Saturday, February 12, 2011

What’s Next on the Menu?

For the next couple months or so, I will be attending to some miscellaneous to-dos.

(1) I still need to record a cello part for one tune. I was going to record this in Nashville during our last trip, but decided it’d be more cost effective to have John Catchings (the cellist) record the cello part at his home studio at a later date, instead of recording the part at David Davidson’s, where 3 other players would be sitting around twittling their thumbs… not to mention I’d be racking up unnecessary studio and engineer costs. Robert Nugent will be arranging the cello part. I will simply mail John a Pro Tools session, he’ll record the cello, and he’ll then mail/email me with the audio files.

(2) I also need to record string parts for the first song on the album. It’s a pretty simple string arrangement, and for cost reasons, I will have a single string player layer violin and viola parts over some full orchestra string samples I am already using on this tune.

(3) I need to record guitar overdubs for 3 more songs with Mike Payne. Unfortunately, we were unable to get to these songs last week when we were in Nashville. We will use iChat (similar to Skype) to communicate while recording (I’ll be in Columbus and he’ll be in Nashville). I think this should work relatively smoothly as we’ve already worked together a little bit. He will be tracking to his Pro Tools system and will mail the sessions to me once we are finished recording.

(4) Additionally, I will start working on editing the live strings we recorded last week and the MIDI strings which will be layered under the live strings. Basically, the rhythms of the real strings and fake strings need to line up. I will also need to program a number of MIDI articulations (marcato, slurs, etc.) that will emulate the articulations of the real strings. String arrangers Robert Nugent and Rich Barrett are providing me with MIDI files of the string parts, which I will further edit to align with the real strings.

(5) Also, in the near future, I will begin recording all the piano parts on a real piano. Still working on a location for this.

(6) After all these miscellaneous tasks have been completed, I will begin recording the final lead vocals as well as the background vocals (at 10x12 Productions). After these have been edited, I will hand all the files off to Dave Bechtel for mixing!

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The String & Guitar Sessions

Our trip to Nashville was exceptionally smooth – no snow, hardly any traffic, and we made great time! Crystal and I left Columbus a little after 5:00 am and got into Nashville around 11:00am (Nashville time). We grabbed some lunch at O’Charley’s, rested in the car for a little while, and then headed over to violinist’s David Davidson’s house around 1:30. It was nice to not feel rushed! After meeting David Davidson and engineer Bobby Shin, we headed inside and up to the control room. I gave my hard drive to Bobby, who copied all my Pro Tools sessions to his computer, and then imported his Pro Tools templates into each of my Pro Tools sessions (his templates contained audio channels set up to accommodate all of the string mics). The other string players began rolling in around 1:45 – David Angell on 2nd violin, Monisa Angell on viola, and John Catchings on cello (and David Davidson on 1st violin).

My friend Dave Bechtel was to be at the session, but had unfortunately come down with appendicitis the night before, and was in the hospital getting his appendix removed. David Davidson made the comment, “Well, Dave did say he might not be able to make it because he might have another gig… he got another gig alright… at the hospital! Ha!” All humor aside, we were disappointed that Dave could not be there and we continue to pray for his speedy recovery!

The plan was to track strings for 5 songs, all within 3 to 4 hours. We ended up recording 3 passes for 3 songs and 2 passes for 2 songs in 3 ½ hours. Why 3 passes on some songs and 2 on others? Well, most of the strings are going to be supplemented with strings samples in the final mix, but some of the tunes have more unique string articulations (slides, runs, etc.) that will be hard to copy with string samples. I wanted to keep the recording time to a minimum as I was trying to stay within a budget, and I figured 2 of the songs would be easier to fill out with samples while the other 3 might need more layers of real strings.

We finished recording around 5:30pm. What an amazing session! I was so happy with the audio we captured. Bobby was a great engineer, and David, David, Monisa, and John were phenomenal! Not to mention, David Davidson provided us with coffee, snacks, and a bag of oranges and grapefruits for the road! The day couldn’t have gone better. I think the musicians really enjoyed playing the songs. Thanks to Robert Nugent and Rich Barrett for some killer arrangements!

