Vocal sessions

After summer soccer tonight, I’m jumping in the car for a late night trip to Auckland. We’re starting the vocal sessions for the new album tomorrow morning. I’ve found myself getting steadily excited about this over the last few days.

For starters, this will be my first opportunity to hear the instrumental tracks in a nearly complete form. When I left Auckland 6 weeks ago, we’d tracked most things, but they were in a pretty rough and ready state. While I’ve been away, Matt has been editing, recording additional string and synth parts and generally getting the songs up to scratch. Now I get to do karaoke to my own songs!

I’m also excited because this is the part of the album that requires the most input from me. Guitar and piano parts are important, but for me the story of a song happens in the voice. Everything else is just a vehicle to carry that message, those words, that melody. I’m particularly eager for this session because I reckon we’ve got a great bunch of songs to work with. Ten years ago, in my very first ever excursion into a recording studio, the engineer rather cheerily told me that he ‘couldn’t make honey out of dog poo’. That may (or may not) have been a fair comment at the time, but it’s definitely not a concern this time around. This may be the strongest collection of songs I’ve ever written. Am I saying that just to create a frenzy of interest? No, let’s be honest its only you and my mum who reads this. 😉

So in front of me I have 3 days to track 12 songs. I’ll sing each song 5 or 6 times and then we find the best version, even if we have to build it out of different takes. What we’re after is a delivery which is believable and free of distractions. Distractions are slurred words which make you go, ‘what is that line?’ or wobbly notes that auto tune or melodyne can’t smooth out. That stuff is all very effective at tearing the listener ‘out of the zone’, like feedback at a concert – and so it is our mortal enemy.

What is new this time is that in the last year, I have begun to love singing these songs. That might sound such an obvious statement as to sound strange, but this is a new experience for me. Previously I’ve been so aware of my limitations as a musician and vocalist, that it was all about getting it done in such a way that I didn’t look or sound like a fool. Hence, my  performances of my own songs were always weighed down by insecurity and a conviction of my own inadequacy.

Now I’ve made friends with my inadequacy, and my insecurity and I have signed a truce. I give him one day a month to freak me out, and the rest of the time, he shuts up! But I am, after a decade of recording my music, discovering a joy in singing that I’ve not known before. It comes from having something to say that is good and real and honest, and having a voice that is the best/only one I have to tell the world these stories and sing these songs.

I’m not that worried if other people like my music anymore, because I’m really loving it. I mean, no one is that secure, but you get the idea, right?

AUTHOR: Malcolm Gordon
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