I’ve been a songwriter for most of my life. I think in melodies and chord progressions. A conversation can trigger an idea for a hook line. Anything I encounter in my day has the potential to end up in my music.. But, being that I have been playing live for so long as a solo act, the one thing I don’t tend to spend a lot of time thinking about in my music is the backing vocals. That is exactly what my producer Paul and I are going to be tackling in the studio tonight.
Paul is great. He’s got a fantastic energy and we have a similar vision for my sound as an artist. He’s a gifted musician and has made some really valuable contributions to the arrangements instrumentally, but backing vocals he has left in my hands. It was so interesting getting the reference track of the work we did in the studio a few nights ago on my song “Remembering To Breathe”. At first when I was listening to it, I was focusing on my performance in the lead vocal, critiquing everything I heard and deciding what I liked and didn’t like. It took a few (well… quite a few….) times of listening through it before I was able to get my brain to switch gears and start thinking like a background vocalist. Now, I’ve always had a good ear for harmonies. I’m pretty good at predicting where the chord progression or a melody is going to go and humming along on a harmony part before I even know a song all that well, so I was surprised when I tried to pick out a harmony part in a song of my own that I know inside and out and it took me a few tries to sing something that even fit within the chord! Lol. It was such a strange phenomenon. Don’t worry, I got there eventually, but it wasn’t nearly as easy as I thought it was going to be.
Once I was able to put my musician hat on and sing within the chord, I had to fight against my initial instinct to have every note I sang move with the melody and phrasing of the lead vocal. It was like I had to start thinking about the song in a whole different dimension. Suddenly there were layers to uncover within the piece I’ve sung a million times that I never knew were there. It became an experimental game of sorts. I sat there playing the track on my computer, with my iPhone next to me recording each trial run of a new part as I sang along. I listened to the playback, decided what worked (and what most certainly DIDN’T work) and either tried something different or moved onto the third harmony part or the next section of the song. Quite the exercise in trial and error. This process is definitely stretching me as a musician already.
I’m interested in getting Paul’s feedback tonight when we head into our session.