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Nicole MedoroPosted 23 Dec 2011
Yes yes y'all to be the beat all…
This week I write about the present day in fact this week I had one of Madonna's dancer's fly in from New York to record a few songs with me here's what went down...
Around a year or so ago I had a young lady contact me by e-mail called Nicole. She expressed her desire to write over some of my tracks and the outcome was outstanding. Not only could she do great 'toplines' but she also had an insane voice. This led us to do a few tracks over the Internet whilst I also had Nicole writing for a couple of other projects which I had going on at the time. Shortly after I got a call from her agent MikeM and he had expressed how well the songs were going and asked if I would be interested in taking her onboard as an actual artist… this threw me a little as I had only considered her as a cool little writer so MikeM and I talked this through over a series of months.
I only take on a handful of jobs per year to ensure I am able to give each project its rightful time and dedication. As one of my other projects was taking some time out I agreed with MikeM to book flights and they flew in last Thursday evening. We commenced work the very next day with the idea being to record 3-4 songs and seeing how it sounded and where it would take us to…but first things first.
The sessions started well as I had some 'rough' tracks and Nicole had some melodies already written down. We sat down and went over important things on song creation and I needed to make sure the key of the track was OK as if it was too high then she wouldn't hit the high notes and same if too low so getting the key was… key! I went over the arrangement of the song making sure everything flowed for example; a song arrangement might consist of an Intro-Verse1-Pre Chorus-Chorus-Hook-Verse2-Pre Chorus-Chorus-Hook-Middle8 and an Outro so based on that kind of arrangement I needed to listen to Nicole’s melody and make sure everything transcended smoothly which most did.
Some of the songs needed work both musically and melody wise so Nicole and I would sit at the keyboard and vibe. While I went through various patches on my keyboards she would adjust the melodies and lyrics to fit accordingly. We bonded very well and had that chemistry that's needed to make tidy tunes, she is such a talented little thing at the grand ol’ age of 19! However, talent comes in various shapes and sizes and once the songs were ready to go it was vocal time. I have a certain formula regarding vocal recording and here's how I do it.
WARM! Never throw a vocalist in at the deep end, allow them to sing the song down a few times to warm up and gain a little confidence without them knowing. I ALWAYS have record on… you never know what unexpected magic might enter the room while doing warm up laps. So, once we are ready I like to start on a small section of the song i.e. say the first half of the first verse. I have to the track usually on loop and ask the singer to sing that section over maybe 8-15 times and once I’m happy that I have a few good parts then it’s onto the rest of the sections. Once confident I'm ready to 'Comp' vocals (meaning build a composite track). I comb over each take of that particular section going over all 8-15 takes carefully and choosing the best bits before moving them to a comp track thus creating that perfect vocal. Yeah it takes time and patience but the end result is fantastic! give it a try yourself.
I used my usual set up for female vocals - a Nuemann U87 mic an Avalon 737 mic pre with the internal compressor disabled and then through a LA2A. I call it creamy vocals!! When the vocals are done I then like to 'fuse' the vocals and music together adding 'call and response' musical parts around the vocals, which brings the two tighter together. Once completed, I exported the session from Logic Pro 9 into a Pro Tools session ready to be shipped over to James Loughrey for mixing.
James is a highly talented mixer as well as producer and it's important that he captures the session right away without having to set it up and spending an hour getting it organised… So I tend to do that for him.
I have the whole session in check starting with kick, snare, hi hat, bass, synths etc. I also spend time setting up AUX sends, grouping and labeling them, also adding a master fader so that James can get to work right away. That's when I get the best out of him… but don't tell him that peeps!!
I mentioned at the start that Nicole was in Madonna's new music video last week featuring Nicky Minage and MIA so I took the time to ask her how she got into it and what went down.
In Nicoles own words: “I got the job through my talent agency MSA in NYC. I auditioned on a Friday and started rehearsals the next day. The whole process of rehearsals and shooting spanned over about 7 days and we worked anywhere from 8 - 16 hour days. Being in Madonnas presence was intense and surreal and I’m very grateful that I got to work with such a huge pop icon. She knows exactly what she wants and I learned so much from her and the whole experience. The production of the video shoot was massive. There were hundreds of crew members and everyone had a specific job. I learned how people work when you’re dealing with the best of the best and I learned how to get things done quickly and without wasting time. On set, a lot of choreography changes are made on the spot so I learned how to adapt quickly and produce under pressure. Nicki Minaj and M.I.A were featured in the video so I got to work with them as well. I had a blast on set whenever they were in my scenes! They are super fun and insanely talented. It was definitely one of the best experiences of my life and one of my most proud accomplishments. I was the youngest out of only 8 dancers chosen for the video! Last September I got my first chance to dance for Madonna when I was one of ten dancers chosen to perform at the launch party in NYC for her ‘Material Girl’ clothing line.”
So I will leave it there but one last thing… can I give Chandra Nair a major shout out for designing and launching my new web site this week Laurencewooallen.com so please feel free to have a peek, Plan B was supposed to be this week but will deffo be online soon
MERRY CHRISTMAS to each and every one of you!!
Laurence ‘Woo’ Allen.