Last week I went into the The Neighbourhood studio in Greenwich for two days with a good friend of mine, Dan Moyler.
Dan has cool, round, thick-rimmed glasses which he wears with an air of quiet confidence. This confidence is well-deserved; as a fledgling audio engineer he’s already working across a circuit of top London studios. Recent work has included recording a jazz band for part of the soundtrack to The Great Gatsby. And he tells me he’s worked under a couple of top producers whom he has followed somewhat avidly for a few years. I’d tell you their names if I could remember, but you probably wouldn’t have heard of them either. Dan is eclectic, and brilliant at what he does.
For example, I’m working on a rearrangement of the old Wesleyan hymn, ‘My Jesus I Love Thee’. Having already recorded an actual, real Rhodes electric piano through a real amplifier (not one of these artificial, ‘faultless’ replications you get on most modern keyboards), I said to him I’d love to add a dry, dead drum kit sound (well really just kick and snare). Right from selecting the best drums, through to placing a couple of mics (with which he didn’t seem to do anything out of the ordinary), he managed to get exactly the kind of sound I was hearing in my head. I mean exactly. It’s sounding gorgeous!
Apart from the hymn rearrangement (for which William R. Featherstone did most of the work), I’ve got:
- a song about being face to face with God, largely taking its imagery from Moses’ encounter in Exodus 33-34;
- a song about having a love for God’s Word – something which I think might actually be a challenge to this generation, who tend to have more of a love for Facebook, Twitter and whatever the latest online fad is, than for the Word of God;
- a folksy ditty which I wrote as a kind of ‘prayer for the day’, covering everything that might happen from morning until evening and asking God’s help in following him through it all
- a song which I wrote in a day and a half called ‘This is the day of salvation’.
This last one I mentioned in a post last week. I note it because I found it funny how quickly I wrote it, and how readily it was taken up when I introduced it at our church’s summer camp just a day or two later. Until now I’ve been operating under the principle that the longer and harder you work at something, the better it will become and the more successful it’s likely to be. Then suddenly, I had this idea for a song on a Friday, churned out some lyrics, finished its Bridge section on the Saturday, and introduced it to around 1,000 worshippers on the Monday night. And it went down well – we did it again Tuesday and Friday. Many of the lyrics are a bit haphazard – when I think about it, there probably are things in there that I would change – maybe even should – but in its raw form, nobody seemed to be picking up on these things. They just loved entering into singing a little-sung truth from God’s word, that NOW is the day of salvation – this is it; it’s here! The kingdom of heaven is at hand! If you can get the spirit of what you want to sing into a song, I think some of the finer details don’t matter nearly so much as we sometimes think they do.
That said, there is of course a kernel of truth in the principle of working hard at something, that applies even to this song – because had I not had the experience of writing other songs before, of knowing what works and what doesn’t, I may not have been able to ‘churn out’ all those lyrics so quickly and know that they would more or less work for a congregation. It was the experience of having been through many songs previously, refining and editing, figuring out what works and what doesn’t, that enabled me to put something on paper that would do well enough to shape something we could sing at the conference.
Anyway, most material is recorded now for the EP. I’m just trying to get a few different singers to give me a time and place they can do. This is always the hardest part, getting other people on it, because of diaries etc. But I also find having other voices on a recording enhances it, sometimes immeasurably! Especially for worship recordings, I think having at least a couple of other singers, if not a whole group available, is pretty much mandatory for communicating the words properly and in the kind of spirit in which they’re intended. So, hopefully they’ll be done before too long, and I can get on with the process of editing and mixing!