Music To Lyrics – A Unique Production Service
For several years now we have been providing a music production service for lyricists and singer/songwriters who require musical arrangements for their lyrics and song ideas. Every song is different so a fresh approach has to be taken every time. Below are four excerpts from a wide range of songs produced over the past year with notes on how each arrangement was created.
Evamore is a project by Sir Chris Evans who created an album of songs based on letters sent back from soldiers from WW1. The album was a huge undertaking which involved many session singers and musicians. On this particular song I worked out the arrangement based on a rough demo sent over my Chris. This production was done remotely as Chris is an extremely busy globetrotter and couldn’t attend the studio.
I played Acoustic Guitar, Bass and Percussion. Sir Chris played Electric Guitar. Lead vocals were by Steve Balsamo, Backing vocals by Brian Rice & Kirsty McKinna. The strings were orchestrated by Jon Cohen with Violin by Seonaid Aitken. The Harmonica was by Fraser Speirs.
Once the song was established Chris recorded his Guitar parts at home and drop-boxed them to me to slot into the recording,
Tony B is an amazing Nigerian gospel singer with a great ear for music. Tony has done a great job of tracking up his vocals and creating a huge choral effect for this song.
On the track he sang the melody line to me and from that we worked out the tempo and a beat. Then I added drums and a bass line. Tony has lots of ideas in his head and would occasionally hum parts to me, like the bass line, and even ideas for guitar parts although not being an instrumentalist I had to come up with the chords for the arrangement. We worked through lots of beats together for the production. On this track all instruments are played by me.
Imaginary Creatures is the brainchild of Scottish born lyricist David Scott. We are currently working on the third album.
David comes into the studio with music references which are a great way of establishing a song. We don’t directly copy the music but he will typically suggest ideas from records which are a good starting point. David has strong musical ideas and even the instruments arrangements are close to what he has in his head.
On this example the rhythm track and tempo was referenced from a record and the general guitar sound also. The track was then developed by bringing in session musicians Rich Anderson on keyboards and Keith More on the guitar solo. Drums were eventually replaced by Alex Harvey and Michael Shenker drummer Ted McKenna.
Norine Mindeyes is also from Nigeria but has lived in Scotland for quite some time. We have done three songs together. In this example she came into the studio with all the vocal melody parts sang into her mobile phone. I then recorded all the instrumental parts into our music software starting with the Clavinet and a rough rhythm guide. Over a period of time the song evolved into this fully fledged production.
Gavin Blackie is a talented singer and songwriter who recorded his debut album Laid Bare with me here at Offbeat. Gavin comes into the studio with a strong vocal melody and firm ideas of how he wants the track to go. He will suggest references for drum sounds and records that have inspired him. Although these are good starting points we are careful not to directly lift anything from an existing composition. These ideas are just the spark for musical parts that have to be unique for the composition we are creating. On this track all instruments are played by me with backing vocals by Kirsty McKinna.
I’ve have done many tracks and albums with lyricists and songwriters and have found a niche that not many studios or producers seem to specialise in. Understandable as initially it can be a bit nerve wracking sitting with a writer with lyrics and a blank page with no music. You will hear from the diverse range of styles above that there’s not many types of music we can’t undertake here at Offbeat,
2016 Gets Off To A Great Start
2015 was another amazing year at Offbeat. 2016 is lining up to be outstanding as it gets off to a great start with Ross Munro’s single Gravel Path (from his ground breaking album Twisted Traditions -Greentrax Records) reaching no1 in the Celtic Radio Charts. The album was produced here at the Offbeat Studio.
The BBC/Swedish movie Stockholm My Love starring Neneh Cherry will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival before being aired on BBC TV. All the commentary for Neneh’s voice in the film was recorded here in Edinburgh for the film which is directed by Mark Cousins.
In 2014 and 15 Offbeat produced an album for Sir Chris Evans entitled Lest We Forget. The album is based on letters written back from the front line by soldiers who never returned. The songs were put together by Sir Chris who also plays Lead Guitar on thew album. It feature vocals by Brian Rice, Steve Balsamo, Aubrey Parsons, Darren Wharton, Ruth Notman & Seonaid Aitken.
