I just got home from my trip to California where I recorded my upcoming album Diva Diaries. My twelve days away from home were an absolute blast and we got so much work done. I wanted to share my trip with you all and give you an update on the album and what's next.
We left for California July 4th after my show in Tonkawa that night, so we didn't get out on the road until after 11 PM. We were hoping to make it to Amarillo, TX that night, but we didn't even make it out of OK (shocker). It ended up being perfect though. We got a good night of rest then left early the next morning, and we didn't have to worry about OKC traffic or anything.
We drove all day, Brody spread out in the backseat, mom and I up front binge-listening to the In The Dark podcast. We drove 13 hours that day and successfully listened to one and a half seasons. The time flew by. I highly recommend true-crime podcasts for your next road-trip. We stopped in Kingman, AZ for the night and were pleasantly surprised by the appearance of a Habit Grill in the town. The Habit was our favorite fast-food restaurant when we lived in California over 10 years ago, so we were all pretty excited to eat there again.
Our last day on the road to LA was Friday the 6th and we arrived at our hotel around 3 PM. We hung out by the pool for a while but, can you believe it, it was almost too hot. Yup, LA was having an extreme heatwave, it got up to 118 degrees that day! So we came in early then went out for some dinner and a movie at Universal City Walk. We saw Ant Man and the Wasp and it's definitely a must-see for any and all Marvel Universe lovers.
The next day, Saturday the 7th, I had a meeting with Judy Stakee at her home in Studio City. I attended Judy's songwriting retreat this past March in Nashville and it was such an amazing experience for me. I'm so thankful she was able to squeeze me into her schedule! Judy Stakee was the former Senior Vice President of Creative at Warner Chappell Music where she spent 20 years developing and managing artists and songwriters. I was able to share my journey with Judy and hear her input and professional opinion on my songs. And to top it all off, that night she hosted a house concert for the lovely Shelly Peiken, and Brody and I were able to attend. It was amazing being in a house full of fellow artists and songwriters, and hearing Shelly Peiken's story was truly inspiring. I'm reading her book, Confessions of a Serial Songwriter, now and it's awesome! My good friend Chase Reeser, whom I met while at ACM, was also at the house concert and it was great to catch up with him again. Overall, our time in LA was well spent and simply fantastic.
On Sunday the 8th we packed up the truck again and made our way to Santa Barbara where we would stay with my Uncle Travis and Jeff for a couple of nights. The plan was to stay the whole week with them, however, the distance between Santa Barbara and San Luis Obisbo (SLO) was much farther than we had originally thought. Anyway, we stayed two nights with them and they treated us like royalty. Travis had an amazing Asian Chicken Salad waiting for us when we arrived that Sunday afternoon, then him and Jeff took us to the beach for some much needed R&R. That night they took us out for some amazing seafood and we spent the evening talking about life (mostly Jeff telling his hilarious stories about his time spent in Oklahoma, I think mom peed a little she was laughing so hard).
Fast Trax Recording Studio: Day 1
I had talked to Brent via Facetime a few instances before we met in person so it wasn't a totally awkward first encounter. I knew from our phone meetings that I was going to be comfortable around him, and that's something that was really important to me from the beginning. We shook hands, said hey, small-talked for a bit, but then basically got right to work. I knew it was going to take me a while to warm up. Singing in the studio is so much different than singing onstage at a show. It's weird but it seems so much more vulnerable. It's just you in this small room with headphones on and a mic right up close to your face. All you can hear is the music, your own voice, and the producer on the other end every now and then giving you directions or asking you if you need anything. It's all very intimate.
I get a sort of anxiety in the studio, because what you accomplish behind that mic is what people are going to hear in that song forever. On stage, there is so much freedom and leeway. You can put the sass and emotion behind a note and if it's a little flat because of it, no one will really know anyway. You can get away with a lot more on the stage. I know that in the studio you can do take after take to get that perfect sound you're going for, however, when you're crunched on time, there is an urgency to what you're doing. All this to say; it took me a bit to warm up that first day. Regardless of my nerves, we accomplished a lot. Recorded vocals for both Bother Me and High School and tracked Brody on the drums. By the end of the day I felt good and excited about the rest of the week.
Sadly, that night was our last one with Travis and Jeff. Four hours in the car each day was going to severely take away from our time in the studio. Travis cooked us an amazing last supper (steak, asparagus, sweet potatoes, and avocado bacon salad) which we followed up with homemade lemon bars from their next door neighbor (Travis, can I move in?). I wish we could've spent more time with Travis and Jeff. I guess we will just have to make another trip out to Cali, right?
