We arrive at Hyde Park Studio at 10 a.m. on Oct. 27, 2008.
Rod Drake (my bass player) and I spend the first half hour or so helping Ryan Booth (the engineer) and Joe Green (my drummer) set up the drums and all the equipment. If you don’t know, recording drums is the most tedious part of the process. It’s like recording eight instruments at once! Every one has to be checked, and all the levels have to be right before you can lay down the first track.
So we do that.
Then I lay down a scratch track – a quick run-through of the song with vocals and acoustic guitar so everyone has a point of reference. (You can’t just set a drummer loose to play. They’re crazy! Just kidding.)
So for the next three hours, while Joe does an AMAZING job on the drums, Rod and I sit around. This is the majority of time in the studio – sitting around. Then you get to listen to the same drum track over and over while the engineer edits three takes into one seamless performance.
Joe goes to bring back lunch for everyone. Since the bass is plugged directly into the system, there is nothing to be miked, so Rod just sits down in the control room with all of us and begins recording the bass line. This goes really quickly.
We make a few changes as we go, which often happens in the studio. Once you start to hear it all together in that context, you begin to have ideas you never considered before. Of course, when you’re limited to one day of recording, you can’t spend too much time on those crazy ideas.
We eat lunch, and Rod finishes the bass track. He does an amazing job, but it still doesn’t sound like a song yet.
Then, we all tear down the drums and unplug all but two microphones. Ryan mikes up my acoustic guitar, and we pretty much breeze through that in just a couple of takes. We sit around for a little more editing and listen to it about a hundred times. It’s starting to sound a little like a song at this point.
Next, I set up my Stratocaster and effects pedals in the control room while Ryan runs a cable through the wall and connects me to a Vox AC30 in the other room and mikes it. Again, the electric guitar parts go quickly.
Then we plug the keyboard directly to the system and I run through some keyboard stuff in a couple of takes.
Then, I go into the vocal booth and do three takes of lead vocals.
All this while, Joe and Rod are sitting around. (Oh, the fun!!!) After each instrument, we listen about 4,000 times to little bits and pieces or the whole thing.
Now, it sounds like a song.
Then, Rod goes into the vocal booth to do harmony, which goes really quickly because Rod is a great singer and he only has to do harmony on a few lines.
Then, we pack up equipment and carry it downstairs while Ryan sets up more mikes for the final task of the day.
Joe, Rod, and I team up for “gang vocals” or, as Ryan calls them, “group vocals.” (I like my name better.) You know, in a song, when it sounds like a whole bunch of people are yelling the vocal line? Those are gang vocals. Love ‘em!
This was an idea I’d had for the chorus. I thought, “It will really give the chorus some energy.” The more I thought about it, the more doubts I had that it would actually work. But we decide to give it a shot, and it sounds flippin’ sweet!
So, we head back into the control room and listen about 400 more times while Ryan edits and tweaks. The song sounds freakin’ amazing!
We’re done for the day at 8 p.m., so we pack up and head home. All of it takes about 10 hours. And it is AWESOME.