The album has been passed on legendary music producer Youth who has the task of inviting well known artists on to the album to make sure it achieves maximum publicity.
Imaginary Creatures second album Danse Macabre was released in 2015 and this year we start work on the third album working with the projects brainchild and lyricist.
Offbeat are about to embark on a debut album for African singer Anthony Obi. He has a inspired voice and we very much look forward to working with him.
Singer and songwriter Norine Mindeyes is about to release her uplifting and truly majestic debut single United. Offbeat producer Iain McKinna and Norine have been working for a couple of years now on songs which will be reeled over the year. Notably Tell Me & Living On A Bridge.
Who knows what else will come our way over the year. On Wednesday we work with Skyler Jett, completing vocals which were recorded in Switzerland. Skylar famously accompanied Celine Dion on the movie’s title track Titanic. He then replaced Lionel Ritchie as Lead Singer with The Commodores.
Offbeat news from our Edinburgh Recording Studio.
THE PRODUCERS BLOG
Well since our last Offbeat blog but we have been very busy here at our Edinburgh recording studio. These last two years have been far and away our busiest in our 23 year history with a great combination of original music production and voice commentaries. As usual the range of styles is mind boggling and has made for a very interesting period for the studio for both Kirsty Anderson (the studio manager) and myself. We hope you enjoy the blog and snippets of music we have been granted permission to post too.
GAVIN BLACKIE – LAID BARE (album)
In the past couple of months we’ve picked up the pace with Gavin Blackie’s debut album LaId Bare and I am is now mixing six of the tracks he co-wrote with Gavin for the album.The album was started back in 2013 but was on hold for most of last year as Gavin was busy gigging and writing new material for the project.
Gavin comes up with great lyrics. melodies and ideas for music and I interpret this into music and songs that are really sounding great. Gav’s unique vocal abilities really shine on these songs. Kirsty Anderson also features on vocals and violin.
We first got together after he won Edinburgh’s Got Talent back in 2010 and have been writing together ever since.
KIRSTY LOGAN – THE GRACEKEEPERS (audio book)
We recently completed an audio book for Australian company Bolinda.com with author Kirsty Logan who narrated her amazing award winning novel The Gracekeepers here at our Edinburgh recording studio.
The recording lasts just over nine hours and amazingly we sent it over to the company for final edits without a single mistake in the recording- by either Kirsty Logan, who did an amazing job of the narration, or myself who recorded and compiled all the audio over an intensive session lasting three days.
The book is about a circus boat in a flooded world. North and her bear live on the Circus Excalibur, floating between the scattered archipelagoes that are all that remains of the land. (read this review)
DAVID ELL – WELCOME TO THE BALL (album)
The David Ell album Welcome To The Ball is now completed and mastered. David recorded and produced it in his home studio in Linlithgow using Cubase and I mixed and mastered the album here in Edinburgh on Logic Pro X at Offbeat.
It’s a great album of Alternative Rock songs with all the music played by David apart from a little Bass here and there by myself. The release date for the album has been set for……….. and will be released on Davids own label….., some of the songs will be accompanied by videos which are currently in production.
David and I first worked together this way on a selection of his songs a few years back. This current album will soon be released.
ROSS MUNRO – TWISTED TRADITION (album)
Former Royal Scot’s Dragoon Pipe Major Ross Munro’s album Twisted Tradition is also completed and mastered. It features a selection of fantastic tunes, some of which were written by Ross, and some traditional tunes. As the title suggests it’s pipe music with a twist.
On this album Ross also plays most of the instruments and also showcases his amazing arrangement skills. I played Bass on a few tracks, Drums on one and guitar on another.
We are currently negotiating a licensing deal for the album and hope to be able to announce a label and release date very soon. Iain & Ross worked together on the Spirit Of The Glen trilogy of album from 2007-2010. Ross will be promoting the album with live performances both here in the UK and the US when the album is released.
