Friday, November 30, 2007

We're so close!

I can't believe we're so close to having these CDs actually in our hands. I can almost taste it. I know that's a cliche, but it's true. I can feel the shrink wrap between my fingers, and I can feel my nails struggling to rip it open. In just a few weeks, that will be reality!

Today was our final day in the studio. (Actually, we still have some more work to do, so we'll be back in again tomorrow.) We've spent the last few days listening to the mixes. We listened on my laptop, Gerald's laptop, with headphones, without headphones, my stereo, and the rental car. (Don't know if I've mentioned the rental car, but that's a whole other story!) I also sent it around to our "trusted few" for listening. The parents provided our "consumer research" ears. Monika and Brent were our studio references. And Allison and Brian provided studio-plus-genre experience. Overall, the response was good, but there were things that needed tweaking.

I was a little stressed going in today. We're hitting that "past the point of no return" moment. Soon, the CDs will be made, and I won't be able to make any further changes. The perfectionist side of me is freaking out a little. But I'm coming to terms with the fact that this will not be a "perfect" album, nor should it be. Who makes a perfect album? Everyone has told me that next year, I'll listen to it, and wish I done some things differently. It happens to all CDs and all musicians. But that's where learning and growing as an artist comes into play. If I didn't want to get better with each project, then I'd really be in trouble.

So I'm coming to terms with the fact that this record will be many things, and the last thing it needs to be is perfect. Actually, I think we're going to look back on this and realized that we've done a number of things right. One thing I was very clear about from the start was the idea of a "signature sound" - even with a range of songs, I wanted a cohesive sound and identity to the record, and I think we've achieved that. I also wanted to create new music, and we've definitely done that. We have seven new songs, and the three classics have very unique arrangements. I wrote a list of Purposes early on in the process, reasons why I wanted to make the CD. I've been checking in with that list on a regular basis, and I think we've been sticking pretty close to it. I also wrote a list of Goals, and those are definitely happening, bit by bit.

So, today was all about tweaking and fixing. We did a little bit of re-recording, but not much, just a word here and there. I got a disc when we left, and listened to it tonight, and here's the cool part - Tonight, I enjoyed my music. I wasn't just listening for my vocal glitches or funny sounds to tweak. I started listening for that, and after a while it dawned on me, "I'm enjoying this music!" It was such an exciting moment!

Tuesday, Brian gave me a disc of my photos, so tonight I imported them into my computer. ("onto" my computer? I'm so techno-dumb!) Anyways, as each photo imported, it would flick on the screen for just a second. The effect was a like a film. I wanted to see how the style of the music fit with the style of the photos, so I turned on "Real Big Fan". It was awesome! The effect was like a music video, with my photos flashing and the music playing like a soundtrack.

The big dilemma now is which photo location to use. The Ryman reflects the elegance of the music, yet the mural near Monell's expresses the joyful side of the record.

Still so much work to do, but it's all just feeling so good!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me!

Today was an amazing birthday!

We woke up to beautiful weather, which meant we could actually have our photo shoot! We decided to meet at 1:00 to get the best light, which meant Gerald and I could have a nice, slow morning. It also meant that I could be home to get all my birthday calls from Canada. I've been horribly homesick since last night, but at least we'll be home next week, so that's not too bad.

We loaded up the car with my pile of outfits, and met Brian and Allison Speer at their house. Brian is a great photographer, and they're both such cool people - I knew we were in for a great day. We raided Allison's closet for a few more items, and took off downtown.

I was excited because we were all on the same page with regards to styling the photos: fun, elegant clothing with cool architectural backdrops. Our first location was the back alley of the Ryman. We love this spot and all it's history, so it was wonderful to spend time back there. For the uninitiated, when the Ryman was first built, it didn't have enough dressing rooms, so the performers would spend time in the back alley, just hanging out, or running back and forth from Tootsies, a now legendary bar. When you walk back there, you can feel the spirits of Patsy and Johnny and Elvis and all the rest. It's just awesome!

