We decided that Chris' voice needs to be a part of this blog because of something I wrote about how he thinks we need singing lessons.
Chris- "I didn't mean it like that!"
Steph- "I was just trying to be funny!"
Justin (to me)- "I don't want your piece of shit sense of humor to offend Chris to the point that he won't want to work with us anymore!"
Good point, Badger. Please welcome Chris to the blog.
Hi, my name is Christopher Tucker and I’m producing The Fremonts upcoming album. I’m excited to be able to share my experience through this blog in the coming months. When I first met Stephanie as my piano student I remember being happy that I had a student who was open, honest, determined, and talented. The opportunity to help develop her and Justin as musicians has been even more of an amazing experience.
Basically, my job is to listen to their songs in their current form, give suggestions on the arrangement, show them how to fill the gaps and weak spots, and watch them bring ideas to life. So far, they’re absolutely nailing it. For example, I made a simple suggestion about a song; “to break up the constant rhythm, maybe we should add in a little stride B section in the middle.” A week later they play the song for me again, and out of nowhere comes an awesome little stride B section with a tasteful conversation between piano and guitar. When I first heard it I literally almost cried. I had a vague idea in my head about how to make the song better, and they ran with it and far surpassed my expectations. This experience has happened many times over the last few months as I am continuously surprised by the talent and determination of The Fremonts.
There are so many factors to juggle when producing an album. Budget, artist confidence, my confidence, vocals, arrangements, studios, extra musicians, on and on. But the learning experience I’ve had, working with two extremely talented and positive people, has given me all the confidence in the world that the end result is going to be something that we’re all proud of.
Justin, Chris and I are sitting in the sun on a break from rehearsal, laughing about best/worst band names, having a little lunch... yes, this is still the same recording process that we have been agonizing over for the last couple months. Things just got really fun all of a sudden.
Justin and I really hit the accidental jackpot by landing in the rich music scene of Colorado and meeting Chris. He's an awesomely creative and intuitive producer - kicking our asses and soothing our egos and pushing the music forward and keeping it chill. What more could two fledgling musicians with fragile self-esteem hope for?
Tracks and ideas are flowing back and forth over email. New instrumentations are filling the tunes with life and possibility. It's really happy-making. Somehow my blog posts are short when I'm happy. I should probably talk to my therapist about that.
I was in a few cover bands back in high school. We'd do the county fair circuit in the Bay Area and mostly play sets of alt-rock and ska-punk. To put it mildly: a sixteen year old me could sing the shit out of Matchbox Twenty and Reel Big Fish. I remember one day after a show, the guy who put together the bands came up to me and said, "Your voice is never going to last if you keep singing like that." I sang loud, I sang hard and I was probably horribly out of tune; but I didn't care because I was too busy bouncing around the stage like a spider monkey with a rabid cocaine habit. He suggested taking vocal lessons and doing some solid warm-ups before every show. Of course I didn't listen.
So here I am two decades older and I have only taken about three months of singing lessons from a brilliant dude who used to play with our band back in NYC.* My vocal chords are starting show some cracks from years of abuse, not warming up and a faux smoking habit I forced myself to have in my mid-late twenties because it felt like the thing a downtown theater kid should do. My voice gets tired quickly and it has acquired a bit of a rasp. Ever since we started recording our first EP back in November of '15, Steph and I have put the vocals at the forefront of our sound. In doing so, our voices are now under a microscope (hence why I can't stop writing about my vocal issues in this blog). But today, I'm gonna take a different stance. One with a hint of cautious optimism.
The other day we were running one of our new tunes, Gravity. It's a beautiful song that Steph wrote for me to sing that was inspired by a great conversation we had about our relationship while on our first mushroom trip. It's probably the most difficult thing I've ever been asked to sing. After the run Steph looked at me and said, "Ok great, but you aren't going to sing it like that when we perform it are you?" I got butt-hurt as all get out and started making excuses and defending myself, "Well, I've been singing it like that because I'm trying to watch my tuning, " and, "I'm working really hard at it!" <<INSERT POUTY FACE AND CROSSED ARMS HERE>> When Steph fired back with, "Are you working hard at it? Are you practicing it every day? Cause, great, if you are trying to sing in tune; but you have to really SING that song. You can't be timid with it." Initially my ego took the reins and I felt shitty and attacked.
The next day as I was putting my big-boy pants on and reflecting on the exchange I realized two things: 1) I HADN'T been working on it everyday. I wasn't working hard enough. 2) Steph was right. I need to sing the shit out of that song otherwise it will fall flat.
To tie it all together with a nice neat bow, I'll say this: I probably should have listened to Joe, the guy who ran the cover bands way back when. But I didn't and that's cool. What's done is done. The challenge is this, how to let go and sing with some balls to give it feeling and also maintain the microscopic work that needs to be done to achieve the accuracy of the tune. Steph and I are looking to head back into singing lessons. Which is both exciting and a little freaky to me. BUT I'm looking forward to putting in the hard work, which is a change that leans toward the positive for my lazy ass. Hope abounds.
*Seriously Darren Dunstan is the man. I've said this to him before, but I completely owe my brief professional acting career to him.