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  • Writer's pictureArlanna Snow

EXCEPTIONal Collaboration

Updated: Jun 18, 2019

August 11, 2013

A songwriter's first collaboration may not come as easy or as utterly enjoyable as mine did with Boston's popular singer/songwriter, Louie Bello. Other than the fact that he's been a BMA Nominee more than once, is currently a Hollywood Media Award Nominee for 2013 and puts on one hell of a show - Louie is one of the most talented, dedicated, nicest guys you'll ever meet.

Let me start from the beginning. The birth of my latest release, Exception, went a little something like this: It was the dead of nite and I was sound asleep. I woke myself up with my own voice - I was partially humming, partially mumbling the phrase "with the exception of you" to this sort of haunting melody. Before it slipped away from me, like it has so many times,  I grabbed my phone (thank you again, voice memo app) and groggily recorded myself. I listened back the next morning and, apart from my sleepy voice I had a feeling that it was going to be one of my favorites. Lately I had been thinking about the formula for a happy life. I was always pretty confident that if you had your health, a supportive family, a loyal group of friends and the strength to pursue a dream, you were good; sunshine and rainbows would follow you wherever you went. Well, not exaaaactly. You may get that stubborn black cloud that looms overhead like I did, that one that blocks out that one last ray. In (unfortunately large amounts of) time, however, I learned this: figure it out and let it go before it consumes you.

I sat at my trusty (and a little rusty) piano and played it out. At the risk of sounding like a total cheese ball, those five mins were more therapeutic than I would bet any person could get from 25 sessions at their local psychiatrist. I'm not knocking therapy, I'm just saying - there are lots of ways to feel better and music--more specifically, this song--was mine.

This song was so much a part of me and more personal than anything I'd ever written before that I decided I would carry it around with me for awhile, nurturing it and helping it grow like a parent would their own child. I knew that whatever happened with it, it already was the best thing I'd done so far. When I showed it to Steve Catizone, my producer, he seemed to understand it instantly - in its entirety. That's the great thing about Steve - I don't need to explain anything. He just hears its potential in the first few notes and runs with it. It is important to mention here that my producer and I had the same idea for this song: a different vocalist - a male vocalist - would fit right into the current music world. I'd been toying with the idea for a very long time, listening to a ton of different local vocalists, not totally committing myself to it yet until I heard Louie Bello's song "Chasing Rainbows." And so began my first collaboration.

My first recording session with Louie was, to put it mildly: FUN. Fun for me is watching an artist who believes in their work and does it well without trying. Not only did Louie sing my song effortlessly, he sang it with so much emotion and passion you could almost swear he was saying goodbye to the most important person in his life, right there at the mic in the middle of Serenity East's live room. He is THAT good. Not only was I the songwriter, but before Louie I was also the vocalist. We had only one recorded version of Exception and it was my demo. Now, for this first session with Louie, I was standing in as producer (my producer was in his LA studio at the time). I was a little unsure of how it would all go, but Louie made it easy. He took every note that I had and did me 10 better. Louie is such a professional, 100% committed to his work and it shows. In just two short sessions the vocals were complete - and simply amazing.

When Steve completed a pretty awesome mix and sent it over I was floored. I couldn't stop listening to it. I kept thinking - wow, is this really my song? - and the funny thing is it wasn't that different from the original, it was just better. It was almost up to its full potential. I say almost because I felt it was still missing something that ended up being, other than Louie's sweet vocals, my very favorite part of this track -- the cello. I happen to be with a producer who works with some of the greatest musicians out there. One of them, Irina Chirkova, a Bulgarian cellist who has been playing since the age of five, has one of the most impressive resumes I've ever seen. She studied at The Boston Conservatory, won countless cello competitions all over the world, performed at the Grammy's with superstar Carrie Underwood, the Latin Grammy's, American Idol and much, much more. She is currently a member of Celine Dion's orchestra, Sully Erna's (Godsmack) solo band and, well...the list goes on and on. When Steve chose her for my track I was more than a little excited, to say the very least. She recorded at Serenity West studios with Steve in LA. When he sent over a picture of her about to lay it down, the smile on my face could've lit up all of Boston and its suburbs.

Once Steve had all of the ingredients (a guitarist also came in named Michael Woods to record some acoustic stuff that put the finishing touch on the track), he mixed it more than a few times. We worked together in Boston, he worked alone in LA. All the while he kept saying how this song was special. I hoped it was (as a songwriter I've never been more self-conscious) but its the greatest feeling to hear it from your producer who works with crazy talented artists every single day. Months later, after a few more working sessions, five mixes and close to 100 emails, phone calls and texts we were happy at the sixth mix. Not only did I have the official track but I also had an "Unplugged" version as well as the "Instrumental." I can't decide which is my favorite, but they're all amazing for different reasons. I think you'll understand when you hear them.

Before I send this baby out into the world, I thought a lot about how I wanted to release it. For such a special project I felt it needed an equally special cover. As far as I was concerned, the one and only person that could create amazing art out of a simple idea is talented graphic designer Brian Curran of Abacab Designs. When I sent him the song and lyrics his response and analyzation were so thoughtful that I couldn't have explained it any better myself. I was touched that he really spent time so closely listening to and working through Exception. We threw our ideas around and, finally, with all of our thoughts combined, I had a great idea. I sent it to Brian...he loved it, too. He pretty much created a masterpiece, as far as I'm concerned. Its exactly what I pictured in my mind and I'm certain is the best possible album cover for this song.

Thank you to all who helped turn my dream (literally, my dream!) into EXCEPTION. You have officially made this song my most popular and in record time! Please help me to keep it going - share, share, share! The goal for this song was always to sell it to a recording artist once we had the best possible version of it. Someday if it gets the attention and interest that it so deserves I will be ecstatic. For now, though, I think its a pretty solid and rocking track as is.

If you like what you hear, you can hear MORE by purchasing/listening to the Exception single package on any one of your favorite digital music stores: (iTunes, Amazon...etc...) where you will also get the Unplugged version (Louie's voice really shines in this one!) and the Instrumental (Irina's notes are so rich and haunting in it) - you will not be disappointed!

One final thing - please, PLEASE check out Louie Bello, Irina Chirkova, Serenity East and West Recording studios and graphic designer, Brian Curran on their own sites. I only work with the best ;)



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