Friday, August 31, 2007

Where did August go???

This is just the tiniest little mid-week check-in to say, "Where did August go???" I had so many plans for this summer, and I can't believe the official part of summer is almost over. This is Labour Day Weekend! If we were still in Newfoundland, we'd be packing up the car with fishing rods and Oreos for one more hurrah at the cabin. (Wow, that would be so great!!!)

I've been laying low this week, but still plugging away at things. I have one more month left on my free Song U membership, so I'm taking a class a day right now. I may still continue it after my free membership, but we'll see. This week, I did "Intro to Christian Songwriting" (annoyingly basic), and I started "Commercial Song Forms", which seems to be a prerequisite for all the other courses. I'm also continuing their set of courses on recording an indie CD.

I've also spent some time looking into professional theatre here in Nashville. I'm still looking for paying performance opportunities, so I thought I'd look to the stage. There aren't many paying companies that I could find, but I'm sending my info to all of them. Prayers, please!

Gerald and I called today to get auditions for the Bluebird! We had to call in on 3 phones for over an hour before we got through. We only know they're on Sunday, Sept 16 - the day after NQC! They're going to send us the rest of the info in the mail. Apparently, it's very rare to get through on your first shot, but we're both used to the audition process, and we know that you always do more auditions than you get. (poor English, but you know what I mean)

And, for the first time, I'm ahead of schedule in my Bible-in-a-year readings! I'm in Isaiah and Gallatians. Whoo-hoo!

I have less than 2 weeks til NQC, and a month and a half til we record the tracks for the CD. I also want to go to Write About Jesus in October. Basically, the next 2 months need to be a time of discipline and creativity. I need to allow lots of time for writing and singing and just letting my imagination fly, and I need discipline to make sure everything happens in time for NQC, the recording, and WAJ! And then Christmas is right around the corner...

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Next step on the CD...

I stayed up so late last night, finishing my Song U course on pre-production. I wanted to be ready for today...

This afternoon, Gerald and I drove out to meet with Aaron (my CD producer). Today was set to be a big meeting: schedule and song selection. Both of these topics are so important to me. I need a sense of the schedule so I can get an overall feel for how this process is going to work. And the songs are the key to everything! I need great songs that I will love to sing for the next year or 2, and that people will want to buy and bring into their homes. The songs are also the medium for my message, so lyrics are critical.

I'd been sending Aaron songs for weeks, and I brought in a few new ones today. I really want a mix of classic Southern, our own songs, originals by other writers, and a hymn or 2. We listened to a bunch of stuff, and I think we've finally chosen the ten. There's still a few I'm dickering over, but it's mostly solid. Of our stuff, I'm doing:

- Abide With Me.
- Wedding at Cana
- Real Big Fan (more swingy than Gerald does it)
- Do You Want to be My Neighbour in Gloryland
- Fear Knocked, Faith Answered

I'm going to wait to make sure I get the right permissions before announcing my other songs. But it's really important that every song fits into the concept of the album. Remember: I want it rooted in Southern Gospel, with jazz and big band influences. But here's the catch: Big bands equal big budgets. There is no way I can afford a 21-piece band with horns and strings.

And here's where a creative producer comes in. Aaron suggested something called "Hollywood Western Swing". Well, Hollywood and Swing sounded great, but "Western" really freaked me out. Then he started to explain the instrumentation: clarinet, fiddle, accordion, upright bass, guitars, piano. Think Django and Stephane Grappelli. Think Paris cafe, European jazz...

Wait a minute! This is gospel meets cabaret! Whoo-hoo! Now that's a sound I can get behind!

It's not what I heard initially, but it just makes so much sense, fusing the sounds I love with the message I want to tell. And I don't think Aaron even knew of my love for all things Weill and such. Don't tell me God isn't in this mix!

After working on the sounds and the songs, we moved on to the schedule. To be completely honest, all of this is moving much slower than I'd like, but that's also because I'd like it all done yesterday. Not that I'm not enjoying the process. I really am, and I'm looking forward to everything yet to come. I'm just so anxious to see the final product and start performing with my own tracks.

We're going to do the basic tracks the first week of October. That day, we'll have piano, drums, bass, and 2 guitar players. I'll be there to sing a scratch vocal. (This is a vocal we can throw away - It's really just a guide for the musicians.) Aaron will have all the charts done up in the Nashville Number System, and we'll do all ten songs in one day!

