Today was my first practice visit to our local studios. It’s a fairly big complex with a recording studio, a load of practice rooms, and a live bar attached on the other side. Even though I’ve known about it for several years and lived nearby, it still felt like an adventure going there for the first time (on Saturday) and then properly going inside today – a land of wall-art hommage to the greats, populated by long-haired tattooed metal fanatics (it’s a stereotype but the reality wasn’t far off!)
This is the first time I’ve really taken myself and my music into the outside world. I have a special guitar bag with straps like a rucksack and realised this is the first time I’ve used it except when we moved house! (It was quite comfortable, I’m glad I bought it however many years ago it was). Walking down there on Saturday, and again today with my guitar for company, I realised that this is what it feels like to be a musician. Oddly, I’m actually a lot more relaxed in my musician persona. After all, musicians are supposed to be all chilled out, right? I felt like that scene from Grease where Danny sees Sandy at school for the first time, he’s all excited and then suddenly he remembers his mates are there and he’s got an image to keep up, pulls up the collar of his T-Bird leather jacket and says something like “It’s cool” – totally unconvincingly. That’s how I feel – laid back (but totally faking it!)
Anyway, my idea was that it would take me a while to warm to the place and to feel confident enough to approach them about recording, so I was planning to just go down and hire their practice rooms a few times this month. I got there and after a bit of a mix-up finally got a room to practice in – pretty much as expected but a bit larger, and better ventilated than I’d imagined – but also not particularly soundproof! Which was a bit nerve-wracking as I’d hoped I’d have complete privacy to belt out as loud as I liked. There were a load of teenagers there doing some kind of school project and I could hear them laughing and shouting in the hall (and know they could hear me too…) – which was frustrating at first but after a while I relaxed a bit and figured, I was paying for the privilege, plus it’s a music studio, they have musicians there all the time, of all types, that’s what they DO. So if they want to listen let them. And after that I felt much more confident about my own songs. There’s something about crossing that line where you know other people can hear you play – you question whether you’re worth listening too and, I guess, decide one way or the other. I decided I was going to be worth listening too – and that’s a big step forward for me. I could imagine myself playing in front of people, after that.
I also found that technically, there’s not much difference being a practice room to being at home – I still have the same limitations in range and the same amount of practice still to do to get confident with the songs. One thing I did notice though was that when I got into playing, I stopped hanging on my every mistake – I can play a lot of things pretty well. I also think I will be able to pull this off in a studio and will hopefully not need too many million takes of each song once I relax into it. I came away really happy with some of the songs and their viability, and also happy with the variety of sounds- I know I have enough for an album or a show. So it was a very worthwhile experience in terms of crossing all sorts of borders of my comfort zone.
After that I decided I didn’t really want to waste any more money hiring practice rooms and luckily ran into the nice friendly (long-haired mostly-tattooed!) guy and asked him if I could have a peek at the studio and he let me in – and it’s beautiful! Very light (rare!!) with nice wooden floors, lots of space for guests to sit and even a grand piano! So if I want to do a piano album that’ll be a possibility too! And it all fell into place in my mind, I can picture myself in there, I can visualise the engineer, various friends turning up for parts of it, I can SEE the project coming together before my eyes. That was all I really needed to know to know that I can use their facilities. The guy was really encouraging (but not too salesy) about the engineer accommodating various needs for different projects. I’m extremely happy about this prospect.
So I think the plan going ahead will be to do one session on my own and try to lay down as much as possible (and check the quality of the output), and then have a second one where friends can come and get involved, and then maybe a third to finish up. I don’t think it’ll take longer than that which will leave a bit more money in the pot for mixing and mastering. I am going to make sure I am totally 100% prepped before I walk in so that I can get as much value from the sessions as possible – which, given the time I have available, probably means the next couple of months for practice, and aim to do the first session end of August-ish. I feel totally encouraged to get practising and I am going to make this the best work I’ve done yet – something I can be proud of pushing to everyone who will listen! And hopefully the recordings will be turn out awesome quality.
I am going to make this happen. SO much can change in one day!!