The Greene Room Recording Studio, 11:30 PM. Ryan’s playing the chords for ‘Back Into Blue’ in the main studio, while I sit in the control room next to Ross, typing.
A friend just asked me yesterday, ‘You’re here. Can you believe it?!’
At times I pinch myself (mentally, of course. Why would I really pinch myself? Have you ever pinched yourself? . . . and not like a love-pinch, but like a real ‘wake-me-up-when-the-biscuits-are-done’ pinch? Hurts.) Anyway, at times I pinch myself and think about how were living out what we dreamed of in high school . . . how we’re professionally recording songs we wrote at the edge of our beds and on our friends’ couches . . . how even though we’ve made records before, we’ve never done ANYTHING like this.
But as a balance to that, I also think that this is just the next logical step. I know all the things that came before this . . . all the work and preparation and long drives, the hundreds of times we’ve played these songs live or in rehearsal, the battles over song-structure and lyrical-choice, the sheer number of phone calls involved in setting this up, the horrific loss of blood, the nightmares, the humanity, oh the humanity (emmm?) . . . and so anyway, it is right and appropriate for us to be here.
‘Shayzzuss . . . you’re clacking away like a monster,’ Ross says to Ryan. ‘Give me one more take.’
And Ryan understands that Ross means he’s playing too percussively and that he should minimize the amount of string-sound, and maximize the amount of chord-sound that’s coming from his guitar. Ryan and I have started calling this the NPS ratio, or the Note Per Strum ratio. I have a high NPS ratio, while my volume doesn’t vary much, which can be boring-sounding. Ryan has a lower NPS ratio, though he’s a much more dynamic player.
And Ryan also knows that even though Ross says, ‘Give me one more take,’ he may actually be performing that part of the song twenty-six more times before it’s right.
Performing a song like ‘Back Into Blue,’ or ‘Born to Run to You,’ (which I attempted unsuccessfully earlier) can be a humbling experience. These studios have excellent microphones. And that’s like saying, ‘These photographers have extremely high-resolution cameras.’
It’s like being naked with the lights on, and then a photographer comes in and sets up and tells you to be perfectly at ease. And that’s difficult because you know that when you look at the photo proofs you’ll be able to see all your imperfections and extra pounds all zoomed-in-on and up-close. You can imagine that’s great for the old confidence.
Songs like ‘Alright’ are easier because there’s a drummer and a bassist to hide behind. There’s the extra challenge of playing perfectly in time with what they’ve already played. But little freckled notes and slightly sagging tunings have the luxury of being concealed among those backing tracks.
So click click goes the musical camera of our life. (heh heh. Who’s writing these puns? They’re fired!) And we want to make our mamas and papas and Ginas proud, so we’re gonna be naked and uncomfortable for quite awhile. But it’ll be good in the end.
‘I was waiting for you to look at me and tell me it wasn’t good,’ Ryan says, still working on Back Into Blue, an hour later. ‘Well it wasn’t,’ Ross says, ‘It was all, ‘Blaaannnggg!’ Give me one more.’