For those shots, I wore the Edwardian opera coat I got for Christmas years ago (thanks, Mom and Dad!), with jeans and boots. The contrast of the antique velvet coat with the rough brick of the alley was really cool. Brian is a relaxed photographer, which made me feel very open. And Allison stayed close at hand as stylist, which made me feel very relaxed. (Didn't have to worry about rumpled clothes or my hair doing weird things.) It was also very cool to see Brian and Allison work as a team. They think the same thoughts and anticipate the other's next move. So inspiring to see!

Our second location was a painted mural near Monell's. It's on the side of a galvanized metal wall, and it's a city scape done in bright blocks of colour. I actually commented on it the last time we visited Monell's, as I loved the colours and the energy. We tried a bunch of different outfits against this backdrop, complimenting and contrasting the bright colours of the wall. Some of my favourite set-ups were with a long white vintage coat, and a bright pink sweater.

The whole day was just so much fun. I felt gorgeous and open and creative - all great things to feel on a photo shoot. We all joked and laughed and had a great time together. After getting over 500 shots, we headed back to the house to take a look at things. The photos are gorgeous! And I'm not saying that just cause it's me. I know I can take a bad photo. But these are seriously gorgeous! The hard part will be choosing only a few for the album.

Gerald and I headed home around suppertime for a little rest with the puppies. After a little while, we headed out for my birthday dinner - sushi! We had the 2-foot-long "Love Boat for 2". It had over 60 pieces of sushi. Outrageously good!

What a fantastic birthday! Getting older rocks!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Big Picture

Well, no photo shoot yet again. More rain, more thunder, so no shooting outside. We've postponed the shoot til tomorrow, which is supposed to be beautiful and sunny.

"But wait - Tomorrow's your birthday!"

Yay! Yes, it is my birthday! Thank you for remembering!

Tomorrow is my big day, and I'm so excited about it. Sunday was the official start of Birthday Week, and we'll keep celebrating right through til Saturday. I had planned to keep tomorrow totally open, but the CD must come first right now. And really, how awesome is it to be spending my birthday getting photos taken, by Allison and Brian Speer, for my new CD?

It really got me thinking about this past year.

Last year this time: We had an empty apartment. We had to pay a-dollar-a-minute on my Canadian cell phone for my birthday call from home. We barely knew anyone in Nashville. We had just sold our house in Toronto. We had no jobs, no visas, and no back-up plan.

In the past year: We received visas. We moved and settled into a different country. We moved Mom and Dad into their new city. We adopted a new furry baby. We wrote a slew of new songs. We tried fried turkey, fried biscuits and fried Snickers bars. We attended NSAI Song Camps and NQC. We performed at the Bluebird, Indiefest, and onstage with the Speers. We bought furniture. We received interested from publishers. We made a whole new community of friends.

And in this moment in time: I'm working for Ben Speer. Gerald is co-writing with pro-writers on "The Row". I'm making a CD that is surpassing my own expectations. I have a second possible job lined up for next year. People I knew for years through TV and arena concerts are now friends and colleagues. Gerald and I are making a business plan for the next stage of my ministry, as well as making plans for his first CD. We are also in the early stages of writing two books.

Without a doubt, this has been the most dynamic and exciting year of my life. Anthony Robbins says that people overestimate what they can do in one year, and underestimate what they can do in three. When I look back at the last 12 months, I am just amazed at all that has happened. I couldn't always see it in the moment, but I guess that's why days like this are so important - So we can step back and see the big picture, and just be grateful for it all!

So Happy Birthday to everyone, whether today's your day or not!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The listening begins...

I got seven of the ten mixes yesterday. What that means is this: The recording part is done, and the next step is for Aaron to mix all the pieces together - choose the best takes, tune the 'off' notes, put the correct volumes on each instrument - to make the best possible version of each song.

I set myself up in the living room with no noise, a scented candle, and a cup of hot chocolate this afternoon. I wanted to be very calm and relaxed for my first listen.

Overall, I think it all sounds great, but I also know I'm having trouble being objective. The tracks sound awesome. The new clarinet part is wonderful. And the background vocals are just perfect.

The trouble is listening to myself! I listen to it, and I think it probably sounds good, but all I keep thinking is, "I can't tell if it sounds good or bad - It just sounds like me!".

