notice, or more confined spaces, that this “B” rig will work out for a lot of the things we do. It might take some re-working, but we should be able to pull it off. Eventually, I can see phasing out the Karma in the B rig in favour of my CME controller, and relying more on soft-synths.

This afternoon, we’re off to Barnegat, NJ (the Shore!) to lead worship at the Bayside Chapel. it’s a smaller set, but we’ll have the full rig with us (we might use their sound system), and it should be a little more relaxed.

Gigs this Weekend

Dan and I (a.k.a. reverential) are busy this weekend with not one, but two gigs! Our first is a little more local than the last few have been, but the other is at the Shore. We’ll be in Burlington, NJ on Saturday evening, and in Barnegat, NJ Sunday evening. Check out our website for the details, and if you’re in either area, come on out! It should be a fun (but tiring!) weekend!