Monthly Archives: March 2010

Recording Journal Vol. 36: “Collaboration”

I had a lot of fun in our studio sessions this week. It feels like the pressure is off and we’re back to the part I enjoy most: collaborating with K, trying to find what is truly right for a song. We began that way months and months ago, discussing every aspect of every tune until we were satisfied with the arrangements and instrumentation. That took weeks. Months, actually. After that, we hunkered down into recording the “meat and potatoes” of the collection. And while it was still enjoyable, it felt a lot more like work and less like fun.

Things have cycled around. We’re collaborating again. Even though the songs have taken shape, there is still a lot of room for interpretation and that’s when KG and I are at our best. I love exchanging thoughts and ideas. More than that, I love that KG and I consistently settle and agree on what we feel ends up being the best thing for the song, instead of being caught up on who had the idea. I give Kev a lot of credit as a producer. There is no doubt he gets the best out of me. But he is willing to take a suggestion from me too, and together we get great results.

This past week, I was put to the vocal test, singing and recording the harmony lines for “Kevin’s Prayer” (which included singing “Hallelujah” over and over and over and over) and “Orlando.” For the latter, KG and I had one of our classic collaborative discussions. It went something like this:

Me: (Having just finished yet another harmony vocal take) thinking: ‘Hmm. That was good.’

KG: (Through the studio talkback button): “C’mon in here. We’re going to have a chat.”

I arrive in the control room.

KG: “Sit down.”

I sit

KG: “Let’s listen to what we just recorded.”

He plays back the first verse. It gets to the chorus. He stops it. He puts his hand on his chin, and tilts his head just a bit sideways and says: “Now, you can tell me to go to hell if you want.” [A pause] “I’m not sold on these verse harmonies we’ve done. I don’t think it adds anything to the song. What do you think?”

Me: “Umm, well, I guess I’ve always heard the song in my head that way. I’ve been hearing it that way in my mind for eight years. So I always expected we’d record it that way.”

KG: “Okay. That’s okay. I understand that. So let me ask you: now that you’ve heard it, do you think the song needs it?”

Me: “Hmm. Well, I don’t know. Can we listen to it again?”

We listen to it again.

Me: “You know, I’ve always imagined the harmony that way. But now that you’ve pointed it out, I think I see your point.”

KG: “It’s not that it’s wrong or bad. You sang it well. The notes fit. It’s a good harmony. I just don’t think it adds anything to the song. See, the chorus part, it’s great. I don’t think we should try to do too much and take away from the chorus.”

I stay silent.

KG: “Honestly, I think that the extra voice gets in the way of the message you’re trying to deliver with this song. You want to get the message across. Keep it simple and let people hear the message. I don’t think you need this harmony line.”

Me: “Okay. I see your point.”

KG: “Tell you what. We have this recorded. Let’s leave it and then come back and listen to it in a couple days and see how we feel about it.”

That’s what we did. And guess what? He was right. And the good news is, that was a time when he saw it one way and I saw it another, and we ended up going with his suggestion. But a few days later, it was the opposite, as I played engineer while KG sang harmonies for “Hope Over Hurt,” “Sunny Day in November,” “South Carolina” and “Orlando.”

Collaboration. Two minds are better than one.

I love it.

Going forward, it appears we have recruited one of KG’s top students to help us with some other harmonies and possibly even perform with us at the CD release. More about that next week.

Meantime, I’ve booked a few more shows for the summer and agreed with a radio station about debuting two singles from the new CD at the end of April.

And so the CD release approaches and the carnival goes on.

What a kick.

– Kevin

PS – I also had my fun this week by recklessly spending money on a personalized Toronto Maple Leafs jersey and on floor tickets to go see Green Day in August at the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto. Neither are things I need. But I decided that life is short and I want to enjoy it. So when the time comes, you can engrave my headstone with something like this: “Here lies Kevin Bulmer. He went out singing ’21 Guns’ while proudly wearing his Maple Leafs jersey. He was stupid-happy from having followed his passions. Thanks for visiting. Now go do what makes you happy.”

Recording Journal, Vol. 35: “100 Day Challenge”

This past week has been one more of background work and fitness than of playing and recording music. Being the March “break” in this neck of the woods, KG (Kevin Gorman) –a teacher of music himself – had rightfully earmarked this time as some he would take for well-earned R & R. I admit that at first I wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of leaving our recording duties for a week with our release date looming. However that feeling quickly passed. My selfishness dissipated when I thought of how great it would be for Kev to get out of that place for a few days. And he has. Good on him.

I confess the break has been good for me too. I’ve steadily chipped away at the mountain of background work that (in my mind) needs doing before we go to press with the CD. The process of creating the music has taken far longer than I’d hoped, but I can see that it’s been a blessing in a way, as I’ll have built a much stronger foundation and will have a better plan of attack for when the time comes to hit the streets with it. I still fight myself at every turn, wanting to do everything all at once. But I’m slowly getting it into my thick skull that the only one who gives a flip about all that is me, and that it’s okay for me to take my time.

