Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Annie Fitzgerald

Last year I produced a record for Vicky Emerson, who is originally from the Twin Cities but now lives in New York City. After Vicky's record was released another Minnesota/Big Apple transplant named Annie Fitzgerald heard it, met Vicky and asked where she recorded it. With only a recommendation under her arm, Annie came to Minneapolis to see the studio and meet with me. It seemed to be a really good fit for both of us and we began scheduling out the album.

What made Annie different than many of my clients was her understanding that it all begins with the song. Songs that are not very well written can be aided by good production, however it is still, at the core a bad song (of course, music is subjective and what is bad to one might be great to another) however, you can take a great song and have bad production and it is still great. Have you ever stopped to wonder why that is? Here is a great example; Iron and Wine released an EP titled The Sea and the Rhythm and a full album called The Creek Drank the Cradle and from a purely sonic viewpoint they sound terrible. However, the songs and performances transcend the production to the point that you would want them no other way. The bad sounds somehow became great. Let me pause and say that there are countless hours of recorded music out there with this quality of recording that haven't had that same reaction. This is due to the levels of song-writing, performance and the overall skill in the musicians. There is a pretty good chance no one said, "Hey, that sounds really rough and cool, like Iron and Wine." They probably just blamed their bad listening experience on the awful production, but in reality it is really just a bad performance of songs that are at the start, really not very good. So again I say, the song and performance of that song is what has the ability to transcend the production. Great production can certainly aid a not-so-great song. A great song with bad production is still pretty cool! What I hope for in my world is the combination of a great song with great production.

Annie came in with a clear understanding of this. You know when you pull up to the car wash and you need to make a decision as to which car wash you want? Just a simple quick soap and rinse? Or a more in depth cleanse. Well, Annie wanted to pull out of the stall with a shiny, clean, freshly waxed automobile. Full service for me means that we sit down and pour ourselves into every single line, melody and chord choice at the start. This way, we can move into recording the bed tracks with a sense of clarity and unequivocal direction. Where I normally spend two or three days on preproduction, we spent nearly two weeks. I wish I had the luxury of doing this with all of my clients. I actually wish there was a button on the way in that helped define what they want. Simple wash or a full cleanse, rinse and wax.

After the songs were set we scheduled the band to come in. We used a couple of the musicians that were on Vicky's record. Steve Goold on drums and Tyler Burkum on electric and acoustic guitars. Annie brought her own bassist from NYC, Pete O'Neill, who is an accomplished player in his own right. It was great to have him on board! Everyone agreed that the sessions seemed fairly effortless for all three days.

Overall, this album has a nice blend of Annie's greatest influences; Patty Griffin, Ray LaMontagne, Shawn Colvin and Damien Rice with just a hint of Ani Difranco thrown in for good measure. She finished all her vocals before heading back to New York. At the moment, I am adding my own pieces to it, Hammond organ, Wurlitzer electric piano and other unique instrumentation. Next up will be my dear friend, Ashley Ewing playing piano and then I will begin arranging some string parts. The album as a whole should be done in May.

Stay tuned for the fall release of Annie Fitzgerald's "A Thousand Tiny Lakes"


Matt Huber said...

Is that a Cascade Fathead? I've been thinking about picking a couple up. What version do you have, what do you use it on, and what are your thoughts?

Haha...sorry. A lot of questions!

mattpatrick said...

There are two of them and they are on loan from a friend. So I don't know a ton about them, except that they do have Lundahl transformers. I have only been using them as room mics for drums, electric guitar and piano. I tried using them up close on the piano but didn't like it. Wonderful room mics though! Warm, soft, not harsh or brittle at all. Plus it seems that they can take quite a drastic amount of eq without having that false, over-eq'd sound.

Hope that helps!