Behind the Scenes Look at The Lullaby Album

I know I keep saying “We’re almost done”.  But this time I really do mean it…

Lullaby Album Cover copy

Out of the 14 tracks going on the album (14 X 2 since it is a dual set), 13 of them are mixed and mastered.  So we are waiting on one more, and then the final master copy will have to be mailed to us.  After that, we will head to Disc Makers and place an order for production, probably by the end of next week.

I have to say, I’m absolutely thrilled to have this project near completion. Not only because it’s been a lot of hard work, but moreso because I’m so excited for you all to hear it.  I really believe in this album with all of my heart.

The Idea

The idea for this album came to me while I was out for a walk on a beautiful day last summer with my then 2 month old son in the stroller. (I always seem to get the best ideas when I’m going for walks).  As I walked, and walked the ideas just started flooding my head.  I started thinking about how perfect a project it would be for me since I just became a mother and felt like I was getting real hands-on experience in the lullaby department with Preston, and how non-stressful it would be compared to the sort of music I normally compose.  And then the idea of inviting my mom to be part of the project hit me as well, and I then got very excited.  We’d always talked about doing something together, but never knew quite what since we have quite diffrent styles of music.   And what could be more perfect – than writing lullabies together as a mother/daughter team?

The original ideas behind this project was that it would be released digitally on Cdbaby, and the nature of the recordings would be simple enough that the album could be put together rather quickly.  We were thinking along the lines of just Solo Piano.  We figured that by the time we had composed all of the music and recorded it in solo piano format, we could have the project done by the end of 2008.  No problem.

Well, and then the project evolved.

Both of put our hearts and souls into this music.  Every song was carefully crafted with the idea of evoking a peaceful atmosphere.  Some songs were scratched, some were re-written, some were re-structured until they were perfect for the goal of this album. 

The more we committed ourselves to the songs and to the project, the more we felt that these songs were not truly representing us as the musicians without orchestration.

But as we wanted to keep the songs quiet and simple, in the beginning, we only added a string section here, a cello there…

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But as we worked on each song, the orchestrations grew in intensity and emotional timbre with each new song we tackled.  So really, the project kept evolving as time went by.  It was no longer just a solo piano project.  In fact, when you listen to the songs that were composed towards the end of production compared to the ones at the beginning, you can hear the growth and direction the music started taking.  Some of these songs were influenced by personal experiences that only happened towards the end.  The death of a beloved father/Grandfather, the hospitilzation of a dear friend, a special starry night with a special baby…all bringing out emotional responses in our music that otherwise might not have occured. 

 A Dual CD

Because of the way the project evolved, we wondered if perhaps the songs were no longer fitting for bedtime because of the intensity and growth some of them had.  This is when we decided to produce a dual-CD set so that there was one disc with just the Solo Piano versions, and a second disc all with the full orchestrations.  I won’t lie, this decision was not an easy one to make because of the expense it would put on the project (it nearly doubled our cost). We ended up asking for the opinions of friends and family which, in a way, confused us only more as the answers all varied so much.  There were many people who preferred Solo Piano only, many who wanted both, and many who prefered the orchestrations. My mother and I (and our spouses) experienced a good week filled with miscommunicated feelings, disagreements, and some hurt feelings as we could not happily agree on what to do with the album (to keep it a single CD or to a dual set)…to the point where we both wondered if working together was ever a good idea from the start. 

I guess though if that was the only week of true stress on the project, then that is pretty good for two family members working together. 🙂

After a little break from the album, my mom and I regrouped and decided that we needed to do this how we felt it should be done despite what other people thought.  We both are not typically Solo Piano-only artists. Thus, we both felt that the orchestrations displayed our songs to their truest nature and how we have always heard them in our heads from the moment they were conceived.  But we also felt that the orchestrations were too much for babies and children to be lulled to sleep, and thus the decision was made to produce a dual-CD.