To that end, I’ve made a concerted effort to improve my overall diet and fitness. I’m not trying to be perfect. Just better. And so far, so good. In fact, my wife has somehow roped a whole community of friends and family into what she calls the “100 day challenge,” which started with her suggestion that they all could do 100 sit-ups for 100 days and encourage each other along the way. Within 24 hours, it had morphed and changed into all sorts of people taking up a challenge of their own (not necessarily sit-ups) and deciding to join the strength of the group to help them along.

After a few hours of chuckling at the notion, I realized it was a good opportunity for me too. Why not? So, having already been a couple weeks into an effort to work harder at the gym weekday mornings (I meet my pal Derek there to do my back stretches and play squash), I decided I’d jump into the challenge in my own way: I pledged to alternate doing 50 push-ups and the “plank” for a full 60 seconds every other day.

After the first day of push-ups, my arms were so sore I could hardly swing the racquet at squash the next morning. And the next morning. And the next morning after that! But later in the week, it got a lot easier and I began to feel better. As for the “plank,” 60 seconds may not sound like much, but when you haven’t done much to strengthen your core in a while, it’ll burn if you do it properly. Look it up and try it. And good luck to you.

Coupled with those efforts, I have a three-year-old who decided that he wanted a pair of inline skates (roller blades). I wasn’t so sure about that, since he’d never been on real skates, let alone rollers. But he was adamant so, figuring ‘if you can’t beat ‘em,’ I bought a pair of blades and pads for him, and a pair for me.

Well, wouldn’t you know … the kid took to it right away. We’ve been outside with them every day since, and I’ve taken to “skating” around the neighbourhood, surprised to find that it’s a great help to my back because it truly requires core strength to maintain balance. I never considered that skating (which I’d not done in almost 20 years) would be a good full-body workout. But it is.

We also have been enjoying watching and playing hockey a great deal. I’m very glad for that, as I was rather good at hockey as a youngster and I always loved the game. But then I went through a 15-to-20-year stretch where I quite resented that I was “supposed” to love it just because I was born in Canada. I know, I know: that’s stupid. But the whole thing has come full circle and I have fallen in love with the game again.

The way I figure it, I have a lot going on in the “100 Day Challenge.” Push-ups. Plank. Squash. Inline skating. Commitment to better diet.

And it just so happens that our CD release is within that 100-day window.

So it would seem there are many challenges to be faced in this next 100 days. But I’m up to it. I may not have much new to report from the studio. But things are moving forward. I feel good. I’m happy. And I hope KG is getting the rest he deserves.

More fun times ahead.

– Kevin

Recording Journal Vol. 34: “Another Good Week”

Things seem to be moving along quickly. It’s been two weeks since I stepped aside from my role as weeknight host at BX93 radio and I’ve had no trouble at all filling the time. In fact, the challenge is to not let the cup “runneth over” yet again.

When you’re having fun, it’s hard to know when to say when.

It is Friday night and I suppose I should be full of vim and vigour and looking for excitement. Instead, I’m stifling yawns between sentences. I find that I get more than my fill of challenge and excitement through the week. I’m tired. I will be quite content to finish off this entry and then retire to my couch to watch the final period of our London Knights (OHL hockey) against Windsor’s Spitfires (after two periods, the bad guys are ahead 1-0). After that, a late winter’s nap sounds quite nice. I’m sure the world can spin around without me if I decide to retire early.

KG (Kevin Gorman) and I have made some good progress on the “No Schedule Man” CD since I last wrote. We’ve now captured the lead vocals for all tracks, having recorded several takes for what figures to be the lead track, “Hope Over Hurt,” earlier this week. We then continued on into recording our first round of harmony vocals and have added some layering to “Awake (But Not Alive),” “No Schedule Man” and “Bagley Avenue.” Already those songs are starting to “pop” more. It’s amazing what a little harmony will do if it’s done well and in the right places. It’s one of the things I think people will notice when they hear the record, and that’ll be largely because of KG’s ear for harmony and talent for helping me put my ideas into something that actually sounds good.

A fun part of working out the backing vocals is deciding who should sing them. Interestingly, KG and seem to naturally agree without ever having discussed it. There are some songs where it seems obvious that his voice would be the natural fit, and some where we both agree that I should do it. Then there are others that require three or four-part harmony. Those could all be done by the same voice or be a mix of voices. It all depends on the sound you’re looking for.

And then there is the stuff that KG and I cannot do without help. We both agree that we need and want a female voice for certain parts in songs like “Hope Over Hurt,” “Kevin’s Prayer,” “Awake (But Not Alive)” and maybe even “Orlando.” Luckily, we’ve got several good options in terms of talented people to bring in to help out.

