Recording: A Love Story

Fiona Kernaghan

I wanted this record to be an intimate affair. I did not want a lot of people involved and I certainly did not want busy tracks with a lot going on. Too much to digest. I wanted to create a space where the intention of the lyrics could shine through. I knew exactly who to ask to help me with this mission. I began by reaching out to an old friend and supporter, an award winning guitarist I’ve long admired, Michael Fix. Turns out after all these years he lives not far from me! Too easy. I took the early incarnations of my new songs to his place in Brisbane and he helped me lay the framework for how they’d be produced. Michael’s playing took the songs to another level. He played acoustic beds that I sang guide vocals over and then we sent them on to the U.S.

Waiting for the tracks there in his solar powered studio in L.A was my long time co writer and buddy, artist/writer/producer, Todd Herfindal. As we go way back – and share a love for a lot of the same things – such as Tom Petty and Rickenbacker guitars and 60’s folk rock etc – and he is such an easy, wonderful guy to be around I knew the vibe would be right to build the rest of the record with him.

Recording the vocals at his place took about 6 days. We had the studio pretty much on lock down, with just him and I singing and contemplating what to do next. Lots of singing…. whew. I may not have been realistic allowing 6 days for lead vocals and background parts and all of that, but we did it! Todd came up with some great background parts and even sang with me on one song called So Lucky. Another cool idea of his was to simply use thigh slaps (him slapping his own jeans and leg) as a percussion part on one of the more rootsy/folky tunes, Truly, Lightly. Those sort of down to earth ideas are what Todd excels at.

It was such a pleasure to be in the other worldly bubble of the studio. When the sound proof doors are shut, with no sense of what the sun is doing or what time it is outside and lights are turned down you become timeless. Yet I was definitely time traveling as I sang the vocals, often by candle light. I was imagining again each of the life situations that had inspired the songs, and singing to the people I’d been writing about, re-living the sweetest and the hardest moments. It can actually be kinda physically and emotionally draining. I was thankful that every one of the songs on the new record has a positive sentiment at heart. So I was consumed by positive energy not darkness the whole time we were recording.

Most of the overdubs were recorded in one day thanks to the amazing prowess of sessions musician, George Doering. He is one of those rare evolved gentlemen who have not only mastered their craft but are a class act of a human being as well. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a harsh word come out of the guy’s mouth. Yet he is no dialled down hippie. He has laser like focus on the job at hand. He played about 15 different stringed instruments from good old Telecaster with an effects pod through to octave mandolin and dulcimer. He played everything in one or two takes. It was beautiful to watch. And I loved being able to talk to him in metaphors and see he understood exactly what I was getting at. He listens to the lyrics and magnifies their meaning. And even in communicating in the studio between takes, I could paint a picture in words and he’d translate it on guitar. Amazing stuff. I’d seen him do this before working on film scores for legendary composer, Hans Zimmer, and the other composers at Hans’s studio in Santa Monica. George would watch pieces of vision from an upcoming film still in the works, and play along on various instruments – interpreting musically what was going on visually and in the script. It adds so much emotion to a scene that may otherwise be quite flat. You can hear George’s playing on loads of Hollywood films. The James Bond movie, Spectre, The Help, Pirates of The Caribbean and The Longest Ride are some to name only a few.

A while later another friend added his talents to the tracks. Brian Cachia is also a composer and a rock drummer originally, and a script writer and movie maker in his own right. Some people, hey? In his mist shrouded studio in Sydney’s Blue Mountains Brian sprinkled some super groovy percussion all through the tracks. From little temple bells to timpanis, djembe and anything in between he carefully chose the best instruments and parts to create maximum effect. He thought it was a little unusual that there was no actual drummer on my record. That was a deliberate choice of mine, after years of tracks where I felt swamped by drums I now wanted to create space and let the tracks breath more. I love the global / world music and eclectic feel Brian’s perc parts bring to the recordings. It was interesting to see how days before he went in to record he’d mentally rehears or imagine what he was going to play. Just like the best athletes mentally rehearse their race or event before competing. I love having Brian’s energy on the tracks, too. He and his beautiful wife are some of the most genuine, individualistic and wise people I’ve ever met.

That just leaves us with mixing to do now. This process of balancing all of the elements that make up the tracks and fine tuning frequencies to create the most pleasurable listening experience is an art I respect and admire. After the years that have gone into the making of the record, as keen as I am to let you hear it, I don’t want to rush it to completion. We are trying a few different approaches. I want to be sure we’ve made the right final decisions. I’m in love with what we have done so far. Funny: writing this I let the auto player on the homepage play The Art Of Being (which is hear to check out although not entirely finished yet) and as soon as the intro began I found myself smiling, slipping into this relaxed, dreamy fog that carries me away down a slow moving stream of consciousness to a very happy place. That’s the effect these songs and tracks seem to have on you. Maybe it’s music to journey and dream to. I am looking forward to hearing what you think it is!