Studio Diary Part 3
And so we begin again
Monday, August 28
I wake up at 5:30 a.m. with a song ringing in my head. It was the one I was working on the night before, when I was hastily assembling a demo in the thirty minutes before guests would arrive for an outdoor movie night. Then, I briefly considered ditching on the party to hide away in my studio, tinkering, but felt like the disruption was maybe meant to be and that some time away might be a good thing. So here I am, it’s 5:30, and I have to get up and redo the drum part of the third part of a song called “Joan in the Garden” because it is ringing in my head and my brain won’t let me think of anything else.
The tempo is too fast, but maybe if I lose the drum loop I’d been using in place of a click track with its actual drum part, something would reveal itself to me. It does — it’s still a bit too fast (I could barely keep up with the tempo on guitar) but at least it hangs together better. Fine for a demo. But that vocal part could use a double, and what would a fake choir sound like on parts one and two…? Before I know it, it’s almost nine o’clock; I have to leave for the studio in thirty minutes.
Inside the house, everyone is proceeding as on a typical summer Monday: morning screentime is over, breakfasts are being eaten, second cups of coffee made. I have some granola and yogurt, say goodbye to the family, and load up for the studio. It’s only Tucker and I in the studio this week — a reschedule of the aborted attempt in June, the one that was upended by my Covid bout. I listen to the finished demo of “Joan in the Garden” in the car; that third part is laughably sloppy, but it’s fine for its purposes. I listen to another new demo, one for a song which is now called “Never Satisfied.” It’s one of the songs we recorded in February. I didn’t love it then, but it had something going for it and everyone else seemed to dig it. I tinkered with the chord structure and lyrics till it got to a place I was happy with and did a quick solo demo of it.
All in all, the “2023 Demos” file now has an alarming 22 songs in it. We’ll need to hack that into a workable pile. Cuts will be made; darlings will be killed. We usually head into the studio with fourteen or fifteen songs ready to go, so there is an embarrassment of choices here. “What a heady time,” you might think, judging from that. But remember, we haven’t assembled a file of demos in six years. By my old standards, I’d be positively swimming in songs by now. A lot of these 22 songs are more recent, from the last eight months. Granted, I’ve been working on a lot of other projects since the last Decemberists record, but, as I reflect on my time spent during the pandemic, I’m not sure it was the fertile creative cocoon for my own personal songwriting as it was for other people.
In any case, it’s misting-raining as I drive into Portland; positively autumnal. I ready myself for the oncoming months-long gray that will descend on the sky. I load the two guitars I brought into the studio and am warmly welcomed in by Tucker.
Coffee is made; we spend a good deal of time just catching up before we get to the day’s work. We decide our time is best spent, today, by just going through the demos, making notes, with the hope that by the end of the listening, we’ll be better able to discern what are the keepers and what are the losers. Which will get our attention and love and which will be kicked unceremoniously to the curb.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Colin Meloy's Machine Shop to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.