So Why a Living Room?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Recording the Album...

I've been writing songs for a long time (almost 12 years now?!), and sort of learning as I go how to do it better and exactly where I want to go with it all. So, this summer, I decided to take the next step and record some of my songs.

My first recording experience was actually in 2002, when my brother, Zach Pond, and I released an album called Turn Up the Quiet. Essentially, I sang back-up for several of his songs, and did one of my own ("The Change"). We had fun and learned a lot, and enjoyed giving several musical firesides together.

So six years, one husband and two kids later, I decided to branch off of the brother/sister combo act and release a solo album. I recorded 5 songs, (sort of the "acoustic version," with just piano and voice), and then included "The Change" from Turn Up the Quiet. I released this 6-song album on Positive Music and Downloads. Then, I decided to include the songs from Turn Up the Quiet where I sang, and turn it into a 9-song album for the itunes release. Both Emily Pond Ricks and Turn Up the Quiet are available on itunes and Be advised that there is some overlap of songs between the two. Get it? Got it. Good.

Anyway, what I really wanted to do was give you a little behind the scenes tour of my recording experience this summer. It was so much fun!

This is the control room at Counterpoint Studios in Salt Lake City. (We didn't use half of all the fancy buttons for just piano and voice, but it was still neat to be in a real studio!)

And this is the room where I played and sang.

My engineer, Terence, was a kick.

It was unusual for me to have someone around who didn't want to advise or coach or critique my singing. Too many years of piano and voice lessons, I guess. He would just say, "Are you happy with it? Do you want to do it again?" Partway through I realized that it's his JOB is to make me happy and do whatever I ask him to--and so he was being very encouraging and deferential but part of me was like, Hey! I need someone to say, "No Em--you need to redo that last chorus. You can do better than that.'"Or, "Why don't you try backing off a little bit at the end there?'" It was fun to be the captain of the ship but also a little scary to feel like my (inexperienced) word was the final word!

So, first I recorded the piano part to each song. In the headphones you can hear yourself play, communicate with the engineer, and there is also a "click track" which gives you the tempo (A little reminiscent of all those hours of piano practice with the metronome, but quite a bit more fun). That way, if you mess up on a certain part, you can just patch in and re-do that one part and guarantee that you will start and end in the right place. I remember recording songs for my friends in high school into a clunky boom box and having to re-record the entire song if I messed up once--or if the phone rang, or the door shut, or whatever. This was a welcome change!

Then, I would come into the control room and Terence would play it through the big speakers on the wall and I would decide if we needed to make any changes.

Recording the piano was fun, but it took a lot of effort and concentration. I was sweating by the end of a few parts (like the piano jam break in "The Best Kind of Love"), and feeling pressure to "get it right."

But then, after we got the piano in, I got to sing. I got to close my eyes, breathe in the whole experience, and sing. That mic was incredible! Oooh, it was so nice. So clear. So intimate. And I could hear myself, real-time, while I was singing and I was just enveloped in the sound while it was happening. Seriously, it was better than chocolate cake. Or custard filled doughnuts. Or even cinnamon rolls. (And not just because it had no adverse effects on my blood sugar. )

Kind of a cool angle...

And, here is me totally rockin' out. Too much fun!!!

Anyway, the hours of singing went by way too fast. And while it was happening, it was kind of like when you are watching a perfect sunset, or when you are snuggling a little boy in footy pajamas, or when you are having an awesome chat with a great friend--you never want it to end, but you know it will, so you savor it, imprint it forever in your mind, and you look up and tell God "thank you" for how great life is sometimes.

I had a cool little epiphany during the recording process. It was really liberating to be able to"mess-up" on one part and then just go back and fix it. If I didn't like the way I sang a certain word, or if I breathed too loud, or if I was a little bit flat, we could just go back and re-do that part and then blend that together with the rest of the song. Terence (the engineer) was really patient and would go back as many times as we needed to until I felt good about it. It struck me that all of the old takes are now lost in recording cyberspace and nobody but me and the engineer will ever even know that they happened. They don't matter at all. The best takes are the ones that are permanent, and the rest are history.

So I know that in life, what's done is done. I mean, you can't go back and un-say something hurtful you said, and you can't go back and just re-do that time when you were too selfish to see what someone else needed--but in another way, I think the atonement DOES do that for us. When we don't like the way we handled something, or when we don't feel like we did our best, I think God looks through the control room window at us and says, "okay, would you like to try it again?" And the next day or the next week or the next month we get to do it better. And better.
As long as I'm trying, no matter how many "bad takes" I accumulate, the very best take will trump them all. I think that's what grace is.

Thinking of life this way also made me want to be a good engineer to people around me and just say, "Oh, it's no big deal. We can do another take." As I was formulating these ideas, I was in the middle of re-recording the line in "The Best Kind of Love" that says, "It's knowing all of us could use a second or third chance..." So that was pretty neat.

Okay, well that's the story of the recording adventure.
I hope you enjoy the songs!