SIR CHRIS EVANS – LEST WE FORGET (album)
This album is based on poignant and emotional letters written back home from soldiers in World War 1 who never returned. Sir Chris Evans is an accomplished songwriter and guitarist who has put this album of songs together, produced by me and featuring some great musicians and singers.
Including Steve Balsamo (vocals) , Brian Rice (vocals) Seonaid Aitken (vocals & violin) Jon Cohen (Strings) Ted McKenna (Drums) Ruth Notman (vocals), Ross Munro (pipes and whistle), Kirsty Anderson(vocals), Aubrey Parsons (vocals). I play Bass, Acoustic Guitar and Keyboards.
More musicians and singers are still to contribute to the album which is scheduled for completion in early Autumn 2015. What makes this album very challenging is that we require many different vocalists for the album as almost every song requires a different singing style. Sometimes we have to try out several singers for a song before deciding which works best.
IMAGINARY CREATURES – DANSE MACABRE (album)
This is the second album I’ve co-written with lyricist David Scott. It has a 70s rock feel and features performances by Ted McKenna (drums), Keith More (guitar), Rich Anderson on keyboards, Joe Bouchard (guitar) Kirsty Anderson and Alexis Anderson (backing vocals), Luis Albornoz-Parra on Synths, John Burgess (soprano sax and clarinet), Kenny Tomlinson (tenor and baritone sax) and me on Bass, Keys and Guitar. David sings backing vocals on a few tracks too.
The first album The Butterfly’s Dream was an extensive collection of songs which worked well to varying degrees but this project feels much more like a album and we are both very pleased and excited about how it’s turning out. The recording of the album is now complete and mixing is about to begin. David comes up with the musical ideas for each song and I interpret them musically for him, something I’m doing more and more these days for both lyricists and singers.
MARK AG – LIGHTING THE WAY HOME (album)
Brighton based Mark AG wrote most of this album using an iPad and then came into Offbeat where I produced it last year. It has now been mastered but Mark decided to release two singles from the album prior to releasing the whole album.
Mark and I have been working together now for a few years when Mark initially came to our Edinburgh recording studio from Brighton to master songs from his first album entitled 3am Sleepwalkers.
The latest single “A Beautiful Flower…what if?”. is available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, Youtube, Soundcloud and more. It features Kenny Tomlinson on Sax. Offbeat’s Kirsty Anderson also shows her versatility on this album, providing backing vocals on a couple of tracks and electric violin on one. Mark plays Piano and I contribute, Bass, Drums and Electric Guitar throughout.
JABJAB – (album)
Back in the 70s gigging band Huddersfield based band JabJab recorded many songs and gigs which for reasons of timing didn’t actually ever get released. The recordings were subsequently lost and were just recently found by their Hammond organist Rob Whittington. I took the master tapes into Pierhouse studio in Edinburgh where expert audio engineer Pete Haigh had to actually physically bake the tapes as a precautionary measure to avoid shedding of them having been stored for so long. The baking method makes sure the oxide on the tapes sticks to the plastic backing long enough for the tapes to be played back and transferred.
The recovered recordings were then transferred to digital and mastered by me here at Offbeat. The story of Jabjab is currently being made into a documentary which will tell the whole story of the baked tapes etc so I don’t want to elaborate too much on things just yet. As soon as the film is released we will feature it in a future blog. The band are performing a reunion gig in July in Huddersfield. For more details visit the website
As well as all the above we have recorded several audio commentaries for the Royal London website, Mastered a song called She by Renaud Cmela, and produced a song by songwriter Stewart Morrison entitled Time I Wasn’t Here.
Hot News From Offbeat – Kirsty’s Blog
WOW, it’s been a fantastic year so far for OFFBEAT RECORDING STUDIOS with lots of fantastic new talent and interesting projects – the outcome being seven albums of varying styles. from Dance, Hip Hop, Pop, Rock, Folk and even World.
