You know that feeling when you’re so tired you can’t remember if it’s day or night? In fact, you’re actually so tired, it might be the next night, but you really have no idea?!
Well, that’s exactly how I feel right now… but it’s a good thing, because sometimes you just have to strike while the iron is hot. Let me explain…
When I first started producing, I would work insane hours on a regular basis. Partly because I was learning so much on every new project – but there was another part of me that was just so happy to actually get to be in my own studio, making music, for my livelihood, that I was happy to be there for hours on end.
Obviously, that pattern was pretty unsustainable! Before long, I recognised that my work and my efficiency began to decline in a direct correlation to how long I’d been in the studio, or hadn’t eaten, or had been without sleep on a project. So I made some changes to my schedule and work patterns to find a rhythm that worked for me. I found that I had about ten good hours in a day, and sometimes only eight, especially if I was co writing, engineering and producing a band. With a good assistant working with me, I can stretch that, but on my own, that’s the reality of being human.
I also found that I operated so much better when I was out of my studio for 12 hours in between sessions… My ears were fresher, I was more excited about the project, and I wasn’t ready to shoot the next person who asked me if I “could make everything louder than everything else!”
These may sound like small things, but they can really make a big difference when you’re working day in and day out on major projects… And when record labels and artists are investing significant funds in those projects, you need to be at your very best.
But every now and then, you gotta just roll with what happens… I mean if the iron is hot, it’s time to buckle up and strike. And this week has certainly been that kind of week…
One of the bands that I work with is an exceptional pop/rock act from Norway called “The Fluxx”. The guys had been on our radar for a few years, but recently started really writing some great songs and were ready to give a bigger platform a shot, so we began a worldwide introduction campaign with our good friends, A&R Worldwide, a discovery and development agency based in LA.
The band had been working with a good producer in a studio in Norway where they’re based, but I was concerned the production was a bit too programmed and sounded a bit too “boy band” – especially as the band members are all exceptionally talented musicians… And when they were out in LA a couple of weeks ago for a showcase, they dazzled the crowd with their performance and songs and generated a significant amount of interest from various labels and agents, but it was interest in a pop/rock band… not a boy band. So we clearly had some work to do.
In fact, there was so much interest, we pulled them off their flights back to Norway during their London stopover and they headed up to my studio on the Northern Irish coast to work on rewriting and reworking the songs – tracking drums, bass, guitars and new vocals. We had only planned to work on one key song originally, using many of the original elements from their earlier sessions, but the iron got hot… so we struck!
We ended up working on four songs in five days, including one complete new song that was just a midi demo with a scratch vocal originally… and as you can imagine, my well-laid rhythm of work and rest went right out the window.
Three days into the session, things in LA heated up a little more and we quickly recognised that we’d need to not only finish these songs quickly, but we’d need to get the tracks back to LA soon to keep the momentum and airplay up.
Still, I was pretty relaxed as it was only five days and I could get some rest once the band jumped on their flights back to Norway before I started mixing.
But then the interest in the band heated up a bit more and we knew we needed to go back to LA for meetings. We decided this on Wednesday while we were tracking the final vocals… and we booked flights for Saturday morning!
Cue copious amounts of coffee and piteous amounts of sleep…
So now I’m frantically mixing and trying to think when I’m going to pack a bag for this snap trip. In fact, if you see a guy in LA wearing shorts, a suit jacket, no shirt, and black boots next week, it’s probably me, as I have no idea what I just threw in my suitcase! But do say hello anyway… I’m really friendly, especially when I’m this tired.
And honestly, I can’t complain. I chose this business and I feel grateful every day that I get to make music and even hear songs that I wrote or that I produced on the radio… after all, I’m just a kid from a small town who grew up on a farm in a rural state in the southern US listening to the radio under the covers at night dreaming of making music someday.
At the end of the day, we all need to find a rhythm of work and creativity that works for us and for our family situations… it’s essential to creating a sustainable environment that you can make music in and it’s pretty important to stick to that so you can make great music.
But there will always be times when you have to break all the rules that you’ve set up to embrace new opportunities and possibilities, especially in this crazy world we call the music business… And those are usually the moments that define your career, whether in terms of success – or the far more important measuring stick: making music you know you’ll love for the rest of your life.
So here’s to sleepless sessions, long hours, endless coffee, breaking the rules, striking while the iron is hot, and most of all… creating great music.
I’m off to the airport
3.34am Friday 1 June 2012