The Importance of Production
This is it. This my musical philosophy. If you are a band, and you want to convince me you are worth hearing and worth seeing you know what I need?
One Great Song
There are a million bands. A million choices. Millions of people who want to be heard.
Well I'll listen, sing your praises to my friend's, family, and followers, but you gotta do this one thing for me:
Give me One Great Song
It can be anything, as long as it's great. That means it has to be (almost) perfect. A song is only a few minutes, it isnt a 2 hour movie or even a 22 minute tv show where some amount of error is acceptable. If you are of great talent and vision, being perfect for a few minutes should not be difficult. At least not once or twice a year.
Perfect cannot be forced. Perfection cannot be safe. Perfection cannot be overdone. Perfection requires honesty, awareness, and ability. The song cant be about what you think you know, it has to be what you know. It can be one emotion, it can be one experience, it can be one desire, one dream. But it has to be yours.
Now here comes the scary part. As talented as you and your band may be, to fully convert your idea, your emotion, your experience into a perfect song, you cant do it alone. You need someone else. Someone who can fill in your own gaps of awareness and call you out when you are being uninteresting, obtuse, and cliche. This means a producer, a veteran. This requires trust. And to put your vision in the hands of another, maybe two or three others (if you count recording/sound mixers).
But here is the strange part. Putting those extra hours, those extra minds in your song is a risk. It is a loss of control. It is a loss of authenticity even. Often the songs that require the heaviest collaboration end up being so touched by outside forces, be it the pitching on the vocals, the layering of the instrumentation, and the finishing effects, the song becomes so far removed from the band's original conception they can no longer even perform it live. I once requested the song 'Galaxies Will Be Born' by Say Hi on a live stream knowing full well he wouldn't be able to play. My backup choice was for him to do a cover.
What's the point then? What's the point of making one perfect song and then not being able to play it for your audience, especially if it is your most popular song? I dont know, why not ask the Beatles. They stopped touring after Revolver, releasing Sgt Pepper's, Magical Mystery Tour, the White Album, Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road, Hey June, and Let It Be...Naked without nary a single live performance of any of the songs. The Beatles realized that true musical passion could be derived in the studio. It could be derived in ones head. It could be derived without an audience.
True musical passion could be derived in the studio. It could be derived in ones head. It could be derived without an audience.
Now most bands aren't The Beatles. Most bands aren't content to create studio albums with songs that will never get a reaction in front of a live crowd. Thus creating the duality of musical artist's composition: those that are meant to be listened to and those that are meant to be performed. It is a curiosity, but one that I have confirmed time and time again. Despite my lack of familiarity with a band's body of work when I see them, the song I am familiar with often : 1) does not get played or 2) get's played as an afterthought or encore, while the band instead focuses on their less produced, but more grounded songs. For example: Wilsen played their most popular song 'Garden' as an encore, Mikaela Davis performed a listless 'Other Lover' to close her set, Tomberlin did not even bother to perform Self-Help. Cende sounds like a boy being Bar-Mitzva'd as he struggles through the high notes of 'What I Want'.
What cosmic irony that the song most people use as their gateway into your music is out of reach for your talents. Is it even your song anymore? Well at that point the choice becomes yours. You can either avoid the song completely, filling in its place a song similar in tone and style, but not with the same level of production, or you can re-create the song into one that can be heard. That is where the initial honesty becomes so important. If this song wasn't originally yours and was the production of some 45 year old studio exec with a pony tail and an earring you wont be able to reclaim. But if it originally was yours, it can be yours again; reduce the vocal range, forget the pedal effects, dont worry about the layering, and turn one great song into two.