One final breath to shake off the jitters that accumulated over the duration of the long ride here on the proletariat chariot and the frantic vision-impaired struggle to find the right door. One final breath to remind myself I’m confident and this isn’t a big deal, to just have fun. “I’m Meryl Streep, bitch!” are the last words I say to myself before I push the doorbell of the house. The house that belongs to the strange man with a recording studio in his basement who I met on Kijiji and have never actually seen in real life. My nerves about singing for real human beings may be the least of my troubles… I mean this could easily end with my being raped/murdered. Good thing I brought my… No… Forgot my pepper spray. My real last words to myself before the door opens are “Fuck.”
“SD” answers the door and I immediately feel confident that this friendly looking man does not in fact have any malicious intentions involving my being violated or dismembered. I guess I will live to sing again after all! Pleasant “Nice to finally meet you!” introductions are exchanged and SD leads me to his basement. My palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy (honestly, Eminem really nailed this description of nerves) as I cautiously make my way deeper into the bowels of the house. The toys scattered on the floor to one side of the room put me at ease – this guy has kids. For whatever reason, that makes me relax a little bit. The other side of the room is where I find the recording studio.
A large desk space with multiple screens, various cords, big speakers, and other contraptions rests in a corner. In another corner, a make-shift sound booth has been constructed with a professional looking microphone stand and listening gear. This seems legit! …For recording an underground RnB album anyways… I sit at the desk with SD and he explains the project we’re working on and what he wants from me. I’m excited. This guy Cadence is working on an album and for this particular track, a love song (think Nelly and Kelly Rowland’s “Dilemma” or Eminem and Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie”, but not as good), they want me to add accompanying vocal harmonies and a chorus and verse.
SD plays what they have recorded for the track already and I listen closely. He hands me the lyrics for the chorus and tells me we will start by recording this part of the song. We sing the chorus together a couple of times without recording so I can get a feel for the tempo and how it‘s supposed to sound. I’m anxious. Not at all relaxed. While I’m on pitch, I sound flat, dead, scared. “How do you feel right now?” he asks me. “NERVOUS!” I reply and we both laugh, easing my tension a little bit. He tells me not to be nervous, just have fun and relax! Easier said than done, but I agree, take a breath, and try to chill out. It’s time to start recording.
SD positions me at the mic, lyrics in hand, headphones covering my ears. This is cool, like something out of “The Glee Project”, which is definitely the standard that should be used when measuring cool-ness. It takes a few attempts, several more deep breaths, and a bit of bouncing around on my toes to be able to relax into it and sing with some life and passion! On my last go at it I’m feeling pretty comfortable and I can see SD nodding his head in satisfaction and he shoots his thumbs into the air. I’m sounding pretty good! It’s smooth, on pitch, confident, and has some more life to it. He plays it back and it is so strange and interesting and exciting to hear myself sing on a track! The final task for the night is to record harmonies to a few of the lines we just finished. By now I’m comfortable and excited and it doesn’t take long at all to get a cut we are happy with.
SD’s phone rings, taking us both by surprise. It’s my sister (I gave her his number as a precaution) and I can hear her sounding concerned and panicked on the line as she says, “This is Sarah, I think my sister is in your basement.” It figures that the one time I mass text my loved ones that if they don’t hear from me for a while I’m probably no longer alive that my phone would die rendering me un-contactable. I assure my sister that I’m still intact and that no, she does not need to call the cops. It’s getting late anyways so SD and I decide this is a good time to end our first recording session together. With the “will I or won’t I be savagely attacked” concerns laid to rest and a new level of comfort and confidence with singing and recording achieved, I’m sure our next studio session will be far easier, less riddled with anxiety, and more exciting and empowering. That OR this really is an elaborate plot that will eventually lead to my tragic and violent demise. I’ll take my chances.