Monday, June 28, 2010

The Big Day: Recording Snapshots of the Shattered Soul - 2010

Thursday afternoon (July 17th, 2010), Crystal and I arrived at our hotel in Brentwood, TN around 4:00pm. We had made surprisingly great time and had encountered very little traffic. It seemed quite unreal that in less than 24 hours, we’d be tracking at Dark Horse Recording about a half hour away in Nashville. The last time I had recorded at Dark Horse was in October of 2003. It felt like a dream to be back at it again.

‘Twas The Night Before Tracking…
We chilled out in our hotel for a little while, and then headed down to the local O’Charley’s for a bite to eat. I had a turkey burger with salad and sweet potato fries, and Crystal had cheesy potato soup and shrimp salad. Good stuff! After filling our bellies, we traveled north to Dark Horse to drop off the Pro Tools files that needed to be imported for the morning recording session. Unfortunately, our mapquest directions were quite inaccurate so we had to call co-producer Dave Bechtel for help. It took us a little while to find our way, but we eventually arrived at Dark Horse at around 8:00pm. We stepped out of the car into the still yet muggy Nashville night air and headed in to The Lodge (the largest room in Dark Horse) where we met co-producer Dave Bechtel and studio assistant Mike Carr. This is the first time I had ever met Mike, a bearded and friendly heavy rock bassist who shook my hand, and after a moment of awkward silence exclaimed, “So I hear you brought a hard drive?” “Why yes!” I said. I pulled my new firewire 500 gig hard drive out of its shiny black pouch, and handed it to Dave who took it to a back room and plugged it into Dark Horse’s Mac which sported the latest version of Pro Tools HD. After the drive was plugged in, Mike opened the very first Pro Tools session (for track #1) only to be met by an unwelcoming screen with a white box that read “DAE Error.” The air pulsed with tension as Dave and Mike scratched their heads. Fortunately, I had brought a back up drive as well as a stack of DVDs that contained copies of the Pro Tools sessions. Nevertheless, I was a bit concerned as this whole trip could be a loss if those Pro Tools sessions failed to open. After several minutes of discussion, Dave and Mike concluded that my firewire 800 drive must not be compatible with Pro Tools HD (Pro Tools LE seems to work fine with firewire 800, but apparently Pro Tools HD prefers the firewire 400 protocol). The solution was simple – copy all of my files onto one of Dark Horse’s hard drives. Dave, Mike, Crystal and I chatted for a good twenty minutes as the files copied, and after the files were transferred, Mike opened each Pro Tools session to ensure that everything was playing back correctly. I think we ended up leaving Dark Horse around 9:30pm.

Let The Recording Begin!
Crystal and I awoke around 8:00am Friday morning unexpectedly rested. I had figured I wouldn’t sleep with all the excitement of the big day, but I surprisingly passed out Thursday night. After getting ready, we sampled our hotel “continental” breakfast (which was rather lame with fruit loops, muffins, strange sausage, and egg beaters), packed the car, and stopped at Starbucks for an am pick-me-up. We arrived at the studio around 9:00am. Guitarist Matt Meyer (our friend from Hilliard, OH) had arrived about an hour before us, had set up his amp and pedals, and was practicing through his notebook of song charts. Drummer Miles McPherson was in the other room setting up his drum set. I took a moment to say hi to Miles and then sat down on one of the leather couches and began reviewing my recording notes. Crystal contently sipped her coffee in a big leather chair to my left.

Dave and Mike skipped from one room to the next, adjusting microphones and sound deadening material. Dustin, one of the interns, entered the room with a large stack of unnecessary chart copies (as I had brought 5 tabbed and colored-coded notebooks - one for each person involved). Bassist Joeie Canaday stepped into The Lodge around 9:45 and greeted me with a smile. Not long after this, Dave began setting recording levels starting with Mile’s kick drum. We began rolling as planned just around 10:01 am. With the first two bars of the first song, I knew this was going to be a great day.

You Know You’re a Professional When…
The goal was to track drums, bass, and electric rhythm guitar for twelve songs in six hours. We had a lot to accomplish. Basically, we had just about thirty minutes allotted for each tune (This was similar to our Backstage Pass recording session in 2003, although that session included two guitarists - Mark Baldwin and Jerry McPherson (drummer Mile’s McPherson dad), pianist Rich Barrett, and the Nashville String Machine orchestra). The first four songs went relatively smoothly although by noon, we were about 45 minutes behind the predicted schedule. The players nailed most of the songs in one take (with a punch in or two), yet additional time was required as Miles and Joeie had to re-write each of my number charts. Here is the typical order of events. First, studio assistant Mike would play back a song’s MIDI demo 1-2 times as Miles and Joeie stood at a table in the control room and feverishly transcribed their own simplified versions of my number charts. Moments later, Miles would grab his bottle of orange juice and slip into the drum room with a quirky comment and an energetic “Let’s do this!” (I think he must have drunk about four bottles of orange juice that Friday).

