Happy spring! It certainly was a long winter here and it’s great to finally see maple flowers. We have been busy putting the final touches on the CD and will be sending the mixes off to the mastering house this week. I know, what does that mean? Overdubs, mixes, masters, why does it take so long?
As you may recall, we completed the bulk of the recording over the New Year and then did some overdubbing in the studio of our wonderful engineer Chris Rosser. These sessions were delayed at times by illness, and also by the addition of several instruments we didn’t plan to record: pedal and lap steel (by Aaron) and drums (by Jon Stickley, our producer). Drums! Electric guitars! Don’t worry, you’re gonna love it.
We separated all the elements of the sound (the different instruments, the vocals), in order to be able to mix clean parts later, i.e. no bleed of other instruments or singing with the part we were trying to record. We also overdubbed vocals and instrumental breaks later in a smaller studio so that we could focus on getting the basic framework of the songs together in the big (and more expensive) studio. As you can imagine, all of this has an effect on the interplay and dynamics of the music.
Part of it comes down to the fact that it’s difficult to play your part as you might in a live setting when you are concentrating so hard on playing it as if under a microscope. Also, your connection to the rest of the band is just through your headphone mix, which doesn’t always include all the instruments and vocals and can cause you to feel the song differently. Finally, there are your nerves to deal with, which can affect how free you are in your playing! All of this stuff probably gets easier if you record in the studio a lot, but most performing musicians don’t have that luxury. Therefore having adequate time to capture and mix the sounds was really important for us.
Because all the parts are recorded in separate spaces, and at separate times in some cases, once you listen back to the whole product, there are adjustments that need to be made to make the whole thing hang together. That is all done during the process of mixing, where the volumes of all the elements are adjusted. In addition, the tones of the instruments and vocals (EQ, reverb/echo) also have to be adjusted to capture the “voice” of each instrument (darker vs. brighter, clear vs. echo-y). They say that you are never done mixing, but you just run out of time…and that is absolutely right on point! A lot of adjusting, listening, and adjusting again goes on during the mixing process.
Once the tracks are mixed, the engineer places each element, so you will hear Aaron’s dobro through your left speaker, Jed’s mandolin through your right speaker, and our vocals right in the center. Lastly, the tracks are sent to a mastering studio. There they make sure that all the tracks are consistent with each other, optimize them for play in all formats, put the spaces between songs, and do some audio compression that generally makes the music pop more and have a polished sheen.
If you read all this, and the previous blog about our initial recording sessions at Sound Temple, you might have a feel for why studio recordings require so much work, and not all of it is exactly musical. Recording in the studio is a reminder of why it’s really important to go see live music, because there is nothing like a live performance with everybody in the same place at the same time interacting with each other. Unexpected things happen.
But unexpected and cool things happen in the studio as well. For example, when we approached recording these songs, we changed some of our arrangements, and took the opportunity to add some instruments we don’t use live, such as drums and some pedal and lap steel on a few tracks.
SO all of this is to say…if you are in the area, please join us for our live album release show in Asheville on June 5th at the Isis Music Hall! Our producer, Jon Stickley will open the show and join us in places for our set. Jon is an exceptional guitarist and a warm, entertaining personality.
Throughout this entire process, we have felt so fortunate for our Kickstarter backers that supported our work in the wonderful studios we used with such great people. It meant everything to us. Now it is all recorded and almost ready for you! We are now doing our photo shoot, getting the album artwork finalized and taking care of all the licensing and distribution details. We are also getting our Kickstarter rewards ready to send off next month. To that end, Jed and Stig spent a Saturday at the Stiglets’ art studio hand printing all the Tellico t-shirts! (By the way, if you wanted a T-shirt but didn’t order one during the Kickstarter campaign, you can access our store for any additional orders here: http://tellicoband.com/store).
I am ordering lots of packaging materials and making labels, and it is a pleasure to be working on giving something back to you for your faith in and support of our efforts. We will also send copies of the CD to radio stations and reviewers across the country with the help of our publicist Erin Scholze, who will be working hard to get this music into as many ears as she can. It's all coming together!