Snow & Rain Collaborate
November 10, 2015
Who can forget New England's Snowmageddon 2015? Not me, that's for sure. Not only did we break the record for snow amount totals in New England (over 110 inches, Harvey Leonard recently reminded me), but it appropriately marked the beginning craziness of "I Wasn't Crazy."
About a year ago my Dad and I took a ninety-minute (normally forty-five minute) ride into our snow globe of a city. We were greeted with absolutely no parking on Newbury Street and no snow removal from the sidewalk ramps. Dad and two very kind strangers picked me and my 300-pound wheelchair up and over the snow piles all for a thirty-five minute listening session with Steve Catizone, producer on this and other songs of mine, at Cybersound's Studio B. Then it was ninety-plus minutes back home. "Lana," Dad said, "maybe you could make it a video chat next snowstorm?" He didn't really mind all that much. My Dad secretly loves our adventures, not to mention it gave him something to complain about for the next few weeks. "...then, we turn on to Newbury and wouldn't you know, they plowed ALL of the snow to one side of the street! Not ONE parking spot. Not one!" You're welcome, Dad.
That frigid February day I played three song demos for Steve. The first was a definite no, "not feeling it." Second song sparked a bit more interest and a "mmhmm...okay, we could definitely do something cool with this." Neither one of us was sold on it, though. Finally, after much trepidation, I hit play on the third and final demo I had with me. "I Wasn't Crazy," originally titled "Air U Breathe," was a song I wasn't sure I was ready to dive into quite yet as it tells about a hurt that I know I will never get over. Even though I had listened to my demo more than a thousand times, it felt like I was listening to it for the first. Hearing notes I forgot I played, listening to words I forgot I chose; the song was both risky and bold coming from me. When it was over I looked up at Steve who was wearing that familiar, wide-open, light-behind-his-eyes look. "This is the one," he said. I knew he was right. It was time.
Beginning work on this song wasn't easy, to say the least. While my main concern was how soon we could schedule our next session, Steve's was making the big move back east. After years of producing artists in L.A. he was returning to his roots, as well as closing up shop at his Boston studio, Sanctum Sound - my favorite place on earth. If you follow my blog, you know how much I loved that underground haven. If you know me, you know that I absolutely abhor change, especially when it prevents me from making music. Put those two things together, add in my "straight-jacket" song and I was truly a joy to be around for the next few months.
Deciding where to go from that point -- Should I work with someone new? Could I handle the difficult feelings that came with working on this song? Would I have time to take on another project while I waited? -- was a challenge. Fortunately, other music projects did fit perfectly inside this time slot and made the days pass quickly. Before I knew it, June had arrived and Steve was back. We were finally able to have our first recording session for "I Wasn't Crazy." With Sanctum Sound now gutted and filled with cubicles (ouch, it hurts to even think about), we tried somewhere new. It wasn't pretty. I'll say this, the ride wasn't...bad. Exact location and name will remain undisclosed, however. If you'd stepped foot into Sanctum Sound for thirty seconds then followed it up with this place? You would cry, too. Sanctum Sound has ruined me as far as recording studios go. #Truth. We did get back on track, no pun intended.
The work we managed in that first session, despite having only one horribly static-filled speaker available, was enough to help me put aside my four-months of pent-up frustration and get very excited about finding the perfect vocalist. "Crazy" was heading down an R&B avenue and, because I was so close to the song, we felt a male singer with a killer falsetto would be ideal.
Usually we spend a lot more time building the production before we are ready for a vocalist. This time was different. This song actually needed the vocalist to even find the rest of it's layers. I was settling in for what I thought would be a long few days (weeks?) of listening to and looking for singers, (one of my most favorite parts of this process) and then, well, this happened:
12:00 p.m. - Ear buds in, clicked on YouTube app, searched "male R&B vocalist."12:01 p.m. - A gazillion search results appeared. Started at the top with plans of working my way down, one by one.12:02 p.m. - Clicked on the first video; somebody named Yuni Rain singing a cover of Nick Jonas's song "Push." 12:04 p.m. (-ish) - Search over.