I still can’t believe the talent of these guys. I don’t think Miles or Joeie had listened to any of the demos, yet they played each song nearly perfectly in a single take. It was so amazing to hear the songs come to life! You can do a lot with MIDI these days, but there is nothing like a real drummer, bassist, and guitarist.

Tacos, Tours, and Technical Difficulties
We broke for lunch around 1:15pm. We had tracked six songs, and had six to go. One of the interns had made a run to Franklin’s Oscar’s Taco Shop and had returned with food for the band. Crystal, Matt, Dave, and I sat in Dark Horse’s dining area and chatted with Miles and Joeie about touring, recording, and music (Miles will soon be going on the road with Kelly Clarkson and Joeie will be touring with LeAnne Rimes). For dessert, Crystal shared a batch of her homemade chocolate chip peanut butter cookies – a definite hit.

Everyone trickled back into the studio, and after the last cookie was devoured, the recording re-insued around 1:45. We were still about forty-five minutes behind, but made up for lost time after lunch (despite the taco comas). The guys navigated the remaining six songs with ease, and hit the last note of the 12th song a little before 4:00pm (there is a 13th song on the album, but it is a piano/strings/vocal only song and will be recorded at a later date). While Miles and Joeie were packing up their instruments, studio assistant Mike Carr made copies of all the Pro Tools sessions as the recorded files had inadvertently ended up on multiple drives (a very bad thing). Basically, making a copy of a Pro Tools session consolidates all the media to one location (which in this case happened to be Dave’s personal drive as my drive did not play well with Pro Tools HD). It’s really important that all the files are in one location. Otherwise, it’s easy to loose/misplace valuable data.

Guitar Overdubs and File Transfers
In the meantime, Matt, Crystal, and I helped Miles carry his drum set pieces out to his SUV. He was on his way to pick up a birthday present for his wife, which was the next day. It was entertaining to watch Miles and Joeie shake, hug and say their farewells. I think they had a lot of fun. What great guys.

After all the Pro Tools files were copied, Dave and I spent a couple hours recording additional electric guitar parts with Matt Meyer. Our purpose for this day was to simply capture rhythm electric guitar, which means much of what we recorded were power chords and arpeggios (lead parts will be done at a later date, and acoustic guitar will be recorded here in Columbus at 10x12 Productions). Matt has done such a great job so far and I’m so thankful that he can be a part of this project! Thanks Matt!

We finished recording around 7:00pm. The final step was to copy all the files onto my personal drive. Dave would be keeping a copy and I would be keeping a copy. The total data count was about 32 gigs of 24-bit 48kHz audio (each song took up about 2-3 gigs).

The day had been a success! To celebrate, Dave, Matt, Crystal and I journeyed to downtown Nashville for a mouth-watering pizza at the Mellow Mushroom. We chatted about recording, the World Cup, and reminisced on what had turned out to be an unbelievable session. Crystal and I arrived back at our hotel around 11:00pm. This time, I found it difficult to sleep. I was still ramped up about the day, and felt that I should back up all the data to a second drive. I also began opening the Pro Tools sessions to ensure that everything was there and playing properly. I think we finally fell asleep about 1:30am.

The next day, I finished checking the Pro Tools sessions and discovered that one song was missing some guitar files! Fortunately, they were still on one of Dark Horse’s hard drives, and Dave was able to post the files on his site for me to download.

I returned to Columbus a happy camper. Thanks again to everyone who prayed for us! I’m looking forward to sharing this new music with you.

To hear some humorous audio out takes from our Dark Horse session, click here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Hints Unraveled

If you haven’t heard yet, the name of the new Marc Andre rock album is Snapshots of the Shattered Soul. Were you one of the many people trying to figure out the name? If so, click here for the answers to all the clues (given on the blog during the month of June).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The New Album Name Unveiled!!!