My plan is to get my 'trusted few' to take a listen and get their thoughts. Meanwhile, I'm going to listen to it on as many different sound systems as possible. It's one thing for it to sound great on a two-thousand-dollar set of speakers, but most people listen to music in their car, on their laptops, or on the CD player they got for Christmas five years ago. I want it to sound good all time!

Thursday, November 22, 2007


I forgot to write yesterday that we had to postpone the photo shoot. We want to shoot outside, and well, that's not so easy in the middle of a thunder storm. Actually, we've been having some real Newfoundland weather lately. Warmer that Newfoundland, but lots of RDF - rain, drizzle, and last week, we actually had fog. Not mist. Fog. I couldn't see the houses across the street. Where I'm from, that's called fog.

We're getting ready to go over to our friend's house for our first ever American Thanksgiving celebration. Last year, we were on our own, and we went to the only restaurant that was open - Shoney's. I feel we'll be in much better hands this year. We're going to have fried turkey, so that should be ... interesting.

I know I did this on our Thanksgiving, but in the spirit of the day, here are the things for which I'm thankful:

- For Gerald, my partner in all things good and true.
- For Mom and Dad, who love and support me unconditionally.
- For Sandy and Gerry, who took me into their family without reserve.
- For all our friends in Toronto, and our new friends here in Nashville.
- For the CD, and all the dreams that are coming true right now.
- For Sebastian and Dante, and their new friendship.
- For the chance to live here in Nashville and be a part of the musical community.
- For family across the country.
- For our home, our car, and having all our basic needs fulfilled.
- For my new job with Ben, and my second new job that's right around the corner.
- For the courage to risk it all to fight for the dream.
- And finally, for a God who knows me completely, and still loves me completely.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Saxophone Session

I went to the studio this afternoon to watch saxophonist, Mark Douthit, add some special sounds to "Real Big Fan". This was one of those days that I wish Mom and Dad lived closer to us. Sax is Dad's favourite instrument, and I know he would have loved being at the session.

Again, Mark worked without a chart, and just improvised his way through 3 full passes of the song. He would occasionally redo a lick, but generally, things were just one-offs. He did 2 passes using a tenor sax, and one using the soprano. Aaron had two mics in the booth - one directly in front of the instrument, and one in the room to catch the natural reverb, kind of like recording the ambiance on set. Everything sounded warm and present.

I think Aaron is leaning towards the tenor sound for the final mix. It just suits the overall feel of the song a little better.

Johnny Minick was at the studio when I got there. He and Aaron had just recorded Mills-Brothers-style harmonies for "Moving Up to Gloryland". They sound great, and with the clarinet in there too - it's just awesome! Johnny told me how much he's enjoying my project, and, given his history in the industry, I'm taking that as high praise.

So, this is the last official session! All the big stuff is recorded! It's amazing that it's come together so quickly. We'll have one more chance to do a few clean-ups on one or two vocal sections. After that, it's mixing, mastering, graphics, and manufacturing. Aaron will do the mixing, and I'm going to go with a local mastering house. (Mastering is that final touch, like a good coat of varnish. It makes sure that all the songs are the same volume, the spacing between the songs is correct when you're playing the CD as a whole, it puts the songs in the proper order, etc.)

I also think I'm going to get the graphics and manufacturing done in Canada. It will probably cost the same, and it will work much better with our travel schedule.

My photo shoot is Wednesday, so that's my next focus. Tomorrow will be the day I pull out all my clothes, decide I truly have nothing to wear, and take a panicked trip down to Ross and Target!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Gerald played the Bluebird!

Gerald has recently started co-writing with Tom Manning. Tom is best known around town for his Tuesday night songwriting workshop, and at one point, he also had a publishing deal with the late, great Buddy Killen.

Well, tonight, Tom was booked to play in the early show at the Bluebird. When Gerald and I said we'd love to come and see the show, Tom told Gerald to come prepared to sing a song!

This is a common thing to see in Nashville. Someone in the round will give up one of their songs to let a promising songwriter friend come up and do a song. It's just one more sign of the friendly and generous atmosphere here in this city.

Gerald has written 70, yes seven-zero, new songs since moving here, so choosing just one is always an issue. He settled on a really new one, "Whiskey and Dragonflies". I love this song - it's very cool with a Tom Waites feel.

