This past weekend, Manifold Recording hosted four ensembles of the Chrysalis Chamber Music Institute from UNC School of the Arts (UNCSA): the Giannini String Quartet, the Liminal Phase wind quintet, the Chrysalis Brass Quintet, and an ad hoc piano/violin duet. The goal of the session was to give these developing musicians an opportunity to hear themselves in a new way–recorded in a studio setting. Of course musicians must be able to hear themselves, and of course they must be able to hear other members of their ensemble. But beyond that, how much do they take for granted that what sounds good inside the circle will translate beyond it. This session gave them the opportunity to experience this for themselves.
Sarah Shook came to Manifold Recording by way of an Intern from Italy, Mario Bianchi, but the story of Sidelong, Sarah’s first full-length album, has a longer history. And one that makes this album release that much sweeter.
A recent feature in INDY Week tells the backstory of a Sarah’s journey, from growing up in a fundamentalist Christian household in Rochester NY to the devilish ways that led first to her musical emancipation, her break from religion, and ultimately the embrace of herself as a unique and uniquely driven person. Regardless of how dangerous that may be. And without any apologies.
Sarah first came to Manifold Recording to make an EP with her band, Sarah Shook and The Devil. It was a fast and wild ride, but one that told us that there was some real magic, too. Ian Schreier took it upon himself to use his 20+ years in the business to convince Sarah to come back and make a real record, with him as producer. The fact that her band had just dissolved wasn’t an excuse to sidetrack the project.
Once Sarah had recruited a new band that could both play together and work together, Ian was ready take the reins as Producer.
Last night as I was driving home, I heard Bryan Adams interviewed on the CBC’s program q. In the course of that interview, he went into some details about his three-step process for making a record:
- Write the song
- Record the demo
- Make the record
His 12 studio albums have been extremely successful, with 11 going at least Gold, and Reckless going 5x Platinum. He’s also charted more than 10 #1 singles. Clearly he has a talent for writing and performing, but he has also learned to follow a process that helps good become great and great become the best.
Bryan takes collaboration as a given. Just as Design Thinking teaches that “the best idea wins”, so, too, does it apply to songwriting and producing. When he was just getting started, he felt his initial drafts were “precious” and wanted to retain the purity of his authorship. But, as he says in the interview, “Mutt Lange beat it out of me.” And as Wikipedia reports, they co-wrote “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You“, a hugely successful single written for the Kevin Costner film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves that currently holds the record for the longest consecutive Number 1 UK chart single with 16 consecutive weeks at the top of the charts (7 July-26 October 1991). They clearly worked well together!
After the songs are written, demos are recorded. The demo is the first really concrete representation of a song as it might be played and recorded for real. Demos are not low-quality sketches, but an honest first draft of the real thing. They are also a baseline for quality: when recording a record, Bryan’s goal is that each “real” song be better than the demo. In cases where that doesn’t happen, the song is likely going to be left off the album. The demo provides an objective way to tell if they are really knocking the ball out of the park or if they are just making another version of the demo.
When enough material has passed the demo test to fill out an album, and when that material all fits together coherently, then it becomes possible to make a record that will be successful.
Obviously Bryan Adams has had a very successful career as a musician. In his telling of his own story he is humble and humorous, but it is also clear that he follows best practices rather than ignoring them. And this has certainly served him well.