I first worked with Steve Gilmour in 2014 when he recorded his debut album Sound Of Heaven. It sold very quickly (so much so that further copies had to be produced) and it has gained a lot of acclaim – from all across the world. Some of his songs have even been translated to Portuguese and recorded by musicians in Brazil!
Sound Of Heaven was received so well that many people who had bought copies were quickly asking when there would be another one available to buy – which is always an enviable position to be in.
So, in December 2014 Steve and I found ourselves sat in a room together with a cup of tea each and sheets of paper strewn everywhere. Ideas for his follow-up recording were flowing.
Game of two halves
Steve had settled on a strong concept of splitting the album into two distinct halves – almost harping back to the good old days of vinyl releases. The first would feature a full band line-up and include the more uptempo rock songs, and the second would be more contemplative and meditative – using mainly acoustic instruments. We toyed with the idea of releasing two EPs, but settled on compiling the ten songs onto one CD as the way to go.
I’ve found that it always pays dividends to enter the studio as prepared as you can be. It’s a mistake to show up with songs half-formed and expect ‘the studio’ to magically transform them. It won’t happen. Thankfully Steve wasn’t about to make this mistake.
He budgeted not only for studio time but also allotted time for me to help with pre-production. This ensured that that the songs were charted clearly, and the musicians involved knew what was expected of them when they entered the studio.
Steve and I began the process by thrashing out the songs acoustically using piano and guitar. Here is a video taken from of one of those sessions, featuring the track Come Fill This Place.
The next stage was to assemble the core group of musicians who would be playing on the album and rehearse the songs as a band. Even though we intended to record the intruments one at a time this really helped the songs more easily find their natural groove, and any changes were easier to thrash out as a band.
One particular song – No Fear, No Shame – took on a whole other dimension when, for fun, Dewi played a disco drum beat to it. This placed the song in a whole new light and we all agreed that it would be worthwhile to take the song in that direction. This would almost certainly never have happened had we not entered fully into pre-production and allowed the songs to breathe and develop. No Fear, No Shame has turned out of be one my favourite tracks from the whole album.
Here is how the song started out:
And here is the finished funky disco version we ended up with:
As with the first album, the talented Dewi Thomas was drafted in behind the kit and again we chose to record them using the great sounding space of the auditorium of Sure Hope Church in Old Colwyn where Steve is a member.
As recording drums on location is a big undertaking, both technically and artistically, I invited along the multi-talented Jon Muraca to help me out. Jon has a wealth of experience on both sides of the glass and I trust his ears (much more than his tea making). Together we managed to craft a really pleasing sound of Dewi’s Pearl kit that was a joy to mix back in the studio.
Back in the studio
Back at the studio the songs were built up one instrument at a time over a period of weeks. Once the songs had taken shape Steve brought in a few vocalist friends of his and we did an intensive evening of recording BVs, which was mayhem but a lot of fun!
Adding violin & cello
As the tracking process approached completion and the main structure of the acoustic songs were tracked we called upon two friends from Chester, Rob Pritchard (violin) and Rob Cresswell (cello) to record a few parts for a couple of songs. There’s nothing like the sound of real strings.
Album photorgaphy & artwork
Steve liked the idea of depicting his writing process as part of the album cover, so we scouted for characterful rooms in which to base the photo shoot. I was drawing a blank until Steve texted me a few photos of his new house – which he was in the process of renovating. As soon as I saw the room I knew that I could make it work. The bonus here was that we didn’t have to seek permission or incur extra expense by hiring a suitable space. Result!
Once the artwork had been finalised and the mixes of each track approved I sent them off to Breed Media for the hard copies to be produced. I then submitted everything to CDBaby for worldwide digital distribution via iTunes, Amazon, Spotify etc.