The whole round was fantastic. Mersaidee Soules, the host, and Lisa McCallum both performed in the round before us at Tin Pan North in Toronto, so that was very cool. Both women are great performers with killer voices. Trent Jeffcoat rounded out the group with a great voice and fun songs. He had a gorgeous ballad called "I Let Her" which is just waiting to get cut. Tom's songs were hilarious, my favourite being "Prenup", and yes, it's actually about getting a prenup.

Gerald stepped in about three-quarters through the show, and he just nailed it! Yes, I'm biased, but I'm also a performer, and he nailed it! His guitar playing was spot on, his vocals were strong and flexible, and his entire performance was committed and passionate. Even his stage presence entering and exiting the round was great. The audience gave him a terrific response, and several people stopped him after the show to pass on their compliments.

I was just so proud of him! My only role for the night was to look pretty and support my husband, and I couldn't have been happier with it! It's been so amazing to see him creating all these fantastic songs. But then to see him play them in public, and get such a strong response, well, that's just awesome!

It's just so satisfying to get these moments of confirmation - We're in the right place. We're doing the right stuff. We're on the right path.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

More BGVs, and a Clarinet

Today was long and incredible.

I was up early to take Dante to the vet (it's his 'special day'), and I worked for Ben in the morning.

Early afternoon, I headed over to the studio to watch 2 sessions. The first to arrive was clarinet player extraordinaire, John Jorgenson. (John is also a great, Django-style guitar player. He's so well known for it, that he's endorsed several guitars through ad campaigns, and there's actually a guitar model named for him!) The moment John heard what we were doing musically, he locked into the style. He did everything by ear - no charts or lead sheets. Aaron recorded the clarinet on an RCA "ribbon" mic, which was very old and cool looking. It traps the sound using a vibrating ribbon inside the mic, and apparently, this is the mic of choice for this style of playing.

For "Moving Up To Gloryland", he listened and played along with the little fills that are replacing the traditional vocal bass leads. On "Do You Wanna Be My Neighbour", he just played all out in a Dixieland, big band style. If we were playing live, that's what all the musicians would do, and this way Aaron can have lots of choice and just piece together the parts that work perfectly. As soon as I heard what John was doing, I knew I wanted him on "Wedding at Cana", and luckily, Aaron felt the same way. It sounded so good! It's amazing how that one instrument just lifted all the tracks to a new level. John was a very cool guy too, so the whole session was very fun and inspiring.

While waiting for the next session, I listened to a few near-ready mixes - "Shepherd of the Hills", "Sin Ain't Nothing", and "Real Big Fan". Things are sounding great! I know it sounds weird when I say this, but it's sounding like a real CD! You know, not just something you'd record in your basement, but a real CD like you'd buy in a store. It's so exciting to hear it all coming together!

Soon, our BGV singers arrived: Reggie and Ladye Love Smith. I first knew them through the Gaither stuff, and then through the school. And here's the cool (some might say 'geeky') part: Last year, before moving to Nashville, I wrote out my dream team of who I wanted for my CD. Now some people, like Aaron and Johnny, didn't make the list because, well, I just didn't know enough about their talents. But guess who I had on my list for background singers? Reggie and Ladye Love! How cool is that??? I just love their work, and I really felt they'd be a good fit for my voice and this music, and it actually came true today!

They arrived in a whirlwind, and once the music started, all that energy went into the song. And at work, they are truly amazing. As soon as each song started, they would just start humming notes, and choosing who would sing what line. They speak in that "we're-married-and-we-work-together-all-the-time" shorthand. It was just impressive to see how quickly the parts were formed. Even on the the first pass, things would be almost perfect. And they spoke in numbers too - "You sing the 5 and I'll sing the 9." Crazy!

We started with "At The Cross". Aaron joined them on baritone, so we had a good choral fullness on the harmonies. Next we moved on to "Neighbour". It became really clear that this would sound good with just Ladye singing 2 parts, and it developed into an Andrew Sisters type thing. Some of the intervals were really tricky, and this probably took the longest of all the songs. ("longest" being relative, as they work so quickly!) It was very cool to see Reggie and Aaron working with Ladye to work out the parts and get the phrasing perfect. And they loved the song, which thrilled me to no end! Ladye asked to take the lyric home, she loved it so much! Smiling, happy me!

