That was the text I saw on the way to the airport heading out for a concert tour…
It was my dear friend Paul Peterson whom I had the amazing experience of hanging out with recently playing a charity event in Minneapolis and capping it off with a day at the Minneapolis Media Institute that Paul is a big part of these days.
First of all, the event for the YMCA was incredible. The band was wickedly great! Paul’s very talented nephew Jason Peterson DeLaire on keys and his amazing voice, Jay Corkran on drums, (one of my favorites), Cory Wong on guitar, (Whoa!!! Remember that name! Wickedly great…), Paul, of course, being the sick muti talented guy he is playing killer bass and guitar and last and CERTAINLY not least the amazing Kat Perkins who was a serious contender on “The Voice” last season.
Let me just wail here in massive praise of Kat… The REAL DEAL. What a singer and let me tell you having to follow her really gets your attention! And it was so fun letting her know how much she was pushing me!
So that night was just a blast. The fact it was the YMCA they started the night off by talking about building our youth and as a guy who is off into his 50s I think in terms of legacy a lot these days.
I love the observance of “We spend the first half of our lives trying to become successful and the 2nd half trying to be significant.”
Another way of maybe looking at that is “We spend the first half of our lives accumulating and the 2nd half getting rid of it, or more gracefully, perhaps giving it away.
So having the night kick itself off with the reminder of what we were all there for was awesome. A real ice breaker in the “It’s NOT ABOUT YOU” cloud we all too often walk around in.
The fact the music was just off the charts made it even better. We played my favorite song of all time, “Rocket Man”, and I have to say it was probably my favorite time I’ve ever played it. Mainly because I made a big adjustment. I made a big attempt to NOT PLAY SO MUCH!!! To LISTEN more. And wow, it worked. Just hearing what they were all doing was SOOOO inspiring. I’m going to take that into my gigs with Chicago too. When you’re surrounded by great musicians, listen… (I’m telling myself…)
So after that I was staying at Paul and Julie’s house and I will publicly apologize for TALKING NON STOP while I was there! I was even joking about it, (of course, because I wouldn’t shut up!) and the worst was in the mornings! Poor people… They barely opened their eyes and I was at it again!
But you know what it is? It’s excitement. Being around people I love. You ever get that? Being so excited you can’t shut up? Sometimes it really backfires!
But I don’t think there was a problem probably because they knew it was only a couple days!
I can just hear them now as they would be turning in for the night… (Honey, does he EVER SHUT UP? that would be Julie to Paul… and Paul responding with… I know, I know but it’s only for another day!). Haaaaaaaaaaa!!!
Anyway… so the last day I was there Paul had set up a recording session at
his music school MMI and asked if I’d do a session. Of course! And he asked me what I wanted to do…
Now normally I would be all over the place wondering what we should do but I knew immediately.
I had just finished a product I created called “80s Radio Ready Vocals” and I thought “Hey… Let me see how well it translates into an actual live class…”
So we scheduled it.
I won’t go into too much detail about the course but just let me say it’s showing people how I got my vocals on classic hit records like “Will You Still Love Me”, “What Kind Of Man Would I Be” and “We Can Last Forever”.
Yes, you need to put the reps in to learn your craft (too many people don’t understand that these days), but then there are techniques which is what I teach in my program.
So Paul asked how it would go and I told him I’d just show the students exactly what I did in my study course.
The class was for engineering which for those of you that don’t know what that is… The person who gets the sounds, sets the stuff up and operates the machinery that you record into. Used to be tape recorders now it’s computers. MMI uses Pro Tools as many pros do.
Now I need to also tell you for those that don’t know me I can really lose focus and go on tangents so the idea of staying the course, (which I’ve discovered is not having a plan), but since I had just completed my study course I was very focused. Was pretty clear as to what I would do since I just had and put it into an online study course.
But here’s what happened that was truly magical and again showed the power of being in front of people…
As I was showing them how I set things up there were a couple glitches that I scanned my brain for memories of similar events and how people reacted to them.
Having been in the most intense pressure packed part of the music industry where everything depended on things being successful it not always goes smoothly.
And the entertainment industry is notorious for tyrannical people losing their cool.
If I’ve learned anything in my almost 53 years on this earth is that my impatience has caused an unimaginable amount of time later on undoing what I was impatient about. Shall we start with the 4 years plus I’ve been archiving and organizing?
So when I saw the glitches happening I saw a very common thing happen. Since these kids were prepped that they were going to be working with a very successful recording artist I’m sure there was a bit of nervousness at first.
The first glitch was about levels. I saw 2 people starting to get into finger pointing that it wasn’t their fault. Maybe that’s not really what what was happening but it felt like it. And I’ve seen my share of sessions where that happens and someone starts leaning on the engineers and if you not seasoned, they can lose their focus and the whole thing goes down the tubes immediately.
And you know what? As I’m sitting here writing this it’s coming out very truthful. I’m going to be very transparent here…
I had a class to teach. We had a limited amount of time. If I let some glitches turn this thing sour right at the beginning I would probably not be able to get it done!
So you see it’s not because I’m such a great guy, I was just wanting to get the job done… But check out what happened…
I told them, “You guys, this is a GREAT thing that’s happening because I’m going to show you the importance of preparation. You see my “80s Radio Ready Vocals” has SO much to do with getting set up right so that when I walk to the microphone I will be inspired by what I’m hearing and we will be prepared to capture it. So let’s slow down here and even though I’m telling you this is going to happen fast it’s only going to happen fast IF we prepare.”