J.A Connor’s composition OPEN YOUR MIND has reached Number One in the Broadjam World Chart. Vocals by Jim, instruments and production by Iain McKinna and backing vocals by me. Jim previously had a no1 in the Celtic music charts with another Offbeat production of his song MYSTERIOUS LADY.
The second album for Imaginary Creatures entitled The Dance Macabre is now well underway. Lyricist David Scott has his ideas interpreted, co-written and produced by Offbeat’s Iain McKinna. Ex Blue Oyster Cult member Joe Bouchard will be guesting on Slide Guitar on this album. Joe covered one of David’s songs from his first album called EVERYBODY GOES INSANE. The album will also feature mega guitarist Keith More (credits include Joe Satriani, McCartney, Tina Turner, Chaka Khan, Michael Shenker band).
Professor Sir Chris Evans has written an amazing album of World War 1 songs for this years centenary. Iain is producing and supporting guitarist Chris musically on the album which will feature Ross Munro, Brian Rice and various other singers and musicians still to be decided. Chris is a leading light in Live Sciences with a great passion for music. He has a lovely guitar style and is a very talented and prolific songwriter. The album which features 15 songs will be completed by November. Here he is at the launch of his Live Sciences hub just last week with his friend Theo Paphitis… more to follow in a special blog about Chris and this great project.
Ross Munro first worked with Iain when he was pipe major for the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards on The Spirit Of The Glen trilogy of albums for Decca Records. The first album reached NUMBER ONE in the UK Classical Charts and the second album Journey achieved a CLASSICAL BRIT AWARD for best album in 2009. Ross is now in the studio recording his amazing new solo album which will be called Twisted Tradition. The sound of his haunting pipes which he has blended in with a whistle on some tracks is truly special, adding to his unique and uplifting sound.
Recently OFFBEAT worked with Hip Hop artist Izz Juvey and edited and mastered a single version of his song MOMENT OF BLACK OUT. Izz, aged 24 and born in Gambia, brought out a music video of M.O.B which was released on March 30th 2014 and released by Uprisin Records. Izz has a positive message to his music wanting to, he says “inspire the troubled youths of today entrapped in social injustice” The timing of his rapping is brilliantly executed, drawing you into the video and with the arty visuals of Edinburgh I certainly felt compelled to watch it over and over! Iain has just finished recording his follow up single Starin At The Mirror. Juvey is busy at the moment organising his future gigs, so its onwards and upwards for this inspiring and very talented young artist. I have recently interviewed him and this will be published in one of my future blogs. Meanwhile check out the video!
Gavin Blackie (pictured right) who won Edinburgh’s Got Talent in 2012 is a fantastic, charismatic and unique singer currently working on his new album Laid Bare at OFFBEAT which he is very excited about, It’s true pop with a twist with some very high energy dance tracks and some moving pop ballads . His vocal range is stunning, adding the right hooks and melodys. He writes and sings mainly about the pleasures and traumas of love but with really catchy choruses you find your self singing them again and again. Gavin and Iain have co-written this album which is due for completion later this year.
Mark AG another truly talented singer,and musician came all the way from Brighton to record with OFFBEAT, he recorded his album Lighting The Way Back Home in stages over a period of six months. The album contain songs about love and various emotions in the style of easy listening rock which Mark wrote on Piano using his Ipad!. The album has been completed just this week and is now ready for release… more to follow in a blog upon release of the record. Here’s a clip from the excellent song Louder which will soon be released as a single. It featores mark on Piano and Iain on Guitar, Bass & drums
David Ell approached his album Welcome To The Ball in a different way by recording all the backing and vocals in his home studio, and what a talent. His 3 dimensional and very underground rock style production hooks you in to each track… blending in the haunting vocals… such a great singer too! He came to OFFBEAT to have Iain mix and master his album which enhanced each track adding depth and quality to the overall sound that makes it a killer record you just want to play again and again. He is also in the process of planning future solo gigs where he is creating video backdrops for each track, this will not only make it really exciting to watch but a show not to be missed. I’m about to arrange an interview with David so watch this space! here is an excerpt from one of the tracks on the album entitled Reach.
