Thursday, December 03, 2009

Pre-production

On Monday, I woke up bright and early and packed up a bunch of my guitars, amps, pedals and my computer and headed over to Steve Bishir's studio, where Jon Skaggs, Clint Milburn, Tommy Lee and I set up and spent 3 days recording rough demos of all the songs that will be on the record. The plan, as we went was to work out arrangements, rework arrangements as needed, and simply start to work through a pile of ideas of parts that everyone could play.

I was both excited and nervous as I headed in with MY band. It's unusual in this business to use your own players....in fact a lot of actual bands don't actually play on their albums...they hire session players to record for them. Obviously, when we play live it feels like we're really tight...but you never really know until you get into a room, play through songs and then listen back. Any nervousness I had has been wiped away. These guys are remarkable and after almost 2 years on the road together, we ended up being very tight as we listened back on tape. That's a good feeling. To play with guys that have become your friends and listen back and realize that, man, this sounds really good!

Anyway, we did a basic set up: all of us in one room, me playing electric guitar; Clint, of course, playing electric guitar (our amps were in isolation booths off to the side of the live room); Tommy on bass through a direct box straight into the system; and Jon on drums with just 4 mics set up (2 overheads, 1 on kick, 1 on snare). These aren't the real recording that will end up on the record, obviously...the goal was really just to get to hear how everything sounds and to come up with basic parts, as I said before.

On Monday, we took most of the morning getting everything set up and getting basic sounds. By about 11:30 we finally started working on our first song. One by one over Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we went through the 14 songs that would make up the album, plus the 2 songs that we plan on recording for iTunes exclusives...

I can't begin to tell you guys how excited I am about how everything is sounding. As we went through all the songs and worked out arrangements, I was so happy with several things:

1) The songs stand up. Sometimes when I demo something on my own, it just doesn't translate when you get real players playing it. I program stuff and play what's in my head...but when you get it out to other people, they don't have the affection for the song that I did. Maybe they just don't get it. Maybe they just don't like it. Maybe the song just stinks to begin with. But for some reason it doesn't work. Every song I thought worked ended up working with everyone playing.

2) We're not settling for "stock" parts and arrangements. The mantra throughout the whole 3 days was don't think like session players. Session players are the guys who play on most Christian records. Incredibly talented and perhaps WAY more talented than my guys (though I could argue they aren't). However, they play on different records every day of every week. Eventually, they develop a "thing" that they do and you know (for the most part) what you're getting with a certain player. As we worked this week, we really tried to treat the songs as a band would treat them...not how a session player would treat them. I know it sounds nominal, but the difference is phenomenal. My goal with this record is to create a record that stands up 20 years from now. Obviously, I want success on radio now...but I think you can make records that have radio hits while at the same time doing something interesting and different. And a lot of that comes back to how the players arrange their parts: how the drummer approaches his parts; how the bass player gets in the groove; how the guitar players parts interact with the rhythm section. Obviously we're just getting parts worked out, but what was encouraging was how the guys caught what I was going for immediately...

3) We have radio songs. Nothing is guaranteed with radio, obviously. But as we worked out arrangements, we were all struck with how commercial songs like "Only You Can Save", "In the Weak", "I'm Ready" and "One" ended up turning out. Even the demos just sounded like radio waiting to happen. That is exciting! We need radio to sell records...we need to sell records to get people to come out to shows (and THAT is the most important thing, of course!)

4) The diversity of this album is cool. The album has an overall "Sound"...probably most described as synthy pop rock. But we throw in some surprises. There's some acoustic stuff. Bells make an appearance. Choir pops up. String sections ranging from single cellos to quartets to a full string section will be on several songs. A banjo will probably be played on at least one song. Lots of little synth parts. I mean...I think this record is going to be so much ear candy it won't be funny! You will want to listen to this album on headphones!

So...all that to say: I'm pumped. I can't wait until we actually record these songs and you get this album in your hand and ears!!!

21 comments:

Kevin said...

right on! we are excitedly waiting for your next best effort and know it will be great! we are ready to go to your next show in orlando too.

Maria said...

can you say what label you are on yet?

Cathy Storms said...

That is really exciting. You are so blessed to have such talented musicians who seem to be just as excited as you are to make this an awesome record. I already know how talented they are and they are just really nice people. It is a special blessing that they are really good friends of yours.
I can't wait to hear the new stuff.
I know it's going to melt our faces off..
I know you said it would probably be Sept or so, but do you think there could be anyway to get it correspond with the annual picnic? How cool would that be? The first stop on a new tour the same time as the picnic? Whew....Now that could be awesome.

rosalee said...

I'm glad that you are able to use your own band members rather than studio musicians on the CD. Clint, Tommy and Jon will create a whole new kind of energy for the album.

It's also a positive sign that you have found that running through the songs has resulted in an affirmation of the integrity of the material. I'm looking forward to hearing the finished product.

Amy's Purple Poodles said...

Chris-I was excited to read about the run-through you and your band did with the songs for your new album. I can't wait to have that CD in had and listen to it! You are so lucky to get to work with your own band-Jon, Tommy, and Clint are such nice people, too! I echo what Cathy has said. What two songs are you going to release to i-tunes? Are these different from the songs that are going to be on the CD?

Did everyone see the comments from Risa and I about Rascal Flatts and the Grammy's on Chris' last blog?

