Friday, November 24, 2017
Dave Carlock - A Day In The Life
BEHIND THE SCENES PRODUCING 'CRISTY'S SONG'
Originally Posted: 04-19-2013 7:30 PM
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This past week I finished producing a project that’s been simmering for a while. It’s a song I co-wrote with singer/songwriter Chas Burtchett, called “Cristy’s Song”. The thing that makes this particular song stand out is that it’s written about Chas’ young sister, Cristy, who has Autism.

Last year, a friend of mine sent me a YouTube video of Chas singing an early, live version of the song and asked what I thought about talking to him via phone. He had Chas call me and we talked about the song and what his intentions were. Chas had great support from his local community and was looking to take the song to the next level with a co-writer because the song’s sentiment had gotten the attention of some people he knew through his connections with Autism Speaks.

After hearing the song, I had some ideas to make the song a bit more universal. I wasn’t aware of any anthemic songs about Autism, so I intended to make “Cristy’s Song” the first. Chas made a plan to come down to my studio in the Benton Harbor Arts District and we began rewriting the song. At the end of the session, we documented the new version with a quick video for YouTube to replace the other versions—and also so Chas could remember the new lyrics and melodies.

With the song’s writing complete, we planned to have some special guests play on the track: drummer Donny Brown (Verve Pipe) and bassist Andy Reed (An American Underdog). The easiest way to make it all work was to travel to Andy’s studio, Reed Recording Company in Bay City, MI. In order to meet up with Chas near Lansing at 8:30am and be at Bay City for the 11am session, I would end up leaving at 6am with my photographer friend Sauni Lynch from Benton Harbor. While my body screamed in agony at the early hour, my OCD loved the northeasterly diagonal line we cut across the lower peninsula, landing at the thumb joint of Michigan. It was a trade-off of physical pain for geeky-psychological pleasure.

Plus I could sleep in the backseat while Chas drove the second leg. Doable.

When Sauni and I connected with Chas, Chas informed us that he was picking up someone at the Meijer parking lot near the freeway who wanted to play guitar on the track. This sounded suspicious. The guitar players I’ve seen in the parking lot at Meijer usually haven’t had a bath in a while and the last thing I wanted was to be kept awake by a chatty homeless person.

As we pulled up, the guitarist was a guy named Ben who looked like a cross between Animal House-era John Belushi and any indie-band musician due to his full, closely trimmed beard and hipster glasses. He loaded his guitar in the trunk on top of my mics & mic pres and off we went. I quickly learned that he was a high school student clearly violating truancy laws in the interest of being part of this road trip and, yes, he was chatty. My beauty rest was quickly becoming little more than a concept lost somewhere behind my closemouthed permagrin. But he was funny and enthusiastic, which you can always use on any road trip. And how could I argue with that facial hair? He could’ve passed for 20s by virtue of his beard alone. I marveled at how he did it.

Arriving in Bay City, we said quick hellos and got down to work. While Andy miked up Donny’s kit and started getting a sound, I went upstairs to the living room to make final decisions on song structure and wrote Donny’s chart. I layed down a one-pass reference track with acoustic guitar and then Donny was up. His drumming was really great and played with arms that looked like he was used to swinging sledges. Deliberate, powerful hits fell one by one anchoring the song, like a rock n roll union man planting support beams into foundation. A few takes and his job was finished to wide applause.

Next was bass, played by Andy. Donny, Andy & I all chimed in on the bass arrangement till it was just right. The repartee between the two was Pure Michigan—insulting barbs and laughter. This is the born-in state trait that West Coasters usually have to get used to and that New Yorkers usually love. A friend dropped in a mandolin that wasn’t the right sound for the track, but it was worth a try, and then we all headed to lunch, did the hang and Sauni shot some fun photos, including a reenactment of Abbey Road’s cover photo in downtown Bay City, where I walked like a robot--clearly an improvement over the Beatles’ version. How could the Fab Four have blown their chance to have someone walk like a robot?

Once I got the tracks back to my studio and got Chas on the mic, we determined his best singing key was a half step higher so unfortunately Andy’s bass part would be lost and I set out to recut all the tracks over Donny’s drums. With several multitracked electric guitars, the final sound of the mix was as big as Donny’s playing, and Chas’ country vocal inspired the addition of a fiddle to the final arrangement from South Bend’s Jess Jernigan.

The final song sounds solidly like country/pop crossover with a shot of arena rock, and that’s where I hope the kids can eventually hear their new Autism anthem—in a stadium with thousands singing their story, inspired by Cristy.

FIND A WAY, MY FRIENDS
Dave Carlock
DAVE CARLOCK -
A DAY IN THE LIFE
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