Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Worship Wednesdays - The View From The Vocal Booth

The lights are slightly dimmed, save for the summer evening sunshine peering through the shaded window. The warm brown of the soft wall-covering gives the small room the feeling of a cube-shaped blanket.

I carry my lyric sheet, my pink mechanical pencil, and my Contigo water bottle. The water is room temperature, of course. I lay each piece in its appropriate spot, and take a deep breath. My sunglasses and earrings are removed and sit on the stool. They'll just be in the way.

Checking to see which earpiece is marked 'Left', I don the headphones. The room is deliberately silent, but I can hear myself breathing in the phones if I get close to the mic. I swing my arms and stretch my legs a little. Loose is good. Loose allows the breath to flow.

I do a few of the weird sounds that only other singers find attractive - cascading lips thrills, soaringly high sighs, nasal na-na-nas...

I can see Gerald and Carmon, our engineer, in the next room, chatting and trading guitar gear wish lists.

My eyes catch the lyric sheet I've placed on the stand. "A Divine Heart Imagined You" - I love this song. I remember the first time I heard Gerald sing the first draft. The words and the melody were hauntingly beautiful. I was so moved I declared myself "cowriter" and together, we finished the song.

And tonight, we record the vocals.

Photos taken during our current recording sessions at 
Emmanuel Recording Studios, Toronto, ON.

Over the past few months, this song has had to complete in a class of 50 to see who would make it onto this new CD. We created our arrangement, brought it to the musicians in Nashville to add their creativity to the mix, and then shipped it back to Toronto for this moment.

We've sung it live many times, but tonight's performance will be something else. This is the one that people will listen to in their living rooms and on their car stereos. They'll hear it on good days when they feel confident in God's love. They'll hear it on the horrible days when the world feels like its crashing in on them, when they doubt that love or mercy or grace exists at all. As I look at the lyric sheet, I think about all the people who will hear this song, but especially the ones who will need it the most. I imagine them listening to melody, letting the message wash over them...

I hear Gerald and Carmon talking to me. We're ready. Carmon hits play, and the track starts to play in my headphones. I hear Gerald's guitar and that beautiful cello. I take a singer's breath, and start to sing, 

"Before the first face felt the first dawn..."

A few full takes to get the feel of the song. Then, a few passes on individual lines and verses to really work the expression and beauty of each section. We break the song into its most minute moments, using every technical and emotional tool we have to explore the fullness of the song.

After capturing each verse several times, I remove the headphones and rejoin Gerald and Carmon. We sit together to choose our favourite takes and create a vocal that is emotional, powerful, and beautiful. We make sure my harmonies match perfectly with Gerald's melodies. We fuss over the tiniest details to make sure every phrase, every note, expresses the message we want to share.

A little techno magic, and the whole vocal is ready. We take a final listen. Not so long ago, this was simply an idea that entered Gerald's creative space. By the end of the summer, it will be a fully recorded song, ready to play its way into the hearts and lives of folks who need to hear about God's plan and provision for their lives. Amazing.

Our work for tonight is done.
With a click of a button, everything is sent back to Nashville where it will be mixed... 
But that's another story....

Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page & visit us every Wednesday!

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