I’ve been in touch with one talented young lady I hope to have sing on the CD in two particular spots. I’ve been hearing her voice on those songs in my mind for months and it would be neat if she can do it. I’ll let you know later on whether it happens and, if so, if it works out or not.

When I’ve not been at the studio, KG has been working hard at editing, mixing and re-recording parts of his (piano, percussion, etc). It’s an enormous amount of work and he’s doing such a great job. It will be a wonderful celebration for us both once the CD is actually finished. I cannot begin to express how truly grateful I am for the chance to collaborate with Kev. It is a privilege.

Away from the studio, a lot of the critical “behind the scenes” work is on-going. CD artwork is being worked out. Duplication company quotes are coming in. Promotional calls are going out (and coming back in). Websites are being developed (Reverb Nation profile) and re-worked (www.kevinbulmer.com). Merchandise is being designed. New logos, images and texts are being created for promotional use. And of course, the CD release event plans are moving forward.

After chipping away at this very steadily a time or two a week for the last nine months, it is suddenly all feeling very real. And it’s a hoot.

I’d love to have you come along for the ride. Please feel welcome to visit my new, still-under-construction profile at Reverb Nation (www.reverbnation.com/kevinbulmer).

Meantime, KG and I will keep chipping away. We’re up to number 3 on the Reverb Nation Folk chart for this area, and all the way up to 1,188th in the world (all together now: “We’re 1,188th! We’re 1,188th!). Imagine what could happen when we actually have some new music to share and start playing real live shows again?

We’ll be featured on the Local Spotlight on CKXS FM (99.1) Radio in Wallaceburg the week of April 26, culminated by a live in-studio interview and performance on the 30th. We expect to have a new single or two out for that time, which would also be a great chance to launch our “Street Team,” which will happen soon.

And of course, we’ve got a CD release show to plan. Experience tells me that’ll be here sooner than I think.

Anyway, the Knights just tied the game (now 1-1 in the third). Best go grab some couch and see if the lads can make it 100 points on the season for the sixth time in seven years. Quite remarkable, really.

You never know what you can achieve once you set your mind to it.

Be well,

Kevin

Recording Journal, Vol. 33: “Movin’ Right Along”

Presently I am listening to Will Kimbrough’s “Another Train.” It is such a great melody, it makes me feel like running around the block and howling at the moon.

But I digress.

I am pleased to report that KG and I are once again ripping it up. We pushed through three recording sessions this week, our first since prior to Christmas. Kev is doing well and his studio is up and running and that = renewed momentum for us.

This week, KG made me sing the song “Orlando” until I was ready to puke. Monday? Orlando. Tuesday? Orlando. Friday? Orlando. Good thing I like the song, otherwise I’d never want to go to that city again.

In fairness, Kev is just trying to get the best out of me. That’s a tough job, because there’s not much to “get.” But I am doing my best. I figure that’s all I can do, and then next time I’ll do better. I suppose time will tell.

In between multiple vocal takes of “Orlando,” I also sang six or seven takes of “No Schedule Man” on Tuesday night. I fear KG is going to ask me to sing it again this coming Tuesday, but if he does I’ll know it’s because he’s trying to get the best out of me

Or possibly he’s trying to torture me.

We also got the guitar recorded for the song “Hope Over Hurt” this week. I’m relieved to be able to say that as I had been stressing a little bit over the potential for me to kack that song. But if Kev thinks it’s good enough, then I’m satisfied. So we’ll move on to singing it next.

Meantime, there are all sorts of “behind the scenes” things going on. This week I met with the venue owner of the place where we’ll probably do our CD release. I also got “No Schedule Man” registered on CD Baby with a tentative release date of June 15th. That was done so I could get the bar code to put on the CD artwork, which I delivered to my great good pal Jeff from CPT Entertainment so that he can help me with that end of it.

Work has also been done on creating some “No Schedule Man,” “Kevin Bulmer Enterprises” and “Hope Over Hurt” merchandise and I look forward to sharing news of that with you soon.

A very special thanks goes to all those who have already voiced their support. I am grateful beyond words. It truly feels as though you are willing this train up the hill so that KG and I may take our ideas of hope and togetherness to the streets and try to make whatever positive difference we can. Thank you so very much.

In other important news, I enjoyed watching Canada’s men’s hockey team win the Olympic gold medal the other day with my mates Ken Alward and Grandpa Big Dog, along with my two boys. Both my kids are excited about hockey and I’m doing little to discourage them. Playing out on the driveway is great fun and brings back wonderful memories.

In fact, just last night I took my three-year-old pal to his first-ever hockey game, an OHL tilt won by our London Knights, 5-2 over Kitchener. Great times. Lucky dad.

As for music, we started this project last June. We are poised to finally share it this coming June. To say that I am proud would be a ridiculous understatement.

You’ll be hearing from us.

Be good,

– Kevin

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