part of a series celebrating the 10th anniversary of our album We Pitched a Hut and Called it Providence!
I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I sat down.
“You’re gonna sit?”
“Yeah I guess.”
“You need anything?”
“No I’m good.”
I had no idea if I needed anything. I’d never recorded vocals with someone else before. Everything up to this point had been me in my basement, in my apartment, with my dented 58 and all the time in the world. Here I had the band watching me from the booth while Josh (the engineer and owner of the studio) set up everything around me. It felt like standing with your arms spread while a tailor pokes around you, measuring. He adjusted the mic (a beautiful, and I imagined, very expensive microphone that looked like the kind you saw in footage of real studios), he adjusted the mic stand, he twisted cables. He adjusted levels on the little box the cables went in. I sat there with a bottle of water, waiting. Waiting. I hadn’t yet realized how much of recording is waiting. But I was getting there. I felt sort of ridiculous being the center of attention so I was deferring to Josh and keeping my requests at a bare minimum. But I was the singer – and fair or not it would be what most people judged right away. So I felt enormous pressure to get it right even though I had no idea how to get it right. But Josh would, I figured. So I let him do everything.
“I can turn the lights down if you want? Get a little mood lighting going?”
“Sure that sounds nice.”
He faded the lights down and left the room. I sat there alone. If I close my eyes I can still see the room.
“What do you want to start with?”
“I guess the first song.”
“When I Go?”
“When I Go.”
This was a song we struggled with for a long time before getting it right. When I first brought it to the band it was an up-and-down song with distortion and a stomp. I really wanted to keep that vibe. I had this vision and I was reluctant to let it go (this is the story of the whole album really – me dropping my illusions of how I saw things if other people were going to be emotionally invested in my music). The song was super important to me for a lot of reasons – I felt it was the first really powerful song I wrote, I felt it was important in the sense that the lyrics had something to say other than woe is me, or “this is my experience” … meaning I felt it was a song other people would be able to relate to. I loved it because it was one of the first songs I wrote where I sat down to right a specific song (I felt I had been writing too many songs about my ex and wanted to specifically write some songs NOT about women). I don’t know at what point it became the slow, spacey jam it became but it suited our band’s sound so much better than the square peg of my clanking, machine vision into the soft stoner-y reality of our band. When we finally got it right, it immediately became our opener and we all agreed that we wanted it to be the first song on the record.
I love everything about this version and I feel we really got it right. This was the only song I recorded sitting down (even though I nailed it, and I think we ended up keeping the first take, I felt I wasn’t getting enough power so I took the more traditional route for the rest of the album). A couple of the highlights (vocally) are: the falsetto on the second line “Nothing on the TV” and the trill I do on “Ten feet out my front doorrrr” on the last verse. “Gotta wait till March to see the sun” has a little laugh/beat on “march” that was totally accidental but I loved – I remember being struck by something and kind of laughing and thinking as the song rolled into the chorus “That was awesome – I’m gonna keep that.” There’s a little gulp on “to see the sky sure IS strange” that kind of makes me wince but what are you gonna do?
Becca ended up playing Wurlitzer on this song and not cello like she usually did. The studio had an awesome one and we all wanted it on the album. I’d have to go back to our practice tapes to remember what her actual cello lines were but the Wurlitzer ended up being perfect. At 4:01 there’s a weird off note that’s one of those gorgeous accidents that, while not planned, become something you can’t imagine the song without.
I’m not huge fan of my singing on the choruses really. The song on the record is in Amajor, which was kind of high for me at the time and combined with the sitting down while singing didn’t really allow me to get the growl/push that I was able to get when I was really singing the song well. Also there were other circumstances at play that I will most likely get into as I continue this series.
I still play the song every once in a blue moon (I’ve changed the key to E) but I keep this breezy feel.
NEXT: BEDTIME (Joey, where we get inspiration, building and swells and outro solos)