From the Manager’s Desk – On Making a Live Album

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So a few weeks ago from this writing, the band did a crazy thing and recorded a live album. This wasn’t the first album I’ve recorded with them (that was Mission Statement), but it was the first where I was officially the manager. And this time  I was singing without the benefit of studio re-takes or just being harmony vocals – at some points my voice would be the only voice this time around, so the pressure was a little higher. 

While a lot of the process was very similar, live recording adds some new wrinkles (and we added some of our own). Finding a venue that has openings that match our own schedules (including our recording engineer’s schedule) is a monumental task in and of itself. Plus we decided we wanted to have limited pre-order t-shirts for the gig, which (as is so often the case) we really decided with far less lead time to make it happen then might be considered ideal. AND we decided we wanted to get two songs we hadn’t finalized arrangements on, let alone ever presented on stage, onto the album. (It could have been worse, both songs were at least already being worked on; we didn’t find new songs to cover and decide we were getting them live album ready in way too short of a time.)

I realized there’s a big difference between “album ready” and “live album ready”. Don’t get me wrong, even on a studio album, to keep costs down you want to minimize takes. But on a live album there is no minimizing takes. You get one go at it, that’s it. So as polished as a song has to be before going to record in a studio, it’s even more so for a live album. And I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure the song I’m on was ready even to the day of the recording. 

More accurately, I wasn’t sure I was ready. Not that we hadn’t rehearsed it, or that I haven’t done it plenty of times at gigs. But I had a surgery earlier this year that has had an effect on my singing, and I wasn’t sure of how I was really doing after that or how much I trusted my nerves. And you can rehearse and rehearse as much as you have the time and energy for, nerves are an entirely different discussion.

Turns out, I didn’t need to worry about nerves. There was plenty to distract day of, and the energy once the music started made it pretty much impossible to find nerves at all. That said, it’s a VERY different feeling looking out across a well-lit crowd in an open room than in a barely lit bar or a layout where half the crowd isn’t visible anyway. Honestly, it’s kind of a rush. Like yes, I can hear the crowd singing along and kind of watch crowd reactions normally, but the low lights and hidden crowds help me find me usual folks in the crowd to focus on and calm my nerves a bit (because while I wouldn’t dream of stopping at this point, I’m not sure I’ll ever be USED to singing on stage).

When the lights are bright and the whole crowd can be seen, it’s a whole different level of energy. I’d love to play more places like that – in particular with the kind of crowd response we had at the live recording. 

Of course, after the recording comes the far less entertaining business side of things. Important, of course, but not nearly as much fun. But soon we’ll have another album for you to get your hands on and listen to when you can’t make it to a live show (or when you’ve just got to listen to Open Beta but there’s not currently a show to attend, like in the middle of the workday on a Wednesday).

Here’s to doing this again, and seeing all of your faces (and more) at the next one.

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