90 Day Album - An Anti-Social Experiment

A blog about writing an Album in 90 Days

Day 90 and Beyond

I’m back in the studio after a good fun few days away from it and my mind and hearing are a lot clearer.  I know I mentioned that I needed a break from this but for the first few days it was quite difficult staying away (as there’s not much else for me to do). I did dabble on a few things but I did also manage to find a few really old clips and songs that would fit ok on the album. So I’m going to slot them in there – might as well – as long as it all fits on a CD that’s cool with me.

The sounds are very different of each song and I feel it’s going to be a real pain to put them into any order that makes sense. I have a few thoughts of how I could arrange them. The easiest and laziest is alphabetically – which might work but it’s going to be pure luck if it does. That reminds me, when I made my Mr Bops EP I spent ages sorting the play order only to realise when I was listening to it digitally years later that alphabetically worked brilliantly (pure luck).  Alternatively I could split the weird tracks and the sensible ones – like you would do on each side of a vinyl record.  Now that was a nice way to introduce a change in music, the listener would have to get up and change the side and with that the music could change quite a bit  – that would be perfect for this – no budget for vinyl though.  Plus I don’t possess a record player. I’ll work it out.

So far there are 16 tracks on my list with bits thrown in in-between – I have completed over 10 of these and there are only a few bits remaining to be done on the others. The voice is still not working but sod it lets just get this done as best as I can.  I may not include all 16 for whatever reasons but it’s good to have more than less so we have choice.

The album artwork is coming along really nicely too, I think this will be done by next Monday as will all the tracks for the album. I think I’m about 10 days late but I’m not bothered it’s a fair amount of work to get this done in this time so I’m relieved that its nearly done. 

So what’s next after Monday – well I’m away for 10 days, after which I’ll print off the CD’s, get in touch record labels and see if they want to get in on the action. Or just release them on my own label.  I don’t know.  I need to have a think about this and talk to a few people. But what I know for sure is that a handful of people will want to have a listen to it so I will need to make it available to purchase and listen to.

And after that – I guess we’d better start playing some gigs. 

B

Doubt & My mojo

The neighbours have decided that they need some work done to their house whilst I’m trying to record my vocals. I thought it was frustrating enough losing my mojo but now this just takes the mickey. There I am trying to growl away into a mic and these cowboys are chucking the tiles off the roof. Thanks.                

I haven’t been able to hear the music all week. I have been playing it and trying to work on tracks but I can’t hear the song anymore, it’s a really weird feeling, you can hear the music playing but you can hear the song, the feeling, the balance, the emotion. It’s like the ears that hear that part of the song have gone deaf. It’s frustrating to say the least. I’m also conscious that time (and cash) will be running out shortly which doesn’t help. Maybe that my problem, the deadline. I’m not sure but realistically I’m about 7 days away from finishing if I get my mojo back.

Doubt has kicked in. Doubt of whether this is any good lyrically, musically, and just in general. This is a problem. Fais came over on the weekend and we went through the tracks one by one. We also agreed that I need a break for a week. I want to get this done asap but in the state I’m its not going to be right. So I’m not touching / listening to it for a week – until next Tues. Im going to hand all the tracks over to the boys now to add / change whatever they like and possible come up with a tracklist order.

Until next week.

The Light

There is a sense of satisfaction when you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, I’m not seeing it yet.  A lot of the tracks are near complete but I can’t seem to just finish them off. One small reason has been that I haven’t been able to sing for a few weeks now. I’m not a good singer at the best of times but I’ve just been sounding awful. I can’t put my finger on it – maybe it’s the vocal exercises that I’ve been doing… but surely they are meant to help? Or then again it could be the fact that I’m in a room in a house just singing into a microphone.

There is a difference from singing or playing in a studio and playing live. When playing live the vocals are more projected, the instruments are played with a little more determination and excitement, which contributes to the overall experience for the listener. In the studio there are no listeners, you are playing to an empty room it can be difficult to get the expression right.  I think this is my problem. Guess I’m just going to have to put a little more effort in.

The arrangement for most the tracks are complete, which basically means that I just to put the vocals down on top and some nice nuances in the sounds and I think we are there.  The hardest bit of this has been reworking some of the older tracks. It’s taken far too long and I can’t really say if they sound any better. Mind you I’m kind of feeling tired of listening to it all to be honest. Even in the short space of 90 days I’m feeling like this. I wonder what the artists think of their music after years of being in the studio. I suppose there are lot more people involved so it becomes less strain on one person. Oh well, suppose I best just get on with it. 

