Producer’s Reflections – The Rigneys and Dark Shadow Recording

Producer Stephen Mougin has been working in the studio with The Rigneys for their next album this week. Being a harsh taskmaster, he also prevailed upon the band members (Mom, Dad, and two sons) to record some of their impressions during the process. This final installment of their tracking diary comes from Mougin himself, .

Stephen MouginWell, we’ve finished tracking The Rigneys and I thought I’d drop in to share a couple of thoughts. My job is to find songs, help arrange them, rehearse them with the band, oversee the tracking and try to get the most inspired performances, oversee the mixing and mastering, maintain the budget, and make certain the album is delivered within the established timeline. Plenty to do, but I love every minute!

Scheduling for this project was a bit challenging between my touring, their touring, and having time to rehearse. Three consecutive weeks of Sunday/Monday tracking sessions were our only option for getting it done by the end of June! I spent two tense Saturdays in airports, hoping that plane connections would allow me to get home in time!

We started selecting songs a couple of months ago, looking for the perfect fit. Our goal was to have meaningful messages, and fun melodies… of course, we included a couple of heartbreak songs. You just have to, right?

I encouraged the band to write as much as they could, so we could throw those songs on the pile as well. Andrew and Grant submitted several great songs, and Andrew and I got together a few times and wrote for the project. We wound up with five of eleven songs written by the band. Very cool!

Rehearsing is always a chore, but you have to remember to keep it fun and keep the final goal in mind! I feel that “rehearsing” is getting the band to gel and working on the arrangements… “practicing” is what one should do before the rehearsal to learn the songs.

When I joined the band for our first rehearsal session they were all “practiced up” and ready to go, on about half of the material. They played through each song and we adjusted arrangements to serve the song and to focus on the strengths of the band. It takes a while, folks, and we were still tweaking when we got in the studio. Time spent rehearsing goes a LONG way as you step in front of the microphones!

Tracking day one started with mic setup, which seems fairly obvious, but there are plenty of ways to “skin the cat” (why anyone wants a skinned cat, I’ll never know…). I set up my favorite mics for each instrument, then waited for the band to arrive for final positioning and “checking tones.”

The first two days flew by, giving us five fully tracked songs! The following weekends, as we got to material that hadn’t seen as much rehearsal time, things got a bit slower. I had to keep reminding the gang that it wasn’t a race. Sometimes it goes quickly, sometimes it doesn’t. None of that matters to the listener, if the end product is fantastic. And it is!

Recommendations for anyone going into the studio: (The Rigneys did this well!!)

  • Be well rehearsed. Know every note you’re going to play/sing on the record. It’s great to be spontaneous, but if something isn’t working you need to have a “default”!
  • Be well rested. I can’t stress this enough. Things work better when you’re awake, focused, and attentive. The recording studio is an exhausting (and frustrating) place. No room for tired and cranky folks!
  • Eat a balanced diet. Try to eat normal food and mostly normal intervals. Loading up on studio snacks (chocolate, cookies, sodas) can make you jittery and then crash later on.
  • Change your strings and make sure your instrument is properly set-up! The microphones hear EVERY little buzz and rattle. The album will sound better if your instrument is in tip-top shape.
  • Take breaks every few hours to step outside, walk around, and breathe some fresh air.

I had a blast working on this album, and I can’t wait for folks to hear it. I’ve got plenty of work ahead of me for the final stages before album release, so I better get back to it!

Thanks for following the studio recording blog of The Rigneys!