RECORDING: Bringing Life to the Songs: Part 2
An Interview with Julie de Azevedo
Julie de Azevedo recently spoke with Meridian Magazine about the process of making of her latest CD HELLO SKY, giving us a behind the scenes look into the recording process of making a record. In this interview we get a glimpse into the songwriting process. If you have any interest in songwriting, recording, singing, or learning more about the music industry, read on!
Julie de Azevedo
MERIDIAN: When did you start developing songs for this album?
JULIE: I don’t really develop songs for an album – it’s the other way around. I record an album as a way to share the songs. I just write because I’m compelled to – I don’t know how not to. Eventually, I end up with some songs that move me in some way, songs that I want to share. Then I talk Highway Records about working on another CD.
MERIDIAN: Do you record or write down all of your songs during the songwriting process?
JULIE: I never record songs when I’m writing. I figure that if I can’t remember the chords and melody, how will they be memorable to someone else who has nothing invested in the song?
I have stacks & stacks of notebooks lying around the house with lyrical ideas, concepts, and half written songs. I’ve never thrown one away. Some of the ideas are good but don’t fit with where I am emotionally or spiritually. They just wait around until I’m in the emotional space that is congruent with the song lyric. And many other ideas are just bad ideas.
My experience has been that one idea out of every ten is worth developing, so I have to mull over many ideas before I stumble on one that has something unique or touches an indescribable place inside of me.
MERIDIAN: Once you have written strong songs, what happens next?
JULIE: We start the recording process. The first step of the recording process for me is to do a rough piano/vocal or guitar/vocal demo. We look for the songs strike an emotional chord and translate well with just one instrument & a voice. The demo is a “musical sketch”. The production will then add textures and hues to the song.
MERIDIAN: How many songs did you demo for HELLO SKY?
JULIE: I recorded demos for about 16 songs, in smaller home studios, and then the Highway Records team, my executive producer, Jeff Simpson, my producer John Hancock, my guitarist, Guy Hanson, and my husband get CD’s of the demos to listen to and give feedback on which songs move them. I greatly value their opinions. But ultimately, I have to trust my gut on which songs I want to share.
MERIDIAN: What happens to the songs that don’t make the cut?
JULIE: Only time will tellThere’s a song on HELLO SKY called “Second Chances” that I co-wrote with Guy, and we recorded a demo it for my previous CD. It didn’t make the cut last time, but it felt really “at home” on this project. If I still have an emotional attachment to the song after 3 years, that’s a good sign. I think it was my dad who said long ago that a strong song will eventually rise above and find it’s “home”.
MERIDIAN: How do you choose who will produce and arrange your CD?
JULIE: On this CD there was no question – Jeff Simpson (Executive Producer/Owner of Excel Entertainment) and I knew that John Hancock would produce & arrange it, and I would co-produce. What makes John a great producer is that he understands that the production needs to be a reflection of who I am as the artist, and that the arrangement needs to stem from the strengths of the songs. There is nothing formulaic about his style arrangements. His creativity astounds me, and he really lives in the songs and gives himself to the process. He is such a pro.
MERIDIAN: What happens after the demo phase & you’ve chosen a producer/arranger?
JULIE: We take the demos to the next level. John & I took several half days and set a time limit of a few hours per song. We search for grooves, production ideas, musical hooks, and how to best present the song. Many of the tracks from the pre-production demos actually ended up on the final recording. To see photos of the recording process click here.
Jeff Simpson describes demo process as “finding the soul of the song” – or finding the “magic”. So our job is to preserve whatever moved us about the demo, and enhance it with the arrangements & production.
MERIDIAN: How long is the final recording process?
JULIE: This time around it was a 5-month process from the time I started working with John to the time we mixed & mastered the CD.
MERIDIAN: Tell us a little about the final recording process. How long does it take to do a vocal? Do you get still get nervous when recording vocals?
JULIE: Even though I’ve been recording for a while, vocals are still the hardest part of the entire process for me – the most stressful. When your instrument is a part of you – it’s scary. And I’m baring my soul. And then there’s pressure of knowing that I’ll have to listen to this for at least the next 10 years!
Recording vocals can take anywhere from an hour to a few different takes on different days, depending on if the technology is working that day, depending on how I’m feeling emotionally and physically.
But in spite of all of the stress, recording vocals are also the most rewarding part of the process. When I nail a vocal and the song really comes together, I feel this sense of excitement, ” I can’t wait to share this!”
Don’t miss next week’s column “Sharing the Songs: the Real Work Begins”, Julie’s interview about the process of releasing a CD, touring, and finding creative ways to reach her audience. Watch for her new CD HELLO SKY in stores August 27! For more info on Julie’s music visit www.juliedeazevedo.com.
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