With all the guitar parts and most of the bass parts done, I devoted my third full studio day to recording vocals. I'm sure I'm not alone in finding vocal recording the most nerve-wracking part of the process. Capturing a good performance--one that is not only technically solid (in tune, in time) but fits the mood and tells the story of the song--is such an important part of what makes a recording succeed with listeners. But there are so many things that can go wrong, whether it's an unexpected cold, too little sleep or too much stress, not quite enough practice on a song that has changed tempo or key from the way you're used to, etc.
Given all that, I faced the microphone at the start of the day with some trepidation. Thankfully, my voice felt good from the start. And, just as importantly, we tackled the songs in a good order, beginning with two songs I know well and that fit comfortably in the my range ("Desert Stars" and "Friday Morning"). From there, we moved on to "I Don't Know," another song in a good range, although one where phrasing is particularly important. All three went quickly, with relatively limited necessity to go back and fix lines that hadn't gone quite right.
At this point, we gave my voice a break and spent a little time recording a new guitar track for "When We Remember When." During the recording of Jordan's violin part the night before, Eric and I had both realized the original part lacked the energy and bounce we wanted the song to have. After a few attempts, we got a part that had the feeling we wanted and were ready to go back to vocals.
By this time, I was definitely warmed up, so we tackled the vocal for "When We Remember When," which is considerably higher than the songs we had done earlier. This one took a while--in addition to some high notes, the song has spaces and turns in the melody that are musically interesting, but can be hard to make sound natural. And I was also singing against a new guitar part, which somewhat changed the mood that I was trying to match. In the end, I think it turned out very well, but by the time we were done, my voice was beginning to feel the strain.
Hoping to take advantage of what had generally been a very good day for singing, we tried a couple of spot fixes on songs we had recorded during prior sessions, including a new bridge for "Down to the Waterfall," but enough roughness had crept into my voice that it didn't really match what we had done before. So we closed out the day with work on two songs--the old-school country "Talk is Just Talk" and gospel "Arms Wide Open" in which a little raggedness/roughness fit right in. "Talk is Just Talk" would have been easy but for one long, long phrase in which it is hard to find the opportunity to get enough breath to finish strong.
I finally got it right, though, and we then made two runs through "Arms Wide Open." This song started out as a soft folk number, but after Florie Namir sent me her take on the song--a dramatic, slowed-down version with a gospel feel--Eric and I went in that direction. Below is a link to the first take to give you an idea where the song is headed. After that, Eric burned all the songs we'd worked on to disk so I could listen to them at home. All in all, it was an extremely productive and enjoyable day in the studio!