New music, a brilliant project for the summer and a task I've done a dozen times before.
What could go wrong?
With its extremely professional suite, team of experts and stunning view out over the Cotswolds, the Oliver’s Estate studio is an inspiring place to record.
I’d had the privilege of working there before on my most recent song, Fortresses, but on Wednesday I had an extraordinary task. So extraordinary, that I needed the keep the details a secret until I could be certain it would really happen. I had been selected as a vocalist for two new songs from an experienced songwriter, both of which fitted my voice and my experiences perfectly. It was a match made in heaven (more on that later)!
I had confirmed that during this first studio session we would be recording the more upbeat of the two songs, Journey On. A corker of a summery driving song, bursting with sunshine, hope and fun.
So I got to work. Over the last few weeks, I had been practicing to the backing track, honing the performance in singing lessons, and reflecting on the lyrics so I could sing them with authenticity and confidence. I felt more pressure than usual; conscious that I’d be observed during the session by Resound Media‘s top banana Andy Baker, and the yet unseen Dave Wheeler, the songwriter of 55 years who’d composed the tracks. If I’m completely honest, it felt a bit like an audition, and if my performance didn’t impress I assumed they’d find another vocalist.
As the recording day approached and the details were finalised, I found out we’d have just two hours to get the vocals down. That seemed pretty ambitious to me, in previous recording sessions it had taken easily twice that long. The pressure grew.
So it would be an understatement to say that, when I arrived at the studio and in a casual remark boss-man Andy revealed that he was planning to record BOTH songs during the session, I felt a bit surprised.
No practicing. No honing. No reflecting. Just sing. I hadn’t even heard the backing track yet.
I can’t imagine what poor Andy saw on my face then, but if faces could be heard I fancy mine might have sounded quite rude. My protesting was futile. The mistake had already been made, now there was nothing to do but record the tracks.
Trained singers are keenly aware of the significance of stress and tension on the body, and the detrimental effects these have on the voice. A tense, up-tight singer is their own worst enemy. (Of course, being their own worst enemy also doesn’t help the poor soul loosen up.)
And had I not been the person I am – the kind of person who plans itineraries to the minute, finds databases interesting and always carries a Filofax – perhaps the last-minute change of plans wouldn’t have been a cause of stress, but actually a fun, interesting twist in an otherwise overly-planned event.
Wisely, something surprising and lovely chose just that moment to occur. That something was Dave Wheeler. The smallish, white-haired man entered the room with such a soothing presence that he couldn’t have been less intimidating if he’d knocked all the decorative guitars off the wall and landed on a whoopee cushion.
With kind eyes and a persistent smile, he was instantly disarming.
As we all exchanged hellos, he sat politely beside me on the sofa which faced Andy at the mixing desk and procured a large digital camera and a binder full of song lyrics. (The marvelous thing about this important detail was that later, when we came to record the second song, Dave had a copy of the lyrics for me.)
Between takes, which did indeed fit into the two-hour window, I noticed Dave watching on or taking the occasional photo. His demeanour was nothing but gentle and facilitative. My fear that I may not ‘make the final cut’ was completely off. Even more to my surprise, Dave knew my music and testimony, and had even been following my journey online.
As we chatted, it became apparent how timely and well-arranged the session was. The songs weren’t recent works, but seemed to have come to Andy’s attention at just the right time to link up with me. Furthermore, each song has a message I believe in wholly and can attest to passionately, and they even underpin the messages in my current Bigger Than Dreams tour. It was almost too weird to be true (Dave would call this a Godincidence).
I gradually relaxed into things with encouragement and direction from Andy, and by the end of the afternoon the songs were starting to sound brilliant (the process doesn’t end there of course, and Andy’s skill in editing and mastering speaks for itself).
The finished songs will be CRACKING, I can’t wait to hear them and share them with you. Keep your eyes open for ‘Journey On’ which will be arriving in the upcoming weeks, and I’ll soon reveal more on the mysterious ‘second song’! 😉
I’m still incredibly humbled to have the opportunity to release them, and share something of Dave’s vision for writing them. If you’d like to pray for the project, please pray for the right doors of opportunity to be opened so that these songs can make an impact in a lot of lives. Thank you. 🙂