It’s not every day you get to work with a 3x Grammy award-winning producer in a state-of-the-art studio. Well, not yet anyway. But after having a weekend to look back on the experience (my first time in a professional, commercial recording studio no less), so many words come to mind: energy, macro, top-down, positivity, creative, trust, process, support, professionalism, limitations, etc. Yet the one word that comes up most is “humbling”. Quite frankly folks, ya boii got his ass handed to him.
You see, for the longest time I’ve been pretty self-conscious about doing anything in a studio with other people around. It’s incredibly frustrating for me to explain clearly, but it all boils down to dealing with issues I’ve got about being judged; particularly over my music, which I’ve been fiercely uncompromising and protective over (and that’s a whole other story). In the moments of vulnerability that are essential to record something like a vocal take, the most deflating thing I can think of is seeing someone and reading their face as saying “ehhh…”, or “wtf?”, or anything short of “wow, that was incredible, have my first-born”. Recording music on my own terms has been a very insular process with obvious benefits, but it was only recently that I became painfully aware of all its drawbacks. The main one being my relationship to time.
It’s one thing to record a song and have the option to do take after take until you land the “best one”. It’s another to be on someone else’s time (or an entire team’s time) and get the best take in a matter of minutes. You can’t psyche yourself out. You can’t second-guess someone saying “yea, that sounded great” as them lying to spare your feelings. You can’t keep reaching for the perfect take. You can’t keep beating yourself up every time you don’t nail it. I suppose the way I’m describing it makes it sound stressful, but I really wasn’t stressed out; I was just disappointed in myself for not being better prepared for this mentally. Don’t get me wrong, we got everything done and it came together really well; but in this instance, I was the weakest link and it’s been fucking me up the more I think about it.
I realized that recording on my own has spoiled me by allowing as many takes, time, and courage as I’d deem necessary to finish a track. Recording with professionals in a professional environment has taught me that line of thinking is nothing but a form of resistance; a defense/coping mechanism utilized to spare myself from having to deal with the possibility of failure. Yet after experiencing a type of failure (in my mind, anyway) regarding something I care so much about, I was so liberated because I was shown just how much work there is to do in order as good as I plan on being.
To put this into perspective; I’ve currently got 40+ songs in different stages of development that I could be working on at any given moment. THAT’S JUST STUPID. I originally thought ‘that’s just how I work’, but this experience taught me that “my process” is literally whatever the hell I allow it to be. I can finish that solo in 20 minutes. I don’t need to constantly listen to every take to hear which one has “it”. This is resistance manifesting itself as a direct result of my fear of failure and judgement. What I’d usually do is work or wait until that fear goes away. But if I’m to be as great as I plan on being, I have to accept that this fear will never go away, and that I must finish the work regardless. The “success” should simply be a byproduct of the true success; the work I put in. The rewards that come (or not come) as they may can be the very system used against me by introducing me to disappointment. My fears of rejection, judgement, and mediocrity have more or less paralyzed me from not just doing my work, but finishing it. The work; that’s all it’s ever really about at the end of the day. The work.
So super huge thank you to Marc Urselli for showing me what professionalism and compassion truly looks and feels like. Standing on the shoulders of giants really is the best way to see what’s up sometimes. Thank you to Lou Holtzman for making Eastside Sound into the awesome kick-ass environment that it is; encouraging every aspect of the creative process in the most compassionate way. Special shoutout to Duff Harris, who is legit THE MAN for reaaaally guiding me through my vocal takes. SUPER BIG THANK to Melboss Music for allowing such a great opportunity to even be possible. Of course big shouts to the crew: SupaBass, Antwon Dixon, Dr. Pez, Scruffy, and Mike Scarnati. Literally wouldn’t have happened without y’all. It was a growing, transformative experience and we got a kick-ass song out of it too! I’ll share more on this again soon (in addition to the actual song itself lol). Just felt this was important to share. Happy Monday. Let’s go get it!