We discussed adding stuff to "Faith Will Take You Farther" and "In Less Than a Moment", but decided, for various reasons, that they were better just as they are. In listening to "Wedding at Cana" earlier, we decided the harmonies needed a little beefing up. Monika did great work on it, but as the mix has developed, her beautiful breathy vocals were floating too far above the rest of the track. So we quickly laid down more parts for it, and it all sounded great in the end.

Next week, Aaron is bringing in a saxophone player for another project, and he'll get him to add a little something to "Real Big Fan". On Wednesday, I'm having my photos done. I'm also starting to collect my lyrics, credits, thank you's, etc, for the liner notes.

Oh, and I think I've decided on a title for the CD: "Real Big Fan". It pretty much says all I want to say!

Friday, November 16, 2007

BCC Songwriter Night

Two days ago, I got an email from Laurie Kerr at BCC Church. They'd had a cancellation in their line-up for their songwriter night, and they offered me a one song guest spot. The plan was to fill the empty chair with several writers doing one song each. They requested an uptempo, so I grabbed Gerald to accompany me on "Point of the Song".

The show was in the "Onion", the fancy-shaped portable in the back of the property. This is the same place where Gerald and I played for their youth worship, almost one year ago! (Wow, how did that happen?) The stage was set with candles for a nice intimate feel.

The crowd was small but appreciative. I did my song near the end, and they still had space, so Gerald did a new song, "Hallelujah, I Remember". Both songs went really well, and got a good response from the crowd. This was the first time Gerald performed Hallelujah, and I can't wait to add harmonies to it.

We realized tonight that it's been ages since we've played out like that, what with the CD and all. It felt good, even though doing one song is more like a warm up than a performance. I think Gerald wants to get back to doing songwriter nights on a regular basis. He is just overflowing with new songs, and they really need to be played and heard.

I'm really working hard right now to coordinate the CD and Christmas. We're booking lots of stuff in Toronto - church services, Victorian carolling, and possibly a full concert. That in and of itself is a lot of work, but on top of that, I'm also trying to organize the final steps of the CD - mastering, graphics, and manufacturing. The BGVs and mixing are all happening in the next few days, so we'll be ready for that final stuff soon.

The tricky part in all this is to schedule things so that we have CDs to bring home with us at Christmas. No easy feat! I'm like the guy on Ed Sullivan with all the plates.

Trying to take time to rest and be still, and celebrate family moments. This month, Gerald and I are celebrating 5 years since we started dating. Can't believe it's been that long! And I can't believe we've done so much together in that time! Feeling so blessed to have him in my life.

Also taking time to rest because I have a photo shoot coming up, and no one wants to buy the CD of a tired looking Gospel singer!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Vocals - Day 3

I woke up this morning, grateful for a good night's sleep, excited about the day, but also nervous. Today was our "big sing" day.

As part of my relaxing morning, I took the puppies for a walk. I said it was to help relax them before a day alone (a friend came to visit them late afternoon), but in actuality, the walk was truly relaxing for me. The weather was very Newfoundland - grey sky, a little haze, a hint of rain - but the air was warm and humid instead of cool and damp.

I left these 3 particular songs til today for very specific reasons. They are, in my opinion, the hardest ones to sing, so I wanted as much time as possible to work on them. I also wanted to be very comfortable in the studio and with Aaron when it came time to sing them. And, as you'll see, I'm glad I waited.

I wanted to start with Daryl Williams' new song, "In Less Than A Moment". Daryl gave me a demo CD with a dozen songs. They were all great, but when I heard this one, I started to cry. When we lost Steve, I was left with so many unanswered questions. Death at any time can be confusing, but I think a suicide is the worst. There's no one to explain what happened or why it happened, and I just couldn't wrap my head around why God would have allowed this to happen. I finally came to the conclusion that I will never get the answers in this lifetime, but, when I get to Heaven, I will get all the answers I need. Well, that's exactly what Daryl's song is about. I couldn't believe it when I heard it. I knew I had to sing it. Partly for my own needs, but mostly because I know there are people out there who will need to hear this song.