Rich Anderson – Extraordinary Keyboard player and MD has been involved with OFFBEAT for many years. He Is currently on tour as MD for the musical DIRTY DANCING in UK and is booked into the studio in August to lay down some pre- recorded parts for the show with various backing singers
Steven Lambert, an American who current lives and gigs in Perth Australia is another ‘remote’ client. He asked us to put together a Hendrix backing track with guitar played by Keith More and Bass and Drums by Iain. Steve has been gigging around South East Asia for the past 20 years having played in Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam doing mainly solo gigs but also with various groups as a backing musician for some regional acts travelling through the area.
Other artists who have been in the studio this year include Nigerian born R&B singer Norine Babs. Singer songwriter Duncan McIntosh who we met at The Voice showcase held at our studio a few months back, Stewart Morrison, Lesley Young & John McKay Clements from Montreal, Rapper RP, Dance and Pop singer Renaud Cmela, Robert Maitland , Hip Hop artist Skinz, Pop Singer Songwriter & Drummer Brian Rice, Jazz Singer Jess Abrams, Hollywood actor Brian Cox, Neil Oliver & BBC producer Samantha Heeler.
If you have a songs, lyrics, instruments, vocals or even backing tracks to record or needing produced just pick up that phone and call us NOW on 0131 556 4882.
Another full on year at Offbeat
Since starting Offbeat we’ve been involved in some great projects and last year was one of our busiest and most interesting yet.
70’s Reggae band Jab Jab recorded a lot of songs back in the day and through their keyboard player and family friend Rob Whittington (we share the same niece, Jess McKinna). I had the priveleged job of transferring their old 1/4” tapes, cassettes and assorted studio and live recordings into digital and re-mastering a double album amazing tracks. Some of the tracks hadn’t been heard for over 30 years! I went into Pierhouse Studios in Edinburgh where boffin and studio genius Pete Haigh baked the tapes. This was because a few of them were very old and were shedding. Playing them like the risks permanent damage- the baking process melds the tape back together so that they can be safely played. Pete then transferred them onto digital for me. They all played at different speeds so we rescued the material through a selection of Pete’s Tape Recorders.
There was about 3 hours of material to master. Here’s an excerpt from a personal favourite.
Last past year I produced and provided the backing track for a single for LA and Kuala Lumpar based singer Khylune. His video of the song Shut Up & Dance has had over 150.000 Youtube hits since it’s release in February. He was in Malaysia at the time of putting the track together and I worked on the production after hearing a demo of the song which was co-written with Award Winning US Nashville based songwriter CJ Watson, author of “The Everything Songwriting Book” and “Essential Songwriting”. Khy went into the studio in Kuala Lumpar to lay down his vocals and the sent them back go Scotland for me to mix.When asked for material for my blog last year Khy informed me that his foster Dad was the late Artie Mogul, the man who discovered Bob Dylan and owner of United Artists Records. Read my blog on Khylune for more information on this.
Closer to home Americana vocalist Jim Connor has been exporting his songs to the States from Scotland. I provide all the musical backing and production for Jim who I’ve been working with now for several years – Jim has a strong and distinctive vocal style which has a very broad appeal.
Jim works on demos of his songs at his home in Cumbernauld and sends them through on Dropbox for me to work on here at the Offbeat studio. Once the tracks are ready he visits the studio to lay down his vocals.
In 2013 we had a no1 on Celtic Music Radio and Broadjam with his compositions Mysterious Lady and Drift Away. Here’s a clip from our latest unreleased recording of his uplifting song Open Your Mind
Singer, Drummer and Songwriter Brian Rice and I have also worked on a couple of his songs this year. Brian, who originally comes from Northern Ireland and now lives in Aberfoyle, has an amazing voice and is a talented composer and musician who collaborates with songwriters Worldwide.
