These days it’s so easy to collaborate with anyone, just about anywhere, thanks to innovations in technology and the internet. Skype, facetime, or even just straight up email and dropbox make sharing ideas incredibly easy, and there is so much affordable, good quality recording hardware and software that anyone can put decent recordings down. I know I sound like an old lady, but wow do I wish I had the technology that’s available to me now when I was a youngin’…
One of my longest collaborative relationships in music is with my dear dear friend Maxwell, who is located over in Chicago. I’ve moved around a lot over the years – from San Francisco, to Toronto, to Stuttgart, to Vancouver, to LA, with a few other places squeezed in there – and yet we’ve managed to work together through all that without too much trouble.
Maxwell’s project, Everson Poe, is a metal project in its broadest terms – but he writes a plethora of different genres ranging from garage rock, ambient, industrial, many types of metal, and electronic music. He’s kind of impossible to pin down.
He’s also a little bit of an anomaly in that he performs, records, and mixes everything himself, with the exception of some guest vocalists and sometimes guest instrumentalists. For the record, he’s an excellent screamer, and sometimes you can catch him singing, but he’s had many different voices perform on his large body of work – myself included!
Every song that we work on together is approached a little differently from the last. Many times he knows exactly what he wants and sends me whatever he’s got recorded, even if it’s rough, with a guide track and lyrics.
I’ll take those tracks, put them into Logic and learn the song. When I’m ready, I’ll record the main lines, and any harmonies if applicable. If I have an idea for other parts, I’ll record those too usually – he’s pretty open to new ideas, and if he likes it he’ll either use it or do something similar on his end.
Sometimes he’s interested in having me come up with a melody, and will just send me lyrics to riff off of, or vice versa. Once in a while he’ll ask me to write the lyrics _and_ melody, or write another instrument part.
There are a few keys to our successful long-distance music collaboration over the years. The first and biggest key is communication – he’s always very clear about what he wants me to do or improvise, and where in the song to do it. We send rough bounces back and forth via email and a shared dropbox folder with ideas and first passes, and discuss if it’s working or not. If it’s not working, we adjust where necessary and repeat the process.
The second key is being open to ideas – we’ve known each other long enough now to know what each other’s strengths are, and we’re both open to new ideas which come during the collaboration process. Sometimes they pan out and sometimes they don’t, but I think he’d agree that whenever we give each other ideas it’s been a good exercise in writing and a fulfilling experience on both sides.
The final key is respect. We are always up front about what we can realistically expect from each other creatively seeing as we both have very full and busy personal lives. For example, there have been times where I have just been too wrapped up with kid, husband, and job to feel like I can give him a recorded performance that is worth giving in the timeframe he’s looking for. In those instances he’s respected that and either found someone else for the song, or held off on the song until I’m in a place where I can give him the quality that his music deserves.