Recording

Silly/Serious turns Serious

Well… I made it to 15 weeks of my songwriting challenge of 2 songs a week and then could be neither silly nor serious anymore. Also, during that time I put more silly songs onto Soundcloud than serious ones and there is a good reason for that.

Mid songwriting challenge I started sending my serious ones (well the ones that weren’t ridiculously jolly) over to Paul Otten to produce and co -write unaware that it would turn into anything. I met Paul at a Taxi Road Rally a couple of years back and we became facebook friends along with a whole bunch of other really supportive Taxi people. Musicians need this kind of support group to keep going… and cosmopolitans 😉

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Myself with the 2 Pauls – Paul Otten is on the right, the other is Paul Cufflin, another very talented singer/songwriter.

Paul had produced a commercial song called Colour It for me previously and I really liked what he did. But when I sent him my serious songs it turned out that we shared a common love of an indie/folk/rock sound and our voices sounded really good together.

After sending the first song to my publisher they LOVED it but wanted a rewrite of the lyrics and so I entered into my first collaboration for many years. I wasn’t a fan of songwriting collaboration (I know,I know… collaboration is essential to songwriting… blah blah blah) so I was a little cautious. But it was really cool. The beauty of it is that if you get stuck you can ask the other person, but egos must be left at the door. You can’t fall in love with an idea/line/melody if the other person isn’t into it. The power of veto. It works in my marriage and seems to work in collaboration. And Paul is very easy to work with. We put our first song up on soundcloud which you can still listen to here.

So we tried another song which, again, everyone at my publishers office were gushing over so we figured we were onto something. Watching my 15 year old teenage daughter break out into a weird dance every time I played it in the car was also a reassuring sign 🙂

Six songs later and we are going to be releasing an EP under the project name of Big Little Lions. The name came about because he is really tall and I am… well… a little on the short side!

If you want to know more info as I get it you can either sign up to my email list by sending me an email at helen@helenaustin.com or by following me on twitter and Facebook.

Silly & Serious – A New Challenge.

Since finishing my Song of the Week challenge over 2 years ago I have felt there has been a hole in my songwriting process. Unless I was writing for an album I found I was starting so many songs but not finishing most. I thought about doing song of the week again but it felt like I would be going backwards a little.

Then, while writing some upbeat tunes with a view to ad placements for my publisher a few weeks ago, I found the urge to counteract the jolliness with something sad and depressing. I really enjoyed the juxtaposition (and I like the word juxtaposition!). So after quietly setting myself a goal of writing and recording one of each a week I found that I was being way more productive because I really do love a deadline. I thrive on it and every day I wake up excited that I have a purpose.

Now I am on week 4 and, while I am not posting all the songs I write (2 a week is a little bit of overload) I am posting some of them exclusively on my Facebook Music page via SoundCloud. I was originally going to call it Happy & Sad but the got a little confusing when some jolly songs are in minor keys etc. So ‘Silly & Serious’ it is.

Unlike Song of the Week, I am not committing to do this religiously every week for a year, but I will keep going (likely with holiday breaks) until I find something else to distract me… ooh look… squirrel! 🙂

Click on the image below to go to the new tunes…

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LA Take 2 – Day 15 – Red Carpet

This was my last day in LA and although I am little sad to leave I am so excited about getting home to my family.

I spent the morning having brunch with my publisher’s wife and cute little boy, which was lovely. And then back to the hotel to pack. I am not a tidy person so it took some time to gather everything up and cram it into a suitcase that seemed more than big enough when I left 2 weeks ago.

Packing was courtesy of the following chocolate…

So it seem that choosing a dress for an awards show with a red carpet is not as easy and carefree as it sounds… no really. I hd a choice of three and went with the white dress but, as were going out for mexican beforehand… I was smart enough to take one of the black ones with me… just in case there was a salsa disaster.

The evening was a great success… mexican food and many margaritas followed by a quick red carpet followed by en early win of Best Alternative Female. So Cool!

Then we headed back to a mexican favourite, El Carmen, for more tequilas and food. I had the best time and will really miss these guys.

LA Take 2 – Day 14 – Last music day

I took another walk in the sunshine this morning and found myself at The Grove once more. It really is a lovely area to browse.

But I made the mistake of passing the Ugg store again. My legs kind of just made me go inside… and then I caved. I have been looking at these boots online for ages and they just happened to have my size… oops.

Back to Bleu’s place one last time to go through the vocals I did yesterday… apparently the spittiest ones so far. I record vocals quietly very close to the mic and my mouth makes a lot of spitty sounds which need to be erased. Fun for Bleu… yeh.