After that, I'll take a rough copy home to start practicing with. Aaron will do overdubs of whatever extra instruments are needed on the songs, like clarinet, organ, whatever. I'll have three days, later in October, to do my vocals. After that, we'll add the background vocals. Then it's mixing, mastering, and manufacturing.

Sometime in the next few months, I'll also have my photos done, so I can bring them to the graphics designer. That stuff will be done when the CD is being mastered.

If all goes well, I'd really like to have product ready to bring home for Christmas. But I'm also not pressuring myself. I've heard tonnes of stories about people wanting to record in 6 months and it takes a year. If it's later, I'll be fine with that. (Well, not really 'fine', but I'll cope!)

Mostly, I'm just so excited about all of this! I think the sound will be great. I'm loving the songs I've chosen. I'm so happy to have Gerald by my side in all of this. And I'm just so excited to have this kind of opportunity! I always thought I was destined to go to New York or LA. I never thought I'd be in Nashville making a CD. Mysterious ways...

Monday, August 20, 2007

3rd Sunday Songwriter Party

We've been having a great time with Mom and Dad! We're doing a bit of touristy stuff, but we're also trying to show them our everyday lives here. So today, we thought we'd take them off the beaten path, and show them a real songwriter's event here in Nashville.

Once a month, Doak Turner hosts a party for songwriters. He provides the chicken and sweet tea; everyone else brings a side dish and a guitar. After digging into the food, the guitars come out and the songs begin. There's always a huge crowd, so the music happens all over the house. There'll be a group in the living room, a group in the study, a group in the basement, and today, several groups outside. Every possible space in Doak's house is filled with songwriters!

Mom and Dad also got a great taste of Southern hospitality today. They were welcomed with open arms, as were we on our first visit. This isn't the kind of thing they would go to on their own, but I think they enjoyed seeing a different, non-touristy side of the city.

We didn't get to play a lot today, but Gerald played his new song "Angels in the Dust", which I love. I hooked up with someone who may have a Southern Gospel song for me to consider for the album. Gerald found 2 potential co-writers. I ran into a friend from Shoutlife. And we have a place to stay if we ever tour Australia. Not a bad afternoon's work!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Lynn and my Kin

Mom and Dad are here in Nashville!!! Whoo-hoo!!! I am soooo excited!!!

Not only is this their first visit to Music City, it's also their first chance to see our new lives here in Nashville. They arrived late last night, and it's so awesome to have them here. It's natural and surreal, all at the same time!

We really kicked it off big by going to the Opry tonight. We knew they'd want to go some time, but when I saw the ad in the paper, I knew tonight was the night. Tonight's opening act was the one and only Loretta Lynn!

Loretta Lynn is a study in stage craft. She doesn't dance, shimmy, or do any kind of comedy routine. She just walks out, holds the mic, and sings. And that's all she needs to do.

When some members of the Opry perform, their backup bands can look a little rough. Not Miss Loretta's. Her group came out, coolly dressed in co-ordinating, but not matching, outfits. The music was tight and vibrant. The band wore black with little touches of red, and out walked Miss Loretta in her bright red ball gown. The whole thing was slick without seeming forced.

She did 4 songs (a lot for the Opry stage!) including the gospel song "Where No On Stands Alone" and, of course, "Coal Miner's Daughter". (How could anyone hear that and not think of those poor trapped miners and their families?) But it was her presence that just blew me away. To be that confident in yourself and your message, and to put that much trust in the power of your song, and to be at that age and still making relevant music - it was all just inspiring!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Dante and the Redeemer

This morning, I sat in with the music team at Church of the Redeemer for the first time.

I've still been visiting other churches here in Nashville, but over the last few months, most Sundays find me in the pews (actually, we just got chairs) of Redeemer. I loved the music from my first visit - a mix of hymns and praise choruses. They have an organist who leads most of the hymns and liturgical music, and a 5 member ensemble that leads the choruses and communion music. Sometimes, the organ plays with the group, and the mix is lovely. And, at the risk of sounding like an old woman, I also like the music because it's not too loud! So many of the churches here have these huge rock bands. I know that works for some people, but not me. I love hearing the person next to me singing, and you can't do that when the band is too loud. (Yes, I love hearing the person next to me, even if they can't sing!)

