Mixology 101

My mixing sessions with Mike Southworth had arrived. I’d been so busy growing a human and teaching full time and trying to regain some semblance of normal life that the weeks had passed rather quickly. Mike Zobac and I had flailed around attempting to edit vocals and start the mixing process, but a lack of experience coupled with unfamiliarity with the studio gear gave me the uneasy impression that we were making the songs sound worse, not better.


This was in fact the case. It took Mike a bit of time to undo all the half baked “strategies” and “fixes” that Zobac and I had forced on those poor little songs. But once we were effectively back at zero, things went quickly. A few days later we had a set of first pass initial mixes done.


I popped the cd into my car’s stereo and grinned with amazed delight as I drove home listening. Mike Zobac and I grinned some more when we listened to them together. Mostly from relief, I think. It was deeply satisfying to hear the songs as we originally envisioned. We knew when we were recording that everyone’s parts were really good and the songs had solid arrangements and a decent amount of catchy melodic-ness. It was worrying and disappointing to say the least that after our mixing attempts the songs were missing all of these elements.


In hindsight, it was touchingly naive that we thought we could mix a record. Being decent musicians with decent ears and some computer facility allowed us to engineer, produce, and arrange. But not mix, oh no. And it really came down to familiarity with the studio’s gear and experience. Mike Southworth sat and casually talked to me while he cleaned up, edited, and employed a thousand little shortcuts and tricks to make everything sound rad. Mike Zobac and I sat in mute despair, wondering why we couldn’t hear our keyboard parts, or why we couldn’t line up the vocal parts perfectly, or where the hell was that plug-in that we just used.



We listened carefully for a few days to the initial mixes, and passed our notes on to Mike Southworth. About a week later we had our final mixes. And I knew I hadn’t just wasted a year of my life writing and recording songs.

Here’s Every Single One a la Zobac and Maira. Meh.

Every Single One



Final mix. Yup, I hear a difference.

Every Single One




Blackbirds, pre-awesome.

Blackbirds



Final mix. Warmer, fuller, lusher, more beautiful.

Blackbirds

After a couple of weeks of feeling overjoyed with how my songs sounded, it dawned on me: I am so happy with my art project that I made out of nothing. The depths of despair had completely disappeared. Nausea and fatigue were distant memories. I’m five months now, and I feel fantastic and beautiful. I’m eating well, exercising again, hanging out with my friends, and carefully tending my teaching practice. All the things I couldn’t imagine doing two months ago.

Every day, I am happy to be me. I don’t remember ever feeling like this. I feel my little babe swim and roll around like a goldfish in a bowl and it makes me smile. I’m so, so glad I didn’t give up on making this record. Next, we master.