Studio Diary: Lauren Flaherty

I began 2011 snowed in with Imogen Heap.  Well, not really.  It’s more accurate to say I started the year hiding from the back-to-back snowstorms clobbering Boston since Boxing Day.  Like any good New Englander, I grabbed some Bailey’s, then curled up to watch “Everything In-Between: The Story of Ellipse” a documentary detailing Heap’s latest album.  Scenes of Heap recording independently in her remodelled childhood playroom inspired me to attempt my own home recording.  If it worked, I would have a new EP in my hands made on a shoe-string budget.  If it failed, I’d at least stave off Winter Madness for a week or two.

I hadn’t meant to record most of the album on my own.  I’d  actually led a successful day of recording basics (drums and bass played by Fabio Pirozzolo and Jason Prokorym) at New Alliance in November.  While I loved the live drum sound we achieved, I was restricted by my tight budget (and desire to stay indoors).  I was also concerned about playing the bulk of the guitar parts on my own for the first time.  I wanted to be patient with them, not worrying about the clock or feeling self-conscious about anyone hearing a bad take.

Since I wasn’t sure how things would work out, I kept my investment in gear to a minimum: I purchased a M-Audio Fast-Track and used it to record my Fender Strat through my Pod.  It felt pretty strange to spend my nights watching adolescents give YouTube tutorials about Garageband, but fortunately the FBI did not seem concerned.

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After about 40 hours of tracking over a few weeks, I began experimenting with vocals by recording on the same mic I use for live shows, a Sure Beta 58.  Despite not being an engineer or having an expensive microphone, I was surprised to discover the vocals came out well.  Not having to travel and being able to chose what days to sing or not sing based on how my voice felt (a major perk during cold and flu season) made a huge difference.  It was also liberating to do my own edits since I know my vocal abilities and limitations better than anyone.

The extra time I spent began to pay off as the vocals grew to have an electronic flavor, spicing up the energetic rock basics.  I found myself taking new risks, letting things marinate and not being afraid to go back to the drawing board.  As the weeks went on, recording at home became not only productive, but an exciting way to spend winter weekends.

I continued to embrace new technologies and telecommuted what I couldn’t do on my own.  I downloaded Greg Massi’s guitar solo through Sendspace.  I asked Facebook friends to suggest songs for inspiration when I was stumped.  I tweeted about misadventures in my home studio and received encouragement.  I even made mixing decisions over email.

My new EP, tentatively scheduled for a summer release, is entering the mixing phase.  I am excited about the increased post-production budget I can now afford.  I can’t wait to share the results online and at shows.  I know the challenges of stepping up as a guitarist, engineer and producer have been worth it because of two things: I don’t feel burned out and the early mixes RAWK.

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