Mr. Paul Buckmaster is a british-born, LA-loving luminarious string and orchestral arranger and conductor who had done a lot of Elton Jonh’s arranging back in the day. He and I worked mostly over the phone and briefly in person and finally…it was The Big Day.
I was really tired, I think I had to catch an insanely early flight from San Fran to LA to make it in time for the session. I had a near-accident on the plane:
I took a taxi to Katie Kay’s house…..
…and watching this little clip, I’m amazed at how bad my voice sounds. It’s just torn apart. This was a good while before I got my vocal surgery, but fuck you can really tell I need it.
I stayed with Katie Kay at her place in Hollywood and she generously offered to give me a ride over to the studio. Then I got excited…..
and then I really started freaking out about the fact that UTTERLY PROFESSIONAL STRING PLAYERS were playing my songs. I’m still not over it. I tried to capture a few good Buckmaster moments on my little camera.
The way the day worked was very efficient..there was a whole team in the control room, a dedicated engineer in charge of playback for the strings, the copyists and the whole thing was just so FANCY. It also cost a lot of money. But I figured that someday I would sell a lot of records and make all of the money back. We’ll see.
Paul was extraordinary to watch in action. There was a very limited amount of time, so any changes had to be made calmly, swiftly and with no fussing. We didn’t have any massive disagreements, we’d gone over most of the parts ahead of time, and the best takes were logged and captured by the team in the control room. The string players were OUT OF CONTROL. They had never heard this music before, they just showed up and read off the page. It actually really distressed me when I found out that they didn’t hear the vocal track in their headphones (considered distracting, I guess), so they didn’t know anything about the lyrics of the song. I only learned this because one of the string players approached me on a break and said: “I absolutely love ‘Ampersand’. What’s the song about?” I wanted to cry. In my fantasy, the strings get to listen to the full track before recording. But the time there is so insanely tight that I suppose they all consider that a luxury. Yeeeesh.
Here’s some footage from Have to Drive:
…and some footage from Another Year:
and there’s the string quartet.
This is them rehearsing “Straight” – which ended up not being on the proper record but is available with the pre-order package (and on AmazonMP3 & iTunes, but without the strings):
and here is some footage of the quartet working on “The Point of It All”:
me & the Buckmaster
It was then back to Nashville for a little while to put the finishing touches on everything.
We needed to record the choir for “Have to Drive”, add the acoustic piano to “Leeds United”, finish up “Guitar Hero” and deal with some other flotsam.
I invited my dad to come from Washington DC to sing with us since he’s got an incredible voice and sings in a semi-pro choir.
Here he is:
Here’s Ben laying down the SMOKIN’ moog synthesizer bass part for “Guitar Hero”:
…and some footage:
the above is a control room self-portrait. Ben is talking to Joe and to Michael Brauer, who mixed a bunch of the songs, though only “Another Year” ended up being used on the final master. Here’s a picture of Brauer in action…
…and a picture of Ben working feverishly on the choral arrangements for “Have to Drive”:
then the choir came in…..
this is the girls.
and here are the boys.
Ben working with the girls…
Ben checking notes with me…
here’s a little footage of the basses (that’s my dad and Jared) tracking their parts.
and I’d like to say that THEN WE WERE DONE.
but we were far from done.
Then we went and did a gazillion remixes and mastered the record four times.
But that would’ve been boring footage. So there isn’t any.
But here is one of my favorite videos from that last session, when my dad found Ben’s omnichord and played it from the beanbag:
So that’s a short history of the making of the record.
Thank you for reading.
Now come see me play this shit live. I’ll be on tour forever.
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