Four minutes. It's rare, I know, but there's this feeling you get when, after a few hurdles, the stars decide they're going to align for you. That's what happened when I heard Yuni Rain for the first time. I went into my usual stalker mode following Yuni on all of his social media pages. Not only did Yuni have the voice (holy shhhh did he have the voice!), but he had this incredible way of connecting with every lyric he sang whether they were his or someone else's. His levels of emotion transfixed me. That's how I knew. At this point if I wasn't able to get this guy to sing my song, I wasn't doing the song, period. The scariest moment for me was when I saw where Yuni lived. New Jersey. Not quite the hop, skip and jump I was hoping for. And here I am complaining about my ninety-minute ride into Boston, tsk, tsk. My Mom has always said to me since I was a wee tot "Please don't get your hopes up, Lana. I hate to see you disappointed!" Too late, Mom. I was either going to Jersey, or Jersey was coming to me.
After e-communicating for a few weeks, Yuni and I decided to "meet" over FaceTime to discuss the song and a possible plan. We ended up talking for hours. I can't explain just how fantastic it is to talk "songwriter" with another person without getting that glazed over, shut-the-hell-up-already look. In between conversation, Yuni serenaded me with my song and many of his own. He has mountains upon mountains of talent - not just singing, but writing and producing, too. We probably could've spent days discussing our songwriting pet peeves and techniques, sharing the meanings behind each other's lyrics and teaching each other Boston/Jersey slang, but we decided to continue it at our upcoming session. That's right -- Yuni and I officially became collaborators on "I Wasn't Crazy." Cray-cray, right?! He was looking forward to spending some time (his first visit!) in Boston (Dad was only a little relieved that he didn't have to trek me to Jersey) and I began counting down the days to his arrival.
Despite the fact that Cybersound's Studio B, where we ended up recording and completing "I Wasn't Crazy," doesn't hold a candle to Sanctum Sound, Yuni Rain, Steve Catizone and I had a pretty epic session. Making music with these two is an experience like no other. I watched in fascination as the two of them infused my song with their own magical, musical brews. We spent hours creating, talking, singing, laughing and listening to music. We forgot that the outside world even existed, at least I did. I didn't even think about food for a solid eight hours! That's pretty much unheard of for me. The Snow/Rain recording session is one that will go down in history. It will be encased in a lighted glass box in the Songwriting Hall of Fame Museum...in my mind.
After months of mixing (the most torturous part of this entire process), tweaking and mixing again, we reached the version of "I Wasn't Crazy" that made me stop and say "Okay, now I can hear it on the radio." I set my goals high for my songs, I know, but it's just what I do.
Away on a Girls Weekend in November, almost nine months since we started this project, we were in bumper-to-bumper traffic in the middle of Providence. My friends felt strongly that there was no better time but the present to listen to my new song. "C'mon, Lana! Let us be the first to hear it!" Peer pressure, girls? Really? I took a deep breath and prepared myself for the very familiar symptoms of F.L.A. (First Listen Anxiety): layer of sweat across my forehead and down my back, heart palpitations, inside cheek-chewing, hair twirling, nervous eyebrow twitching. But guess what? None of that happened this time. Instead, I listened along with them, not through them, to every note, every word Yuni sang and how Steve weaved it so perfectly together and I just smiled. It was different, yes, maybe even one of those songs you have to listen to a few times to decide if it's worthy of your playlist. More importantly, it was a chunk of my life that caused a bitch of a storm inside of my soul for so many years. However, on that unseasonably warm November night, surrounded by my girlfriends inside of my minivan, I felt like I could finally begin to let it all go.
Over the last few months "I Wasn't Crazy" was officially released by debuting on British radio station The Radio Alternative with DJ Matt Barker, got a lyric video (made by yours truly) and received additional airplay on Boston's Hit Music station: Mix 104.1, thanks to DJ Matthew Reid. It may not be my most "popular" song, but it is a personal success in that it was necessary for healing purposes, a musical success in that I met and was given the chance to work with an extremely rare talent named Yuni Rain. Do yourself a favor and watch his videos on his YouTube Page. There's no doubt in my mind that you will be just as taken with his talent as I was (and continue to be).
Stay tuned - 2016 is bringing some changes and always, always more music!