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,
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.
The Butterfly’s Dream – Imaginary Creatures Debut Album release
IMAGINARY CREATURES – THE BUTTERFLY’S DREAM. A slow burning studio project.
Since August 2012 and for most of 2013, lyricist David Scott was in the studio every Wednesday between 2pm and 6pm, working on his debut album The Butterfly’s Dream for his project Imaginary Creatures.
In early January 2014 we put the finishing touches to the tracks and sent it off to be manufactured for it’s current release on David’s label. The album, which is over an hour in length, consists of 14 original classic rock songs. In the studio, David approached each song with a strong vision in his head regarding influences and instrumentation and it was my job to interpret this for him. The album is available from Itunes for £9.99
Normally I take a supporting role with artists in the studio, but in this case David, who is principally a lyricist, doesn’t play any instruments and the only practical way forward was for me to play most of the parts as well as singing lead vocals. Whenever possible we invited guests to play on the album though and their contributions added lots of variety to the sound.
Offbeat Kirsty engineered the album with me and contributed Backing Vocals on several tracks as well as Electric Violin on Haunted.
Phenomenal Lead Guitarist Keith More guests on Hells Heart & Bad For Me (Keith’s credits include: Joe Satriani, Paul McCartney, Tina Turner, The Michael Shenker band).
Annie McCaig sings backing vocals on opening track Before The Night Comes & Ten Years (her recording credits include –Tears For Fears, Simple Minds, Level 42).
Fraser Speirs (credits: Paulo Nutini, Carole Kidd, Tam White) played his amazing Harmonica on two songs, Bad Train & Ten Years.
Rod Clements. (former member of Lindisfarne), plays Electric & Acoustic Slide Guitar on Bad For Me, Bad Train & Everybody Goes Insane which has already been covered by Blue Coupe, in the States. The band was formed by Blue Oyster Cult guitarist, vocalist Joe Bouchard). Joe heard a sneak preview of our version and said “Love the new version of Everybody Goes Insane. It’s way different from the Blue coupe version but it is a great take. Love the acoustic and slide and harmonies“
For those with the patience and the time, working on an album over an extended period can produce amazing results. I first worked this way with multi- instrumentalist and Singer/ Songwriter John McNairn on his excellent album of contemporary arrangements of classic Border ballads – Borderland – back in the late 90’s. John used to visit the studio for an hour and a half every Thursday and 18 months later we found we had a great album on our hands. Recording in short sessions and taking the result home to review can be a very effective way to evolve a production, and to avoid wasting any studio time for the artist.
The Butterfly’s Dream and Borderland can’t really be compared as they are so different musically, but they were both fairly ambitious projects which required many sessions with diverse approaches to the production of each track.
Another advantage of recording over a longer period of time is funding of albums for self funded projects. Paying for the production over time and for shorter sessions is much more manageable and affordable with a big budget result.
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.
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 🙂
Shut Up and Dance – Khylune Tham Official Video
Shut Up and Dance, the new single by LA based singer Khylune Tham has received over 40,000 hits since being posted on youtube.
The track was produced at Offbeat last year and was remixed here again earlier in 2013 before it’s final release. After being asked to produce the track by Khy, based on an acoustic guitar demo by co-writer CJ Watson, I created this arrangement playing Bass, Drums, Keyboards and Rhythm Guitars before inviting guitarist Keith More to add the lead lines and Offbeat Kirsty to add backing vocals. I then involved local rapper Sparky to add the middle section which Khy and CJ wrote.
Check out the video.
Read my past blog about Keith More, C.J Watson and Khylune’s foster Dad Artie Mogul, who discovered Bob Dylan and owned United Artists.
Collaborating with songwriter Brian Rice
Brian and I first worked together back in 2006 when I mixed a dance track called Edge Of Love for New York based Rachel Paney which he co-produced and co-arranged with former musical partner Clive Moorhead.
We kept in touch over the years and often discussed working on music and in December 2012 we finally got together to begin a new songwriting collaboration together.
On Waiting For Me To Fall, Brian plays Acoustic Kit and sings Lead Vocals. I play Guitars, Keyboards and sing backing vocals along with Brian along with Kirsty Anderson who added great vocals and also plays Electric Violin on the track.
We decided early on to blend real instruments with samples and include Real Drums & Bass in the production.
The Strings are a blend of Korg analogue strings with EXS 24 samples and Kirsty’s violin.
Brian hails from Northern Ireland and has been developing his writing style with a view to selling his songs to other artists. This experience is now culminating in great lyrics and melodies to which I can help by providing music to complete the songs.
Hearing Brian’s lead vocal really carries this song and production for me. I look forward to working on more songs together.
Have a listen to the result of our efforts.
Tony Gately sings tribute for brother Stephen
Tony Gately is in the studio next week recording the vocals for his forthcoming single He’s Still Around, a tribute record dedicated to the memory of his brother Stephen Gately who tragically died three years ago on October 10th 2009.
I’ve been very privileged to have the amazing opportunity to create and produce the music for the single along with Kirsty Anderson on Backing Vocals & Electric Violin.
The song was written by Tony and his songwriting partner Kevin Pallot who is based in Jersey. The song is especially poignant as Stephen heard it and was considering including it on the next Boyzone album which he tragically didn’t get a chance to make. Some of the lyrics have been changed since to create a fitting anniversary record for Stephen.
The obscure cause of Stephen’s death was linked to the presence of an undetected heart complaint. Some proceeds of the record will go the the charity CRY (Cardiac Risk In The Young) as Tony is an active supporter of the charity having recently completed a 10k run to raise funds.
The track has been recorded, mixed and mastered here at the Offbeat Studios. It features mainly Piano, Acoustic & Electric Guitars, Bass & Drums.
He’s Still Around will be available on Itunes, Amazon, Spotify and all good online retailers from 8th October.