Session Log: Jayda Hampton vocal overdubs for “Avalon”

our motto....
even now, i STILL don't believe it....

so i got a panicked call from dean sciarra – not even a full three days after we wrapped up tracking…just like new was… “too country”.

yeah.

so after i finally figured out that he wasn’t joking, i asked him exactly what it was that he was trying to say – because it is, after all, largely a country song…root-five bass line, shuffle beat and all. “it’s too twangy,” he says. “we need to fix that.”

uhmmmm…ok.

now, let me clarify a bit – what dean was actually trying to convey was that the arrangement of the guitars on the track were taking the song off the edge of the dwight yoakam cliff. what i’d done – which, admittedly, was different than what i typically do when we play the song live – was to play the baritone guitar with a pick, very close to the bridge, and essentially play the alternating bass notes, a la pete anderson or john jorgensen…and i thought it was great, and everybody else seemed to like it at the time – and it wasn’t that far afield of what we’d been doing with the song in a live setting. so, hey – mix it and put it to bed, right?

well, that’s what i thought…but when dean and phil nicolo put it up in the mix room, dean couldn’t put his finger on what it was that he didn’t like, but he knew there was something amiss. so i went in with no idea whatsoever what he wanted, but prepared – hopefully – to try and give him what he wanted.

as it turns out, the order wasn’t as tall as i thought it was.

we pulled the baritone out altogether, and replaced it in the mix with some electric twelve string, and dean was thrilled. i also added the 12 string, and some chords on the gretsch to avalon…everything worked out about as well as one could’ve expected.

another satisfied customer. 🙂

so the only thing left – other than whatever incidental overdubs that might come to light – were harmonies. i had cut a bunch of my parts before i left for the pure prairie league gig i was playing on friday night, and i figured i was finished. dean had brought in someone to replicate the female harmony part on black yodel on the same night that i’d come in to work on the guitar touch-ups, but it wasn’t going well – she was suffering from a sinus infection, and – if the truth be told – the part was at the very upper end of her range. she’d also spent a few hours that afternoon practicing her part, and probably didn’t do any favors for herself in the process, what with being sick and all.

jayda and company...
Left to Right: Dean Sciarra, Phil Nicolo, Jayda Hampton, JD Malone

so – this being the case and all, i told dean that i’d bring jayda by the studio the next morning if she were able to come, and we could give her a crack at it. after all, she sang the song live more times than i could remember, and i knew that – if nothing else – she was at least in the ballpark from the standpoint of her vocal range. the worst that could happen would be that she’d come in, have a case of the nerves or would otherwise exhibit some sort of shortcoming that would keep her from executing the part in the studio, and we’d move on. if it wasn’t working, we’d call it before it spiralled out of control and move on to mixing and figure something else out.

jayda had some experience in the studio, but mostly on a homegrown level – doing vocals on songs self-produced by friends in high school and the like. and she’d been in and around studios with me in the past, so i didn’t think it’d be uncomfortable for her – although i’d be willing to spot her a bit of a case of the nerves.

as it turned out, none of that was the case.

we got to the studio at around 10am…phil was ready to start cutting vocals at around 10:15 or so – and black yodel was done…finished – at 11 o’clock. in fact, they ended up having her sing on three more tracks – avalon, the renamed leave us alone, and her personal favorite song, sweet evil things. she may have put vocals on another, in fact, but i can’t remember now…it flew by pretty quickly.

while she was in the vocal booth cutting her harmony part for leave us alone, dean said to me, “does she play guitar? does she play an instrument at all?” he was mightily impressed…in fact, i wouldn’t be a bit surprised if jayda ends up making a record herself after that experience.

the only other thing that had really bothered me – from an instrumental standpoint – was the pedal steel part that they’d decided to use for leave us alone…it was a part that i’d played to be a supporting part to the rhythmic mandolin part that normally rose to the top there when jd and i played it live, but during mixdown it appeared that they decided that the pedal steel should be the featured instrument during that part. it’s not so much that it was a bad part…it just wasn’t much of an attention-keeper when you put it out front. so we punched in a new part at the solo section and ran it out to the end:

 

it was a better fit…not too busy, but not too lazy, either. and it was the last thing actually cut for the record…it’s all down to mixing at this point.

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