It feels like there’s a new worship record coming out every week these days. With so much material out there, it’s really easy for new-comers to get lost in the noise. Most folks stick to the big, established names that they trust- Chris Tomlin, Kristian Stanfill, Hillsong, etc. With our daily schedules being so busy, why even bother with the names you’ve never heard of? It’s a big hassle. Here’s the thing- I’m one of those new-comers to the worship scene and I’d like to ask you to take a chance on me and listen to my album and share it with your family and friends. I need some grass-roots support to get the word out and you’re exactly the person I need!
TAKE A CHANCE…
Here’s a little history: back in 2007, I was in a band with American Idol top 10 finalist Chris Sligh- the band was called Half Past Forever. We toured a decent amount through the region and Chris and I produced a record. It was basically us sitting in an attic with a computer and a ton of microphones and guitar amps making music for six months. The title we came up with was a line from one of the songs “Take A Chance On Something Beautiful” (click the link to check it out). Since we were largely unknown as a band at that point, it seemed quite fitting- and it was. Riding the publicity from Chris being on ‘Idol,’ we went on to sell over 20,000 copies of the record and got it signed to a record deal with Brash Music in Atlanta, GA. That record has been my biggest success as a producer and engineer up until this point. So, while I can’t reuse the title, it’s the idea that I’d like to share with you.
…ON SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL
OK, back to 2014- As of this writing, I’m in the studio finishing up my new worship record. I consider it to be my finest work. I’ve poured my heart and soul into it and it really shows- in the melodies, the fat drum grooves, the hooky guitar lines, the punchy mix, the three-part harmonies and all the rest. At the center of the record is my unabashed love for Jesus Christ. He is my all in all. And if I’m honest, I owe it all to Him in the first place.
The record is a collection of worship songs. Some were written years ago. A few were written only a few months ago. It’s been fascinating to see how I’ve grown and changed over the years as a songwriter. It’s like a snapshot of the person I was when I wrote each song. I’d like to offer up the highest praise for the amazing songwriters who’ve joined me on this endeavor- Steve Smith, Jerry Sidell, Don Chapman, and John Redgrave. Their contributions are huge and have added some wonderful variety and interest to the songs. Isaac Blalock also deserves high praise for working on drums with me for this project. Thanks guys!
When I decided I was actually going to do this for real, I took stock of all my demos and got to work on crafting album cuts for each song. Every single song was re-recorded from scratch. It was a huge deal that the whole record sounds like a “record” when finished. I had to make sure the vocals, guitars, drums and everything else sounded like it fits together. Just throwing together a bunch of rough demos was not going to cut it. I was able to finish all the tracking in the studio in less than 30 days. Wow- that was intense. Now I’m in the process of refining the mixes and the song orders and so on- more on that below. If you’ve got a few minutes to read on, I’d like to share a little of how I created this record. If you’re bored by the details, go ahead and take a listen to the record now to see what I’ve been talking about (and follow me on SoundCloud).
Why should you listen to the record and share it? You should because I believe it’s remarkable. These are some really singable and really great songs. And they work extremely well in nearly any church worship setting. How can I possibly know that? I get a report twice a year from CCLI (Christian Copyright Licensing Intl) that show many of these songs being sung all over the world. It’s all for His glory. Pretty cool.
In order to produce this record from scratch in my home studio, I’ve had to make the best of what little equipment and space I have available. Yeah, I’ve got a bunch of screens, but they were all found for dirt cheap on eBay and Craigslist. Most of what I do is in the software world. So, screen real estate is highly valuable. I cannot tell you helpful it is to have mixers, email, web browsers and FX up all at once! As for equipment, I’ve only got a few decent microphones, a MOTU 828 recording preamp, a Line 6 POD X3 for guitars and bass and a Mac Pro to run it all. Most of the synthesizers, pads and FX are software based and built into Logic Pro X. No Pro Tools for me. I’ve been a Logic Pro producer since my first record with my high school band.
D.I.Y. ACOUSTIC PANELS
My room is setup to be reconfigured to track vocals, guitars, and even drums with only a few minutes of reset time. To help with the reconfigurations, I created some modular acoustic dampening panels that I use as a vocal booth and for mixing sessions to control the natural ambience in my studio room. I used some 2’x4′ acoustic foam and mounted them to PVC frames with removable legs. I record my own vocals and acoustic guitars with them setup in front of the desk as seen in the first pic above. The second pic is an example of how I recorded the percussion for the “acoustic sessions” (click the link). These panels have made all the difference in getting that clean and dry tone you need for a quality studio recording.
All the Hammond organ sounds on the record are the real deal. No crummy synthesized organs here. Nearly 50 years of vintage all-tube greatness. The biggest difference between this and a software patch, is not just the tone but the ease of use. All the drawbars respond so musically and playing the “diving board” keys “feels so good.” It’s hard to explain until you personally play the real thing, but it’s amazing. It nearly plays itself. Most of the time, I need only one or two takes on the song from start to finish and it’s golden. That’s not a brag about my skills; it’s a brag about how great this instrument is. [TIP: Listen to the song “crown Him” (click the link) on SoundCloud and there’s a killer Hammond organ solo at the beginning of the bridge.]
TIME, TIME, QUALITY TIME…
Want to know the secret of the big-time producers? Taking the time to do it right. All the equipment in the world won’t help you if you aren’t willing to take the time to do a hundred vocal takes of a verse to get the perfect tone and inflections and attitude. Then it takes time to edit those vocals or guitars or drums. You need to make microscopic adjustments to the volume levels and the FX and EQ and compression. Here’s a screencap of what I’m on about. This is just for volume automation for a couple vocals on one song:
You have to put in this kind of detail work for every instrument and every vocal. On every song. As you’re probably guessing, that takes an enormous amount of time- to do it right. If you just want it to sound average, then you can throw down a quick recording and you’re done. That’s not good enough for me. It has to sound as good as the best recordings on the market today. Those recordings have all been through the same process of refinement. In many ways, it’s pretty similar to our pursuit of holiness as followers of Christ. Taking time to refine ourselves and allow Him to weed out the ugly and sinful bits and pieces.
A MASSIVE ACHIEVEMENT
It’s one thing to say you’re a producer, singer, and songwriter. It’s a completely different thing to release a cohesive product to prove you’re a producer, singer, and songwriter (a worship record in this case). Many things have needed to line up for this record to become a possibility. Certain key pieces of equipment were needed and many of the skills that I’ve learned over the years have all come into play. My friend, Bob, told me “you have to show people who you are in a way they understand.” Makes sense, right? In my case, just having some songs and a few demo recordings was not enough. I needed to craft a cohesive album of songs that fit together with a common theme and sound- something that people can understand and enjoy and digest. So that’s what I did. Thanks Bob.
As my family and I have journeyed through the past year, it’s been a roller-coaster ride. We’ve needed some heavy-duty-support from our extended families and they’ve been right there with us the whole way. Thanks fam!
Lastly, but most importantly, the real star is my wife for supporting me and giving me the endless amounts of time in the studio (and doing things like reminding me to eat after tracking vocals for 6 hours straight, lol). She’s helped me to make this record a work of art that we’re both proud of. And I should mention that she’s a stellar mom too. Thanks sweetheart!