The Studio (Sunday 2/16/14)
Format Audio in Amesbury, Massachusetts, which was an hour and a half from Owen's place. Ryan has quite a lot of experience, although none with hip-hop music, and one the albums he did ("The World Is A Beautiful Place And I Am No Longer Afraid To Die" album that he engineered, Whenever, If Ever ended up going gold!) We had a freezing and snowy long drive ahead of us, I was suddenly getting sick, my nose congested and my throat hurting. I've found this happens probably 50% of the time that I have scheduled studio time, I don't know why this is, but it is very frustrating and scary, especially being that I was away for this opportunity to do so. Luckily, this condition, although it worsened over the day and the next, did not affect my breath control or the sound of my voice at all! After grabbing some decongestant, energy drinks, apples and a bunch of trail mix and gas on the way (of course, tagging the gas station pump with an AllOne sticker) we began our drive. During the lengthy trip Owen and I listened to Run The Jewels and practiced our lines and talked out ideas regarding the album.
I had a spoken word piece that I wrote as a guest outro to Owen's song "Walking Nightmare" as well as both of my solo songs to record and our two collaborative songs. Our session was only 6 hours and we were nervous about getting it all done in time, especially considering Owen hadn't even had all of his material completed. One boon was that I was very familiar with my solo songs as I've been done with them and performing them for about a year now so I knew everything by heart and generally how I wanted things to sound as far as the mixing and effects. I was also a little nervous anticipating working with someone on a serious project that wasn't Michael Korb for the first time in a professional environment. There have been a handful of people I've recorded verses or singles with, but primarily my entire recording experience has been through Sixth Street Studios/Space Debris Productions with Mike Korb and his patience and our longstanding friendship was an environment I'd come to be accustomed to and maybe even dependent on when it came to recording.
Format Audio, Working with a New Producer
We arrived in Amesbury around 2pm, it's a quaint little town and the studio was in a modest red brick building in a snow-ridden space that Ryan was renting out to utilize as the headquarters of Format Audio. Luckily Ryan was really accommodating and patient, he was professional and easy to work with. We had decided the priority was to get all my material done first since it was rare that I'd be here. The first thing we recorded was my poem, this was an auspicious and interesting start. The way that Tony Mahoney's beat for "Walking Nightmare" ended initially was with a bit of piano and then the beat came back in for a while. I decided that it would have sounded better if ti were just the piano part while I did my poem so that I wasn't to be compelled to stay on beat and to truly maintain the general rhythmic lawlessness of my spoken word piece. This being decided, Ryan asked me how long he should make it. I threw a guess out there "I don't know, 60 seconds?" Owen, somehow says "Run the piano part for 70 seconds Ryan", though I don't know how he got 70 from 60. Regardless, I performed the poem perfectly in one take and Owen's odd misinterpretation ended up perfectly ending my piece with the last two letters right after the music ends. It was so serendipitous and perfect, it was very encouraging and funny!
While I worked on my songs, Owen productively used the time to work on his final verse for the project. During those next few hours I recorded my solo songs for the project. The first song I did was "Work In Progress", a raw and confessional song discussing the idea that we are always changing and encountering challenges and finding flaws in ourselves. In the song I share a lot of personal woes and standpoints, as well as acknowledging my history as a wild aspiring stuntman when I was younger. My overall message is that is important is to maintain a persistent willingness to evolve, to love yourself and the ebbing and flowing world around us, and to humbly improve upon ourselves and encourage others to do the same. "Ideally I wish I'd whisper 'sweet nothings' in your ears, but really I'll just speak so much you'll wish I wasn't there. My heart isn't encased in any sort of picture frame, it ripped the cage and slipped away much like the Grinches' eh?"
The second song I recorded, which I ended up asking Owen to do some guest vocals on, is called "Quality Vs. Quarantine". It is about my personal romantic history as well as examining and cautioning against being so cynically guarded that you shut yourself out from the beautiful things of the world. At a certain point, caution becomes a diseases in itself. "Intense, advanced or cultured, this mentally relaxed persona is actually a fragile, vulnerable bundle of nerves I control with intent to use empathy to effectively represent life vividly." It is a tribute to the spurned, a helping hand and a hope to remind us that while it's important to learn from the past, we should be careful not to let our wounds restrictively govern us!
I sing on the choruses of both of these songs, making use of that new found passion, and always hoping to evolve the vision and contribute new aspects of myself to what I make. Owen and I then started working on the closing track of the album that he creatively spearheaded called "Cause and Effect". We have a call and response interaction on the chorus and we both get long solo verses as well as an aforementioned 32 bar verse that we trade 4 bar phrases on. I feel that "Cause and Effect" is a great song with strong writing and delivery over an instrumental that is uplifting and amazing. It is a beautiful way to end the album.
Around 8:30 we had to wrap up and we still had the title track of the album, the last collaborative song, my brainchild, to do. Ryan was generous enough to agree to have us come in for another three hours the next day on Monday the 17th.
We drove home tired but ecstatic to have the end of this long and interesting journey in sight!
The Final Day and Final Song! (Monday 2/17/14)
Job Done, Just Begun, The Support of Friends and Family.
Owen was completely done overall and we opted out of attending a Boston poetry slam. As though to make up for it he treated us both to an incredible offshoot of Chipotle (you may remember this as Alexa Dexa and my tour food of choice) called Cilantro in Providence. We then went back to his house to visit his funny brother Myles' friends Julien, Joe and Remy, all of whom were really hilarious and kind to me. We talked and watched funny internet videos and bad rappers and just goofed off. They all generously (including Owen's Mom Libby) bought CD's and t-shirts and asked me to sign them and overall it ended up paying for my portion of the recording, which was incredibly humbling and amazing. So much love to all of those guys for supporting me and making me feel like someone special, I hope I can return the favor! We ended up hanging out until maybe one in the morning despite having to be up at 5am to get to my 6:45 Megabus from Providence to NYC and return home.
The trip went differently than we both expected, we didn't perform at all but we spent a lot of time together, we created something we were proud of, we are on track to releasing a work of art that we are proud of and genuinely feel will contribute something to listeners. We got along well and met a lot of new people and learned things about one another and ourselves. We went from distant friends and artistic collaborators to close friends with inside jokes and a work of art we will give the world in a few months and feel justified in doing so. I am grateful to have this experience. Many thanks to Owen and his family for posting me up and supporting me and believing in my music and my visions, for being family to me!
Now all the post recording work needs doing, we are on schedule, I got my photo shoot done and half my half of the artwork finished, Owen has a photo shoot planned and we are waiting on Ryan Stack to send us mixes back. We will release the album in may and celebrate and share its release in June on a tour which we will begin planning around several states and across the northern border into Canada! If anyone would like us to come out to see us anywhere, plan a show with us, share a living room/stage/couch/night/weekend with us, please contact me at AllOneVoice@gmail.com
Thank you all for staying tuned in, I hope to affect you positively. Go connect with people despite (or because of) your differences! You will surely find yourself enriched and surprised!