Days 73 - 79 

I’m getting through the tracks one by one. Some are slower than others but they seem to be coming along. One of the things that plays my mind is if a song starts to sound like some other song that already exists. I’ve decided not to worry about this too much as it will keep me from progressing. There’s always similarities that listeners pick up to music and it’s not a bad thing. I mean, after all I’m not ripping anything off or using samples so with all the millions of songs out there, there’s bound to be similarities.

I’ve decided to take a break and go to a festival for a few days which will put me back a little. I’m not stressed about this after all the timeline is self imposed just to make sure I don’t waste the time off that I have. I think this will do me good as I’m going (nicely) mental stuck in the studio day and night. Time to remember some social skills and put them into practice and then forget them fairly rapidly.

'Your Melody'- a track that was liked by some of my friends earlier I’ve completely changed. It's strange but every song I have written with guitar I almost every time have to remove the guitar from the song to allow other sounds to present themselves. This is how 'Your Melody' changed. A really nice funky guitar riff and some vocal melodies have been replaced just with clicking, a nice synth melody and vocals. It seems to sound good and it delivers the story just fine.

So in total there are 7 tracks pretty much complete. I’ll be happy if I finish another 3 for this album and it would be a great bonus if I manage 4+ which is doable.

When I return from the festival I’m due to get a Scottish girl in to do the pre-recorded message for ‘God’s Hold Music’ which is still to be written. It will be a one take track - rough and ready. I also considering put some clips of the initial sketches on the album, think this could be quite interesting for listeners to see how far the tracks have come since the idea stage. Let’s see - it might just clutter the music I could offer them up as an additional free download for those that have purchased the CD. I’ll have to see a bit later.

I think for best exposure we will need a record label behind us, preferably a small independent one. Just to get the music out there. I’ll add this to my list of things still to do. 

There’s been a slight delay in the artwork which mean its not going to be ready for another month. This gives me time to look for record labels and write up some PR.

Days 70 - 72 

‘The Girl With The Broken Smile’ is pretty much complete. I managed to get the female vocalist in and we recorded the parts in over a cup of tea.  Later, I spent some time EQ’ing and getting the sounds right and to be honest I feel the song is really lovely, the female vocals really lift the track nicely. There is one small problem though. My PC keeps crashing, I know it’s a processor issue, I’m asking the damn thing to work too hard. I will need to find a solution to this or this will drive me insane.

So far (90%) completed tracks

Indian (instrumental)

Pray

The Girl With The Broken Smile

Take Your Time

I’m starting to get sick of hearing the tracks over and over again, this tends to happens at this stage of production. I think I best take a break for a day maybe and come back to it a little fresh. 

Days 63 -69 – Icing on the Cake

I managed to get hold of a girl vocalist that I think would be just perfect for ‘The girl with the broken smile’ and she is due to come in to record her parts on Wednesday. This could be the first finished track out of all of them. Actually, the instrumental is the first finished track which is good news at least that’s one done.

What I’m finding a little strange is working on the already existing tracks like ‘Heart of me’ and ‘Lazy days’. I’ve spent more than a day working on each of these tracks and when I’ve listened back to them I haven’t liked the direction they have taken. I’ve added bits or shuffled things around and thought it was for the best but listening back it’s been a waste of time. It’s like making a cake and realising at the end that you’ve not put enough sugar in it.  So you decide to make some icing to put on the top. So you make up some icing and slap it on thick, and then get a little carried away with the silly decorations until it’s really not edible anymore. Well, I suppose the cake could still be eaten but the sickly sweet icing would be left for sure. This is where I went with these tracks, fortunately it’s quick to undo the mess. With this in mind I’m going to leave these tracks until the end – I think a little tightening up will be enough later but definitely no sickly sweet icing.

Progress of the rest of the tracks has been good,  I’m at the point where I need to fiddle with sounds and instruments quite a lot to get the balance right in the song, so it means little playing. I’m also spending a fair amount of time considering the composition and the story of each song which I’m finding really interesting.  Once the composition is defined for these tracks I can play in any of the parts that need to be redone fairly quickly.    

