Last night after work, I drove out to Thousand Oaks for another pre-production meeting with Shane Alexander, who will be producing the record.
If you don't work in music, the roles can sound mysterious. Using film as analogy: as songwriter, I'm like the writer of the screenplay. I craft a story in exactly the way I want to tell it, creating structure through the placement of every word and melodic motif.
Since I'm also the artist -- the vocalist who performs and embodies the songs -- I'm like the lead actress, evoking emotion through my enunciation of the words and the timbre, volume, and expression of my voice. The rhythm of my guitar, whether it's strummed or finger-picked, with chords or individual notes, supports my voice and the story.
The producer in a music project -- in this case, Shane -- is analogous to the director of a film. Listening to my vision and my particularness as an artist, Shane's role is to build the sonic world that will support and best showcase each song, my artistry, and the complete album as a whole.
Last night, up at Buddhaland Studios, Shane and I more or less finalized the 7 songs for the album, plus discussed 1 or 2 other songs that might be released as separate bonus "single" tracks. Playing to a metronome, we ballparked the tempos and jotted down notes about Hammond organ, pedal or lap steel, shaker and tambourine, French horn or clarinet. As he said, I have a "rock bone," which is true, but a few of our favorites are definite ballads.
It's a funny thing to stand on the edge of a future with someone who you know will be important in your life. Songwriting, at least the way that I do it, is very personal. It's not just the lyrics of the song or the expression of the melody, but the backstory of what went into the song, the process of carving it into a shape, and the scraps left on the work table when it's done. It's also a lifetime of music rooted in the folk revival of the '60s, with long years of orchestral and renaissance ensemble playing, kirtan music, and puzzling out songs on my guitar.
Shane and I have never before worked together. In our hours together these past two weeks we've been studying each other's artistry and work philosophy. To get to the final product, he and I will be engaged together in every step of the process. We need to know that we can trust each other, that we can communicate, and that aesthetically we're on the same page. I noticed last night that we're beginning to understand each other's language. Eventually, we'll know the shorthand, probably talk in music as much as words.