Fast Trax Recording Studio: Day 2
I was so excited to get going on Tuesday. I had gotten the first day jitters out and was ready to work. We started the day by recording vocals for Diva Diaries, the title track on the album. I was feelin it, so we got the bulk of the main vocal in one take. The rest of the day was spent getting the background vocals and "Ciara Sprinkles" (little puffs of Ciara vocals here and there). My favorite part of recording is all of the vocal production. I love to track harmonies and cool little vocal elements. There is so much you can do with just one voice.
I was more myself on that second day; it takes me awhile to warm up to new people. Brent and Mike (assistant engineer) both made me feel right at home. They weren't afraid to tell me to sing something again because I could do it better, or "nah, don't like that". We had a great time, and we made a great song.
Fast Trax Recording Studio: Day 3
We tracked vocals for three songs on this day: Finer Things, Messy Parts, and Dystopian Daydream. I already had BGVs recorded for all the songs except Diva Diaries, so these tracks didn't require as much time behind the mic. I was pretty nervous about Messy Parts. It's a really emotional song for me, and I wanted to capture that emotion while still killing the vocals at the same time. Thank God, we were able to do it. One take with a redo on the bridge due to a mic pre issue. I'm really happy with the performance. It's raw and unfiltered. No BGVs or Ciara Sprinkles. It's just me.
Fast Trax Recording Studio: Day 4
Our last full day in the studio. We re-recorded some vocals that I wasn't super satisfied with. We mixed and worked on tuning the vocals on some tracks. It's really important to tune up the BGVs because when you have 14 tracks of vocals layered on each other, you want them to be precise and in-tune with each other. We spent 10 hours in the studio that day. Playing with reverbs and delays, production on the vocals, and just throwing around ideas. I was kinda sad that day. Our week was almost up. I couldn't believe it flew by so quickly! I could've spent three more weeks in the studio with Mike and Brent.
That night we went to Avila Beach and had a nice dinner on the pier. I will retire to Avila one day. Josh is coming with me, he doesn't have a choice.
Fast Trax Recording Studio: Day 5
It was our last day in the studio. It was bittersweet. We accomplished so much and had a fantastic time doing it. We had a final listen through and I gave Brent the last of my mix notes and we said our goodbyes. I don't think it's a goodbye forever though...
I'm so thankful for Brent. I'm glad our paths crossed. I can't wait to hear what we created, and for you all to hear it as well. I had the time of my life that week. I'm believing for a future in my career where I get to do that all the time. I'll keep grindin...
We spent the next three days in Vegas resting and enjoying the city. My Nanny and Boppy gifted us with a free room at Caesars Palace and I enjoyed every minute of it. Brody and I visited the Marvel Avengers Station at Treasure Island. It was a blast, and I recommend it to any Marvel fans visiting Vegas.
Me, tryna pull out Thor's hammer. Brody, wielding Captain America's shield.
We got to see Le Reve that night and it was magical. The dancing, the tricks, the lights, the stage, I felt like I was in a dream. If becoming a pop star doesn't work out, I'd like to be in Le Reve please and thanks.
The next day I relaxed by the pool and read my new, signed book by Shelly Peiken, "Confessions of a Serial Songwriter". It was a perfect day. We enjoyed a limo tour that night, a gift from Neva. Our limo driver told us that if we didn't get a picture in front of the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign our trip never really happened. Our time in Vegas was a blast, at least to me. Brody was ready to be home. He hadn't gamed in two weeks and his withdrawals were starting to get really bad. The ride home with Nanny and Boppy wasn't too bad either. 17 hours in a car listening to Serial and S-Town. It was an entertaining time. Nanny said her favorite part of the whole trip was sitting between Brody and I in the back, cause she got to love on us the whole ride home. She is so sweet. I love her.
And now I'm home. Trying to catch up on sleep and prepare for the exciting and busy weeks ahead. There is still a lot to be done. Final mixing, mastering, merchandise, etc. I also want to make sure I do everything I can before the release of this album to ensure that people hear it. I've worked so hard on this album, I want everyone to hear it and experience it with me! I'm thankful for the opportunities the Lord has blessed me with so far, and I can't wait to see what He has in store for the future.
Stay tuned for more updates, and thanks for joining me in the writing of my Diva Diaries.