So, as you can imagine, singing it has been an emotional experience. Vocally, it's a style that's very familiar to me, so that hasn't been difficult. But I wanted to rehearse it so that I could sing it with strength and confidence. I scheduled it early in the day so that I'd be open and relaxed to get all the low notes in the verses.

Well, we started the first take, and by the time we hit the final chorus, I started to cry. And not the pretty Demi-Moore-in-Ghost tears either. Those awful tears that take away your stomach. I was so embarassed. We did another take, and I couldn't even make it to the end. It's been so long since I've gone to that emotional place. I was happy to be singing about this great message of hope, but the emotion was just overwhelming. Remembering my grief felt awful, and imagining the joy of finally seeing Jesus was more than I could bear. Gerald came into the studio and hugged me and talked me through. I was so embarassed to be, what I deemed, unprofessional. But I was also reminded that this is part of taking great artistic risks. Sometimes, it brings you to places that are raw and scary. Aaron was also incredibly encouraging, reminding me that pitches can be fixed, and emotion is the most important thing in a performance. We did one more pass, and then punched in a few chosen lines.

At that point, I was just exhausted. We didn't listen to any of what I'd just done. Gerald and I just took off for a very long lunch, and Aaron worked on the song without us.

The break was good. Gerald and I laughed a lot, and we came back in great moods to take on the next big sing: Gerald's song, "Real Big Fan". Gerald often performs this live as a blues-rock-gospel number, and I just love it! But it's not in my style, so we've given in a big band type of feel. The lyric is incredible, so that was paramount in my performance. But I also wanted to give it a real jazz feel in tone and phrasing. Gerald was a great coach for this. We had practiced it a lot, and this gave us a full palette for when we started recording. It was completely fun to sing! I think it turned out well, and I also can't wait to do it live.

We ended with Lee Roy Abernathy's "Sin Ain't Nothin' But The Blues". I looove this song. I first heard it in Jack Clark's theory class, and as soon as we sang it, and thought, "I need to record this!". I put a lot of work into this one. I studied and practiced my phrasing, and worked on the lyric. I even spent all day Sunday listening to John Lee Hooker as homework and inspiration. Well, it paid off! Three takes and we were done! I had a lot of fun with it, and I think it's going to sound awesome.

All 10 vocals done! We'll still have a clean-up day, but the bulk of my singing work is done. Finally, I can start listening to other songs! (I've been avoiding other music almost entirely! I've only listened to my tracks, or a few selected pieces of 'homework'.) Next week, the rest of the BGVs will get done. Aaron and his Dad, Johnny, are going to do the harmonies on "Moving Up To Gloryland". They haven't done them all yet, but they did lay down a sample for me. It sounds incredible! When I heard it, I thought, "Wow, it's all sounding like a real CD!". Yes, I'm being geeky, but it's all so exciting.

Dreams are coming true every day!

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Bounty of Baptisms...

My morning began with a far-too-early rise at 6:00AM. Today was a full day of singing, and it all started with an 8am call at Church of the Redeemer. Jenna (our music director) was away this weekend, so we were lead by Dave Durham, who was also a guest the first time I sang there. Jenna had sent us a songlist, and I knew the hymns, but I was really unsure about the praise choruses. So, that meant sightreading a bunch of songs in a short, early-morning rehearsal. On top of that, Dave turned to me and asked if I could do alto harmony on everything. Alto! I haven't read an alto part in years, much less finding parts by ear. So, I already knew I'd be outside my comfort zone, but that was that, so off we went.

The team actually ended up working really well together. We had keyboard, guitar, bass, and 3 part vocal harmony. I had a solo on one of the Communion songs. The first service was, well, good but a little loose (I think that's typical of most churches!). But by the second service, we were tight and some stuff just felt great. We got positive feedback from the congregation, and that's always a blessing.

Here's where the day starts getting interesting: At the second service this morning, we had a baptism. It was a little baby girl, who grabbed the Pastor Thomas's beard while she was getting the water poured on her head. We all answered the questions about "Do you promise to support this child in her life in Christ?". (paraphrasing, but you get the point) All very powerful and good.