So I thought this would be an appropriate final bar of chocolate… chilli!… that will make your mouth water…

The chocolate powered us through the last set of my publisher’s notes and there quite a few back and forths on things, but we went through each item and eventually came up with stuff that everyone was happy with.

After the final edit Bleu broke out the Gin & Tonic to celebrate and we listened to the album from start to finish… and we both agree that we think we have a pretty damn fine album 🙂

This evening I finally managed to get together with Hans Dekline, the guy who has mastered all my past albums and we went out for Greek food and then onto a gig that a friend of his was doing. We also met up with Bryan Cook, another producer/engineer and his wife.

Their friend’s band, The Please Please Me were great. Cool combination of guitar vocals, cello, drums and glockenspiel. Great songs too. And it turns out that Jessie Torrisi, the lead singer knows my musical friends Doug Cox and Betty Soo. It’s a small musical world.

We left the venue and ended up at a very old diner where there were cops eating at the next table. I felt like I was in an old sitcom… just needed one of them to start eating donuts.

LA Take 2 – Day 13 – duhn duhn duhn.

I started today with a nice walk down to the Grove to take advantage of the return of the sunshine. Not sure what the weather is doing on the island but thought I’d better get my Vit D fix while I can. I picked up T-shirts for the kids. We always get the kid’s T shirts with the name of the the place we are visiting… eventually they will be turned into a quilt when they leave home. They have a LOT of LA t shirts now.

Back to Bleu’s place and we were checking out the final rough mixes. Listening to the songs next to each other I really noticed that it is such a diverse album but with a lot of stuff that ties it all together. There is everything from electronic 80’s style to quiet songs with string quartet to milder Bjork style stuff… and everything in between. But it does feel cohesive.

Bleu has managed to do exactly what I wanted and that was to put his stamp on my songs whilst retaining the integrity of my vocal style.

Chocolate today was courtesy of Bleu. Another Vosges bar… not as weird as the curry one… and really nice.

Editing continued. For this recording I have pretty much let Bleu do his thing unless something really stood out that I didn’t like. I understand that production is a process and I understand that he gets to his end goal much faster without my input. I figure why get a producer and then interfere too much.

However, I got a bit bored this afternoon and started pointing out stuff in the vocals while he was checking stuff… Bleu gave me a look and promptly put on his headphones. You have to understand that we have all spent SO much time together these 2 weeks that it gets very sarcastic bordering on rude… in a fun way, if that makes sense.

We had to re do the vocals for Anytime Soon so we did that today… it was nice to do some singing… I miss singing every day.

Joe invited us over for dinner at his place so we headed over and were greeted with margaritas and he cooked a lovely meal including my new favourite thing… grilled romaine… yum!

LA Take 2 – Day 12

Rain? What the heck? I did not anticipate that in my choice of clothes. Luckily in LA we drive everywhere.

Today was a quietish day. Lots of editing needed done so we were just at Bleu’s place all doing our own thing. It was nice to have Stacey, Bleu’s manager, around too. I kind of like having another girl energy in the room.

Stacey and I eventually decided to go shopping and while Bleu and Joe did their editing thing and we headed to the Grove, where we stumbled upon screaming girls. On further investigation we spotted TV show Extra’s Mario Lopez interviewing British band The Wanted. After a little shopping, where I bought a cute skirt, we found the girls were still screaming and the band was singing so I took this pic.

On returning it was time to break open today’s chocolate, the most unusual by far… Sweet Indian Curry coconut. Very definitely a curry chocolate… interesting.

Bleu had a lot more more editing to do so I came back to the hotel and enjoyed fajitas and a glass of wine and some TV time.

We’re on the home stretch 🙂

LA Take 2 – Day 11 – last song and Room 5 gig

Woke up feeling a little homesick this morning. This is the longest I’ve been away from my family in a long time and I really miss them.

Anyway… enough sharing… back in the studio we started the final song for this album, Don’t Come Around Here… my angry song. This is going to be totally different version to the one I did on an album in 2009. It has the ‘Bleu’ stamp on it. Bleu put down some piano while Joe got to engineer again. I think he was happy…

When Bleu suggest that Joe whip out his accordion I was worried and a little excited. Excitement prevailed and he recorded some really cool sounds.

I almost forgot… today’s chocolate was pear almond… which was very nice and kept me going for my gig.

We got to Room 5 way too early so it was Manhattan time for Bleu and water for me. The gig was so much fun… what a great room Room 5 is. And the sound by Kevin was a joy. All the pigFactory guys came along as did Stacey Peck, Bleu’s manager and all round lovely person. As soon as Bleu got up to play with me my energy level really went up and I think it sounded awesome.

Jess Furman played after me and had am amazing voice and songs, as did Casey Hurt. Evening was rounded off nicely with a glass of pino grigio and bangers and mash. 🙂