I couldn’t believe this was coming out of my mouth… In my earlier years I was one of the most impatient people on the planet, and still battle at times, but I’ve learned I won’t have to clean up as many messes down the line if I can control my impatience.
So the kids located the problem and it took all of 2 or 3 minutes. And, I believe it set the tone for the rest of the day.
I showed them how to get a great vocal sound in the headphones, we set up a template for how I like my vocals to be recorded. I saw how they had a track up for me, a track! and I smiled at how cute that was.
I then showed the, how to set up my template. I don’t think they see that too much these days because people are looking in steps. A lead vocal? One track… They can easily create another track if it’s necessary but I took them into Jasonland! Basically how we created the vocals on bit hit records.
You need to be able to fly through this stuff. When I joined Chicago and we recorded Chicago 18 we FLEW through those vocals. You’d better! Right? Or you’re gone. That was back in the day where everything was riding on that record being successful. And again, the fact Humberto Gatica had my headphones sounding like a finished album was part of what pumped me up, not to mention a modern day Mozart sitting next to him staring me down, David Foster…
But this stuff MOTIVATED me. I had prepared with vocal training for a couple of years with Seth Riggs.
And now I was able to work with a half dozen students showing them how we did it.
Once we moved into the actual recording it was absolutely amazing. Since these kids dialed the sounds in and we had a structure and a plan it was easy.
We blasted through the vocals top to bottom in 2 hours and that included me blabbing at times.
The fact it went off so smoothly and so quickly was because we prepared.
I remember at the end of it there was a feeling of “Did that just happen?” Because I sang a lead vocal and did the magic trick of the ballads I sang on Chicago 18… I doubled the lead vocal and TRIPLED IT, Yes, there’s the secret. Even on the verses!
Then, I did 12 tracks of background vocals so there was a total of 15 tracks of vocals. Oh, and I forgot, I played bass before we cut vocals.
When we finished the session I looked at those kids through the glass and I told them the truth. For anybody who knows me I don’t toss roses… I can’t say I think something is good when I don’t believe it. I think its one of the biggest problems in the music industry these days. I’m all about supporting people and encouraging them but this whole thing about deluding people by telling them they’re good when they’re not… That’s moving backwards big time.
But I told them this… Which is the honest to God’s truth…
I told them, “I have worked with the best. The best record producers… The best recording engineers and let me tell you… You have created a recording experience for me today that was as fun, inspiring and world class as anybody I’ve worked with.” And I meant it. They had provided a world class recording experience and I hope this doesn’t come off as patting myself on the back but I knew how much I contributed to making it happen.
No way it could have worked without them so I’m not taking all the credit but I walked out of the experience knowing I taught a class, and taught it well. The results were right there for all of us.
And I thought about legacy again. I knew if I continue to do this there just might be some people who come up to me years down the line and tell me I was part of the spark that lit the flame.
It’s all about passing it along and now I get to see it in action.
Soooooo, why was the title of this post “Help!!!”? I was just leaving to head out on tour, had gotten into a car headed to the airport and Paul texted me with his SOS message. Turns out they were going to put drums on the track today and they could find my tracks!!!
So I said, “Well, I have about 45 minutes to go to the airport so let me pull the files up!” I LOVE this kind of stuff! Challenges and the technology to get it done… (And no, I wasn’t driving!)
I pulled up the pro tools session. Had it in my trusty little traveling work drive and tried to launch pro tools. I was getting a weird message. For those who don’t know, pro tools needs a little usb device that has the license on it and I was getting an error message. Something about expiring? What? I paid for pro tools… What do you mean expiring?
But then the patient man stepped in and I fired up my program of choice, Logic…
I went into the pro tools audio folder and just pulled up the audio into Logic. Now the chances of it all lining up properly are about zero. BUT…
When you’ve recorded your audio files as WAV files, they’re time stamped!
I just took each of the files and had them go to their original positions, still needed to shift things around a little bit but was able to pretty much get it to where it needed to be.
Now mind you, I had forgotten my headphones/earbuds so I was just listening through my laptop speakers and just as we were pulling into the airport I was completing the bounces of the tracks he needed.
3 files. One for the lead vocal, one for the background vocals and one for the bass.
So I text Paul and tell him we’re looking good! Only to hook into the airport’s Internet and see it’s going to take 3 hours to get the files sent to him?
I’m so used to high speed internet that I wasn’t thinking… I made hi resolution files and they were about 200 megabytes!
So I’m at the gate for my flight and they’re starting to board. Seriously! I’m not making this up! I scramble to get the work drive out again, pull up the project and I re-bounce the files as mp3s…
Launch yousendit and start to send the whopping 7.8 megabyte file to Paul. People are boarding the plane and it looks like I have about 30 minutes… Should be enough time, right?
But NOOOOOOO! It gets about 3 megs transferred and then goes back to ZERO!!!! What? I’m sorry but I feel a tinge of impatience setting in!
I text Paul back telling him we have a problem Houston! And it starts again…
It’s looking good but kind of slow… Says its going to be 5 minutes? It kind of chugs along for about half the file size and then all of a sudden it starts rocketing! I swear I’m not making this up!
And then, with not a moment to spare, the file is uploaded and I send Paul a text saying “The Eagle has Landed!” And I call him as I’m in the jetway.
You could hear the relief and excitement in his voice telling me I saved him! Probably a touch overdramatic but he and I tend to talk to each other that way!
So there’s my story! I hope you liked it and if you did please comment below.
And I wonder of Paul might be thinking today or more importantly when he gets home says to Julie, “Wow! I’m so glad we didn’t kick him out for not keeping his mouth shut a couple weeks ago!”