A Terrifying and Gratifying Experience

As a professional vocalist/songwriter I have spent plenty of time in the studio, recording with a band, overdubbing my vocals, editing and mixing my albums. This year, for reasons as of yet unknown, I decided to up the ante a bit for myself, and instead of simply booking the studio and laying down some tracks of new material I had recently written I went for the LIVE Video Recording route.

Now I consider myself a pro in the recording environment, having done it for about 15 years with two fistfuls of albums to my name, and even owning my own recording studio. But I could not anticipate the terror I inflicted upon myself by doing an audio/video combo WITH A BAND! The sensation of being placed under a microscope to be inspected and possibly dissected from all angles clung to me like a panicked chihuahua. And that was BEFORE the lights came on.

I still think it's a great thing to do, because it's as close to the real thing as the audience can get without actually being at your show. However, you can't overdub. If one band member makes a mistake, you have to do the whole song again. If you hit a bum note, forget a lyric, have to swallow in the middle of a word - you guessed it: back to the top. There is no editing, no tuning, no fixing of things. You gotta get it right, or the whole thing ends in the virtual bin, never to see the light of day. And since everybody is on the clock around the clock in New York City, you don't want to waste anybody's time and money. 

A live audio/video recording experience appears to come down to this:

You have to make sure your make-up doesn't run.
You have to plead with whoever does the lighting to be kind to your face.
You have to ascertain which of the five (that's right, people: FIVE!) cameras is actually pointed directly at you.
You have to make sure the musicians know the tunes, have the right sheet music with the right chords etc.
And that they are actually in the frame of their very own cameras.
Do not wear any noisy jewellery! (Been there, done that.)
And THEN - you have to perform the song. Sing with feeling, with authenticity, with the correct lyrics, and on key. And make sure not to pull any weird faces while you do it. 

Sounds easy, right? Hmmmm...

In the end the session went really well, my musicians were stellar, and I got one take of each song in the can that I was reasonably happy with. Here's a shout out to Walter Fischbacher on piano, Evan Gregor on bass and Jordan Perlson on drums. These guys are top notch, excellent musicians who can lay it down like nobody's business and look good while doing it :)

I will let you know once the videos are up on Youtube. Should be soon!

Here's to new songs, and to stepping out of one's very own comfort zone!

The Platform Dilemma

I have always struggled with saying I was just one thing. Like - "I am a jazz vocalist." And then a voice in the back of my head would say, "Yes, but I am also a..." This condition has only been compounded by my book endeavor, or, as my husband calls it - a whole new front to fight at (as in: Art Is WAR!). And yet, somehow I can't help myself. I find that life is simply too short to be doing one thing only. I'm not saying that this is true for everybody. But for me this works. Sort of. Until I get into the realm of social media and the dreaded "Platform Building" that everybody in the blogosphere seems to be going on about. Well, here's the hitch I've encountered with that thing:

For obvious reasons I cannot stay on message.

When I write about my life as a musician the bibliophiles lose interest and start unfollowing me on Twitter. And when I describe my trials and tribulations as a first time novel writer I can just about see my fellow musicians' eyes glaze over with boredom, their attention pulled to something else, more exciting, more relatable.

What to do?

To be honest, I haven't sussed it out yet. For the moment I have resigned myself to a somewhat schizophrenic online presence: Facebook for the musicians and Twitter for the writers, with some overlapping occurrences. That's the best I can do for now. The blog does lean more toward the writer side, since I started to chronicle that journey here. But it is and very likely always will be a crossroads between these two passions of mine, because trust me: when that new album drops in 2014 you'll hear about it here!

So how about you? Are you in the same boat as me? And what's your solution to the Platform Building Dilemma, or PBD? Do you have a working strategy in place? Or do you just ignore the whole thing and get on with your life? Sound off below, I would love to learn from you.

A Case for the Manuscript Evaluation Report

After my vacation induced hiatus from this blog I'm back with an update on the process, the grand adventure that is the creation of my novel "Billie Lupescu: Wormhole".

After I finished this latest rewrite I submitted my book to an editor for a Manuscript Evaluation Report. The lady I found on the Editorial Freelancers Association website was very accommodating in squeezing me in to give me my report as soon as possible. Her name, by the way, is Lynnette Labelle, and you can find out more about her services HERE

What is a Manuscript Evaluation Report, you might ask. Here's what Ms. Labelle's website says on the subject:

When you order an evaluation report, I’ll peruse your manuscript, taking notes along the way.  I’ll look at your character development, the GMCs, plot structure, pacing, dialogue, narrative, voice, mechanics, and more.

The evaluation report states the strengths and weaknesses of a manuscript.  It doesn’t offer solutions to the problems, but that service is available under manuscript developmental copyediting or fiction writing coaching.

This service is perfect for the writer who has a hard time identifying flaws in his work but is capable of fixing the problem areas once they’ve been identified.

After I'd sent off my book, I went on vacation and tried to forget all about the manuscript, and the report, and the rewrites that would surely be a consequence of the report. 2 weeks of Mexican sun and an interesting intestinal virus later the report came via e-mail. I have to say, it was all that I needed it to be. Which doesn't mean that I liked what it said. But after I let Ms. Labelle's feedback gestate a bit in the back of my mind and got over myself and my aversion of yet another lengthy edit I cracked the manuscript open again and started looking at all the things she pointed out. Boy oh boy, did I need that report!

So now I'm back in there, changing things, adding things, deleting things, going through the check list from that report and generally improving my writing skills. I hope.

Bottom line is: I can only recommend this process, or using an editor even earlier in the game, if you can swing it financially. I got my book to the best place I could with the tools I had in hand. But Lynnette's feedback took the blinders off, so I could get a much better idea of what works and what doesn't.

Thank you, Ms. Labelle!