#sRated Recording DIY Style! 

  

It’s FINALLY a bright, sunny morning here in Ireland! I’m on day three of a pretty miserable cold that hit me hard on Monday and knocked me for six. It’s one of the worst things about being self employed! You push yourself as far as you can go because you kinda have to. Ain’t no such thing as a paid sick day! 
Anyways, the point of this mornings bright and sunny post despite the sneezing is to tell you that I finally started to do something I should have done on day 1 of my music career. My good DJ buddy Dave O’Connor has been shouting down my ear for years about setting myself up to do some pretty decent home recording but I just never really took it that seriously and kept putting it on the long finger. I wish I hadn’t but I’m starting now and would like to share some of my experiences as I go through the process of buying items and recording.. Maybe my experiences will be useful to someone along the way! 

First up I was told, is to invest in a really good mic and the Rode NT1a had been suggested to me many times. There are lots out there but at €189 brand new on Thomann Ireland it’s a decent price and won’t break the bank. I did a little scan for one on the private seller sites and found a guy up the road selling his for €130 – “barely used” the ad said so fingers crossed! I offered him €110 so I’m hoping that for the €80 savings it will be a good buy! I’ll keep you posted!! 

Apparently the next not so expensive step is to purchase a pre-amp! I might as well be looking into a ditch as to knowing what exactly they do but it’s my job now to find out and buy myself one! 

I’m happy that I finally got a move on in setting myself up to home record. While nothing beats the real experience, it’s ridiculous that I am not  doing all my demos and basic productions myself here at home. Got the ball rolling now at least and I’ll share my experiences of it along the #sRated way! 

Advertisements

New song snippets…

This weekend, I thought it would be nice to sit at the piano and share snippets of some of the new material I have been writing. I have chosen three songs to share little sections of with you today – ‘Digging Holes’, ‘Put it in a Box’ and ‘A Million Hearts’. All of the songs need a little tug here and there, words need changing, bridges need fixing etc but at just over 8 minutes long, this little Soundcloud link should cover the time it takes to sit back with a cuppa and enjoy a little break!

New Song Snippets

Songwriting – It’s not all about ME, it’s all about YOU….

images

As someone who started out songwriting at 11, not knowing how I was actually doing it, I wrote to make MYSELF feel better, to tell MY stories, to share MY experience!! No, I didn’t accidently leave the caps key on, I wanted you to see that back then it was ALWAYS ALL ABOUT ME!!!!

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending an IMRO songwriting afternoon with a hit songwriter called Ralph Murphy. (See links below) Ralph has a very interesting story and some pretty hot credits to his name across many genres with literally a whole life experience in the music industry. Needless to say, he didn’t beat around the bush and he didn’t hold back. In an industry that involves so much ego and b******t, it was refreshing. My hands were shaking as I handed over one of two songs he was going to review from my catalogue. I remember writing in an older post how your songs are like your kids – you create them, you nurture them and then when the time comes, you let them out into the big bad world! So, inevitably you form an attachment to them and as I reflect now, possibly an unhealthy, slightly obsessive attachment to them. I didn’t really want him to find faults in my songs. I really wanted him to love them as much as I did…. But then boom, out of nowhere, a five minute critique suddenly becomes a whole lifetime of “aaahhhhhhh of course, now I understand…”

Whilst it’s a bitter bill to swallow hearing that there is room for improvement to lyrics or melodies that you thought you couldn’t improve on, it was the reasons why they had to be improved that helped me to swallow that big, bitter songwriting pill. There were many reasons, many interesting and “ah of course” reasons but one reason that really stood out to me and made me think from a different side of the coin is the fact that it’s always all about you. (‘you’ being the listener)

In order to fall in love with MY song, YOU must feel like it is all about YOU, that my details are in fact YOUR details, that my melody is in fact YOUR melody. You don’t care about my story or where the song came from or who the guy was that broke my heart or stole my car, why should you? Whatever the time of day, whatever it is you are doing, that song that comes on the radio that you will connect to, tells your story, not mine. I learned so many valuable things over a couple of hours that had me rushing to the piano with a pen to ‘re-write, re-place, re-assemble’ and it actually feels like the wool has been pulled from over my eyes.

From uses of pronouns, to word meters to just getting over myself, that afternoon was without doubt a big learning curve in something I thought I had pretty much perfected. Whilst it was a little shock to all our systems initially, there is a great sense of freedom and excitement in moving on with that knowledge!

“Hits aren’t written, they are re-written” – Raphy Murphy.

http://murphyslawsofsongwriting.com/

 

 

 

 

 

Burning out and bouncing back…

For the first time in just under a year, I am back in the recording studio. It’s actually hard to believe that it has been that long and I suspect people have wondered why I have been so musically quiet this year. For 2 years, I consistently released my music. Starting with the first release ‘Moody Blues’ in February 2011, followed by ‘Green Eyed Monster’ in June and ‘Dance With Me’ in December. Then in 2012, I prepared, planned and recorded my debut EP ‘10,000’, which I released in August last year and it included two new single releases and a tour. ‘10,000’ was a milestone for me but it also began a period of ‘burnout’. Having packed up my belongings from the classroom where I taught up until June 2010, the pressures of self-management, funding, promotion etc took its toll by November 2012 and it was time to stop for a little bit. The constant pressures, meeting the bills, managing a music career and just trying to have some form of normal life got too much and I was forced to stop thinking about it all for a while.

