This weekend we finished all my lead vocal tracks. This is getting serious now, this album-making idea. I feel like we’ve past some kind of point of no return. I mean, any time up until now I could have just pulled the plug and walked away. A bunch of instrumental unmixed tracks, who cares? Doesn’t exactly sound like much of anything. But now I’ve sang the words to all the songs. It’s stored in Mike Southworth’s computer (and a back-up in my external hard drive. Maybe I do want to finish this. At least, I don’t want to lose it). There’s no mistaking it, these definitely sound like songs now.
I’ve never done this before, sang all the words and been the lead singer. Our first vocal session we recorded all the songs in about 7 hours. I was very pleased that I felt fine all day. No sore throat and my voice didn’t give out. So I must have ok technique. I was able sing mostly in tune, yay. We did a few fixes, but they were mostly on Every Single One, which I realized too late (after the bass had been recorded) is a half step too low for me.
I didn’t want to rely on the auto-tune…let me rephrase that, I would have rather died than rely on auto-tune to make me sound good. I’m old school. I’m a musician. I believe in practicing your ass off and playing as excellently as possible, live and in the studio. If you need a computer to take over and compensate for your lack of skill, you suck. And you’re lazy. Too lazy to work and practice and learn how to sound good on your own.
Now, having said that, I realize that I’m not nearly a good enough singer to record a song all the way through with perfect intonation, phrasing, and attitude. Piano tracks, yes. Vocals, maybe in my next life that I devote to singing. I practiced for weeks, but I knew it wouldn’t be enough. I still didn’t want to use the auto-tune though. So we compromised. Mike had me do lots and lots of takes, one verse and chorus at a time. As the day went on I was able to sing longer sections and stay pretty consistent tuning wise. We had a massive editing session to piece together the best takes and I was able to (mostly) avoid the dreaded auto-tuner. I think it sounds like a human being singing, not a computerized robot so I’m pretty happy about that.
I must admit though, I’m fairly unsettled. I’ve never heard my voice so prominently, so naked and alone. I felt ridiculously vulnerable the first time I listened though to the tracks at home. I wanted to crawl under the couch. And the lyrics, oh god. They are definitely audible. I’ve taken to listening to bands I dislike on youtube, trying to reassure myself that my songs aren’t THAT bad. Sometimes it works.
Now the only recording left is the harmony vocals. I had to send my vocal tracks to Dawn and Hilary so they can practice their parts until our rehearsals and recording session. And they are really, really good professional singers. I cringed a little as I pressed ‘send’, but whatever. They haven’t called me up to tell me they have to shampoo their hair and won’t be available to record. Not yet anyway.
After this next recording session it will be editing, morning noon and night. I’m looking forward to that – I do love editing – then we’ll mix, and master. I think that’s a big part of why the songs sound so weird to me. Right now they’re unmixed and the vocals are super loud. Plus the harmonies are missing. I’m hoping I’ll feel better about them once things are balanced out a little and Hilary and Dawn’s parts are added. And then I’ll really have to decide. Do I want to put these songs out there for people to hear? Do I want to draw any attention to this album whatsoever?
I’ve been telling great songwriters (who are sometimes plagued with uncertainty) for years that they’re the worst person to evaluate their own work. Let the band, the fans, anybody else do that for you. You can’t possibly be objective about your own work. Just put it out there and be proud you’ve created art from nothing. It’s bound to resonate with some people, maybe lots of people. So just enjoy the journey of creating it and then let it go, blah blah blah.
For myself, I can’t seem to believe that and follow that advice. It’s so interesting, now that the shoe’s on the other foot. I want to push myself, do things that frighten me so I can grow into a wiser, more beautiful little flower. Now for the first time, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to do that.
And then I’m like, fuck it. Get over yourself, Maira.
These songs aren’t the best in the world, so what? They aren’t the worst either.