Write what you know, right? Well, I recorded a single once!

It’s no secret I love my rock music. But did you know I had a go at making a record…well, recording a single, once?

Following in Queen’s Footsteps

In May 2010, a fabulous group of choir friends decided to make a very unique wedding gift for one of our tenors. A suitable rock song sprang to my mind, and I adapted the lyrics to suit the happy couple. Someone located the backing track for the song, and we were all systems go. Before anyone could chicken out, I booked us into The London Recording Studios (aka Brick Lane Studios ~ the very place were Queen recorded Bohemian Rhapsody!) for an entire Sunday, and off we went recording, kids, husband and all in my case.

We arrived at 10 a.m. to meet with the sound engineer and concoct an action plan. Owing to a rather wide geographic dispersion, we hadn’t had time to come together for an advance practice. We were simply going to take our respective lines and… wing it.

A Steep Learning Curve…

The first attempt wasn’t great. We gathered round and had a go at belting the song out. The sound man looked somewhat dismayed but put on a brave face. Undaunted, we took a half hour to regroup and practice. Our second attempt was more promising, and the sound man came into his own. He suggested an iterative approach to laying down the track and became our quasi-director/producer.

First of all, we recorded the chorus together, several times. Then we recorded the chorus again, adding a little spontaneous harmony here or there.

“You’re On. On Your Own.”

The next step was individual recording of individual lines. Uh-huh, you read that right. The studio emptied as everyone quickly filed out, leaving me holding the music and evidently having the first go. Well, the whole thing was my idea…Gulp.

What, really? You're all leaving me here to go first?

What, really? You’re all leaving me here to go first?

Recording individual lines was a weird and wonderful experience. The sound man played me the song ‘so far’ through the head phones, and I had to erupt into song at the right moments. As I was first, there were a lot of instrumentals and no vocals other than the chorus. I had three or four goes at my lines (thoroughly enjoying myself!), and then we swapped to the next person.

*sings* ...got his tickets now he's on his way-ay...

*sings* …got his tickets now he’s on his way-ay…

Mixing It Up Before Mixing It Down!

Back in the mixing room, the sound man had the studio sound on speakers, so as the next person recorded her lines, I could hear her, and my lines, and the chorus. And so it went on, bit by bit.

Slides and faders, buttons and dials... and the all-important computer. He seemed to be doing a million things at once ~ it was truly fascinating.

Slides and faders, buttons and dials… and the all-important computer. He seemed to be doing a million things at once ~ it was truly fascinating.

When we were done individually, we trooped in together for more backing tracks and tweaks. At this point, my then five-year-old decided he’d quite like a go, so we let him! He had his own little starring moment in the last chorus.

Oh yeah, he's having a go-ooooo!

Oh yeah, he’s having a go! (See that Paddington bear clutched under his arm? That’s for courage!)

He got the thumbs up from the sound man... which has me insanely proud. LOL!

He got the thumbs-up from the sound man… which made me insanely proud. LOL!

After six hours of recording, including an impromptu lunch from the local pizza delivery place (boy, did we feel like the real deal, hanging in the studio with pizza and drinks!), the sound man dismissed us for a couple of hours while he got on with mixing, mastering, and mix-down. When we returned to the studio, the song was as finished as it was going to get after one day’s work with no previous practice. We were mighty pleased!

So… I Wrote What I Knew

The whole experience was exhilarating, exciting and totally mind-blowing. I’d love to play you the result but owing to licensing restrictions on the backing track, I can’t. Maybe one day, I’ll get to make a real single and then you’ll hear all about it, I promise.

So when Sophie suddenly gets to be in the studio with Dan… when she records, and starts mixing… well, let’s just, I’d had a tiny little taste of the action myself, and it inspired me no end. Write what you know, they say…


All photos courtesy of Amanda McIlroy, with thanks. Photo copyright c/o Amanda McIlroy 2010.

19 responses to “Write what you know, right? Well, I recorded a single once!

  1. What an absolute sweetie, your little one! And what a lovely idea for a wedding present. Mmmm. write what you know, indeed.

    • Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Marina! We had the best time ‘making’ this present. Well, they say the joy is in the giving, right? It was such fun! I’m trying to think up another excuse to get together and ‘lay down a track’ all over again… And the kids would definitely both be up for it this time. Thanks for stopping by! X

  2. Oh wow! Talk about living the dream. I’m a tiny bit envious right now…

    • Oh I know! It was a real taste of the action, and we were all buzzing for days afterwards. What a high! You can always have a go one day, studios are there to be booked after all…. 😉 X

  3. What a brilliant experience! I thought you said you couldn’t sing? Pftt. I think you should definitely record ‘Love Me Better’ with some rock hunk. I’m phoning Jon right now. 😉
    Love the idea of a song as a wedding gift. Hubby and I were lucky enough to have two pieces of music written for us. No rock, sadly, but one folk, and one electronic. 🙂

    • Ha! I said we made a single, I didn’t say it was note perfect, LOL! That said, tell Jon I’m available any time. Any time at all. He can name the place, too, I’ll be there!

      How wonderful that you got not one but TWO songs for your wedding. Do you still have them? You have to share them one day… Thanks for stopping by, Karen, it’s lovely to hear from you, as always. Rock on, girlfriend! XXX

  4. What a fabulous experience Nicky! It certainly came across in Sophie’s Encore 😉

  5. cosmochicklitan

    I bet that day was FUN! Your little one is very cute!! xx

  6. Sounds like a fun day Nicky. I would love to hear the track. Have recorded at this studio many moons back, so looking hard at the photos to see if it had changed. Recorded with member of Queen too….so there is a link (again)….and I have messed around on the piano in the house where BH was written and demo’ed…..small world.

    • Awww even better. Now I’ve been in the same studio as Queen AND you. That makes my day. If and when we ever get to meet, I’ll play you the track, if you promise not to laugh too loudly…….. LOL!

      • Now why would I laugh!! I look forward to it. Believe me you cannot be worse than a lot of what I have heard during my long career! Did you ever read my piece called ‘The Auditions,’….LOL. One or two observations of what I have had to sit through, and I AM sure you are way better than some of those! I bet you didn’t need a courgette. LOL xx

      • I remember the courgette episode, LOL!!!! Let’s do this one day (sans courgette)! XXX 🙂

      • LOL that would be funny. I shall look forward to the single…:)

  7. Traveling just now, and listening to Crosby, Stills, and Nash, I couldn’t help thinking of Dan a lot.

  8. Wow! I mean, just … wow. 🙂 How much fun did you have – sing it! 😉

    I have a CD on which my sister is lead vocalist. And I was head choir girl (oh so very many years ago!)

    But I’ve never sung in a studio, that’s REALLY a step up – well done!! 🙂

    • Awww thank you so much! One day, I’d love to make a REAL single, LOL. Go you, head choir girl ~ we have so much in common, Jo, it’s scary. Okay, I wasn’t head choir girl but I did love singing in it!!! XX Thanks for visiting and commenting. 🙂

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