Finally, the right way to finding the right singer.


We’ve all heard the phrase “the singer not the song” and I believe it. The right singer can transform a good song into a great one and a mediocre song into something tolerable. Conversely, the wrong singer can sink a masterpiece into the muck of mediocrity. But how does one go about finding singers? For me, this has been an on-going Holy Grail-style quest, as I am always on the earout for good vocalists, wait, make that extraordinary vocalists. And I’ve been lucky. I’ve found Josh Fix, Larkin Gayl, Dave Brogan, Jeff Tuttle, RodDammit, Elliot Randall and Heather Combs. But my process is haphazard, at best. I simply ask friends and then listen to a track or two. Then I try to imagine a singer’s voice on a song and if I like what I “hear”, I book studio time. I never actually meet with singers FIRST, then record. Stupid, no? Well, in my defense, until recently, my health issues coupled with other stuff simply did not allow for much in the way of rehearsing.

Recently, however, one song has defied two singers and four recording sessions. In each case, it was a combination of vocal style and lyric choices, so each session, while not yielding a final take did yield a lot of learning. First I started with Larkin Gayl, but our session was rushed, I was ill-prepared and not feeling well and the lyrics were just wrong. Then I enlisted Dave Brogan, but technical difficulties killed the mood of the session and though I had made substantial changes to the lyric, the words still did not resonate. Another rewrite, another session, this time Blue fucking Angels we’re flying over SF and the noise was overwhelming. Besides, the lyrics still weren’t right. Jaime and I did our best to rescue the session with some effects and EQ, but to no avail. Then I mused out load, “Do you think Elliot could sing this?” Neither one of us was sure.

I went home from that last session and listened to the song yet again, took another pass at the lyrics, rethought some of the melody choices and finally felt ready to foist the song on Elliot. Only this time, we would meet first and go over it, talk about it, make sure it fit his range, his style, make sure he was into it.

Elliot stopped by just after the sun at had set. Catherine was still at work, so we had the run of the apartment and after sharing thoughts in the kitchen on songwriting and the music business in general, we headed to the living room, where I picked up The Maton (praise be!) and handed Elliot some lyrics. From the very first line, I knew he was right. Encouraged, I asked him to sing one other song and this one too just bloomed.

Recording is set for Monday. The singer has been found.

PS - Yes, this means the album will have one more song than planned!