WE ARE LOVED was recorded at Taylor’s Playground Recording Studio as a part of my “Record & Release One Song Per Month In 2018” personal challenge.
After last month’s recording in which I only gave myself 3 days to get all of the recording / mixing finished, I decided to give myself an extra 2 days for February. So, theoretically, I had a total of 5 days to work with. Somehow, even with the extra days, I felt like I actually had less time to finish this song.
I will admit that this was a much more ambitious recording! I am happy with how it turned out, though I would say the song still only made it to about 80%. Either way, it was officially recorded and released…
About the Song
This song was written by the SongWriter’s Guild in 2011. The SongWriter’s Guild was a group of worship leaders / pastors from my area whom I invited to get together and write a song each month. The idea was for us to be constantly producing fresh songs for our churches.
I brought this chorus to the SongWriter’s Guild. It was a chorus that I had been working on for a while and I really felt like it needed to be sung. The main idea comes from James 4.
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:4–10, ESV)
What a sobering thought! Friendship with the world is enmity with God!
If I am honest, I have become a friend to the world more often and more frequently than I care to admit. It has never brought me closer to Jesus, and I don’t want that anymore!
The song never became something that I would lead on a typical Sunday morning during the worship service, but it has always been a fantastic “prayer closet song”. It is pretty easy to sing with conviction!
About the Recording
I spent most of February thinking about recording. I was arranging the song in my head. To be honest, I was afraid to start too early, because I was pretty sure that I would become consumed with the song and put too much time and energy into it. (I have a tendency to do that.)
When I finally started the project, I had a few key challenges for myself:
- I wanted to use software instruments for the drums and keyboard.
- I wanted to use an amplifier modeler for the bass and electric guitar.
- I wanted to leave space in the recording and not let it get too full.
These challenges were hard! I spent a lot of time mapping the software instruments. One of my personal challenges for the year is to spend $0 dollars on studio equipment. I know that sounds crazy, but I really have a lot of great gear and I decided that I wanted 2018 to be about utilizing and maximizing what I already have, and not adding anything. Two pieces of software that I own are EZdrummer2 and EZkeys (both by Toontrack). I have used them here and there for different projects, but I have never really relied on them. I wanted to really dive deep into them for this song.
I was more than happy with the results! I spent all of my studio time on the first day just mapping out the piano. It took me a while to get fluent with the software, but in the end I feel like I was able to make it sound exactly like I wanted it to sound. That was a big win!
I spent nearly all of my studio time on the second day mapping out the drums (I also recorded a quick scratch vocal so that I would know where I was at in the song). Again, it took me a while to get fluent with the software, and I was NOT able to make it sound exactly like I wanted. However, my inability to get it sounding exactly like I wanted actually led to a new kind of creativity. I didn’t hate the sound that I was getting. I actually really liked it -even though it was not exactly what I had in mind to begin with. The new drum beat led me in a slightly different direction. I spent a LOT of time mapping the drums, but in the end I can say that they actually sounded better than what I had in mind. That was an unexpected blessing, and another big win!
Recording the bass guitar was fun, but it took me a lot longer than I had hoped (a constant theme for this song… haha). I played a Fender American Deluxe Precision Bass through the Line6 Helix guitar amplifier modeler and pulled up a nice bass guitar amplifier model, making a few slight tweaks to an already great sound. I had already decided that the bass guitar was going to be a key instrument for this song, so I wanted to get it just right. I spent all of my studio time on the third day just dialing in and recording bass guitar. On the fourth day I listened back to the bass and did not like it at all. So I re-recorded the bass guitar on the fourth day.
I should point out that I had other projects going on for these days, so it’s not like I spent eight hours just recording bass guitar. I did probably spend a total of 3 hours recording and re-recording the bass. That is a lot longer than I had hoped, but in the end I was really happy with the results (and with the sound of the Line6 Helix).
With only one day left, I had a LOT of work to do. Thankfully, I knew what I wanted to add to the song, so it was just a matter of playing it. On the fifth day, I played my Gibson Les Paul Standard through the Line6 Helix to record two nice, clean, delayed electric guitar parts. I actually played the parts without a pick because I didn’t want them to cut through the mix. The end result was a nice, smooth stereo electric guitar part that I am really happy with. I really considered adding another, fuller rhythm guitar -especially to the chorus and bridge. I also seriously considered adding some riffs in the verses, but I remembered that I wanted the song to have sufficient space and I was afraid that it would become a Blues jam fest if I started riffing in the verses. So for now I left the verses, chorus, and bridge with just the nice, clean, delayed electric guitar.
I also recorded a lead vocal and extra vocals for the bridge. I sang into an Audio-Technica AT4060a and used a Universal Audio 710 preamp for the vocals. The extra parts were a little too crisp, so I added a SansAmp plugin to give them a bit of grit.
The instrumentation was nearly finished, but I wanted a simple acoustic guitar added in and panned hard left for the second and third verse, chorus, and big bridge. I played a Martin D28 and used a Blue Blueberry microphone with a Neve 511 preamp.
My current Studio Assistant, Zach Yoder, helped record the vocals and acoustic guitar. We recorded two playlists of lead vocals, and I let Zach edit the vocals and make decisions as to which takes were best. He did a great job and is getting a much better feel for the studio and working in Pro Tools.
Overall, I am happy with the song. My key challenges kept me focused on growing through the process and yielded a different result than if I had just stuck to what I know. Unfortunately, I am sensing a theme with only getting to about 80% of what I had envisioned. I was really hoping the extra days would make the difference, but at the end of the day I had to settle for a good recording and a decent mix. I would prefer to have a GREAT recording and to mix the song a couple of times (listening back and making adjustments) before releasing it… oh well.
I would still say the song is good and I am happy with how it turned out.
Sticking to the parameters of my key challenges was a big win! There were many points at which I thought to myself, “It would just be faster to do what I know…” While that is probably true, it was good to push myself in a different direction. I really think the song is better as a result.
Areas for Growth
I thought that I did a great job of planning out the recording before ever actually entering the studio. In a way, I did, but when the basic groove changed from what I originally imagined, I had a hard time compensating with my bass guitar performance.
This song really needed harmony vocals. I did not have time to make it happen. I also think the song could have benefited from a nice synth layer. I still have a LOT of room to grow in that area! One of these months I will have to make that a key challenge.
I am also not completely happy with the mix. As I listened back I heard things that I really liked and I heard things that I really did not like. When planning my “Record & Release” projects, I really need to allow for a full day to be spent on mixing. As it is, I have been mostly mixing along the way and then spending about an hour at the end to dial it in as well as I can. That is just not enough time to really make the full mix pop.
What Do You Think?
I would love to hear your feedback on the R&R song for February. Feel free to comment on the good, the bad, and the ugly. You won’t hurt my feelings (you won’t puff me up too much, either).