Paddy came to me with a bunch of tunes he had as demos, many of them as recordings on his phone, but straight away I could hear there was amazing potential there. He had taken part in “The Voice Of Ireland” in 2013/2014, but he felt his future didn’t lie in that direction. He was keen to explore as much territory in his writing as possible, trying out different styles, blending them, learning from his influences, trying to begin to find his own writing voice. We worked on three tunes, all quite different from each other, but with a common thread in that unique voice.
Paddy came to me with a bunch of tunes he had as demos, many of them as recordings on his phone, but straight away I could hear there was amazing potential there.
He had taken part in “The Voice Of Ireland” in 2013/2014, but he felt his future didn’t lie in that direction. He was keen to explore as much territory in his writing as possible, trying out different styles, blending them, learning from his influences, trying to begin to find his own writing voice. We worked on three tunes, all quite different from each other, but with a common thread in that unique voice.
You can check out excerpts from two of the songs in the TRACKLIST.
Ryan Adams. 30 Seconds To Mars. Paul Brady. The Police. The Eagles. The Lumineers. Just some of the artists Paddy threw out as being sources of inspiration, creative touchstones. I was a bit surprised to be honest as he had mentioned his history on The Voice and I was expecting much more pop-oriented stuff. We immediately got stuck into doing song analysis on some of his favourites.
I’m a big believer in song analysis and deconstruction. Not just the song’s lyrical and musical content, but the recording and all of its ingredients. When I was a kid I would sketch on paper the tracks I could hear, left to right through time, as if I could “see” the tracks on the 24 track tape machine. I’ve always gone back to this as a way to show young writers how to add interest to a recording. Paddy and I did this for a few tunes, and we decided to work on those songs in his catalogue that could go on a sort of “journey” in the recording – many sections, good use of hooks, harmonies, different views on the same part.
We spent I think around 5 or 6 days in preproduction, in Whitespace, laying down guides, trying out ideas, demo-ing in guitar parts and bass lines, working on the drums so the basslines tied in nicely with the kick drum patterns. We were influenced by Ryan Adams and Queens Of The Stone Age in our approach to the interplay of guitars, bass, and kicks, and by the Police in how they can set you up for a loud section but then bring you somewhere completely different. We also worked out all the vocal harmonies in advance so that our time in the studio would be efficiently used. That’s not to say that we didn’t have moments of inspiration down in Bay – in fact I find they are more likely to happen if all the big parts are worked out in advance.
Drums! They can make or break a recording, you need that essential combination of a highly skilled drummer and a great sounding kit to form a healthy frame for all the other parts that go on top. We were lucky to have Paddy’s incredibly talented mate Rónan McBride come down to Bay Studio with a gorgeous kit, perfectly tuned, and we were away.
Paddy laid down the basslines using some of my basses, playing into our Ampeg SVT Head and cabinet. I’m a huge fan of that amp – I prefer a real, amped-up bass to a DI any day of the week, as long as the guitar and amp are in great shape and in a room that sounds good. We tracked acoustics, electric guitars, and vocals down there, in 2 and 3 day bursts until we were done. Both Paddy and I love us some gee-tars, so I brought all my toys down for us to mess with (couple of Mesa amps, a few Telecasters, Jazzmaster, and a couple of basses). We were going for classic sounds so I relied on amp distortion and drive exclusively, and I only used spring reverbs for the guitars, apart from one or two lines where I wanted massive, old-school 80s reverb on some chorused guitar lines. For this I used the Lexicon 224, a favourite of mine for super wide, rich reverb.
I committed the sounds to “tape” as I went, trying to mix as I went, as we wanted to maintain a reasonably consistent sound across the three songs. I went with a very 70s/80s approach, treating the DAW as a tape machine, trying to get into that mindset. It added a lot more pressure, but for someone of Paddy’s ability this pressure I think brings out real performances – true “best I can do” takes that you just don’t hear very much any more.
Mixing took place in my production/mixing studio Whitespace, in Dublin. I went for a classic Neve Desk/SSL Master section combo on all the tunes, trying to use the same settings for the drum and bass channels and room reverbs to keep a consistent sound across the tracks. I stuck with classic outboard gear emulations for all tasks, apart from some surgical tools for de-essing vocals and overheads. I love working with limitations, I think it fosters creativity, so only allowing myself use two reverb machines, two or three compressor models, and two EQs forces me to see just what they are good (and bad) at.
Paddy’s voice is very much to the fore in these mixes, and getting the vocal to sit in the mix was fairly easy given his control and mic technique. A singer’s ability to control their volume into (and therefore out of) a microphone can make recording and therefore mixing the performance a hell of a lot easier – you don’t need to compress as much, ride levels as much, or deal with excessive background noise coming up from quieter sections.
I used the stereo space as much as possible to allow our guitars sound big without taking away from the drums – I like to alter the width of the drums for different sections of songs, weaving them against the guitars and vocal to allow different elements be the dramatic focus point at different times. sometimes I go very wide with the drums so I am always careful about how I stereo-mic the kit when recording, ensuring kick and snare are dead centre in the stereo field no matter how wide I go.
We went through about two or three versions of each song mix before heading of to master them, they aren’t released yet but I’ve popped two snippets up on the TRACKLIST for you to hear. Check em out!