Recording Journals: The Making of the No Schedule Man CD

Recording Journal Vol. 36: “Collaboration”

By March 26, 2010No Comments

I had a lot of fun in our studio sessions this week. It feels like the pressure is off and we’re back to the part I enjoy most: collaborating with K, trying to find what is truly right for a song. We began that way months and months ago, discussing every aspect of every tune until we were satisfied with the arrangements and instrumentation. That took weeks. Months, actually. After that, we hunkered down into recording the “meat and potatoes” of the collection. And while it was still enjoyable, it felt a lot more like work and less like fun.

Things have cycled around. We’re collaborating again. Even though the songs have taken shape, there is still a lot of room for interpretation and that’s when KG and I are at our best. I love exchanging thoughts and ideas. More than that, I love that KG and I consistently settle and agree on what we feel ends up being the best thing for the song, instead of being caught up on who had the idea. I give Kev a lot of credit as a producer. There is no doubt he gets the best out of me. But he is willing to take a suggestion from me too, and together we get great results.

This past week, I was put to the vocal test, singing and recording the harmony lines for “Kevin’s Prayer” (which included singing “Hallelujah” over and over and over and over) and “Orlando.” For the latter, KG and I had one of our classic collaborative discussions. It went something like this:

Me: (Having just finished yet another harmony vocal take) thinking: ‘Hmm. That was good.’

KG: (Through the studio talkback button): “C’mon in here. We’re going to have a chat.”

I arrive in the control room.

KG: “Sit down.”

I sit

KG: “Let’s listen to what we just recorded.”

He plays back the first verse. It gets to the chorus. He stops it. He puts his hand on his chin, and tilts his head just a bit sideways and says: “Now, you can tell me to go to hell if you want.” [A pause] “I’m not sold on these verse harmonies we’ve done. I don’t think it adds anything to the song. What do you think?”

Me: “Umm, well, I guess I’ve always heard the song in my head that way. I’ve been hearing it that way in my mind for eight years. So I always expected we’d record it that way.”

KG: “Okay. That’s okay. I understand that. So let me ask you: now that you’ve heard it, do you think the song needs it?”

Me: “Hmm. Well, I don’t know. Can we listen to it again?”

We listen to it again.

Me: “You know, I’ve always imagined the harmony that way. But now that you’ve pointed it out, I think I see your point.”

KG: “It’s not that it’s wrong or bad. You sang it well. The notes fit. It’s a good harmony. I just don’t think it adds anything to the song. See, the chorus part, it’s great. I don’t think we should try to do too much and take away from the chorus.”

I stay silent.

KG: “Honestly, I think that the extra voice gets in the way of the message you’re trying to deliver with this song. You want to get the message across. Keep it simple and let people hear the message. I don’t think you need this harmony line.”

Me: “Okay. I see your point.”

KG: “Tell you what. We have this recorded. Let’s leave it and then come back and listen to it in a couple days and see how we feel about it.”

That’s what we did. And guess what? He was right. And the good news is, that was a time when he saw it one way and I saw it another, and we ended up going with his suggestion. But a few days later, it was the opposite, as I played engineer while KG sang harmonies for “Hope Over Hurt,” “Sunny Day in November,” “South Carolina” and “Orlando.”

Collaboration. Two minds are better than one.

I love it.

Going forward, it appears we have recruited one of KG’s top students to help us with some other harmonies and possibly even perform with us at the CD release. More about that next week.

Meantime, I’ve booked a few more shows for the summer and agreed with a radio station about debuting two singles from the new CD at the end of April.

And so the CD release approaches and the carnival goes on.

What a kick.

– Kevin

PS – I also had my fun this week by recklessly spending money on a personalized Toronto Maple Leafs jersey and on floor tickets to go see Green Day in August at the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto. Neither are things I need. But I decided that life is short and I want to enjoy it. So when the time comes, you can engrave my headstone with something like this: “Here lies Kevin Bulmer. He went out singing ’21 Guns’ while proudly wearing his Maple Leafs jersey. He was stupid-happy from having followed his passions. Thanks for visiting. Now go do what makes you happy.”

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