On my recent video (this one) I mentioned in the description that my friend Alex (this one) co-produced and sang the male vocals on the song, "Hard to Say Goodbye."
Though we sang together on "Everything is Ending" for the Chameleon Circuit album Still Got Legs, it was different to work together on something that I had written, rather than something to which I only contributed a small part. When we got into the studio, I was suddenly nervous enough that playing the guitar became stupidly difficult. After a few takes, we got something we (Oli, the recording engineer, Alex and I) were all happy with.
With the basic track laid down, we had a hard time figuring out what to do with it. I knew I didn't want anything elaborate, but we all felt that it needed something. It's been a few months, so my memory's a little scratchy, but I think I tried a low harmony that worked well, and then Alex added his vocals to the mix. He's now doing the worded harmony - which I think is a definite improvement - but when we were first playing around he was doing the ooh's and I had the melody and the harmony. A couple of weeks later, when my dad laughed out loud at me harmonizing to myself, I asked Alex if he would mind doing the harmony instead.
Alex came up with this really interesting idea to have some sort of shhh'ing sound come around between verses. It took a little bit of fiddling around, but in the end we hit upon the idea of using his coat to brush across the foam padding of the studio wall. It worked great and sounded amazing - just like waves crashing on the shore.
It still felt like the song wasn't quite done, though, so we searched around for some percussion. Something light, we thought, something that wouldn't interfere with the rest of the song. Again, after some experimentation, we hit upon the idea of tapping our knees with the tips of our fingers. That was one of the few parts that Alex and I recorded together rather than separately; we had a hard time getting the right rhythm. In the final mixdown, we decided to scrap the percussion altogether.
The mix was the final piece to the puzzle. It took about 7 months to finish the song because we - well, okay, fine, I was the nitpicky one - weren't happy with it. After a lot of raising and lowering levels and adding/removing small pieces, we came up with something we were both happy with.
Working with Alex was a lot of fun. The bulk of my experience of working with others has either been agonizingly roundabout because they can't take criticism (high school group projects), sort of subservient because I'm not the main creator (old college band), or as a spectacular failure to communicate (collegiate group projects). This was nothing like that - we were both eager to come up with new ideas, happy to listen to the other, and content to accept the refusal of the other person's idea. It was definitely the best musical collaboration I've had.
To buy the fully produced version of Hard to Say Goodbye, click here.
To buy the "naked" version, with no additional production, click here.
Alex's Music, click here.