I didn't realise quite how many projects were completed during 2015 until I started looking back through the diary. So, it's with a sense of satisfaction that I am sitting here in a coffee shop with my laptop looking back on some of the highlights of the past 12 months.
I've met some inspiring new people, carried on fruitful relationships with others, and together we created some pretty good music. Here are some of the highlights.
Maggie and I been have working together since 2010, and in the summer of 2015 we started the process of compiling the best of her songs onto four compilation CDs. We threw possible names back and forth before settling on Songs For Singers, as that most clearly described the ultimate purpose of her song collections.
As the tracks were now going to be sitting together as definite collections we revisited almost every track with changes. Some of the tracks were completely rebuilt around the vocal from ground up — usually if the style or tone of the instruments didn't sit well as part of group — and a handful had their vocals re-recorded. Even though most of the songs were just fine when standing alone, as part of an album they sometimes needed a bit of coaxing to sound like they were part of a family rather than sonic gate-crashers!
Once all the mixes for each of the volumes were signed-off and we'd agreed on the running order I mastered them (balancing the volumes, tonality and spacing between tracks).
So, that was 35 individual songs I've had my hands (and ears) on from Maggie alone this year!
All artwork was designed in-house to a consistent theme, with the centre panel and CD body colour being the key differentiators.
What I find particularly engaging about working with Maggie's music is the broad range of genres she enjoys. I've ended up playing & recording rock, pop, blues, soul, jazz, country & folk — some of which can be challenging to do authentically at times, but learning and stretching myself is all part of the fun!
As a consequence of all this variety, I've had the privilege of working with an interesting cross section of vocalists too. Here is an example track, where I played the piano part and Hannah Franklin — a graduate of The Royal Academy Of Music — did an exquisite job with the vocals.
Knowing Maggie like I do, once we've completed the fourth and final volume of Songs For Singers, I'll be expecting to hear some great new songs from her as 2016 progresses!
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I first worked with Steve Gilmour in 2014 when he recorded his debut album Sound Of Heaven. 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.
This was a really fun and creative project to be involved with — Steve brings a lot of enthusiasm to his music and loves getting other people involved.
Firstly, I drafted in my good friend Jon Muraca to give me a hand engineering the drum recordings. Jon has ears that I trust (although I'm not so sure about the rest of him!). We used real drums in preference to programmed ones and a very solid drummer in Dewi Thomas. He played along to the guide tracks Steve & I had produced earlier, and the rest of the songs were then recorded one at a time with Dewi's kit as the backbone.
We also tracked Rob Pritchard, a violinist from the Chester Philharmonic Orchestra, and our mutual friend Rob Cresswell laid down some cello. Live strings are a real treat and we had a lot fun recording those.
One of the most unusual moments of the project was the evening we held what could only be described as a singing party! People consumed copious amounts of food and drink as my wife Sarah helped work out backing vocal parts with the hapless singers we'd conscripted. As soon as they were ready they were bustled into the studio where I recorded their backing vocals. Meanwhile the next song was being worked on with the remaining
victims vocalists. It was a bonkers revolving door system, but everyone had good fun and it actually worked out really well!
Photography was handled in-house, too - Steve's house! For the cover we made great use of the building Steve was in the process of renovating, and got some atmospheric window-lit shots that included the evocative retro wallpaper before it was ripped down.
In June, the finished artwork and audio files were sent off to Sheffield's Breed Media for production, as Sarah and I headed off to Australia for an epic road trip. I actually finalised the production of the album from Gloria Jean's coffee shop in Sydney! Don't worry, though, even though I work a lot with artists in varying locations, most of my projects aren't quite so remote...
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Self-styled British folk-poetic Shunge was signed to a record label in the 1970s, and had two albums released on vinyl back in the day.
It was such a delight and inspiration to meet a man still who was still passionate about making music forty years later.
I'd define Schunge's sound as having hypnotic grooves, embellished with intricately picked acoustic guitar (more often than not in an alternate tuning), juxtaposed with an intriguing mix of world music influences. His quiet singing voice offers no frills and sits well alongside the likes of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan; while his characterful tone drips authenticity as he shares tale after tale of a life full of experience.
Together we recorded a 12-song album of intrinsically worthwhile music. Music that tells a story. The passage of time has given Schunge a perspective that is, above all else, focused on leaving an authentic stamp on the world. I like that.
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John Every & The Ultimate Coffee House Collective
Chester based songwriter John Every has made the journey across to Deganwy to work on his songs a number of times during 2015. I like his style — very honest, thoughtful songs, many of which we demoed with just his voice & Yamaha acoustic guitar.
The first track we tackled properly was We Have A Dream — written as John's response to the fast approaching 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's assassination. Helena Johnson provided the quality vocals that slotted effortlessly into Jon Muraca's tasteful arrangement. Finally, we created a video to support the song.
The long-term plan is to create an album of radio quality songs, some of which John will sing himself, and others like the one featured here by guest vocalists. As the year draws to a close, two of them are already well underway, and we're looking forward to hearing them finished early in 2016.
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Coaching With Horses
Keri Warden-Owen runs a very unique business — coaching indivuduals and teams using interaction with horses. She came to Revelator to record a quality voice-over in support of a promotional video she was having made.
I enjoyed conversation with Keri. She a very bright, articulate character, and her insight into the human heart and ability of horses to help its development is truly fascinating.
You can find out more by visiting Keri's website.
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New Revelator company branding
After 10 years in business, the original Revelator branding was looking a little tired — so the decade anniversary was celebrated with a bit of a visual overhaul.
The website you are currently reading was launched in 2015 as part of the refresh, and while there are plans to add a lot more content, it's a very strong start.
We got a new car, too, and my good mate Rick from Dogtooth in Yorkshire fitted it with the necessary graphics. This has made moving gear around for recording on location much easier, and has been turning heads into the bargain.
If all that doesn't excite you enough, then how about the possibility of being the proud owner of a shiny new Revelator mug? I knew that would grab your attention! These are exclusive and strictly available only to Revelator customers. Even my mum doesn't have one!
So, that's my little review of some of the good stuff from this year. I'm looking forward to discovering all that 2016 has in store. Bring it on!