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Playtime in the recording studio

Belle Chance
Head of Experience
min read
13 Oct

I put my twelve hours of glorious Playtime (a set of hours that Ghost pays each employee annually to ‘play’!) towards recording and releasing a new song. I wrote this song in August 2021, and had already made a rough demo (basically a draft recording). However, since then I just hadn’t had any time to take it to the recording stage!  So the opportunity to get paid by my work to do just that was timely and awesome.

Learning the ropes

Design process parallels

I’m not very experienced in making songs, so I was a bit blindsided about how long everything would take! Since I had already written my song, I thought I could just rock in with a producer and get it done. A straight process from start to finish.  But actually it’s very similar to the design process! There’s an upfront exploration on the vibe / instruments you might want to use - usually involving finding references of other songs you and the producer like. Because there are so many options, you may need to experiment a bit before choosing a path. Also you may get part way into the recording process and then realise, that sounds naff… we need to start again.  Or the producer points out something you’ve never noticed (like grammatical errors in my lyrics!) and you need to go back and fix it.

Writing the lyrics

I began this song in August 2021, and I have videos of me experimenting with chords and riffs, which are cool to look back on. Generally I record everything I do while mucking around. Otherwise, and I’m sure this is common, I often can’t remember what I played yesterday! In December 2021, I hadn’t decided whether I wanted to add lyrics, but the moment I did, it started to fall into place. The story wrote itself, and I think that’s because the subject matter was about my relationship, which I obviously know really well!

Initially, I was quite shy about showing it to people, but now I think - there are so many songs about people’s relationships, no need to be so precious! Probably many people can relate to the psychology needed in long term relationships. Trying to keep things as fresh and fun as possible, even though you’ve been together for fourteen years, as we have. You can’t always expect that things are going to be the same as when you first started together, so you have to adapt and try to keep each other's energy up and keep inspiring each other. The main lyric hook is ‘stay young as you get old with me’. That’s our message to each other, because getting old and grumpy with each other is silly, we’re still the same people as we were before. We just need to remember that when we are weighed down with life admin and looking after the kids.

What were the main stages of the process?

Mostly in the studio… but also lots of dot connecting

All up, I spent two full days in the studio, but also the producer did some other work while I wasn’t there… and there was much email admin in terms of connecting all the dots between production, mixing, and mastering.  It was so great to have Playtime to put towards this creative pursuit so I could focus as much as possible and keep at it till it was done. Thank you Ghost!

From demo to production

A demo is basically a draft recording of a song, before it gets more fully fleshed out during the production process. Before contacting a producer, I completed my demo with the help of my music teacher, Lisa Crawley, who had been teaching me piano since the beginning of the pandemic. She walked me through every aspect of the process, and for some of my lessons she taught me how to use Logic Pro! I used to run down to  my car to record one of the verses on my phone, then run back and upload it. The car was the only quiet place where you couldn’t hear my kids banging around in the background. 

The producer she connected me with - Alistair Deverick, was super awesome - a real empath. He seemed to have musical answers for everything I was thinking.  I found the process quite magical, and I came away realising how important it is that any songwriter finds a compatible producer!

Before starting, we pulled up lots of references from Regina Spektor, who is a big influence of mine. Apart from choosing a similar instrument set to one of her songs and recording my voice, he also had this cool idea to record snippets of my kids laughing and talking.  In Regina Spektor’s “On the Radio” song, the music video is set in a school and the kids are so charming.  We put my kids’ voices throughout the song, and I love how it turned out.  Thanks Regina! :)

What did you learn along the way?

The most challenging part of the whole process was being brave enough to sing. You can hear the nervousness in my voice in the earlier takes, but by the end of it I was more confident and my kids’ voices on the song was the perfect final touch.   I learnt to just try to push the self-doubt aside, and hey if you don’t like it you can always do another take!

As I mentioned, I also learnt that there are SO many parallels between the music world and the design world. Being new to the process, it was such a handy shortcut for me to understand what we were actually doing at each stage. At one point, I said to the producer, is this like the design world where we make wireframes before we go and add the visual pass? And he said yes that's exactly what it’s like!

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