This post was originally published on Zencha Music.
I recently had an interesting experience recording a song. The artist – who I’d worked with in the past and had seen play live several times – was dragging the song. And not just a little bit. It was dragging a lot. It was a completely different creative direction.
So after recording a couple of takes and listening back together, I pointed it out. And he was genuinely surprised. He hadn’t realised it at all. It was plainly obvious when I played a previous recording of the song – recorded only a few weeks prior. So we got talking about what was happening, and it turned out he had a pretty good idea.
It turned out he’d written the song for a girlfriend from whom he’d recently separated. And while the earlier recording of the song had an optimistic and earnest character, these current takes were much more subdued and bittersweet.
With this knowledge, we tried another take, this time trying to give the song some if its original lift. We got about halfway there, but the artist felt that he couldn’t deliver an authentic performance that came from an inauthentic feeling. And I think that’s true in general.
You can’t deliver an authentic performance from an inauthentic feeling.
If you’re the performer, you have to feel it. If you’re the producer, you have to make sure your performer is feeling it. It’s your job to help them find that feeling and bring it out through the music. And it’s your job to know how close you are to it and to know how to get the performer over the line.
And it’s your job to know when it’s not going to happen that day.
Fortunately the artist in my session wasn’t on a strict timeline. We chose to reconvene at a later date. Sometimes it’s better to prioritise the performance over the schedule.
Sometimes it’s better to wait.