I’ve started taking some pictures for the album artwork, basically collating material for the artist to use for her design. I had the Facebook folk is anybody wanted to be on the cover as I thought a random person on the cover could be quite interesting but we got little interest from people. I think they may be a little shy.  Huck managed to get a few willing people to submit their pictures but in the meantime I had changed my mind (still potentially could be changed again). I think shots of people who feature on the album could be quite nice. Guess I’d better get my best shirt on (if it still fits) and consider losing the beard for the photo.  The artist has confirmed that she will be done by the end of Sept so that gives me some time between completing the music and printing the CD’s to look at marketing & distribution etc.  

I need to be finishing at least half the album by Day 80 to be in a good place. Ok, time to get back to work.

Misc Entry

Sorry ive been quiet on the blog front. Been on a bit of a roll with the music. Will update it as soon as im able to tear myself from the studio. :)

Days 58 - 62 Music Worth Offering

I opened the doors to the studio and invited some friends round for a listen to the current state of the album. They admitted that they had expected more wrist slitting slow moody songs like Heart of Me, but they were pleasantly surprised that there was a variety of songs and sounds. ‘Your Melody’ was a surprise favourite and ‘Take Me Out’ they could hear being played on the radio. A good sign but for some reason I still felt that I had not given enough. I’m not sure enough of what though, but I felt as though I need to give the listeners more. 

I spent a while thinking about this and then stopped thinking. I switched on the PC and thought there’s no point dwelling on this thought, just get in there and do something. I dived into an instrumental currently called Indian and started to develop the layers of sound in a few hours I was much happier. This was a piece of music worth offering. I then opened up ‘The Girl With The Broken Smile’ and I attempted to write the rest of the story. From the idea stage there was just one verse to work from and not much music. The whole story needed unravelling but it would be worth it. I started to think of the scenario and started developing the characters. There were two people in this song a boy and a girl. I sang in the new lyrics and listened back to the track. It was a simple song but it needed a female voice on a section of it otherwise it just would not work. I started to think of who I knew that could sound good on it. The type of voice was important and I could hear the voice in my head. I had a couple of girls in mind. Another option that could bring up some interesting results was to ask the Facebook people if anyone is interested in singing on this track. I will ask the Facebook people first.

I was happier now that the instrumental was on the table plus ‘The Girl With The Broken Smile’. Still I would need to go back to some of the tracks and see what more I can add to them. 

Day 57 - Album Art

A great start to the day. I combatted ‘Take your time’ first. Getting all the levels right EQ’ing etc. Engineering a track requires a lot of patience. You have to sit there and make every sound as pretty as you can. Then try to make them all work together.  This track is pretty much done. I might come back later and just tweak it a little later but all in all a great mornings work. 

I also met up with artist that I had in mind to do the album artwork. She was a lovely lady who was happy to work on this project. The only issue was that her part may not be done before the end of this project. I suppose in sone respect if the music is finished and ready to press by the end of the 90 days that would be fine, im still hitting my target. Then I would just need to wait for the artwork before pressing. It just means if there’s anyone interested in buying it they will need to wait a little longer. It will be worth it though, this artist has a really lovely style. 

I spent the afternoon re-engineering ‘Heart of Me’. Another messy track that im now a good way through fixing. 

All things going sweetly. 

Day 56 - First Review

I was a bit nervous before my mate Sone the engineer / producer came over. In my head I was thinking the worst really, if he thought that the tracks were not so good I would be in real trouble.

However, it all went ok. No showstoppers, phew. We spent hours listening through each track and working out what would be best for it. One by one I took notes and started to develop a fairly concise to do list. He liked all the tracks and favoured ‘Take Me Out’ which is a lovely track.  He also preferred a couple of other tracks that didn’t make the album list. ‘Girl with the broken smile’ and ‘Bring on the rain’. Both of which are fine ideas and I will probably start developing these for the album once I have been through the list. This will mean that I will probably drop a couple of the others. In all honesty if all the tracks are complete by the deadline there could be up to 14 tracks on there (if they fit). 

He also suggested playing the tracks to an audience and see what their response is. 

Time to open the doors to the studio.

Day 55 - The Nerves

Carried on developing the tracks and was getting more and more anxious about the engineer coming over tomorrow. 

Fingers crossed all will be well. 

Its like waiting for a test result from the Doctors.