Often times, as a songwriter or musician, the songs we create are first created in our mind. We have a vision for them far in advance to us actually booking studio time. Such was the case with Ben and Nina Carpenter. Well, Ben more than Nina. And if you know Ben and Nina, that’s funny, because Ben has never released music of his own and Nina has a history recording albums and even touring.
Ben came to me with the idea of creating a Christmas album. He had sketched out three ideas that were new arrangements of old Christmas songs. We brainstormed the project a little and after he convinced Nina about it (which is funny if you knew them), we started working.
BEN’S ARRANGEMENTS: Good Arrangements = Good Songs
I have always believed good songs start with good arrangements. When I hear songs for the first time, my primary job is to ask myself one questions:
- What would make this song better?
There are lot’s of other derivative questions to that broader question like:
- Is the song too long? Is it not long enough?
- Are the chords too repetitive?
- Is the chorus or main section memorable?
- Is this the right key for the client’s voice...
Often times, when I ask those questions, there is a lot of work to do. With this project though, Ben had done a really good job of coming up with the initial ideas and I didn’t need to chisel much.
We added a few chord ideas, made sure the tempos were going to work well, found the best keys for the song, and then started hard, working on the scratch tracks.
Here is a timelapse of us in the studio creating the initial building blocks of the EP (music on the timelapse is from the album).
NINA’S VOCALS: The star of the show
Ben has a great voice, especially since I didn’t know he could sing for the longest time (I thought he only was a drummer at our church; the first time he sang I was very surprised). But Nina is an experienced professional singer. She has history as a recording artist on a music label many years ago and has performed many times. She has a rich history of music experience.
While Ben had the ideas, and the passion to lead the project, Nina’s voice pretty much stole the show.
When we started adding her parts to the tracks, it made them really good. You know singers are really good when you turn on the pitch correcting software and you don’t even need to correct anything. Her voice is very smooth, and she has so much control.
Her version of ‘Silent Night’ is a stand-out piece. You can hear a small a capella clip below:
COLLABORATION ALWAYS WINS: Not My ‘Producer Stamp’
I didn’t start an audio business to put my ‘producer stamp’ on everything that I got to work on. I don’t think about making each song sound like me.
What I think about is getting the best I can out of the people with whom I work. I feel like the more people there are to collaborate and work with, the better the project will be.
Ben and Nina wanted something that sounded traditional, but a little outside of the Christmas Holiday box. Each song took on a very interesting and unique flavor based on the three of us working together. We would throw ideas out and build on the best ones. As a producer, I have to be open minded to hear what each person is saying and try to enhance those ideas.
MORE THAN MUSIC: Defend The Orphan with CoreLuv
I am extremely proud of the EP that we created. One Fifty Media House produced, recorded, mixed, and mastered it. Even more than that, I am proud that 100% of the donations from this work go to support an organization called CORELUV. Their motto is “Defend The Orphan” and we really support what they are doing in the world.
This project was released last year for last year’s Christmas season, but Christmas music never gets old. Download these songs if you have not and add them to your playlist for this year. Christmas is right around the corner!...or at least that’s what my six year old keeps telling me…