The week had finally come to head into the studio and start recording the bed tracks for the album. The beds are the main instruments that lay down the groove and feel of each song, in our case drums, bass and keys. They provide the framework that everything else is built on. For me this week was when it really home that I was able to make this record. My producer Dean Drouillard helped put together a top notch group of musicians: Mark Mariash on drums, Robbie Grunwald on keys, and Dean on bass. We were recording at the Lincoln County Social Club with the Juno nominated John Dinsmore at the engineering helm.
Dean took the gear and I walked up to the studio. It was a beautiful sunny spring day and I put my earbuds in and listened to our recording demos on the way up. I remember looking up and letting the sun warm my face and feeling like I would burst. Being a mom, it’s often hard to have those moments where you are totally and utterly doing something for yourself, so I let it wash over me.
The guys writing notes and looking very serious
When I got to the recording studio the guys were almost set up and we had a meeting about the first song. We listened to the demos, we played around with the tempo, and Dean gave some direction about other recording artists we could conjure up as influences.
Recording Studio Art – Some of my favourites from the walls of the Lincoln County Social Club
My job for this part of the recording process was singing a ‘scratch’ vocal along with the band. Although I would go back in and record my final vocals later, it helps to have the singer so the band can feel the arc of the song, the push and pull of emotion, when to scale back and when to really give it. Once I had done one scratch vocal for each song, I was then there to listen, give notes, look at John’s many odd posters on the wall, get coffee for the guys, and search the internet for obscure musical gear with Robbie.
Three 10 hour days later, we had successfully recorded all the bed tracks and I was more exhausted than I had been since having my youngest child! I was able to record some footage of us in action so here’s a little video for you to enjoy with a sneak peek of some of the songs from the album.
After spending the week prior running around the city trying to find the perfect wardrobe and booking hair & makeup, photographer, and studio & childcare all for the same day, I was finally feeling ready for the big photoshoot. I HATE having my picture taken, but my friend and amazing photographer Naomi Finlay makes it as painless as possible. She’s a pro, and dealt with all of the logistics so I just needed to show up.
Before Hair & Makeup!
At around 8 in the morning on shoot day, I got a text from Naomi saying she had been up all night with either the flu or food poisoning, but she was on her way to the studio with her assistant – and photographer in his own right – Stefano Barbara. When I have food poisoning, I’m usually not going to work the next day, so the last thing I wanted was for Naomi to have to come, but she is way tougher than me. I arrived and she was sitting on a chair on the side of the room, completely white in the face and leaning forward with her head down. It didn’t look good! My best friend and retoucher Martha Snyder came along to help, and between her and Stefano, they set up with Naomi giving pained yet detailed instructions.
Both Naomi and Martha insisted on me getting professional hair & makeup done for the shoot and I now realize why. First of all, I would never in a million years have put that much makeup on my face and also, my hair looked like Farrah Fawcett in Charlie’s Angels, so there’s that. Onna Chan was an absolute artist and not only made me look stunning, but was there primping and fixing between photos throughout the day.
Our goal was to get a cover for the new album and also some promo shots to use for singles and for press. For the album I wanted the feeling of strength but also erosion, as this album is all about how life erodes us but how we can persevere. At the very end, Naomi pulled out the big guns with an idea she had had to do a double exposure, which would get two of me in the photo. A strong me in the foreground and then a ghost me in the background. The result of this experiment was breathtaking and I said “That’s it, that’s the cover!”
I am sharing a few of the shots from the day here, but you will have to wait for the big reveal to see the album cover.
“No Choice At All” lyrics: a song about feeling exhausted by struggle.
When I began writing the songs for this album, I was in a very dark place. I had been struggling with lasting concussion symptoms for 3 years, I had two young children who I was struggling to look after the way I wanted to, and a husband who was working himself to the bone trying to hold everything together. Around the same time I lost a close family member to cancer, another to suicide, and I was dealing with the crumbling of my relationship with a dear friend. I was reeling from the sheer pain of it all, from living with chronic illness for so long, and from the many losses. The head injury made it difficult for me to go out and do the things that I would normally do to stay positive: see my friends, go out for dinner or even go to the gym. My once very social self had been cut off at the knees, and to this day I don’t know if I will ever be the same as before.
A list of all of the metaphors I could find for death. This eventually turned into a song called “I Don’t Want To Wait ‘Til Its Over”
Writing songs has always been the thing that I have turned to in times of struggle, but this time I was so far gone I didn’t even have the will to write. But something finally shifted ever so slightly, and I decided to learn how to play the piano. I got a beautiful Roland keyboard on monthly installments from Long & McQuade and the floodgates opened. Around the same time I began working with amazing songwriting mentor Debra Alexander, which helped to focus my songwriting and give me the extra push I needed to write on the piano.
All of the pain of the last few years, all of the loss and frustration, came pouring out of me. I was playing and writing every spare moment and when I felt anxiety or sadness creeping in, I would start playing to ease myself out of fight or flight mode. That piano, and the songs that came as a result, have been a saviour of sorts. I am not totally better, but a huge part of me that was lying dormant has been awakened and I have been able to work through much of my pain in the process.
A songwriting exercise where you free-write without lifting your pen from the paper to solidify what you are trying to express
I spent the day last Friday searching for the perfect wardrobe for my upcoming Living Proof cover photoshoot. Shopping when you have a specific thing in mind is always hard, but shopping with an “I’ll know it when I see it” is even harder. After meeting with my friends Naomi Finlay (photographer) and Martha Snyder (retoucher) for lunch to go over the cover photoshoot concept, my head was swimming with ideas, and off I went in search of the perfect outfit. I am lucky enough to know Heidi Sopinka, designer extraordinaire and co-owner of Horses Atelier. She was kind enough to lend me something, but its always good to have a few options on shoot day.
A vintage dress I found that is a definite contender, although I was hoping to wear dark blue or green instead of black.
Vintage gold and navy. Cute but not perfect!
I want the Living Proof cover to embody strength and perseverance, but also hardship, and how life erodes us over time (I know, super light right?)
I also really didn’t want a straight up head-shot, but possibly layering photos for an interesting effect like Hannah Georgas’ latest record For Evelyn or adding illustration like this photo I found on the web.
One idea I had was to have one half of my face look like it is eroding. This would require finding an illustrator, so I am now on the hunt for someone who can make this dream come true without an insane price tag.
Gorgeous jumpsuit from Horses Atelier.
After a few hours combing stores on Queen West, I gave up and went home empty handed. So much effort for something I don’t even know will be visible in the cover photo, but it has to be right, just in case. I have four more days and only a few hours without my kids, so wish me luck!
A chronicle of the recording of my fourth studio album Living Proof