I first met Brian about 8 years ago when he visited the studio with his songwriting partner Clive at the time to mix and master a single they had wrote together.
I love the song we produced together entitled Waiting For Me To Fall and hope to work on more tracks with him in 2014. To read more about my collaboration with Brian and to hear the full version of the song Click HERE
Stewart Morrison has been coming to the studio now for 18 months, recording a selection of his own compositions in which Kirsty Anderson and I contribute musical parts and vocals for his varied songwriting styles. Here’s a clip of his great song You Were The One.
Stewart comes into the studio with his songs in his head and we interpret them into full productions and definitive versions of his ideas.
A few years back we held a 50th birthday party experience at which we met Film Producer Mark Cousins. We then went on to record commentary for four of his films, the most successful being The Story Of Film An Odyssey which continues to gather International acclaim and success.
IN 2013 Mark was back to record his voice for The Story Of Children & Film . As well as this we recorded Neil Oliver for Coast Australia and Hollywood actor Brian Cox who was the voice of Duggy The Dug who’s animated films have done a great job of promoting the Yes vote for the forthcoming Independence campaign. The project was for Newsnet Scotland and was produced by Independent Film Director Alan Knight.
Here’s one of a series of videos in which Duggy The Dug espouses convincing arguments for the case for voting Yes to Independence
We also recorded a sign language to audio version of Skint for AC2.com as well as several audio projects for Gavin Brogan from Scottish Life.
David Hyslop has been writing song and having them produced at other studios until he decided to give Offbeat a go with his excellent song Hollow Rain. Not wanting to influence my production of the track, David decided not to attend any of the sessions and gave me a wide remit for re-arranging the song.
Initially he provided a rough demo and I worked from that. David says of his Offbeat experience “Working with Iain on my song was a great experience – there is a relaxed and friendly vibe at the Offbeat studio, and I always welcomed Iain’s constructive and valuable input into the song which really helped to bring out the best in the material. Highly recommended!”
David came in to the studio at the very end to work with Kirsty on the verses to make sure his vocal ideas were incorporated into the final mix. The result is an evocative and uplifting song which has evolved into this recording that everyone involved in the team is proud of. Here’s a short section of the song.
2013 ended with more recordings for the Kings Theatre panto Peter Pan. I’ve been working with the team now for 7 years through Rich Anderson MD. Allan Stewart (pictured with me -left) who famously plays Widow Twanky, has also been in the studio recording tracks for his own projects.
Ongoing projects for 2014 are Imaginary Creatures –70’s Classic Rock album of original compositions by Lyricist & Songwriter David Scott entitled The Butterfly’s Dream which is due for release in Spring.
Also talented vocalist & Songwriter Mark Greenock comes to the studio all the way from Brighton to record his second album Lighting The Way Home.
Singer Songwriter & Multi Instrumentalist David Ell is in the process of recording his third album at his home studio in Linlithgow. I am helping David mix and master the album as well as creating backing tracks for his live set.
Renaud Cmela is currently recording at the studio on a song we started a while back entitled Starting Over
Also embarking on an album of songs is super talented Vocalist & Songwriter Gavin Blackie. More about this, Imaginary Creatures, David Ell and Mark Greenock and Renaud Cmela in future articles… watch this space 🙂
Dancing, Night & Day by Renaud Cmela
I’ve been working with songwriter & vocalist Renaud Cmela for a few years now. French born and living in Cork. Renaud has come up with a fantastic dance track entitled DNAD (Dancing, Night & Day).
The track features guitarist and co-writer of the song Stephane Blavin, who has performed brilliantly on Bass, Guitars and Drums under Renaud’s direction.
After recording the parts in Ireland Renaud visited the Offbeat Studios here in Edinburgh, where I mixed and mastered the track. He then set the sing to clips of Soul Train (found online), which you can see on the video below featuring the song.
Since working on the track Renaud has been back in the studio with other songs co-written with Stephane Blavin and myself. A great collection of material is now being compiled for consideration for release by record companies who will soon be approached.