What an experience… The video below was shot by my wife at the Burlington County Fair earlier this month. That sweet little lady to my left is my daughter, Emma. I love music… but to be able to share it with my daughter makes it even more special. Take a look and let me know what you think.
Hollywood depicts a music producer mostly as a slick dressed, sunglass wearing, lurking in the shadows type. While this may be true of some, it is certainly not the norm for today’s music scene. A producer is a mysterious title for some to grasp; and it should be. The producer wears many hats. Sometimes a musician, sometimes a therapist. Sometimes a babysitter, sometimes a fire starter. You see for every project someone puts their name on as a “producer”, they are sticking their neck and reputation on the line. Since we live in a “what have you done for me lately” world, a producer must have a finger on the pulse of the music industry. And while some producers have a signature sound, like what Mutt Lange does for Def Leppard, some are transparent and shift between genres like a homebound traveler at rush hour changes lanes. So it’s hard to identify the producer of the music your listening to on the radio.
Often an unsung hero, they take the credit, or the blame for every project. A daunting task at best. I produce Paul Street records myself. Sometimes it is hard to stay objective because I am incredibly hard on myself. I agonized over every detail from breath noise to the sound of the snare drum to the format of the song. It is very time-consuming and often the things I am working on at the very end of the project will go unnoticed to most listeners. But if I didn’t make the necessary changes, the record would be good, not great. I don’t do anything half way. Paul Street is all in or nothin’ at all!
A wise man once said the creativity is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. The craft of songwriting is just that; a craft. Something you work at and perfect. Everytime I pick up the guitar or sit at the piano, I play random chords and rhythms, hum melodies and go “soul searching”. Sometimes the story line is driven by my own experiences like my song “My Daddy Does“. Other times it’s about a friend who shared their story with me. Make no mistake; either way I take my words seriously (or silly-ishly depending on my mood). Each song is a mini therapy session. Meant to invoke laughter or sadness, or to get you, the listener, to focus on what you need to do that day as in my song “Breathe Love In” from the Streetwise CD. The greatest thing about songwriting is that you are always trying to write better songs. It’s knowing that I can always improve that keeps pushing me. There are no limits to creativity.
If you scroll down the list below you will find “You Can’t Go Back”, from my Temporary Sanity CD at number 92 on the playlist from the good people at Real Country in Japan. I get a lot of airplay overseas. Australia, Belgium, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands…all big fans of Paul Street! It’s exciting to know that someone half way around the world, who has never met you, is interested in your music. To date, Lee Ann from my Streetwise CD is still our most downloaded song on iTunes, with the most downloads coming from Germany! Keep an eye (and ear) out for more playlists right here!
The vocal is the center of Country Music… the story is king. You need to have the right gear (and ears) to get the job done.
I have assembled a few tools over the years that help me in the recording process. At the center is the Lawson L47MP microphone. A mic that uses tubes (yes like your Mom’s old TV set from the 70’s) to provide a larger than life quality to every Paul Street track. Next comes the “Big Red Box”….A Fearn VT-2 Tube Microphone preamp. A mic preamp raises the volume of the source to make it louder and easier to record. Finally my vocal goes through a Cranesong Trakker compressor. A compressor’s job is to control dynamic range. From a whisper to a scream, it will keep the levels even as not to explode and distort the vocal performance. Through careful tweaking, I am able to record my voice so that you can’t tell any of these devices are working.
Recording vocals is by far my favorite and most difficult part of the record making process. In the end, if the story doesn’t translate to you the listener, it doesn’t matter what I’ve used to record my voice. The performance is what matters. With the right tools, the performance comes easier.
When a great story recorded with great gear meets up with a great performance… it’s like magic.
When I set out to do the follow up record to Streetwise I knew it would be a challenge. You have your whole life to write your first one then just a short time to write the next. Will it be as good? Can I go through that process again? It takes many months of organization and many people to make it a true Paul Street project. Having my own recording studio is a huge advantage. Being able to work on the record at any time of the day allows me the freedom to listen and make adjustments over a period of time. It also allows procrastination. Self producing is a difficult task. I have a few trusted colleagues to listen and give their advice, but otherwise it’s me and the music. Finishing the music is only half the job however. Then people need to hear it. This is when you have to take a detour from music man to salesman.
This is an issue for any creative endeavor. You create, then you sell. How comfortable are you with making that transition… I’d love to know, so please leave me some comments telling me your story!