SNAPSHOTS OF THE SHATTERED SOUL - the name of the new Marc Andre rock album. Congrats to Amy Margraff who guessed the name!! Amy, you win a free download of the album when it is released!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Recording FAQ

This Friday, we’ll be heading down to Dark Horse Recording in Nashville to record drums, bass, and rhythm guitar for the new Marc Andre rock album. All the Pro Tools sessions and chart notebooks are ready to go! Now I just have to pack my toothbrush and other essentials for the big trip!

Dispelling the Confusion
From time to time, I will talk to people who only skim the blog, but don’t know exactly what I’m working on or why I’m going to Nashville. Below are some questions I’ve been asked, and I thought I would clarify some details.

1. Why Are You Going to Nashville?
To record drums, bass, and guitar for the new Marc Andre rock album.

2. Who Is Playing On The Album?

So far, we have Miles McPherson on drums, Joey Canaday on bass, and Matt Meyer on electric guitar.

3. Will The Album Be Finished After This Week’s Recording Session?
No. When I return to Columbus, I will edit what we have recorded in Nashville and will return to Nashville (probably in the fall) to record guitar overdubs and live strings. I will make a final trip to Nashville for mastering (probably this winter).

4. When Will The Album Be Released?
Hopefully, the album will be released early 2011.

5. Who Will Be Promoting The Album?
I will be the one promoting the album.

6. Are You Trying To Get Signed With A Record Label?
No, that is not one of my goals.

7. Who Is Producing The Album?
My friend Dave Bechtel and I are co-producing the album, which means it is a combined effort.

8. Is This Another Rap Album?
No. This is a Christian rock album. I don’t rap anymore.

9. Do You Have Any Other CDs?
Yes. Both of my most recent CDs are on iTunes and

10. Who Is Marc Andre? I Know You By Another Name.
I am Marc Andre. Andre is my middle name, and Marc Andre is my stage name.

Hope this clears some things up!

Keep your eye on the blog for pictures and videos from Friday’s recording session.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Practice with Guitarist Matt Meyer

Today, Hilliard native Matt Meyer and I met for the second time to go over guitar parts for the new rock album. Matt will be joining us at Dark Horse Recording on June 18th. The music is really coming together! I'm anxious to hear Matt's guitar parts with real drums and bass! Less than two weeks until we head to Nashville!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Production Update June 03, 2010

Two weeks from tomorrow, we’ll be recording drums, bass, and rhythm guitar at Dark Horse Recording in Nashville! I don’t have a lot of time right now, but wanted to give you a quick update on what I’ve been up to over the last week or so.

- I purchased a DigiDesign Mbox 2 and Installed Pro Tools on my laptop. I didn’t want to install it on my iMac quite yet, as this is the computer that has been running Logic Pro all along, and I would have to do an operating system update to install Pro Tools (from Mac OSX 10.5.1 to OSX 10.5.8). Operating system updates can be a bit scary at times, and may require updates of multiple third-party plug-ins (I’ve been avoiding any updates for the last 10 months). I don’t want to risk having to re-build my whole computer at this 11th hour, so I just installed Pro Tools on my laptop instead. The iMac is much faster and will be used for editing and mixing down the road, but for the time being, the laptop will work great for setting up basic Pro Tools sessions for June 18th at Dark Horse.

- I exported all the sub-mix files from Logic and imported those into Pro Tools. The Pro Tools sessions are basically ready to go except for a few tweaks here and there (I was actually able to set them up much faster than I had anticipated). I will be working on finishing up the Pro Tools sessions over the next several days. I also may possibly mail some DVDs of the Pro Tools sessions to engineer/co-producer Dave Bechtel in Nashville early this week so that all the files can be imported into the Pro Tools system at Dark Horse Recording ahead of time (this will save time the day of recording).

- I began the process of registering my new songs with ASCAP. This is required for radio play (if the songs end up getting played on the radio). I’ll give more details on ASCAP later.

- Today, I’ve been working on organizing a number of hard drives and have been backing up a bunch of old files so I have more room on my drives. This isn’t the most exciting thing, but is important as I will need two drives on the day of recording – one which we’ll record to, and one which I’ll use for backup. Unfortunately, I may have to drop $150-$180 and get a larger and faster Firewire 7200 rpm drive which will be used throughout the entire recording, editing, and mixing stages.

- This Sunday, I will be meeting with guitarist Matt Meyer to go over guitar parts again. He will be joining us at Dark Horse on June 18th.

- Over the next two weeks, I’ll be listening to the demos very carefully and will be adding additional notes to the Nashville number charts we’ll be using at Dark Horse.

- That’s it for now! More updates are on their way!