Last week I was in Houston, TX recording drums for my new album. The songs are all written (for the most part), and these are the first “final” tracks to be laid down. I was in a studio called Red Tree, and my friend Matt was engineering. He brought in a drummer friend of his to actually play the parts.
I’ve never done anything like this before. For all my previous releases I’ve been in control of everything. Even when I brought someone else in to play an instrument, I engineered and recorded it myself. This time, I was struck by how little I had to do. I’d done a lot of work beforehand, like doing all the scratch tracks and actually writing the drums parts, but when it came time to do the work I mostly just sat there and watched. Matt engineered the session and ran Pro Tools (I’ve never even touched Pro Tools). His friend played all the parts.
Success might mean giving some things up
I think one of the reasons I’ve had success up to this point is because I’ve made sure to focus on all the things I’m good at, and stay away from the things I’m not good at. This is why I have other people do album covers for me. This is why, for the most part, I’ve stayed away from live drums in my recordings. In fact, I mostly decided to stay away from drums completely.
But I decided that to take another step forward with my music and add some live drums. I could have tried to do it myself… get some more mics, bring in a drummer and attempt to record it myself. And while that’s something I want to do more of in the future, I decided that I needed to relinquish control this time around.
As I was sitting there not really doing anything, I felt my pride getting just a little bit hurt. I really prided myself on being able to say “yeah! I did all this myself!”, and I won’t really be able to say that this time around.
But I really feel that if any of us want to get ahead with our music, there’s got to be a relinquish of control somewhere. You’ve got to give something up, even if it hurts your pride a little bit. I know my album will be better served by having someone else engineer the drums, and recording it somewhere else. I’ll be far better off if someone with great graphic design sense takes care of my album covers.
We’re in kind of a weird place as musicians. It’s possible to do so much ourselves, and it’s super empowering. But at the same time, it’s also our curse. It’s easy to forget that we aren’t actually masters of everything. And that’s ok! But if you want your music to be the best it can possibly be, really focus on the things that you’re good at. And really weigh the pros and cons of taking on every task. Like I said before, I really think one of the reasons for my success is the fact that I’ve realized my deficiencies, weighed them, and made a decision on whether take them on myself or abdicate to someone with more skill. If you can do the same, then I know you’ll continue to see your music improve in the long run.
So what do you think? What’s something you might need to relinquish control of with your music?
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