This New Year has delivered yet another new surprise. 

As if making statements like “I wonder if I should play Bavaria this year in September or October” wasn’t enough, I recently caught myself in a situation that nearly brought me back to square one of my career.

Many years ago, while doing a live interview on Tampa Bay’s WMNF radio station, the interviewer asked me, “Well, when are you going to finally put out an album?” That was before I knew anything about studio microphone sensitivities, proper preparation techniques, budgeting, editing, working in the stop/start situation of a studio, tackling nerves, and playing with a click track.

These days, having recorded and co-produced several recordings of my own including a number of educational products, I am convinced that we never stop learning. The point was driven home when Michael Wilkenson inquired about my inclusion on his own debut recording, “Freddie the Crab Goes Dancing” for his band, Ratiug Evol.

My first thought was, “Heck, I’ve done this before.”  No problem, as I had recorded many times in a studio. But, I’m glad I had that gut instinct to know better, which cautioned me to prepare a bit more before going into the studio at Morrisound in Tampa, Florida.

Regardless that I knew the intended click track speed for each of the two tunes I was to play on, that I had met with Michael on a few occasions prior to the recording session, and had prepared for the project with various mapping out techniques, I was still dealt a couple of surprises. 

The mindset going into a studio is different when you’re dealing with someone else’s project and financial investment. That’s where a great studio engineer earns their keep.  Not only do they have tremendous ears and generally flawless and intimate knowledge of their equipment, they act as counselors in the studio as well.  It is their job to maintain a certain calm and provide guidance while keeping the ball rolling with just the proper pacing and momentum. 

Tom Morris, owner of Morrisound Studios, is one of the many individuals around the world who work their magic behind the scenes. He is a prime example of exactly why we do and should consider spending the bigger bucks when budgeting for a project we take seriously.

During this project, Tom seamlessly coordinated all efforts for the recording session while communicating with Michael and me as he navigated through his equipment, not unlike Captain Kirk commanding his Star Trek Enterprise vessel.

The new experience for me was realizing, sometimes on the spot, that improvisation of a rhythm, a variation on an intended picking pattern, and a variety of stop/start points within the music were often required.  I’m sure this is old hat for many studio musicians, but for myself it felt like a new experience to a degree because it was someone else’s vision for a recording and not my own.  An entirely different sensitivity was needed and the project was a real joy and an honor to have under my belt.

Once again, there was the constant reminder of the absolute importance of good timing, need for preparation, solid communication, and quite a bit of mental focus and relaxation required to pull off a quality recording. 

After the session I realized why it was no surprise to me that Third Eye Blind, Little Feat, Robert Plant, Beyonce, Ozzy Osborne, the Rembrandts, Steve Morse, Seven Mary Three, and other top artists have chosen to work with Tom at Morrisound Studios.  I’ve certainly had the privilege of working with many superb recording engineers over the years and as far as I’m concerned, they are the true folks behind the scenes, the Wizards of Oz.

Originally posted 2012-02-10 16:13:49.