Perfectionism in Artistry

A good friend and fellow artist told me while working on this project, that she needed to be sure to get her parts exactly right because I was “a perfectionist and very nit-picky, in a good way.”  Well no one had ever told me this before and I certainly did not think of myself this way. There are plenty of times when I’m working on a song and feel too lazy to fix something that needs fixing.  But when it comes to an album, yes I suppose I do want to be sure everything is “just right”.music3 copy

But it hasn’t been just me, on this album.  My mother as well.  There were many times when we spent a good 8 hours working in the studio on a song, had it finished, edited, and had a rough mix put together and she would say “I think there needs to be a bigger ritard towards the end of the second verse, can we add that in?”.  At which point, I would roll my eyes and grumble something under my breath because it meant we had to go back into the midi files and start completely over again, usually another 4 – 6 hours of work. 

But that type of scenario happened a lot throughout this project on both of our ends.  We really put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into this to make everything just the way it needed to sound.  Our poor engineer, Paul Speer, has re-done several tracks for us until perfection was obtained, which sometimes again meant we had to go back and fix things on our end.

Angels

There is one song in particular going on the album that really shows the caliber of music we were going for with this project.  Unseen Angel is a piece written by my Mom for the album, and this song actually only came about after she thought she had already finished writing all of her tracks. 

A friend of her and my dad’s had gone into the hospital and came close to death, and survived the experience through miracles and angels.  The song is absoluletly stunning as a piano solo, and is one of the more heartfelt songs on the album – full of emotion and sincerity.  But when you hear the Orchestrated version, you will understand the song even more fully.  We asked Jace Vek  to orchestrate this song, and what he did with it was so moving that tears were brought to my mom’s eyes the first time she heard the result.  A full 80 piece sampled orchestra was used and listening to you truly feel as though you are sitting in a live concert hall and you are feeling these emotions and truly…it is just so moving.  I had to edit almost 50 different tracks for that song alone, and was so grateful to have an experienced engineer like Paul Speer who has mixed full orchestras numerous times.

A Feeling…

I have to tell you that in the process of composing, recording, and producing this album, that I tested each and every song out on my little baby boy, Preston.  You have to know first of all that he was the inspiration behind this album.  The little guy has never been a fantastic sleeper and was also very cholicy those first few months.  The evenings in our home were often filled with the sound of a crying newborn who refused to go to sleep and it was the simple lullabies that I played on the piano for him that lulled him into a peaceful state.

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In particular, as we have been nearing the completion of this album, I have been making rough mixes of all the songs in thier finished and polished state and playing them for him.  I can’t even begin to express how strongly I feel about the music on this album.  And I don’t say that because I feel like we are so great and talented, but because these songs were definitely inspired and influenced by a greater power than ourselves and everytime I listen to what has been created, I get an overwhelming feeling of…gosh….so many things; of peace, tranquility, hope, faith, LOVE, I could go on and on.  And to see the effect it has on Preston too – he calms down and listens.

When I released my first album, Key of Sea,  I was really nervous.  I wasn’t sure how it would be received.  And though I am very proud of my work on that album, I knew there were a few tracks going on there that were written more for me than the listening pleasure of others.  So I would say I was confident that about 85 – 90% of the album would be received well and liked.  And I was right.  🙂 

But how I feel about the impending release of The Lullaby Album is completely different. I have such confidence and faith in this album.  100%.  There isn’t a single song going on this album that I don’t think is going to be loved and appreciated.  And I’m ecstatic for everyone to finally get to listen to it. 🙂  And I have to say I’m especially excited that this album is for adults as well as children.  It is truly unique to other lullaby albums. I hope that people are pleasantly surprised.

– Jennifer

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2 responses to “Behind the Scenes Look at The Lullaby Album

  1. I love the new blog, Jenni. :o) And I can’t wait for the Lullaby Album, either.

    And hooray for ditching MySpace . . . now I can just grab the rss feed! :o)

  2. After being swept away by the beauty and richness of the Key of Sea album, I played The Lullaby Album for the first time. It is absolute perfection from beginning to end. It certainly isn’t just for infants as adults will be enriched by the orchestrated CD. But the bonus CD is an inspired addition. One just cannot get enough of this young woman’s talents!

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