There is no right way or wrong way to record music. Sometimes it's done very fast to capture spontaneity and freshness. Bob Dylan is known to prefer this method. Other times, it can be labored over longer. Both approaches went into the creation of the new single by Catherine Scholz. Much of the track - drums, percussion, rhythm guitar, violin and lead vocal was recorded in half a day at Ancient Wave in Nevada City. There was also some minimal drum editing. That's lightening speed for me when you consider that it usually takes a minimum of two hours to set up drums, mics and rout them into the desk.
We started with Catherine playing a rhythm track on one of the studios beautiful Martin acoustic guitars. She played to a click track, a metronome, to assure consistency with the timing. However, most serendipitously, she made a mistake in the form by including an extra verse section. Following Brian Eno's oblique strategy to "honor thy mistake as a hidden intention," we kept it for use as an instrumental section for solos. Then I had Catherine double her guitar part; she made the great suggestion to play it on a different acoustic guitar, her own. Next was her vocal. She did a warm up pass while I got her level. Then she did a take all the way through. By then, Mark McCartney had arrived to set up his drums. I expected to come back later to work on Catherine's lead vocal, but we never did. That first take was all that was needed.
We got the drums up and sounds on them lickety-split. Mark is a pro, and pretty instantly locked into the groove. It had already been decided in a pre-production meeting that he would play the drums with brushes. We did three drum takes. For the final one, Catherine requested more of what's known as a "stirring the soup" sound like you might hear in older jazz recordings where the brushes swirl around the surface of the snare drum and play accents on the 2 and 4 of the measure. In one of the initial passes, I liked the way Mark was keeping time with his hi hat on the "1 and" + "3 and" of the beat and asked for more of that. That third take was the one we went with. Mark came in for a playback, heard a few things slightly off which we fixed on the spot through editing. He heard a tambourine part, overdubbing it in one pass. Catherine had the thought for him to play some cymbal swells at transition areas, from the first verse into the chorus, from the chorus to the solo section, etc. I asked Mark if he had mallets for that, but he was way ahead of me and already had them out, ready to go.
Following the drums, we had just enough time to record some violin parts by the very talented Mei Lin Heirendt. Based on the lyrics, I asked her to consider a melancholy mood with a glimmer of hope in there as she played. We recorded a couple of passes all the way through with Mei Lin playing fills in response to Catherine's words along with a solo. After those two passes, we worked on just the solo and got a beautiful one. John Taber, a professional and extremely excellent photographer (among other things) got some great shots of this musical invocation. Hats off to my assistant, Jaya Betts, who made the seamless, technological flow possible.
More of John Taber's shots can be seen in the Production Credits on Catherine's site.
The rest of the instruments were recorded remotely at the various musician's local studios. Catherine added some background vocals at her place. Bassist Jared May sent in his part from his home in L.A. Tommy Coster was enlisted to play piano. He graciously included some other ideas he had: a wurlitzer piano part and some ambient synthesizer swells for transitions. Pete Grant sent multiple takes of lap guitar, pedal steel guitar and dobro – all gorgeous fills, textures and solos. I had an embarrassment of riches to flesh out the arrangement.
Catherine's fiancé, John, had the suggestion to turn the song into a duet. We both thought it could significantly contribute to the song. She asked her friend, Francisco Aviles to contribute a verse and a chorus. Francisco sang the second verse modifying the lyrics slightly to suit his vocal delivery, then they both sang the last chorus. Francisco sent me one take which I plugged into mix and sent to Catherine. She asked if there were any alternate choices, so I had him send all his takes which included nine more. I spent a few hours listening and compiling the best parts. It was a good call; his earlier takes had a softer, more velvety quality that suited the song well. Catherine heard the new, composite take and requested one line be swapped back to the first take which worked very well.
For the solo, I originally went with Mei Lin's violin for the whole thing. John also had the idea to have the solo switch to the lap steel halfway through, then have the violin come back to join it at the end. It was another great idea as it musically anticipated a second voice, Francisco's, entering the song with both voices together on the last chorus.
Emotionally, as I interpret it, it seems to concern a reckoning of a relationship which both parties want to confront directly as per the lyrics that begin each verse: "Say it to my face ...". They both agree that their union will be enough to carry them through anything. I find it very moving.
A review at Melo Groove puts it more eloquently:
Celebrated singer-songwriter Catherine Scholz is set to make a profound impact on the hearts and minds of listeners with the release of her latest single, “Let This Be Enough.” This soul-stirring song transcends boundaries and speaks to the deeply human experiences of unrequited love, longing for reciprocation, and the struggle for self-acceptance.
The full review is here.
You can listen or download Let This Be Enough on any of these platforms.