I’ve been away for 10 days recently; along with my wife and family, I was relaxing on Fuerteventura, a frequent holiday spot for us for several years. As well as some real books, audio books, podcasts, new music downloaded from Spotify and old music downloaded from my PC, I also took with me work-in-progress mixes of the album of songs I’ve been working on for the last year.
Part of the issue with working on a solo project is that there’s no one to make you carve out the time – you have to do that for yourself, fitting it in around the multiple demands of “normal” life. It’s more difficult on your own than when it’s a joint project, because the need to make space for your partners forces you to set some mutually convenient time aside, and everyone makes the effort to keep that regular space in the diary. There’s also no one to tell you when things sound great or, (more importantly), where an idea doesn’t fit or a direction isn’t working. You have to gauge that for yourself.
So, me and a set of headphones would settle on a sunbed each day and I listened to the entire album all the way through – once. No rewinds, no stops or pauses, just listen and see what I’d got. The mixes were very sparse – I level matched the tracks, with very little in the way of effects. I added some snap to the drums on some songs using the Tony Maserati Drum plugin from Waves, but otherwise, the only delays etc. were from the instruments themselves. I’ve recorded the guitars for about half of the songs, so the first thing to think about what guitar parts I needed for the rest, plus where the arrangements needed light and shade. And, in the main, I’m happy with what I’ve got and just need to push forward to complete the guitars and start looking at vocals. Yes, I have a little list of things that need fixing or altering, but it’s not as long as I feared.
The biggest gain for me was that, freed from the temptation to fiddle with the mix as it played, I allowed myself to enjoy listening to the [unripe] fruits of my labours. Freed from the pressure of carving out time to record something, I was able to think about what I needed to record, which included some ideas for backing vocal arrangements that perhaps wouldn’t have occurred to me before. And, (best of all), as this project is an avowed effort to avoid my own clichés, I’m pleased with the way it’s turning out. All of which made for a very nice holiday.