This afternoon, I attended an adult baptism in Franklin. A friend of mine, who had been baptized as a child, had now decided to rededicate herself to Jesus through a full immersion baptism. About 30 people gathered very casually in this huge Baptist church. The worship area was a huge room with chairs and a stage, and it smelled oddly like a school gym. That's when I noticed that the hardwood floor was actually a basketball court. I have no idea what this means, but this might just be the church for Gerald!

The baptistry was 2 stories up and opened up into the main room like a balcony. The side facing us was clear plexiglass so we could all see the actual immersion.

I had volunteered to sing. There was no sound system to use, so I brought a guitar, and I sang my arrangement of "Jesus Loves Me". It went very well, and everyone seemed very pleased.

Side note: I got compliments from several people, which was lovely, but the coolest moment was when a gentlemen, who claimed to be an "old Southern Gospel singer", came up to me. It was Buck Rambo! Of the Rambos! Crazy!

There were 3 people lined up for baptism - 2 adults and one child. As each person came forward, they spoke a few words about what brought them to this decision. Pastor Stan was very casual, but also very sincere in performing the actual baptism. As each person took the plunge, we actually saw them go under the water, and then that priceless expression as they emerged, changed forever.

So, tonight, I'm thinking about baptisms - adult versus baby, immersion versus sprinkling. I've decided that I love them all, and for lots of different reasons.

I love baby baptisms, because it brings together a group of people to raise and support a child in their life in Christ. The parents choose God-parents - trusted friends who will be a spiritual and loving team for their child. The baptism is done in front of the entire church community, and we are all asked to pledge our support in raising this child in Christ. In some services, we are also given the opportunity to renew our baptismal vows aloud. In the end, we welcome the child into our community of faith. It's always powerful, and always full of joy.

And I've also realized that I love adult baptisms. I love hearing the stories of why people are making this decision. Perhaps they have just come to Jesus. Perhaps they were raised in the church, but they've strayed, and this baptism is a sign of their recommitment to Christ. Either way, this is a life-changing decision that, like a marriage, they have chosen to confirm in a public and holy way. I love seeing the full event of an entire body going under the water, and seeing them come up again, cleansed and renewed. And again, it is powerful, and full of joy.

And I also love that we serve a God who will take our commitment at any point in our lives! Never too early. Never too late.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Vocals - Day 2

My nerves were much less active today than my first vocal day, but still, I started the day with excitement and just a few jitters.

I've been trying to keep these mornings open and relaxed. Lots of time for a slow warm-up, a good breakfast, and lots of breathing and stretching. I also try to get in some good quality time with the puppies - it makes me laugh, which is a great warm-up, and it reminds me that love and simplicity are essential in life and music.

The goal today was to record the vocals for 3 songs. All three of today's selections have a similar vibe, which meant I wouldn't have to completely change gears between each song.

We started with the Cathedral's classic, "Movin' Up To Gloryland". I love this song, and I've been singing it to myself for months now. When I was trying to focus the sound and feel of this project, this was the first song that clicked for me. When I started to sing it to myself, it fell into a natural groove that just screamed, "Mix it all with jazz!". I know this will be a risky choice in some ways - It's a very traditional quartet song, and for some audience members, that means it should only ever be sung by a quartet. But I love it, and I believe the test of a great song is it can bend without breaking.

This part of the recording actually went by pretty quickly. We did 3 full takes, and then came back and fixed up a few little things. We then did a 4th take, just trying some crazier stuff for fun - different phrasings, playing with grace notes, etc. Aaron cut a rough vocal on the spot, and it sounded great.

We moved on to a new Joel Lindsey and Wayne Haun song called, "Faith Will Take You Farther". This is a very fun song, but to be honest, it was one of the hardest songs for me to lock into. I think I was treating it too seriously, and just not having enough fun with it. In the end, I found inspiration in the character actresses of the 1930's musicals, and it all fell into place. My rehearsal process will remain private, but let's just say I had a visit from Lina Lamont...

We took several passes at this one. I think what we got is really good, but we may go back and revisit a few lines on another day.

