La Producing 101 (Part One)
June 14, 2005
An email I received a few days ago asked about the Jillian Wheeler record (I know, I guess I won’t shut up about it but hey, I really like that record so nah nah nah). Seems the guy asked me a while back about how producing a record went and I just glossed over it (according to him). He asked as well about how Rusty and I came to be involved with the project and what we had to do as producers. So I thought to myself, Mike, that would make an interesting diary. Maybe.
Around August 2004 I got a call from a swell guy who was vice president of a mid-level record company and head of it’s A&R. He was put on to me and Rusty by a mutual friend who is also a successful music journalist here in Los Angeles. We had several phone conversations and and left it that we’d chat once LOVE finished the USA Zombies tour, which ended in early October 2004. Hannah flew out and was with me at home when the Label rang and asked me to check my emails; they’d sent some demos of songs by some songwriters, demos of Jillian’s own stuff and some cover songs. We spoke several more times and then by early November, the A&R guy made Rusty and I a formal offer to produce Jillian’s first full-length record. She was 13 ½ at the time.
Hannah and I spent Thanksgiving in Las Vegas with our good pal Laura Kelley, and her folks, Dennis and Dori, as I mulled over the idea and concept the A&R guy had. See, he wanted a young person on his label that was mega-talented but singing really good material and songs of substance. Once back home Rusty, the Label guy and myself held a conference call. We wanted to write with Jillian and see if we could come up with stuff good enough for the record. The record guy agreed to give us that chance to write and see what happens. So we were happy with that, so it wouldn’t be a robotic album and 100% covers or outside songwriters. We were to be given a budget.a MODEST budget I might add, and we had to manage that budget to pay for the studio time, the musicians, rent gear, pay the engineers, pay for food, water, this and that, as well as the mixing and hard drive and reel to reel tape. What was left over (if any!) was our pay. Yikes! So we went to work.
The label flew us both to Boston to get together with Jillian and listen to her belt out stuff with that wonderful voice of hers. We then re-configured the best key for her to sing in on every song. I think all except one had to be changed. Then came the nice part of the trip where the A&R guy took us to dinner and then bought us drinks but then they refused to serve us after a while cause we were too drunk but then the lady, for some reason, changed her mind and started serving us drinks again. I guess she wanted us to take a break I spose. The next night the label (plus some of Jillian’s management) took us out to dinner, which was a lot of fun. Even though I could only sense what Jill was like on the surface, I knew she had loads of talent. She just had a part in Mystic River as one of Sean Penn’s daughters. She’d done a ton of stuff but it was her piano skills and voice that blew me away. And her total professionalism. Rusty and me were happy to be one board.And by Xmas we had everything squared away, chords charted, studios rented and gear rented. The first session day was to be January 4, 2005.
all the best,