The Love Ballad
At the beginning of 2021 I took over Ryan Dahle's studio in the Song City building here in Vancouver. As one of the tasks I set for myself Isabelle and I recorded the following song, "The Love Ballad". We had collaborated and written this song for another person to sing back in 2018 but that fell through so the song just kinda sat on a hard drive for the past years. Then, while we were in Hipposonic Studio this past summer (thanks again for the great session Rob Darch!) Isabelle suggested we try tracking drums and other instruments on the demo. In the fast paced session we blasted through 6 songs (including the ballad) and then took everything home to discover what we'd captured.
After much reflection I decided the version we'd recorded was not the version I wanted to present to the world. Nothing wrong with any of the parts we'd tracks individually but the song didn't sound like our own yet. So over the xmas season Isabelle and I rehearsed it with just a piano to get the lyric into our heads and arrange the song more to our liking. Then in January we started to create a new version from scratch, abandoning all the recording we'd done up to that point.
I had the idea that we needed to minimize the arrangement so I started us with just a very simple pad sound that outlined the chord changes and we started tracking Isabelle's vocals on top of that. Then a few subtle beats started to appear and we sat back to ensure we enjoyed where we were headed. That basic core still holds the song together, as it is the opening sound and runs through out the mix.
However once I had digested the song for where it was at I could hear new ideas and parts and began adding, carefully, additional instruments. One of the first things we did was to add in a simple but distant sounding beat. There is a 2 track reel to reel in the studio so I printed a version through that machine to give it a more unique timbre. That done we started adding bass, but with each layer there was a moment when we'd consider if it was truly necessary and added to the whole production.
I am a decent bassist and solid keyboard player but guitar has always been a challenge for me. However, having a studio to play with I knew I had to try something so set about adding an Andy Summers like part to the second verse and bridge and suddenly the whole song sounded fresh again. It was a personal achievement to find the part and sound of the guitar for the ballad.
From there I could hear the build up in the mix wasn't happening with enough impact so I went back to the summer demo and reviewed the drum part that Jonas Fairly had done for us. Even though we'd tracked that version at 68 bpm and our new version was 69 I figured we could make it line up with some simple time compression: and it did! Layering in Jonas's drums over the looped pattern I had already placed into the song gave everything the punch and dynamics I was looking for.
As the mix was getting closer I could hear where we needed to sweeten up the vocals a bit so we tracked some double and triple vocals to the choruses to really widen and warm up the mix. Isabelle did a brilliant job nailing her parts and I spent more than a day going over my harmonies until I lined myself up with her and made the chorus parts stand out. It took several shots at it to get it right but we are both super pleased with how it's all turned out.
Please have a listen to the ballad. We are very proud of it and would love to have the whole world hear it one day!
Mark (and Isabelle)