Let’s talk a little bit about working in the studio today. I have done much recording all alone, with no necessity to deal with anything but the computer anomalies and the muses. When you get into the studio with other people, a dynamic develops. I suddenly have to weave the way that they think, respond and create into the way I have always been doing it. When you are producing someone, you can’t expect them to sit there, sphinx like, while you do your creative thing. It’s their music, their art and they are involved, so you have to let them in and respect what they are trying to contribute, regardless of the merit. The problem that arises is, when does that interfere with your own creative juices and what do you do about it?
I was producing a wonderful fellow several years ago, who played decent lead guitar. However, I thought that if only he played the leads, the album would be a bit monochromatic—having only one color on the sonic palette for the leads, so I suggested another wonderful guitar player that I knew. I had worked with this other guitar player for years, let’s call him Marc, and knew that he would bring something surprising to the songs.
What I like to do, as I can also play lead guitar somewhat—and most of the other instruments for that matter—is to not direct a studio musician initially. I like them to hear what has gone down and then give me their response to it. I already know what my response is to it. If I wanted that, then I wouldn’t even bring them in.
I want them to bring something new to the mix. If I don’t like what they do then, after I’ve heard their response, I make some suggestions, but initially I think you must give them the room, respect and freedom to connect with their creative juices and see what happens. If they have any talent—and they must or they wouldn’t be there—they are going to come up with things that you won’t think of and that blend of talent is always where the magic is. You can always say something after that if it isn’t working for you. And you can always use a little of what they do with something that you might do, but at least let them have their head for a while, at least.
To return, Marc showed up and went into the studio prepared to do his best, but had only played a note or two before my artist interrupted him with a suggestion for a direction. My artist proceeded to do that for the entire four hour session with Marc. Marc would start to play something and immediately my artist was on the talk back button. Marc couldn’t get eight bars without being stopped. He ended up so frustrated that, while he still played some good things, he didn’t deliver what he was capable of delivering and we ended up using nothing that Marc did on the CD.
After he left, my artist was pretty vocal about what a second rate guitarist Marc was and what a waste of time the session was. We then proceeded to laboriously replace Marc’s work with the solo work of my artist. It took us several days to get something up to snuff.
About a year later, an album of mine came out and I ran into my artist, who had heard the CD. “Wow,” he said, “I love the new CD and I love the guitar on that third song. Who played that lead? “ “Marc,” I said. He looked bewildered. “And the lead on the fourth song?” he asked. “Marc again,” I said. He couldn’t believe it. “Why didn’t he play like that on my CD?” he inquired.
“You wouldn’t let him,” I said.