Finally, we ended with "Do You Wanna Be My Neighbour in Gloryland" - our unofficial Song of the Week! We have the single take from Monday, but we still did 3 full takes and a few single lines. It's such a fun song to sing! I think this one turned out really well, and I can't wait for people to hear it.

We now have 7 songs done, 3 to go. The next vocal day is Tuesday, and that will be the 3 biggest songs vocally. After that, it's BGVs and mixing. While all that's happening, I need to take care of photos and graphics. Then, it's mastering, manufacturing, and finally, carting 1000 CDs into my living room! It all seems so simple when I put it that way...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Canaan pitch!

Tonight was the ever-awesome Christian writer night at NSAI, and this was the most exciting kind of night they have:
Pitch to Publisher.

Our publisher tonight was songwriter, Dave Clark, of Canaan Music. I've heard Dave speak several times at Write About Jesus and Stamps-Baxter. And I actually look at his photo several times a week - he sang with the Speers for several years, and he's in several of the older publicity photos.

Tonight started in the typical Pitch to Publisher fashion - Twice as many people show up for the meeting, and we all have to allow extra time to find parking. Each writer brings a demo on CD, plus 2 lyric sheets. We check in, find a seat, and start to pray! I've now decided to start calling these nights Pitch and Pray. Just seems more appropriate...

So, my song was "Do You Wanna Be My Neighbour in Gloryland". We've had the track for weeks, and I did that single take yesterday with Aaron. My turn came up near the end of the night. I really enjoyed listening to everyone's songs, cause there was some truly great stuff, but my stomach was just in knots waiting for my song to play. I prayed early in the evening, "God, do what you want with this song." It didn't stop all my nerves, but it changed it from fear to excitement.

Arg! I gotta start with the results, cause it's just too good - He took my song!!!!

When they read out the title, it got a really happy reaction from the room. For every song, they would only play a verse and a chorus. My song starts with the chorus. As the vocals started, I could see Dave reading the lyric and smiling. He got a few nice expressions of surprise as the melody moved. And then just as the last note of the chorus landed, he said, "I'll take it.". He didn't even listen to the verse! It was so fast and awesome! He called it very "cutable", and asked me a little about what artists I listen to. After the whole thing, I introduced myself properly, and we got to talk about the Speers a little.

I'm still just so excited and a little in shock! Yes, I love that song, and I think it's probably the most solid song I've written to date. But it's still just so exciting to get this reaction from non-friends. We always assume our friends will like things at least a little, so this is very awesome to get this reaction from someone who's just about the music and not about pleasing me.

So, what happens next? Dave takes the song back to Canaan Music, and he'll try to get it cut. I don't know if they'll do a new demo, or who will get the pitch, or anything! All I know is that I song of mine is being considered by Canaan Music, and I'm one step closer to my first Nashville cut! Whoo-hoo!!!!

Monday, November 05, 2007

BGVs - Monika's Day

BGVs is studio code for BackGround Vocals, and even though we're still not finished my vocals, we've just had our first day of BGV recording. For those new to the party: Monika and I have been singing together for over 15 years. We met in Mendlessohn Youth Choir back in Toronto, went on to sing together at St. John's Church. Since then, we've sung together in concerts, recitals, Victorian Carolling, and as anthem singers for a Raptors game. I haven't done any important project or show that hasn't involved Moni, and today, I got the privilege of having her gorgeous harmonies on my new CD!

Monika is a skilled session singer, so she was in her element today. Last week, we chose and recorded 3 songs that we knew she'd sound great on - Abide With Me, Wedding at Cana, and Shepherd of the Hills. I sent her the rough vocals so she'd have a chance to be prepared, and we spent time with all 3 songs over the weekend. There is nothing better than singing with Moni!

We went in this morning, with a full day planned in the studio, but Moni was so quick and professional, that we were done in just a few hours. We had worked out 2 lines of harmony for each song, but in the end, we just used one line on most songs. It all sounds so pretty!

I also took a few minutes to record one take of "Do You Want to Be My Neighbour in Gloryland". Tomorrow night, NSAI is having Christian Pitch to Publisher, and that's the song I want to pitch. That was very simple to do, and I think it will serve me well tomorrow.