Mark Greenock (Mark A.G.) Album – Singer & Songwriter
As a songwriter/lyricist, Brighton based Mark Greenock aka (Mark A.G.) has been involved in several bands and solo projects. He first contacted Offbeat a couple of years ago as he was considering doing some more session singing. He also had some songs that had been written and recorded with others in the past and wanted to have them re-mastered and polished up. The intention was to put them on an album to showcase his lyrics and vocals. He was also going to record a few covers to put on a showreel for his session projects. Although he lived in London at the time, Mark had spoken to several studios both there and in Scotland and was really impressed with the initial service he got here at Offbeat.
Mark says “I visited the Offbeat studio on the High Street in Edinburgh and was immediately impressed by the welcome I got and the very friendly, relaxed atmosphere in the studio. Iain and I got chatting and I noticed straight away that we were on the same wavelength about a lot of things. He told me about some of the recording/production work and other musical projects the studio was involved in and I decided very quickly I would complete the project at Offbeat”.
Over a few sessions in 2012, Mark recorded a few cover versions and included two of them (Snow Patrol –Eyes Open and Roachford – Only To Be With You) on his debut album 3am Sleepwalkers which was later released on iTunes/Amazon/CDBaby and others. Offbeat also re-mastered the other original songs and some of these were also used for the album. Although Mark had by now returned to London we were able to use Dropbox to send tracks to and from each other.
The album was well received and Mark was interviewed by Laura Piper at Scottish Television about it. He decided to send any profits from the album to a children’s hospice charity. Mark had made up his mind, at this point, to record some more tracks at Offbeat in 2013 but due to being ill and requiring surgery he had to postpone this for a while. Once he was better, he contacted me and we had a long chat about recording a brand new album from scratch.
Mark is first and foremost a lyricist and singer. He had already built up a large collection of lyrics over the years but had recently been writing music and lyrics for some new songs. These songs have some really good strong melodies and arrangements and he really wanted to get them all on an album. I explained that Offbeat could provide the full musical service of production, assisting with musical arrangement, instrumentation, recording and mixing. This was an exciting piece of news for Mark as he had been wanting to record more songs in Edinburgh.
Mark says “It’s my home town so it’s a labour of love for me and I really liked the way Iain and I had worked on previous sessions. I booked a series of two day sessions towards the end of 2013 to start recording the tracks for my second album ‘Lighting The Way Home’. I currently live in the South of England but I travel to Edinburgh to record my songs as I have always been very impressed with the service I get at Offbeat. From the very first phone call to the final mix you really feel like a valued customer and leave there as a friend. The atmosphere in the studio is professional yet relaxed and informal and this makes for a fantastic working environment. It’s also in such a unique location and this adds to the attraction of booking time there. Iain and Kirsty are great to work with and nothing is too much trouble. They will work on a track/part of a track until we are all 100 % satisfied with it. They offer constructive production ideas and lots of cups of tea! I have worked in a lot of studios and this is definitely my favourite place to record.”
The album is now well underway and is an exciting mix of eclectic styles and tracks which Mark has been working on for a while now. The songs cover a variety of subject matter including triumph over adversity, the value of friendships and following your goal in life whatever it may be. There is also a wry observation about love and all that comes with it. Due to health issues, which he has now thankfully fully recovered from, Mark had a pretty tough year in 2013 and he initially dreaded that he would end up writing a lot of depressing tracks!
Mark explains “Thankfully I don’t tend to do that and instead I wrote some songs that were a bit more positive. I think it’s important to give people songs that they can identify with. I genuinely think that everyone secretly wants a song they can listen to and say “that could have been written about me”. Even the title track itself ‘Lighting The Way Home’ is not necessarily about going home or even a place you call home, It’s more about the feeling you get when you hear a song, see someone, remember an event or even just dream about it. That feeling you get that makes you feel like you’re at home wherever that may be. I hope the whole album gives people a bit of that”.
Mark’s first step was to complete the songs he had been working on to a demo stage. He used the Garageband app on iPad to record Piano/Keyboard, Vocals, Bass and Drums. Once these demo tracks were recorded he sent them via Dropbox to me with song notes and lyric sheets so that I could have a listen to them prior to the recording sessions.
During the initial sessions, we firstly recorded drums and a guide vocal/initial keyboard tracks then worked on the other instrumentation. During each step of the track we fully discussed ideas and arrangements and tried various things out until we were both happy with the sound. Once the instruments were recorded we recorded the vocals and then mixed each track.
Whilst recording the song ‘Louder’ I asked Mark if he could use the piano track from Garageband but due it not being midi compatible he used another app, Music Studio 2 along with a Line 6 Mobile Midi Piano to record the piano tracks later that day and then sent them as a midi file to me via Dropbox. I was then able to lay his piano tracks straight onto the mix for editing.
During one of the December 2013 sessions Mark asked Offbeat Kirsty to play on one of the songs ‘The Problem With Love’. Kirsty played some haunting and truly beautiful Electric Violin. It added a whole new dimension to the song and he is very pleased with it.
Each track, so far, has been recorded in two days. We have both loved every minute of it. At the time of writing this blog, more sessions have been booked and Mark hope to release the album ‘Lighting The Way Home’ around Spring of 2014.
Edinburgh Music Scene
The Edinburgh music scene has always been surprisingly diverse. I remember once chatting to Island A&R rep Rich Brown when he dropped by our Edinburgh Recording Studio to listen to who we were recording. He said that wherever he went in the UK he could predict the kind of music he was going to hear depending on the city. In Manchester there was a particular sound, likewise in Glasgow and bands generally conformed to that.
But whenever he visited a Recording Studio in Edinburgh or went to a gig here, he was completely bamboozled as he never knew what he was going to see or hear next. It made his job as an A&R guy quite hard as he really liked the music he experienced but couldn’t see where it would fit in with the label, This general lack of trend may in part explain the lack of success Edinburgh has in being a place were new music breaks or gets noticed. It’s certainly not because there isn’t enough good musicians or writers. There’s a musician getting recordings together in every tenement around here.
I’ve always found this bizarre mix of things going on here really exciting so working and running a recording studio in Edinburgh since the mid 70s has never been dull. As a engineer and producer I’ve worked in loads of styles because that’s what the place has presented me with as well as chiming with my own mad record collection when I was in my early teens in the late 60’s early 70s. But that’s for a seperate blog. Since starting at Edinburgh’s Southside Studios in 1976 the range of music I’ve recorded has been consistently extreme.
And still now, In any given week I can record Folk, Rock, Alternative Pop, Classical, Jazz and loads of stuff in between which defies pigeon holing. In 1999 I produced a crazy diverse compilation called Selection Box just to highlight how many ranges of stuff I was hearing and recording and in the process the album perplexed everyone who heard it as it was way too diverse to get your head round if you are a reviewer , or marketer or even fan of a particular kind of music. So although there were some hard core fans of the album, it could never have worked commercially. Creatively it’s amazing but there is a commercial downside to having too wide a taste in both listening to and creating music.