The music director, Jenna, and the organist are there all the time, but the rest of the group is made up of roster musicians. Today, our ensemble was keyboard, guitar, electric bass, flute, and me on vocals. 2 other people in the group sang too, so I did a mix of lead and harmony. We hit 3 part harmony on some of the songs, which was gorgeous!

We all arrived at 8am for our one and only rehearsal. I was a little nervous, but what else is new! I had visions of an hour of panicked sight-reading and last minute arranging, but I was completely wrong. Things were very peaceful and calm. Jenna led us in a very well paced and focused rehearsal. It was great to hear the sounds blending together so smoothly. I took the lead vocals on the communion songs, including the gorgeous "What Wondrous Love Is This". We did 2 services - 9 and 10:45 - with a short break in between.

Overall, I so happy with the whole morning! I really just wanted to give my best and contribute whatever the team needed. I think I sang well, and I had a great time getting to know everybody. I miss feeling so connected to a church home and music team, so there was a lot of comfort in the whole experience for me.

The rest of the day was filled with simple pleasures - rolling around on the rug, napping, biting - We got a new puppy!!!!

Friday night, we drove 30 minutes to Goodlettesville to check out puppies from an ad in the paper. Gerald fell in love with a little white pomchi, and yesterday morning, we were back in Goodlettesville, cash in hand.

His name is Dante. I think he's a pound and a half; Gerald thinks two. He's all white, with short hair, and his eyes are actually a dark grey-green. Sebastian is not impressed, but we're praying for a doggy-friendship to blossom.

So the rest of the day was spent on simple pleasures - eating when you're hungry, napping when you need to, kissing with abandon, and finding joy in the discovery of the world!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Corner Music Faith-based Songwriter Night

(I think this is my longest blog title ever!)

Tonight was the Corner Music Faith-based Songwriter Night, organized by our friends Scott and Tara Oliver.

Usually, songwriter nights feature 10 or more performers, each doing 2-3 songs. If you're a performer, then you know that can get a little frustrating after a while. You just get up on stage and get comfortable, and suddenly, you're done! Tara and Scott limited the number of performers tonight, which gave everyone more songs. Not only is this good for us the performers, but it's also good for us, the audience, cause you get a real performance and not just a sample.

Tonight's line-up consisted of three acts other than us. All Shoutlifers, so that was pretty cool! Jonathon Aaron Porter is a young singer-songwriter with a great sound. He plays in a worship band at church, but he's also working on his solo album. Shelley Jennings is multi-CD, very talented singer-songwriter. Her voice is so smooth, and she supports it with gentle piano accompaniment. For one song, she was joined by her husband on harmonies, and that was gorgeous.

Gerald and I did 6 songs between us. We thought about doing some of the newer songs, but with Stamps-Baxter taking up so much time last week, and therefore limiting our rehearsal time, we decided to stick with some of our (well-rehearsed) favourites. I sang harmonies on "Never Wait Until Tomorrow" and "My Child is Dancing with God", and that got tremendous feedback. Several people complimented our blend, and how much the harmonies lifted the music. I started adding harmonies to Gerald's songs in just the last few months, so it's very encouraging to get such a positive response.

Tara and Scott ended the night with some of their songs. "Selfish Me" talks about getting the selfish parts of ourselves out of the way so we can be closer to God. Wow, could I give a witness on that one! They were brave enough to do a brand new song too, which was great. Scott has great grooves on the guitar, and Tara's voice just floats over the top of it. Fabulous!

It was a really strong night, and we were so happy to be a part of it. After the show, we all chatted about the irony of Nashville - It's the centre of the Christian music industry, yet there's so few paying performance opportunities here that most Christian artists end up touring outside the city.

On another note, I am now fully recovered from my stint at Stamps-Baxter. What a great school this year! I still need to do some follow-up emails, but at least I'm caught up on my sleep! Yesterday, I got back to my Song U classes, finishing my course on Power Rhymes, and continuing my course on CD pre-production. I think I'll start Commercial Song Forms next.

I've also been invited to join the Church of the Redeemer praise team this Sunday. They have a roster of musicians, and this will be my first time joining in. Very excited!