Crystal and I headed back to the Hampton Inn, where I immediately began copying the audio files to a backup hard drive. I also began burning the string Pro Tools sessions onto DVD. It’s always comforting to know you have a hard copy of such important data. After kicking back at the hotel for a little while, we went out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants – The Olive Garden! Afterwards, we returned to the hotel, and I began exporting stem files (sub-mixes) of the strings, as I would be using them for the guitar session with Mike Payne the next day. We finally got to bed around midnight. It was going to be a short night.

We woke up Friday morning around 7am, and after getting ready, we headed downstairs for a surprisingly tasty continental breakfast. I’ve had some pretty lousy hotel breakfasts in my day, but this was pretty good! We left the hotel around 8:40 and arrived at Mike Payne’s house at 9:00am. Mike took us upstairs to his home studio, and asked me if I’d be willing to man the Pro Tools system while he played guitar. “Sure!” I exclaimed. I plugged my trusty dusty self-powered firewire drive into his iMac, he grabbed several of his guitars, and we began recording!

Depending on the song, Mike used one of 3 guitars – a beautiful red Gretch, a warm toned Telecaster, or a PSR90 Jr. (which sounded remarkably great for the low price tag). All of his amps were set up in another room, and were feeding through a Chandler Limited Germanium Pre and a Universal Audio 1176 compressor into Pro Tools LE. He implemented a variety of pedals (delays, reverb, chorus, etc.), none of which I was familiar with, but then again, I’m not a guitar player - I just know his effects sounded amazing and he knew how to use his gear!

We stopped for lunch at noon and the 3 of us headed over to one of Nashville’s favorites, Oscar’s Tacos. We exchanged conversation about marriage (Mike is a newlywed), church, recording and touring, financial planning, and of course, the Toyota Matrix (as both of us are owners).

We returned to the house about 1:00pm and picked up on song #4. I had hoped to spend about a ½ hour recording guitar overdubs for each song (we had 12 to record), but unfortunately, we were only able to get through 9 of the 12 songs. Mike had to wrap up at 6:00pm. We could have worked faster, but I really didn’t want to rush through the songs, as I was so happy with the sounds we were getting, and didn’t want to skimp on anything. We will end up recording guitar overdubs for the remaining 3 songs via. iChat (more about this later).

We concluded the recording session at 6:15 and again, Crystal and I headed back to the Hampton for some chill time. I also copied the guitar sessions to a second drive, and began burning backup DVDs. We then went out to celebrate at another one of our favorite restaurants – The Cheesecake Factory (the restaurant where Crystal and I first met in February of 2008). We had to wait a little while, but the food was worth the sitting. We couldn’t believe how busy the restaurant was at 10:00pm at night!

Saturday morning, we slept in, which was great. We were both struggling from some serious sleep debt. After packing up our things, and grabbing some breakfast (at the Hampton again), we went to visit my friend Dave Bechtel, who had just got out of the hospital. It was great catching up with he and his family!

We got on the road around noon (Nashville time) and arrived back into Columbus around 8:15pm or so (Columbus time). Again, the roads were clear and we had very little traffic. Thank you Lord for a wonderful trip!

What’s next on the production schedule? There is still plenty of work to do. Stay tuned for details…

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Video Clips From Nashville

Video 1: Mike Payne playing guitar. Video 2: The David Davidson string group.
Click on the photos for video.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Leaving for Nashville

It’s hard to believe the time is here! Here’s the plan. Tomorrow morning, we’ll be leaving at 5am for a close-to-seven-hour trip to Nashville, TN. We’re hoping the roads are clear and the traffic is minimal! We’re aiming to get to Nashville around 11am (Nashville time), we’ll grab some lunch, and then we’ll head over to David Davidson’s studio for a 2pm string session. We will be recording strings for 5 songs. The session will last anywhere from 3-4 hours. We’re hoping we can get everything tracked in 3 hours, as every hour is an additional $460! There will be 4 players – cello, viola, and 2 violins. Depending on the song, we will be recording 1-3 takes… for some songs, we’ll be layering multiple takes; for other songs, a single pass will suffice (as we will later be layering the real strings with sampled strings). All I’ll be bringing is a hard drive that I’ll plug into David Davidson’s Pro Tools system. After the string session, we’ll probably grab dinner with my friend Dave Bechtel. Later that evening, I may need to do some quick mixes of the strings – these mixes will be useful for the guitar overdub sessions the following day.

