Post 8 of 8 :: Mixing Metaphors: One Artist’s Passage from Humming Child to Singer-Songwriter Recording Artist
When MapleDream ended, I spent a year working with Greg Newlon, learning to perform my music by myself, then another year or more stumbling through messy open mic performances until I finally reached a point in December 2015 (that I blogged about) where my kneecaps, hands, and voice no longer quivered. A new desire took form during this process: to hear what my songs would sound like fully produced and recorded.
This was a horribly daunting prospect for me. Playing at an open mic where hardly anyone would hear me seemed safe, even preferable because if I sucked, the number of people I imagined judging me was finite. The demons in the back of my head from my praise band experience screamed that I would humiliate myself if I immortalized my voice in a recording. Plus, were my songs really good enough? I had no idea. But more and more folks who heard me were asking where they could buy my album …
I was also trying to reach a different milestone … getting gigs where I felt I needed to present as serious enough to consider hiring. Somehow, in my mind, recording at least an EP would give me something to offer that might convince a coffee shop owner to let me sing for an evening or afternoon, and maybe even pay me. Fortunately, it apparently worked; I did 14 solo gigs in the year after I released the EP.
So … I did what I always do when I have a music question: I called Greg. He steered me to Kenny Schick at Basement 3 Productions. The result was my 4-song EP SOMETHING GOOD that released in 2016; you can still find it on iTunes, Spotify, and whatever other platform you like.
Words are nearly useless to describe the working relationship I have with Kenny, but it goes something like this: I send him a demo, he sends me a sketch, I listen, and my head explodes. I wrote a testimonial for Basement3Productions a few years ago in which I try to capture this experience:
“Kenny has a startling ability to reach into a simple demo and draw out what the song was always doing but had not yet come to be. It’s as if he uncorks each song and pours it out, so I can finally see and taste it fully. Kenny’s sketches remind me of the soul of the song …. Working with Kenny has made me … fall in love … with my music, my vision, and my voice…”
I have since learned that what I have going with Kenny as my producer is uncommon, and that working with someone who syncs up with my music so profoundly is not something I should take for granted. My songs are honest bordering on naked, so inviting someone to interpret them – to provide the musical bed in which they will lie – requires a vulnerability that I relish. The intimacy of this type of working together is hard to describe, but it’s real and deep.
When I got married, I asked each of the wedding vendors to do what they thought was most beautiful given the vintage dress, the venue, the season, and some general color guidelines. I figured as experts in their fields, they would know what will be beautiful and elegant, so I let them run with what they loved. The results were stunning.
I approach my work with Kenny much the same way. When I send him a demo, I provide a description of what the song is and how it feels to me, where it came from, whatever, and then I simply ask him to run with it. My only demand is that he work freely, dig deeply, get weird, go nuts, and have fun as he generates the sketch. I trust his expertise, his deep knowledge of musical genres, and his incredible musicianship to give the song exactly what it needs. There have been tweaks to a few sketches, but far more often than not, I go with the sketch just as he sends it. I have gathered that this is highly unusual, and I am so grateful.
One of the great things about doing These Hands with Kenny is that his exploration of texture and style in each of the 12 songs allowed me to uncover qualities of my voice that earlier I would not have been confident enough to explore. Kenny’s magic allows me to respond vocally to what the song demands.
Whatever it is that coaxes flowers to bloom — that is what Kenny has been to me. Call is sunlight if you will, but I call it love … of music, of people, of life. That’s what Kenny offers. I’m so grateful to him for his friendship and partnership. Thank you, Kenny.
My wish is that you will listen to each song on THESE HANDS in full, and preferably in order, so you can hear what we’ve done together. Then maybe go back and listen to SOMETHING GOOD as well. They are both pretty awesome.
I can’t wait to hear what you think, and THANK YOU for listening!
You can learn more about Kenny and his music at kennyschick.com. If you are a musician and curious about working with Kenny as your producer, musician, or photographer, visit b3pmusic.com to learn about him and his wife, Sabine, graphic and web designer extraordinaire. You should also listen to their music together as artemesiablack.com.
My new album, THESE HANDS, is available wherever you like to buy and listen to music. Click the button below to listen to the album, and please consider a purchase if you like what you hear. Thank you!