Saturday, September 07, 2013

Tales from the Bonus Round FAQ

IS 'TALES FROM THE BONUS ROUND' FINISHED?
Yes. 
DID YOU RECORD LIKE YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING TO, ALL SINGLE TAKES, NO FIXES OR OVERDUBS OR PITCH CORRECTION?
Yes (with slight exception). And on two songs, my friend Bill Goffi, a terrific musician who plays and sings all over town, came in with his guitar and played on two of the tracks. It feels like a jam session because it was a jam session. I think we had run over the songs once together.  
And, I admit at the the end of one particular song, I fixed one wrong note. It would have been a mistake to leave it and I didn’t have the energy to re-record the entire song just to fix one note. So, maybe we’ll make it a guessing game as to which note got fixed. 

WAS IT DIFFICULT, RECORDING THIS WAY?
Impossible. In theory, it seemed like an easy thing. 
But in practice, recording an album “live in the studio” is not the same as performing a concert in front of people, where you can relax and go from song to song, bringing in the energy of the audience.  
 What I found was that everything I ever put into an entire concert went into each song.
 Songs like “At A Hospice, In The Atrium,” where I go right back to that place, where I was surrounded on all sides by unseen people on respirators, breathing their last breaths. I remembered the little out of tune upright. I saw the empty chairs and pictured the people in their rooms with their doors open to hear me. 
And it wasn’t just them. I thought of their friends, their families, their co-workers, how each one represented a world of people. Sorrow this deeply felt overwhelms you.  
And to go there, to get from one end of that song to the other, is like running a marathon as I did my best to hold it together. After, I could barely sit up.  
I just hadn’t realized how intense this plan of mine would be. And then -- and singers know what I’m talking about -- to turn the page and plunge right into the next song. “Somebody’s Friend,” anyone?  
I recently read an article about how someone loved Bob Dylan’s demo of a particular song because, when you hear something from the creator, it has a stamp of authenticity that no one else can bring to it, even if those others have better voices or are better musicians.  
 For me, so many songs are born from great and intense pain. Even the ones that end on a happy note. I don’t have to use acting technique to find that sorrow. I am transported there immediately because the song brings me back to that original place and those original feelings, which can only be imperfectly rendered because they’re a story about The Thing Itself. I’m feeling The Thing Itself.  
So, where does that leave you, listener? Hopefully, to authentic moments and memories of your own. You don’t have to have sung in a hospice to know the sorrow of loss. You don’t have to have been through the mill of the modern medical establishment to know pain or confusion or anger or frustration.  
That’s why a song is a conversation. The listener does not hear, deep inside, what I hear, but, when we connect, the listener hears something just as profound. What I discovered I could not do, after laying down a track, was to sing and play it again. Once sung, it was out of me and I had no capacity to go back and relive the song all over again. I had to just move on.
IF YOU COULDN’T GO BACK AND RECORD SOMETHING AGAIN, WHAT DID YOU DO IF YOU MADE A BIG MISTAKE?

I set it aside for another day. I actually recorded this in four sessions.  
Session one was me getting used to the piano and the sound. I was also trying out a bunch of different songs. We didn’t keep anything from that session, but someday I’ll let you hear some of it.  
Session two, kinda the same thing. Tried out more songs. Re-recorded a few from the first session. And from that second session, we got several keepers: Somebody’s Friend and Going It Alone, for two. Those, of course, I knew better than the new songs. 
 But, on session three, I nailed it. The album you will hear is almost all session three.  
Session four, I added a song, “My Rising Up,” and re-recorded one of the guitar songs with Billy Goffi. At that session, also, Stephen Elkins came and we added harmonies to “Rising.” 
What I did not do, except to just spot check that the sound was good, was listen to the playback of any of the songs during the session. I didn’t listen to what I had just recorded.
Instead, I turned the page and we moved on to the next song. 
If it felt right while I sang it, and I knew I hadn’t done anything egregiously wrong on the piano, then it was a true performance. 
And that’s what I wanted to capture: a private, intimate, unedited concert between you and me, listener. A voice, a piano and even the environmental sounds around us -- piano noises, my foot keeping time on the carpet, smacking my lips accidentally, mispronouncing a word.  
Not a perfect performance. Not a “definitive” recording, all tricked out with strings, drums, horns and production. A real performance. How the song felt on this day at this time. 
When you put headphones on, it will feel like you’re sitting on that bench, the sound of the piano brilliantly in your face, hearing exactly what I hear when I play and sing alone. Oh, the concerts I have given that no one will ever hear! (I don’t know how to rehearse and not mean it. If I’m singing a song, I’m singing the song.) 
 WHAT’S NEXT?
Mastering. That’ll cost about a thousand bucks, so I’ve put up the Bonus Round Emporium* to help defray costs.  
I had forgotten about mastering when contemplating the original budget, which is stupid. Mastering is what brings the sound up to a professional level. It’s at this level that we will make sure it sounds exactly as I’ve described.  
 *If you purchase something, I'll send you a free advance mp3 as a thank you gift. 

WHEN WILL IT BE RELEASED? AND HOW?
It should be only a few more weeks. After the mastering is done, I will upload it to Tunecore, which will distribute it worldwide to every download and streaming site in the world. I intend to make these songs available in every format, whether free or paid. I’ll probably upload some rudimentary youtube videos, maybe with just the logo of the album. 

YOU DON’T HAVE A RECORD LABEL?
No record label would want me. These songs will never get radio play alongside Katy Perry. I’m too old. And if they did, I’m not sure what they would provide. In the old days, labels did the marketing and distribution. Today, distribution is as easy as signing up for an account.
Also, from my time at National Academy of Songwriters, I’ve seen record label contracts. No thank you.
Marketing? Most people ignore ads. The only real marketing is one friend telling another about a song they love. So, if you like the music, you will tell others. That’s the only marketing that means anything in this connected world. 

CAN I GET A HARD CD, AS OPPOSED TO A DOWNLOAD?
Amazon will manufacture the CD, if you order it from them. I did not plan to manufacture any because that’s expensive and, also, I have no place in this small apartment to store even one box of CDs, much less 1000. 

WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU AFTER THIS?
What’s next is my 60th birthday, which we'll celebrate at the big concert on October 27th at The Metropolitan Room in New York. (My actual birthday is the 4th, but this being SteveFest60, the celebrations will go all year long, you understand.)
Also, another album. In fact, we’ll make it a trilogy. Two more albums to come! But first, let’s get this one up and available. When I began this journey, none of these web stores were available. And I didn’t realize, back then, that I could make a record without all the bells and whistles.
Maybe on the next one, I’ll get a few more musicians and we’ll make it sound like a living room concert. I would like that.
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