By the time you read this, we will cautiously be going places, sitting outside, smiling at each other from at least 6 feet apart. But still. The quarantine, the bubble around us, is real, even if invisible. I don’t think we will be hugging each other any time soon.
I know many musicians have felt hobbled by the inability to play live. The connection with an audience is like a phantom limb. There’s nothing you can do about it, but you can’t quite seem to stretch out and rest.
Some of us, like Tom Ryan, have made a way for us to gather virtually around recordings at FitzGerald’s and other places. At the end of this blog is the song “Words,” recorded by Tom Ryan at FitzGerald’s in April 2018 with Naomi, Jodi, Cathie Van Wert Menard and me.
Still others, like Gerald Dowd and Chris Neville, created new regularly scheduled shows; while Naomi, Jodi and I just moved our regular shows to streaming platforms. And it has been GREAT…just so, so different…yet, it was enough. I mean, if enough is ever enough.
It finally hit me in May that we are not likely to be able to do the Jenny & Friends show live, potentially until 2021. Maybe I had been living in my own bubble, but that's when it hit me. When I woke up, and realized I had to find a way for my musical collaborators and I to stay connected, I had the idea to make a video.
Well, I had the idea to make 3 songs into videos. “No biggie,” I thought. It will be a snap. And so launches every ship I have ever sailed.
We shared “I Miss You” last month, and in July, we’ll share “Words.”
When you make a studio record, you listen over and over to a song to make sure all the elements are right.
When you are recording a song because you know it will become a video, you have to listen…more. You have to come up the visual representation of the song, and create a storyboard to guide the shots you take.
I settled on the storyboard for “Words,” as you’ll see in the image at the top of the blog. As I was building it and getting the shots, there was one, teensy, tiny word.
It jumped out at me every time I heard it. It was the difference between me bracing myself each time I heard the song in the future, and forgetting that I even wrote the song, which is what happens after a project is complete and all the elements meld together.
It was just one teensy, tiny word, yet it was wrecking things for me.
It would mean going back into a song that had taken weeks to mix, potentially tampering with its now perfectly-balanced levels, and potentially having to re-do the whole thing. For these reasons and more, I was nervous to even ask.
Yet, I wrote to Klem Hayes, who is building the songs for the videos in his studio, at 9:33 pm on Wednesday, the night before I was to send it all off to our editor:
“Favor. Feel free to say no. On the bridge when I say “hello,” could you double my voice there, either by cutting and pasting or adding the original vocal at a lower volume level? It sounds tentative. I try to tell myself Neil Young would let it stand, but…”
Klem writes back, 11:03 pm
“I’ll see what I can do. I didn’t notice anything tentative about that word until I just looked for it. I hear what you’re saying but it’s pretty “inside baseball” to me…no promises but I’ll give it a shot.”
11:16 pm he sends me a snippet.
At 6:23 am the next morning, I listened to what he had done, and wrote:
“Klem. I feel inestimably better...THANK YOU!”
And that right there, is what collaboration is all about.
Getting over yourself enough to ask for what you need, and trusting that if your collaborator can give it to you, they will. And being ok with how it turns out, either way.
And while I may have just summed it up in a sentence, as anyone who has tried it knows, it is much easier said than done. :)
Yes, there are risks to collaboration. Yet, as in my case here, if you pick the right collaborators, the are risks far, far, far overshadowed by the rewards.
I hope you enjoy “Words,” and will join us for the premiere of the video version on Friday, July 3 at 8:00 pm.