Hours spent in the recording studio are potentially the most important moments of an artist’s career. That’s not to discount the importance of live performances, or the rigor of the songwriting process, but time spent in studio working on a latest, greatest project is vital to the progression of music both artistically and commercially.
Playing equally important roles in this process are the artist and the producer. Without one of these parts, the other is likely to fall flat. The artist provides the raw talent, the energy and the physical presence. The producer provides something intangible; a knack for listening to music in a different way and an ability to coax sounds from an artist they may not have believed possible.
“The reward is in being able to play a part in something that’s greater than you,” says Howard Redekopp, a renowned Canadian music producer who has worked with the likes of Mother Mother and Dear Rouge. “Hearing the end result and having both the artist and myself excited about it because it became something that really couldn’t have existed without all of us coming together.”
Most recently, Redekopp has been involved with a program called The Prophets of Music that offered three Alberta groups a scholarship to record their newest albums in Calgary at OCL Studios. Redekopp spent a full week this past November working directly with the Edmonton alt-rock group High Love, formerly known as REND, one of the winners of the scholarship. The Ashley Hundred and Brett McCrady, the other two recipients of the scholarship, set out to record throughout December and into the early months of 2017. High Love will be releasing the first single from the album, No Longer Yours, on April 21 before performing their new material live at the Prophets of Music artist showcase April 29.
The group felt that a renewed sense of their artistic goals warranted a name change and in March they unveiled their new title, High Love. “It is our passion and vision to create music that brings a voice to those who have had their voice taken away,” the group writes in a statement to their fans. “With everything going on in the world right now we have a chance to speak out and stand up for what we believe in.”
The group as a whole is hopeful that between their new name, album and tour plans they can continue to build on the artistic momentum they have generated over the past year. 2016 saw High Love grace the main stage at music festivals, receive the Prophets of Music emerging artist scholarship and spend time recording with one of western Canada’s top producers in a free-form sort of way that was unlike much of their past studio experiences.
“I think it went better than I even thought it could,” says Jordan Dempster, High Love’s drummer, of their recent time in studio. “We’re kind of surpassing what we thought we were capable of, doing things we never thought we could do.”
The group approached this recording somewhat differently than in their past albums, choosing to come into the studio with an open-ended idea of what their next album will sound like. Rather than setting each track in stone before recording, they let creative juices flow to perfect each track in the moment.
“We decided to really trust in the process and let the music guide us, there’s less fear than in the past,” says Carol-Lynne Quinn, lead vocalist of the group. “The song we just recorded, No Longer Yours, was just a piano and vocal track when we got here. And then we just did a jam session, Howard and I did a vocal loop with some piano and all the other parts just started to fall into place.”
Jeff Quinn, High Love’s bass guitarist and husband to Carol-Lynne, says, “we’re trusting ourselves more I think. We don’t get so concerned with the final outcome, we just kind of take it one step at a time, focus on the process and kind of have fun with it the whole time. Every bit we add just puts more of our stamp on things.”
In part, the freedom to approach recording in this fashion was possible because the Prophets of Music scholarship covered the full time spent on their recording sessions. Normally an independent artist sees every hour spent in studio being billed directly out of their pocket, putting immense pressure on how they spend their time.
Having this pressure lifted, if even for a single recording session, is something Redekopp feels is very helpful for artists trying to progress or improve their music. By lifting some of the focus away from the financials, artists can spend more time and energy on the art they set out to create.
“To have something like this, with the goal to empower young artists and help them get to the next level or help them get where they want to be, that’s really cool,” he says. “And that’s the cool thing about the Prophets of Music, it’s not about creating hit-maker, radio pop stars, or folk music heroes or the new star, there’s no goal in that sense. It’s about finding artists who have merit and have a willingness to grow.”
This also translates into a willingness to accept criticism and constantly push themselves, even when the producer is asking for the fiftieth take on a vocal track or guitar hook.
“Even when he says ‘I didn’t really love that one,’ he’s just trying to get you to do that one last perfect take, when you probably would have called it good three tries ago,” Jeff Quinn says. “But the next one could be golden.”
Carol-Lynne Quinn adds, “there is this sense of respect where when we tell someone to do it again, they know it’s only because we’re just trying to push each other to do our best. Nobody is going to be offended, there is this really open feeling to everything we’ve done so far.”
Redekopp says this is where the relationship between an artist and producer is crucial. Without a sense of mutual respect, neither party can properly contribute to the process.
“You have to have a mutual understanding that you are there to support the artists and that anything you do or want to do is to support them,” he says. “They have to believe that if you make a decision to take something in a certain direction, that you have their best interest in mind and that it’s only because you feel it will benefit their music, their sound or their vision, not just because it’s something you want to do.”
With plans to support the album through a Western Canadian tour and an eventual international tour, as well as with the guidance of mentors within the Prophets of Music, High Love hopes a new vision, new name and new album will help keep the artistic momentum they have generated from running out anytime soon.
- By Jodi Brak