Producers Can Help Focus Grow Your Song

becka_deHaan-CoverLowResBecka deHaan whose new Christmas album,  Long-awaited, Unexpected, was recently featured by CBC’s Music Man, Bob Mersereau, is a self-professed solo writer who has long enjoyed the organic process of songwriting.  Her first foray into working with a producer was surprisingly fruitful…

In Becka’s Words…

Many film depictions of songwriting portray characters physically writing, with instrument and/or writing utensil: Johnny Cash in the air force, writing and singing under his breath, June Carter with her autoharp, trying out options for Ring of Fire, or Kelly and Beau, in one of the opening scenes of “Country Strong,” passing the guitar back and forth…

A candid shot of me songwriting, however, would reveal me in a rocking chair, surrounded by sunlight and sipping a tall cup of tea–my changing facial expressions being your only measure of progress. I am silent… Improvising and journaling certainly provide inspiration, but with the blessing (and sometimes a curse! –but in this case a blessing) of perfect pitch, I can imagine music in intricate detail without physically hearing anything–and that is my compositions’ true breeding ground. I’ll do research and eventually seek feedback from trusted colleagues and friends–so by the time I’m laying down the guide, the song is ready–ready to be produced, to be edited, adjusted, revised and even rewritten? I didn’t think so, until this past May…

I can’t deny that this is an era of beautifully self-produced masterpieces–but I also cannot deny what can become of a song when placed into the hands of a loving and caring producer. A good producer will shepherd your project, making it “lie down in green pastures” (Psalm 23:2A) where it belongs–and that is exactly what my producer, Tim, did with my latest album, and wonderfully with one particular song.

We were editing the final piano before bringing in the full band, and when it got to one line of the lyric, Tim suddenly asked, “Does that really need to be said though?” With a background similar to my own, Tim is acutely familiar with this type of lyrical content, so I trusted his opinion beyond that of a strict producer. “Something to think about–not right away–in the next while,” he added at length, “what are you really saying with this song?” A gentle and encouraging spirit, he continued: “Now let me say right away that this is a very strong song. It’s not the structure; it’s the message…”

As we started discussing the details, my explaining where each part came from, I realized that he was right. What I thought were subdivisions of one message were in fact different messages under one topic. I was in for an unprecedented post-preproduction rewrite. I went home, afraid yet confident: afraid it wouldn’t come together before the vocal session, yet confident in my newfound focus.

After five days of the usual process–in rocking chairs, cars and the shower–the rewrite was complete–and the more session musicians played to the wrong lyric, the more strength the right one seemed to take on. At last I walked into the vocal booth–and after the first run-through, Tim immediately declared, “Love the rewrite, by the way,” and I knew this was the best thing that could have happened to the song. A producer who cares not only for the production but also for the content thereof, will truly grow a song and make it shine.

So, if your biographical movie shows you strumming fiercely, madly scribbling and fighting with your bandmates…Enter your producer, who can lead you “beside still waters” (Psalm 23:2B). You may not be telling the heroic tale of having braved the rapids, but trust me: The song will be remembered.

Click Here to visit Becka deHaan’s Songwriters’ Profile.
Click Here to listen to Becka on CBC’s Music Man.

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