Recording an album in Nashville

Hi

How are things?   Hope you’re enjoying August!  I had a great time.  As you probably know, I went down to Nashville Tennessee for just over 2 weeks.  After 3 long years since my last album which I recorded in Australia I embarked on a journey to Music City.  I’ve always wanted to record there so with a lot of emails and time management it happened.  I got there a few days early to help fight jet lag and to lock myself in my hotel room and try to finish off some lyrics. I accidentally chose the perfect hotel for that because there was nothing else around that area.

first hotel in Nashville.  Dive of a place.

first hotel in Nashville. Dive of a place.

After a couple days I moved to a hotel near the downtown area.  Producer/singer-songwriter Greg Arnold flew in from Australia and met me there.  For the next couple of days he would come up to my room with his guitar and we did some per-production of the songs.  We worked on a few arrangement and lyrical ideas as well as pick the songs which he felt were the strongest of the bunch to go on the album.  I had written well over 20 songs for the CD knowing full well, they all weren’t going to make it.

Playing the piano

From the 18th until the 23rd of August we recorded at “Alex the Great” studios.   The cool thing about this studio is that it’s attached to a house so we had all the luxuries one needs when not immersed in recording.  Sleeping there was a huge savings on my budget.    Half owner of the studio is legendary Brad Jones.  It was extremely exciting to have the opportunity to work with both Greg Arnold and Brad Jones who both have credentials as long as a roll of toilet paper.  Their creative ideas, skills and personalities made the recordings vibrant and fun.

The living quarters of Alex the Great studio

The living quarters of Alex the Great studio

I was also lucky enough to get drummer Steve Bowman (former Counting Crows) who not only is a killer player but if he wasn’t a drummer could have been a stand-up comedian.  I thoroughly enjoyed his personality and more so the vibe he put on each song.  I think the feeling was mutual as he came in quite often after his parts were done to share stories and see how the songs were progressing.

Kell and Steve StudioMulti-instrumentalist Fats Kaplin (Robert Plant band member etc) also came on board and threw down a variety of ideas on a handful of tracks.  He was fast and dead on with the thoughts we were relaying to him.   He really added some extra flavor to push the mood of the songs up even more.  I was very pleased to have him contribute.

Fats KaplinEvery day around 3:30 we would take a lunch break and Brad would drive us to his favorite restaurants.  He wanted us to experience the local cuisine and we pretty much covered it all.   We had Mexican, Barbecue, Southern Fried dishes and more.  It was a great time to talk about things other than my songs and for me to learn a little more about personalities behind the talent.  One of the things I learned was the 6 degrees of separation in the music business.  Especially down in Nashville.  Everyone that has talent seems to have worked with everyone else.  Some of the stories that were shared are priceless but they’ll remain behind closed doors.

Good Mexican food

Good Mexican food

When the last day came we were close to finishing up most of the tracking but there were still a few things that need to be done.  Brad will do those on his own time since both Greg and I had to fly out of Nashville.

Greg Kell Brad Studio

Brad was quick to tell me often that he really liked the songs but in particular thought my voice was special.  Steve Bowman said my voice reminded him of Freedy Johnson.  Greg said he feels this album is extremely strong.  He said it’s much stronger than “These Days” and he’s excited to hear the final product.  The positive feedback from top guns can do a musician good sometimes!

IMG_2798

It was tough to turn around one last time, shake hands and say “until next time”.  For now, I’ll enjoy the spices that this album has to offer.

I hope to see you on the journey.

Kelly

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7 Steps to writing a song you’re proud of.

Playing iive at the Bunkakaikan in Japan.

There are 7 factors that I require when writing a  song that makes me happy and they are:

1) Emotions: The best place to find these are through the turmoils of your life.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  They are the driving force behind wanting to write something in the first place.

2) Catchy melody: Usually my songs start with some sort of chord progression on the guitar but not always. Then a vocal melody wrapped around the chords in an interesting and satisfying way. If you interviewed most famous songwriters, they’d tell you most of their best songs seemed to channel through them in an almost effortless fashion. If I look back on the songs I’ve written, I’d agree that my stronger songs were the ones that seemed to write themselves.

3) Strong lyrics: If you put strong lyrics with a very catchy melody then you’ve got something to be proud of for sure. Don’t ignore the importance of lyrics.  I’ve only recently realized that they are the “icing on the cake”.  A great melody gets you far but if you have lyrics that connect, they you’ve made a fan or two.  Write from the heart.  Write about something we all can relate to but do it in a way that you feel hasn’t been done before.  For example, write a love song without using the world “love”, or write a happy song with “minor chords”.  Whatever you do, make it ‘yours‘. 

4) Re-writing: This is where a lot of people fail miserably. They’re always too damn proud of their first take and are afraid to throw away something to make the song better because they really like one line.  Don’t be afraid to trash a line even if it was your best line.  If it doesn’t fit, save it for something else.

Changing Chords and melody can lift a song too. Sometimes for example, you can replace the root chord with a minor 6 and give it some mood.

5) Play it live: Play your song to your friends and ask for honest opinions. Don’t let the negative vibes get you down either. A lot of the time, you’re friends won’t know what they’re talking about- but a good song is pretty much universally liked and you’ll be able to weed out the good from the bad and generally get a sense of what is strong.

6) Write lots: You’ll get different opinions on this but for me, writing a lot of songs just makes me a better songwriter. It’s like learning to play the guitar. If you practice every day, you’re going to be much better than if you play it once a month.

7) Sleep on it: It’s weird but often I’ll wake up in the morning and play the new song again and it doesn’t have the same impact on me. That’s a sign that perhaps it just wasn’t the hit song I was planning on retiring on.

But I’m sure I’ve got one in me ready to surprise the world.  It’s just around the corner!  🙂

Good luck fellow songwriters.

In Melbourne Australia with the legendary Greg Arnold.