Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Song of Surrender

If I haven't written all that much in the blog, it's because I've been really focusing on both writing and recording. It's a slow process for me. I wish I could just pop out a song every day as some writers can. But that's not me.

And then, once the song is written, there is the tedious process of getting it recorded. I love it, though. As time-intensive as it may be, it's definitely rewarding to begin with a blank page and end up with a song.

The song I've been focused on this week is one that was on a CD of demos which I gave back in New York to Devin Richards, the singer I've written about more than a few times here in the blog. (He'll be opening on Broadway in "110 In The Shade" very soon -- they've just finished teching.) At the time I gave him the folder of demos, I told him, "Pick whatever songs you like and let's see what happens."

One of the first songs he chose was "Song of Surrender," a song I co-wrote with my friend, Jim Latham. Jim was one of the very first friends I made when we moved to L.A. back in the late 80s. At the time, he was working in a recording studio and we were just two guys trying to make music together. This was one of the songs from those early sessions, and it was always one of Jim Brochu's favorites. So, I was really happy when Devin picked it out.

Jim Latham

We worked up a special arrangement in his home studio, lowering the key to fit his voice, and then throwing in a key change to give it some juice. Then we performed it a few times in public at Mark Janas' salon and got a really great response. Still, I knew if we were going to make a good demo, we had a lot of problems to solve. The first being how to collaborate long distance. It's not something I've done before. So, we had to create a method from scratch.

Luckily, when you work with a total pro like Devin, the process reveals itself. The first thing I did was make a piano track and send it to him. He imported that track into his Mac and began singing along. Then, the next morning, I got a note.

"Hey," he said. "I got possessed or something. I may hate this in the morning, but I stayed up until 4am doing nothing but singing this song and making choral tracks to go behind the lead vocal."

It was fantastic. It was amazing. His soulful grace and gospel influences totally blew me away. But how could I import all this and create a full track? What he did was separate each vocal line and send them separately as .wav files. It was a total of six vocal lines. So, I added them one at a time, lined them up and then began creating bass, drum, percussion, strings and horn parts.

I sent it back to him. He critiqued it. I changed it. Resent it. He critiqued it. I changed it. Over and over for a solid week. Slowly but surely it started sounding better and better. I started referring to him as Mr. Perfect because he could hear the most infinitesimal "off" cymbal hit no matter how buried in the arrangement.

Finally, this morning, I did the final mix and got the approval! It was done! In fact, I liked what we did so much, I entered the song in the American Idol Song Contest. Hey, 10 bucks. Why not. It's one of those songs: a big, fat love song with a huge chorus. Just what they're looking for.

So, here it is. I hope you enjoy it.

Listen to the song!

If you're in New York, catch Devin's own solo show:

My Own Voice:
An evening with Devin Richards
The Metropolitan Room
34 W. 22nd (between 5th & 6th)
$20 plus 2 drink minimum
June 4th, 2007


Anonymous said...

What a great song and Devin's voice is fantastic! I have loved listening to some of the songs you have put on this blog. Are there any recordings of your music available for purchase?
I am so glad your New York run of "The Big Voice: God or Merman" was so successful and I hope your San Francisco run is equally as great.
Thanks for your inspirational music and humor.

Steve Schalchlin said...

Yes. You can purchase recordings at http://youth-guard.org/cd. I'm so happy you enjoyed Devin. He is a major talent and I'm privileged that he wants to continue working with me.

Unknown said...

Steve! It's sounds great!!! I must give Devin a call and see what trouble we can make together!! I promise I will never call without checking in with your blog first :))) I can't wait to see you in June! I'm already learning songs!!

All my love!