Amy

risalea said...

I know you realize how incredibly blessed you are to have Tommy, Clint and Jon on Team Sligh. They are musicians with tremendous talent, tremendous integrity, and just funny as heck. Well, except for Clint, on the funny part. I think he's your straight guy. LOL

SO excited that this is all coming together. I'll be even more excited if a certain April date comes to fruition as well! ; )

rosalee said...

Yes, Amy. It's wonderful that HCG is involved in a Grammy nomination (although it's for Rascal Flatts' performance of the song, not for the song, itself). There are 109 Grammy categories. Here is the list:

http://www.grammy.com/grammy_Awards/52nd_show/list.aspx

The 52nd Grammy Awards will air on Jan 31st (8:00 PM - 11:30 PM ET/PT)on CBS.

risalea said...

I meant to put this up earlier, and didn't get it done. Tomorrow is the St. Jude's Walkathon and friends and family of Amanda Rhea Jones are walking in her memory for the team, "Amanda's Idols." If you'd like to be a team sponsor, go to this link and donate. I know in this economy that donations are down are all over, but if you can participate, every little bit helps.

https://waystohelp.stjude.org/sjVPortal/public/displayTeamPage.do?eventId=55854&programId=401&teamId=3658

Have a great weekend, friends!

DJ in AL said...

Gotta be loving life right now huh? Love me some "boys-in-the-band", Fro Head, you'd just be naked without them:)

Ok, so don't get me fired up anymore about this album for a while. Sept. is too far away for me to sustain the adrenaline dude!
Get to work on the April AR gig, that's a little closer!

Happy Friday!

Nicholas said...

I'm really hoping these two exclusive tracks are "I Can't Believe" and "I Am"...

gdahimself said...

Chris,

Are you producing or are you using an outside producers(s)who are of your choosing?

Are you able to update the information on your record deal?

HstryQT said...

Always love to hear the play by plays!

I'm sooo looking forward to the day when I hear I'm Ready on the radio (because it will be, one day :). Excited to hear it in your list of potential radio songs. Yay!

ChrisSligh said...

2 iTunes exclusive tracks at this point look to be "Cmon Cmon" and "Downhill"...not sure if you guys have heard those...

Chris

Bully said...

It is fun, hearing about these behind the scenes things. :-) Thank you, for sharing it with us.((hugs))

I knew the RF song would be up some sort of awards! It is just that good. Bet it wins, too.

I am up early, watching a bad KristyMcNichol movie. That she is adorable is the only thing keeping it on. Sometimes? You just need the right people plugged in.

Nicholas said...

Thanks for letting us know about the itunes exclusive tracks Chris.
I have heard both of those songs. Cmon Cmon is an awesome hard rock song, although my memory of Downhill is a little more cloudy,I do remember enjoying it.

Amy's Purple Poodles said...

Chris-Thanks for telling us what the itunes songs are going to be. Like Nicholas, I was hoping one of them would be "I Am". Oh well, still excited about everything else.

Hope everyone is having a nice Saturday. I put up my Christmas tree only to find out I have no hooks to hang the ornaments on the tree with-so now I have have to wait until I can get to Wal-Mart to get some!

Amy

Hischild said...

Wonderful to read your Pre-production tales, Chris! When you mention choir, cello and BANJO I get a bit giddy! See me schwoon!

This is gonna be GREAT, I just KNOW it! Looking forward to the finished product as much as the fun and interesting process news along the way.

Speaking of cello and banjo...everyone needs to check out the Avett Brothers from No Carolina. They are INCREDIBLE! Love those boys.

AND forget Santa - (just found out) Jason Castro's coming to town!
YES!!!! Doing the happy dance.

Perfect concert lineup: JC opening for Avett Bros. opening for Chris Sligh! "You can say I'm a dreamer..."

risalea said...

Clearsa, Jason Castro is here tonight with Uncle Kracker, but I saw him in October (not like Chris Sligh where multiple concerts are a must for me...LOL). No, I've got a rough week ahead at work and didn't want to be out late tonight. And, as it turned out, a dear older friend of mine who was my kindergarten teaching buddy for many years lost her husband this morning, so I took food over there this evening. Though never easy, it is a rough time of year for losing a loved one. They were married 63 years. Please say a prayer for Helen...she's devastated, as you can imagine.

OK, on to paperwork which must be completed before I head out in the morning.

Hischild said...

Risa,
You are a good friend (to Helen AND me). How sad for her to lose her husband after so long together. She probably can't remember life before him. I've only been married 26 and my single life is very fuzzy.

Bummer about having to miss Jason because of life circumstances. I hate it when good people come to town at bad times. But there are much worse things (as Helen can attest to). I am praying for her tonight.

Hope your week isn't half as bad as you are expecting. Persevere!

Bully said...

I'm very sad to hear about your friend. Losing a spouse of so many years must feel a pre-cursor to your own end. How can you lose such a big part of your own life, and not feel that way?

I like Jason Castro, find him very winsome. I think he's playing in the Nashville JingleBell thing, for theRIVER.(Win to Get-In, etc.)I hope he gets a good response on his tour.

rosalee said...

Hey GDA -
Chris is performing in Wyckoff, NJ on Dec 13th (see the fansites for details). See if it fits into your schedule....