Truth is, I never ever stop thinking about it all. I did however manage to find a good mental space to adjust again and to deal with any disillusionment, frustrations and general fatigue that working in the music industry brings. Winning the ‘MRU’ Best Female in December 2012 was just incredible. It was a fantastic acknowledgement of my two and a half years of effort and commitment and for a week or two, the buzz from the award gave me a new lease of life. I really believe that award events like the MRU (Music Review Unsigned) are so important and its really important that events like this happen every year!

Of course with the beginning of a new year, it also meant the start of the music plans for the year ahead. By the time it got to the third week in January I had a release schedule and project description prepared. To cut a long story short, a series of unexpected musical diversions took place and the schedule changed within the space of the next month. I was a little concerned about not sticking to the plan but it appears to have been a little blessing in disguise.

It’s now the middle of May 2013 and the creative spark is very much alight again and naturally with getting older, I do think a new musical maturity has come with it. I am back working with Martin Quinn at Jam Studios in Kells and we are trying out some new sound ideas. I don’t want to give too much away but we are using a very electronic starting point infused with some rock music features and not forgetting my little love for pop and classical music!!

Ok, so that description hasn’t helped but in simple terms I have grown up. The last couple of years have been a series of highs and lows and I have learned to take advice, something I wasn’t so good at starting out. I know what I want to do and I also know what I need to do. I believe its about finding the balance between making a personal decision and making a business decision. I make no excuses for following some musical trends and I don’t buy into the potential criticism’s about compromising my art or creativity. For me and for the moment anyway, it’s a business and I must make decisions that ensure it becomes a successful business.

However, I do look forward to the day when I can sit in a studio and record a 10 minute long song with whatever sounds I choose knowing that the song is purely an expression of myself at that moment in time with no time constraints or financial pressures.

In the meantime, it’s back to the tracks. Very excited about the new music. Watch this space..

Image

All my music is available to buy from digital music stores, iTunes, Amazon etc.
To contact me, please email: mcnallysinead@hotmail.com

As the magic happens…

Image

Every day I read posts or status updates from many other songwriters about the songs they are writing and working on, or the ones they are struggling to finish,  or even the ones they have written the music for but not the lyrics. I often feel like the little kid in the corner by themselves because I don’t write in what appears to be a regular routine or common method that I recognise in other songwriters and it leads me to question the pros and cons of my own approach.

The truth is I find it nearly impossible to write just randomly about anything. My mind needs to be in a space that is open and clear and I need to feel passionate about the subject I am writing about. If you came and asked me to write a song about an event in your life, I would come up with a song no problem. I also wouldn’t have any problem producing a relatively decent song if pushed to do it but it would be missing one essential ingredient – conviction and for me conviction can essentially make the difference between a song being great and a song being brilliant. So, as a songwriter it has been an instinctive course of action not to write unless I have that unexplainable energy. It’s an energy that is right in the pit of my stomach, a bit like the feeling you get when you are excited or nervous about something. It’s an energy that makes me feel very much at one with the piano as though my body and my piano are whole and they just communicate on exactly the right level for a couple of hours or if I’m lucky over a couple of days. My head naturally tilts to the right or left, which is a little odd I know and something special happens.

I feel that way today and I wanted to share it as it was happening. It has been a part of my songwriting life that has been missing a lot with so much emphasis and time on the business side and managing all the events. But over the last few days, I found myself very much in a reflective space and now the songwriter in me is ready to come out and make some new music! It may only last a few hours or I may have this energy and drive for a while, fingers crossed. Hopefully between now and the next time I post in ‘Showtime’, there will be a new arrival 🙂

 

 

“If it is to be, it is up to me”

Nicki Minaj – Super Bass

I heard this great quote on an E! Special on Nicki Minaj last night. Her primary school teacher was a great inspiration to her and this was something the teacher would say to her kids as advice to carry with them in life. All two letter words that sum it all up. “If it is to be, it is up to me”

No one else is going to believe in you to the extent that you believe in yourself. No one else is going to work as hard for you as you work for yourself and no one else is going to enjoy the excitement of each accomplishment as you will enjoy it.

Whilst not a huge Nicki Minaj fan, the programme gave me a great understanding and appreciation that each one of us knows what our path in life is. Whether we choose to follow it, is entirely up to ourselves. Nicky Minaj is a very creative and inventive artist with a determination that is extroadinary but it is characteristic that you will probably find in most successful artists.

When I wake up in the morning with another stack of emails to send or gigs to organise etc, I have to rely completely on myself to make it happen. I have to believe in myself in a way that nobody else can. I have to work hard to keep my head in the right space and trust that stretching every euro I make will be a story worth sharing one day.