The best producers aim to serve the songs. They have no personal agenda. They work with the artist to achieve a shared vision, making each song the best it can be. I was never more aware of this than when I was in the studio with Anna Laverty making a record this March.
We listened to the demos and made notes. We wrote down which sounds would work best, which musicians we would call in. Philip Everall on bass clarinet. Grant Ferstat on the TEO mando thingy as we called his TEO Mando guitar, a chimey angelic sounding 12 string. Many, many drum loops, hours of scouring for the right sound. But also, Steven Rea on booming drums. I had played a show in January supporting Rob Snarski and he had featured a trumpet player in his set. John Bannister. Could we get him for a song or two? Perhaps to play alongside Phil on bass clarinet, the two wind instruments weaving in amongst one another like snakes around the clunky piano. Prepared piano. We recorded at Tiny Music Studios in Cottesloe and Paul Wood let us prepare his piano. We stuck drawing pins into the hammers. I dropped one into the piano. We rescued it. We recorded four or five takes and then removed all the drawing pins.
The best producers are the ones who listen. It sounds obvious, and it is. Too obvious. Many overlook this in their bid to make a great song.
I miss going there every day and spending time with these strange songs that came from a strange place. Playing with Charlie the studio dog. Learning from Anna. My fondest memory is of how completely free I felt to blast out mad vocals in front of her. Into the microphone for her. Anna creates a serene and safe environment and I did my very best work in that space. I was able to be raw and emotive and crazy and she got it and she made it beautiful.
The best producers are the ones who make a new track for you and encourage you to go down those pathways they’ve been catching glimpses of in between and at the end of takes. And you sing and shriek and yowl and wail like a banshee. You whisper and coax and coo and make the oddest noises and it all feels right. You feel completely supported and seen and most definitely heard! And maybe you only realise how unique and special this is when someone else walks in and the spell breaks instantly. Perhaps it is only then you see that in those four minutes you were part of something truly sacred and memorable.