Friday, October 24, 2014

Blessed by Apollo

Johnny Walker

In the world of art, creation, and head banging milestones, there are times when it seems the task of taking an idea and making it real will never end. An artist is constantly faced with one more detail, one tiny nuance—the final dash of seasoning before you can serve up the stew.

  But sometimes a gift from the saints appears and brightens your day, even if it’s not a gift for you. My gift was hearing the news of a terrific vocalist whose band had made the ballot for the 57th Grammys.

  Her name is Halley DeVestern, and I’ve known this awesome artist for about as long as I’ve been riding the C Train. I’ve seen her live performances many times and been blown away by the way she paints every song with her artistic vocals and dynamic stage presence, by the way her band seems to breathe with Halley as she charters them over every wave of artistic passion.

  About a year ago, I called Halley as she was wrapping up her album “Fabbo! Boffo! Smasho!” I asked if she’d be willing to help me record some vocals on a CD I was working on at Greene Street Music. Halley was receptive, but she was scheduled to hit the road in a few days, so I had to move fast. I wasn’t quite ready for Halley to step in the booth, but knowing this opportunity might pass me by, I jumped on the break and brought her in.

  Recording music in the studio is a timely process, and knowing the plan is essential. Otherwise, money will take wings and fly out the window, especially when you’re paying the costly rate of studio time for vocal rehearsals.

  My fear reached an all time high when Halley appeared, knowing I’d have to wear my uncertainty on my sleeve. I had an idea of what I wanted for the vocal parts, but since I hadn’t even laid out the lead vocals, I put Halley in a bad spot, instructing her to do several takes of ‘Oh baby’ and ‘Ah-huh’ along with the specific lyrics she would need to sing on several song traks.

  Being the Professional she is, Halley came in and nailed it, not only with what I’d requested, but with ideas, suggestions and advice. Given the quality of her voice, I started seeing the project take a better path than I had planned.

  After Halley had blesses the project with her magic, we continued recording the songs for the Nathan Juju CD, and I once again I found myself wearing insecurity on my sleeve; this time with Reed, the engineer at Green Street.

  I’m not a fan of Auto Tune and fixing vocals, or creating samples, etc. I’m old school, and I take pride in that. I started recording music in the eighties, and if the artist didn’t nail the note, by either instrument or vocal, then it had to be done again—regardless of how many takes it took. Problem was, Halley had already hit the road, and it’s not that she didn’t secure the notes, but the vocals weren’t in sync with the songs.

  What I learned from Reed at Greene Street was invaluable. We could avoid fake notes and all the ‘Kanye’ shortcuts by delicately moving her vocal traks to match the rhythmic placement of each song. I realized the digital world had quite a lot to offer, even though it was essentially the same as working with tape. The major difference was; digital placement took a few minutes, and working with tape could take all night.

  Reed worked his magic throughout the next few months, concerned with every nuance and detail. One song in particular had over forty individual string lines, which I played one by one on the violin, stacking the lines to complete a rock orchestration. Just when I thought I’d lose my mind, Reed knew how to bring me back, assuring me we were on the right path.
During the final mixing, I beamed with pride hearing Halley’s vocals. Don’t get me wrong; I’m uber proud of the songs and music done by Nathan Juju, a band that exists in a book Trilogy, but Apollo must have stepped in at some point and blessed me with these two incredible artists; Halley DeVestern, and Reed Taylor.

  I’m trailing the dynamic Trio in this scenario, with Halley’s album “Fabbo! Boffo! Smasho!” being on the ballot for the 57th Grammys, and Greene street Music having recorded some of the latest trends in music. My CD by Nathan Juju: the EKKO Mysteries Soundtrack, has been receiving great reviews and people are enjoying the songs. In the world of art and head banging detours, I’m feeling pretty fortunate.

  Now I’m taking my Trilogy and the CD soundtrack to the SPBE Book Expo in New York City on November 15. But whether I climb on board with these two professionals, or not, I find more satisfaction that I ever thought I’d have, knowing my product holds up. After all, I had Apollo’s blessing. It had to be him. He sent me to Halley and Reed, which gave me a sense of pride and accomplishment. Apollo held my hand during this recording, reminding me that perseverance will often lead to the best resolution.

  I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to thank Halley DeVestern and Reed Taylor for guiding me through the choppy seas of recording this CD.

I am truly blessed.

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