With two songs written and the instrumentals recorded for each, I was feeling ambitious enough to lay down the vocals last Friday. This has become the last step of the process for me (apart from mixing), because I no longer live in my parents’ basement and the amount of noise I make matters. I’m loud and obnoxious when I sing, especially when I try to harmonize with myself. With the track blasting in my headphones, most of the ridiculousness of my sound is lost to my own ears. Other people would hear a series of farm animals with birth defects. That being said, I never record vocals in my apartment where the walls are paper thin.
Fortunately, a friend of mine let me use her place, which is basically a town house connected to other homes with slightly thicker walls. Allowing me to scream like a dying goat in it was a brave and selfless act. She’s from the UK which means my singing could put her at risk for both eviction and deportation.
I cleared a space for my laptop on one of her countertops after turning away a dozen or so decorative, plastic doll statues…and then sympathetically taping cotton balls to each of their ears. I set up my microphone stand in the corner of the room. I poured myself a glass of water to keep my throat lubricated (not a sentence I throw around often). Then I took a few deep breaths and began.
And it was horrible.
I’ve never had a great voice to begin with, but I can usually belt something out that can be tweaked with a little auto-tune. Even after extensively altering my pitch digitally, my entire Friday recording session sounded like a robot with a cold. It was discouraging.
Taking on a long-term creative project is usually a love-hate relationship. There are going to be many times you want to punch it in its face and therefore there are going to be many times where you have to remind yourself why you loved it in the first place. While I’m reminding myself of this, I’m going to need some singing practice.
Anyone up for karaoke?
I doubt it’s common, when beginning a large-scale creative project, to come to terms with the fact that you have almost zero skill in the medium you’ve chosen to work in. Some might take this as me being humble or fishing for a compliment, but I’m being honest in a sad way. I have very little musical talent. At least, very little talent in the way I define being “musically talented.”
Can I put together a song in standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus form? Yes and I can even throw in a pre-chorus or two. Can I play a catchy chord on a guitar or piano? Sure. I can even put several chords together! Can I play a riff so sexy that it will make somebody pregnant? No and I can live with that.
The way I record my songs is a lot more like editing a video or writing a blog post. I record one instrument at a time, usually without writing the entire song beforehand. I just see what happens when it all comes together. Most of the time I just have a theme in mind and write lyrics later. Sometimes the music is completely recorded before I even know what the song is going to be about.
Once I’m finished recording the song in its entirety, I probably don’t even remember how to play it live. And if I do, I probably can’t sing it without the aid of auto-tune. Because of that, I can’t call myself a musician. Since most of the songs I write are very autobiographical, I can probably say that I’m becoming proficient in musical blogging. If that’s not already a term, I’d like to go ahead and claim that now. I am creating a 12-song musical blog.
And it’s going to be mag fab.
In the past week I’ve settled on a personal project that I’m going to run with. I’m going to write and record my fourth album.
Let’s back up a second though for anyone who was confused by that last sentence. I’m not actually a recording artist. I’m not even technically a musician. I play some guitar, beginner keyboard, and I have a voice that will score 4 stars on Sing Star singing Bitch by Meredith Brooks on easy mode. But thanks to the magic of overdubbing, auto-tune, and a midi drum kit, I am a rock god.
My first album, Lucid Dreaming (2006) was made mostly using loops on garage band and a little acoustic guitar. It was mostly a practice album. Once I moved away from using loops and bought a better quality keyboard and microphone, I recorded Eric’s Valentine (2008) which was an ambitious concept album about my love life. Shortly after, I compiled a bunch of tracks I wrote and recorded in college and made my last album, Wave on Woah (2010).
None of these were ever really released to the public. I just shared tracks with close friends and kept the albums on my computer. It was really more of a hobby than me trying to make it big, considering I could never replicate any of these songs live.
I did post a few of the classics here: http://emoneymusic.tumblr.com/
It’s been about four years since I last took on an ambitious project like making an album, so that’s what I’m going to do. Eric’s Valentine revolved around my love life in high school and college, Wave on Woah dealt with college and losing high school friends, and now Feeling the Cleve (working title) will revolve around moving for work, skipping my twenties, and living life in the real world.
I’m hoping to have it finished by my birthday this year (August 3rd). That way when I celebrate with friends, I can pretend it’s an album release party.
Will have more updates as this progresses.