Friday morning, we’ll head over to studio guitarist Mike Payne’s place at 9am. The goal is to record for 7 hours with a one-hour lunch break. Mike needs to wrap up by 6pm. I’d like to track guitar overdubs for 12 songs - this amounts to just over 30 minutes of recording time per song. Again, I’ll just bring a hard drive and plug it into Mike’s Pro Tools rig. I’m sure we’ll we exhausted that night and will just want to chill out after a long day of recording! We'll return to Columbus on Saturday.

If you’d like to pray for us, here are some prayer requests:

(1)We’d appreciate your prayers for safe and quick travel!
(2) Pray that we’ll be able to get through the string tracking in a timely fashion on Thursday, and pray that the players will have skill as they play!
(3) Pray that we’ll have creativity as we record with Mike Payne on Friday. His guitar tones and playing are going to greatly define the sound of this project.
(4) Pray that Lord willing, we won’t have any technical difficulties!

Thanks for all your support! I’m very anxious to share this new music with you! It still looks like the album should be finished towards the middle of this year (maybe June-July).

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

What a Men’s Retreat Taught Me About Recording

This past weekend, I attended a men’s retreat at our church. It was both an encouraging and a convicting time. Our speaker, Tom Burns, focused his attention in the book of Ecclesiastes and compared our lives with Solomon. Solomon spent much of his life searching for the meaning of life. He diligently pursued knowledge, pleasure, wisdom, foolishness, and toil, but none of these things satisfied his empty heart. In the end, Solomon concluded that man could only discover true meaning through a relationship with God. Our speaker Tom went on to encourage us to look to the Lord for our purpose and satisfaction.

As we broke into small groups, a number of men shared about their own struggles. Some guys were looking for their identity in work; some of the single guys wrestled with believing that a mate would make them happy. I was going to open up, but never got a chance to do so. Nevertheless, I went away from the retreat sensing that God was trying to tell me something.

Over the course of the weekend, two verses especially stood out to me. One was Ecclesiastes 2:4 which reads, “I undertook great projects…” and the other is 2:23 which reads, “All his days his work is pain and grief, even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.” Ever since I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with projects. Before my teenage years, I was preoccupied with LEGOS. In fact, I remember once having a temper tantrum because I was missing a key piece to one of my building sets. In middle school, I became enamored with skateboarding, and spent most of my summer days rattling my wheels down the sidewalks of Clintonville, OH. Later in middle school, I became consumed with music and recording, and have been consumed ever since.

So here I am, days away from another trip to Nashville. I am both excited and nervous. I can’t wait to hear the live strings and I’m dying to hear what cool sounds studio guitarist Mike Payne brings to the table. However, I’m also worried that we’ll be delayed by bad weather or traffic on our way down, and I’m afraid we may not get everything completed in the allotted recording time. I’m concerned I may have to spend more money than I was planning to spend. Then there’s the possibility of technical difficulties. I really doubt I’ll even sleep the night before we leave.

Throughout the course of making this album, I’ve battled panic attacks and physical anomalies most likely triggered by stress (headaches with broken vision, ringing in the ears, occasional numbness in my arms and/or hands). I am keenly aware that I am an uptight guy. I don’t need anyone to tell me that. I obsess and worry a lot. It’s one of my many issues. I constantly have to hand “my plans” and “my comfort” over to the Lord.

Despite all my fretting, it’s good to know God is in control. I know He cares about this album, but more importantly, He is concerned about where my heart is. He wants me to trust Him, and He wants me to keep the small things of this world in perspective with the big things of eternity. Thank you Solomon (and speaker Tom) for the timely reminder.

” Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21

Marc Andre & Band Performs at InsideOut

This past Saturday, we got the chance to perform some of my new songs for the first time at Grace Brethren of Polaris' InsideOut Creative Forum. No electric guitars or drum kits this time - just a small acoustic set. Pictured left to right is the touring band: Joey Bradley (bass), Matt Meyer (guitar), Marc Andre (vocals & keys), Jim Davis (drums). To learn more about InsideOut and to see a video of us playing, visit!/group.php?gid=132754520101762