Behind the scenes of Dimension X recording sessions As described by co-producer Dan Foster
Producing the Dimension X Hazel Fire cd was my biggest challenge to date as a producer, I was recently asked to share some of the behind the scenes happenings while my co-producer and main songwriter for the record (Brian Wohlschlegel) worked on it together.
The first thing that comes to mind happened while we were recording the title track, Hazel Fire.
Our singer for the record was Srea Harrington, a talented local singer out of Norfolk. As we were in the middle of recording one of her vocal tracks, Srea decided that she wanted to add a spoken part in French. I turned around and said “I didn’t know you spoke French”, she looked up and replied “I don’t”. I must have had a slightly perplexed look on my face as she pulled out her cell phone and within seconds started learning some words in French. Now I’m thinking, okay, this is a first. I’m wondering how long this is going to take and within about 3 minutes she says
“okay, I’m ready to record”. So we roll the recorder and she starts talking in French with this sexy French accent like she did it her whole life, I was literally blown away. I have to say, I was very impressed!
The song “Can U Hear Me?” is the one song that Srea contributed to the record as far as lyrics.
All she had was a recorded vocal track on her cell phone which we decided to use. What we should have done is had her re-record a new vocal to a click track and just start fresh. We ended up having to deal with some timing issues among other things. Brian and I both tried to figure out what key she was singing in a and what changes were, being that Srea is a singer and not a player, she had no idea. We tried and tried but couldn’t get, then a light bulb came on. I’ll get my former bandmate Chris Jones to figure it out. I played with Chris for quite a while in a local country band, he is easily the best keyboard player ever worked with. Chris agreed to help us out and made it down to the studio relatively quickly, fortunately he lived in the same town as where Brian’s studio is. We put the vocal track on for and he immediately said “gimme a notepad”. Chris started jotting down all these complex chords and changes as the track played then he jumped behind a keyboard and started playing what he had just written. I was amazed the he could figure out all these chords by ear with no instrument, he nailed it and saved the day.
We added Chris to the credit section of the cd and even stuck his picture in there with all the other musicians who played on the record. In my eyes, Chris is the king of keyboards, he da man.
It took us quite a while to get all the tracks just right, plus I added some chirping birds on the intro and the end. I got the idea as I was working on a farm in Virginia Beach one day. As I was working, I put on the rough track to this song so I could review it. As it started, I heard birds chirping in the back round. I was wondering how we ended up with birds chirping on my track. Then I realized that it was actually some birds near me as I worked, it wasn’t on the track.
I guess you can figure what happened from there. As we got closer to finishing the song, Srea stopped by the studio to hear how it was coming and she was slam dunk excited. She said it was better than what she envisioned, she was ecstatic, job well done. I was happy that she was happy.
There are 2 instrumental songs we added to the cd, they may be considered a little out of focus from the main music genre but much like the most of the cd, they are on the mellow side and they are interesting and beautiful. “The Lonely Caravan” and “The Cusp of Time” were both completely recorded by Brian with the exception of the sax and there’s a live drum track performed by Drew Orton on Cusp of Time. Drew is also the drummer on all of the other songs. As we were reviewing these 2 songs (as well as a few others), Brian asked me to re-record the bass tracks, I guess he figured that I would want to give a shot being that its my main instrument. Typically, I would probably go ahead and do that but after listening I said “are you kidding me, these tracks are perfect, I couldn’t play anything better than that if I wanted to!”.
Brian used fretless bass for most of this cd and he is probably my favorite fretless player and I’m talking about any world famous fretless bass player you may know of, he’s that good. Much like when he plays guitar, he has a very melodic feel and just seems to play the right thing for what the song is calling for. Bass teachers should use his fretless playing as what students should be shooting for when they play and record!
Late Night in Jazz City, wow! This song was a monster to finish, we had to bring in 2 singers from the other side of the planet earth to get it done! This is the one song that Srea just wasn’t feeling so she took a pass on it leaving Brian and I to find someone good enough to sing it, not something for an amateur. We looked far and wide and I found both singers over an internet search. Sol Aravena hails from Chili and does recording studio work with her husband. They both sang their respective parts and sent us the tracks back, we use ProTools recording software by the way. I knew that I could work with her vocals but the male vocal track just wasn’t right. He wasn’t a bad singer, just not the right singer. So we sent them the payment for their work, kept her track and continued our search for the right male vocal. We found AJ Lewis in the UK. This guy is good, beyond good. He took my direction well and made it better than I envisioned it, the melody, the harmonies, the highs and lows, he even did some outstanding scatting. I predict that AJ will be a star some day.
There were several songs that Brian wrote a few years back and worked on with another singer, her name is Daryll Callejas. She had a heavy Spanish accent that Brian and I both found kind of sexy to listen to and it really worked for the songs. Those songs were All I Ever Wanted (one of my personal favorites), Ocean Moon and Fun House of Blue (which I wrote the music to and Daryll wrote the lyrics). She ended up working with another band for a while, getting married and I believe she moved away, but she was a pretty outgoing girl.
Co-producer Brian Wohlschlegel chimes in with a few of his own song stories….
I wrote the words and music to the Oracle in the mid 90’s, I was jamming with a drummer and a female vocalist in New Jersey in a shack out in the woods. We would get together on weekends and just do freelance jams. I have a big binder full of different lyrical writings that the singer would leaf through. The Oracle caught her eye and magic ensued. I did a simple blues riff that drew inspiration from Jimmy Page and his killer riff on Tea for One from the album Presence.
Hazel Fire was written around 2012 as I was fooling around on my old Fender 12 string acoustic. The words refer to a woman’s beautiful green eyes and how she cares for her man. It just happens to be a very cool coincidence that Srea has very lovely hazel green eyes.
The Lonely Caravan was written in 2013 after I got my Cordoba classical guitar. I was eager to try it out and highlight it with some fretless bass. I am very pleased with the overall atmosphere created in that song. Jeff added some fabulous Saxophone that gave it even more drama.
Late Night in Jazz City was written in 2006 for Ellicot City, which is just south of Baltimore. It is the coolest little town nestled in a valley by a river with quaint shops and restaurants. Originally an acoustic piece played on a 12 string. Later I rewrote it with electric guitar (fender strat) and it got heavier but kept the same chord structure.
The Garden of Love was recorded in one of these late night jam sessions. At one point in the song, I think they started falling asleep and losing time. The lazy slow tempo really reflects the relaxed and almost tired mood we were in at the time. We did end up replacing the drum tracks which was difficult but necessary.
Ocean Moon was created around 2006. Recorded in Bob Hembree’s studio in Norfolk, Va. With Drew Orton on drums and Arleen singing from the vocal binder. I drew on Carlos Santana and Jimmy Buffet for the cool vibes.
As far as the song Victim of Love goes, there’s not much of a story for the music but lyrically it is a study in the unlikely pairing of concepts. It looks at the way one might choose to be a martyr in a relationship, how some people choose to be a victim in relationships. They would rather suffer than be alone.