It’s Good Friday.
You don’t know the half of it.
Our humble little music project took a seismic leap this week, thanks to the talent and generosity of a young lady by the name of Alyssa Sestric. Alyssa is one of the other artists who, like me, regularly works with Kevin Gorman in the interest of developing her own considerable talent and original music. She and I met by a chance encounter a few weeks ago when KG asked if I’d come out to his studio one evening to teach Alyssa a few basic guitar tricks. In the brief time I was there, I heard her sing only a little. But it was enough – combined with her personality of that of her dad (who was also there that night) – to convince me that it would be a real coup if KG and I could convince Alyssa to sing some backing vocals on our CD.
As hard as we’ve worked, there is only so much that two meatheads like KG and I can do alone. All along, we knew we were going to want a female voice for certain parts in “Hope Over Hurt” and “Kevin’s Prayer.” But after Alyssa (a student at Central Secondary School in London) showed some enthusiasm for the project, KG and I started wondering where else we could showcase her voice to the betterment of the songs. Luckily, we came up with several ideas.
Kev and I had our bi-weekly Monday night studio session earlier this week. In that time, we spent most of the time talking and reviewing what was left needing done. We also listened back to several tracks and discussed where we thought Alyssa could add to the quality of the sound. We came up with a list and I left KG with it.
The following night, I was “kicked out” of my own regular Tuesday night session, as Alyssa was kind enough to come in after dinner and work with KG on what she was to sing. Kev didn’t want me in the way, so he told me to stay home. I knew he was right, but it was hard to stay away because at that point, we didn’t know whether it was going to work with Alyssa or not. She could have decided that she didn’t like the songs, or that she didn’t want to commit the time, or it could have been that it simply wasn’t the right fit. I was curious to see how it would work out.
Wednesday morning, I sent Kev a text asking how it had gone, as I’d not heard from him the night before. His prompt reply read: “Awesome! Even better than I expected. Can’t wait for Friday!”
Oh man, I thought. I was quite looking forward to Friday myself.
So this morning (Friday), I got out to KG’s about 2 hours ahead of Alyssa and her family. That gave KG and me some time to “woodshed” a few songs and, for the first time in far too long, play a few songs together start-to-finish. We played “No Schedule Man” and “Orlando” and I believe we were goofing around with “Margaritaville” when the Sestrics arrived: Alyssa, Shelley (Alyssa’s mom) and younger sisters Courtney and Britney. It was nice to meet them all and give them a chance to discuss what we were up to and for me to see Shelley in person and get her blessing to have Alyssa involved. It was quickly clear to me that the Sestrics are my kinda people.
After chatting for a bit, KG suggested we play through some songs to let Alyssa get warmed up and for me to hear what she’d been up to. I was all for that, so I asked her what song she wanted to do first. She said, “Orlando.” Cool. Away we went.
Now, when you hear “Orlando,” you’ll understand how important the backing vocals are in that chorus, which is the real hook in the song. We got to that part and Alyssa jumped in along with KG and all of a sudden, all three of us were singing and creating a layered harmony that made my heart jump and the hair on my arms stand up. If you’ve ever been part of a musical group and project, you’ll understand what I mean. There are times (which are rare) when you hit on something and everyone in the room knows it and it’s a tremendously cool and exciting feeling.
That’s what happened today. As soon as Kev and Alyssa opened up to sing along, I kept playing but I was thinking, ‘Oh boy … we’re really on to something here.’
After “Orlando” I asked what she’d like to do next. She said, “Do Better.” Fine with me.
I started playing and got just a few lines into the song when I noticed Britney and Shelley giggling a little bit. So I looked up and said, “What – you’re laughing at me already?”
Britney said, “No. It’s just that we really like this song.”
Let me tell you friends … when you work at something in isolation for so long, it’s easy to forget why you do it. KG and I have been toiling on these tunes for so long that I’d almost forgotten that the point was to see if other people were willing to listen. So when someone comes in and tells you that they dig what you’re doing; to the extent where they giggle because they think it’s cool to see you actually play the song in front of them, you know you have something.
We have something going here. We really do. I can feel it.
I resumed playing, having forgotten what KG and I thought Alyssa might sing in that song. I got to the chorus and she and Kev opened up and I thought, ‘Oh yeah! Boy, that’s cool. People are going to like that a lot.’
And so it went.
It wasn’t much longer before we put Alyssa in the vocal booth and it was nice to hear that KG makes her do all the same stuff he makes me do. Thing is, when Alyssa sings, she sounds good. She only needs to do a take or two. Me, well … KG usually makes me do seven or eight takes before he finds something useable. Then again, I’m doing the lead vocals. It’s more to mess up. But still: I’m a partner in an event management company, not a Canadian Idol.
Everything Alyssa did sounded good. She doesn’t know this (well, I guess she will now), but when she sang, Kev and I kept looking over at each other. We didn’t say anything, but I know we were both thinking the same thing: ‘We’re on to something here. This is good stuff.’
The kicker was when both KG and Alyssa put harmony parts on the “hallelujah” part of the song “Kevin’s Prayer.” It gives me the shivers just thinking back on it. It’s very rare that you imagine something in your mind (which I did for that song about a year ago when I wrote it) and it not only turns out just like you thought it would; it turns out better. This was one of those times.
One other thing: I’m used to singing my own stuff and I’m used to KG knowing the songs. Hearing someone from “outside your circle” sing along is a different deal. When Alyssa came in and started singing words I had written and did it with enthusiasm and genuine appreciation, well, that’s a charge. It wouldn’t have mattered if it had been Oscar the Grouch singing along; it’s really neat to hear someone else singing your song back to you. I have won awards, been nominated for others, achieved in business, received many compliments for my work and even spent much of my life on the radio airwaves.
None of it compares to someone else digging a song I wrote.
I’m usually pretty modest with the things I do. And I will continue to be. But I feel pretty confident in telling you: we’ve got a heckuva collection of songs going here. Some people are really going to like it. The songs are there. If the performances live up to the potential of the songs, I’ll stand behind this collection of tunes any day. And they will. And I will.
That, my friends, is a really great feeling to have. And I have it because of my great good pal Kevin Gorman, a little hard work and a lot of patience, and (now) Alyssa’s contribution. What she’s done is give us a boost. And she’s breathed new life into the project.
What a cool thing to do for somebody, huh?
Alyssa will be performing with us at the CD release show. You’ll hear more about that next week.