The eSession Experience: Online Recording for All
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Starting up the Band

To my delight, Bruce Kaphan was up for the song. (After listening to Slider repeatedly, I knew I wanted to feature him in the arrangement.) I set about assembling the rest of the band, browsing through the 750-member eTalent database with help from Gina and Director of Talent Relations Ryan Chahanovich. When we found someone, I'd send them a work request, they'd respond with a bid, and once I had clicked to pay a 50% advance, they would show up as members of my Song Team. Here's the lineup I started with:

The song team

Joining Bruce Kaphan were:

  • Bass: Byron House. Byron has played with the Dixie Chicks, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, Dolly Parton, and many others. He also produced the latest album by the Waybacks.
  • Drums: Pat Mastelloto. XTC, King Crimson, David Sylvian, and Mr. Mister, among others.
  • Percussion: Tom Roady. The Dixie Chicks, Kenny Chesney, Michael McDonald, Ricky Skaggs, Trisha Yearwood, and others.

I've already spent some time raving about Bruce and I don't want to bore you with gushing, so let me just say that each one of these guys is terrific: inspiring as a player, and a pleasure to work with. I've found that it's often true that the better the player, the humbler the attitude. Note the slogan on Byron House's MySpace page: "Is there no beginning to this man's talent?"

The first team member to record was Tom Roady. At his Nashville studio, Tom downloaded the 24-bit, 44.1kHz stems (i.e., submixes, in this case of drums, bass, guitars, and melody) that I had uploaded from my home studio in Monterey, California.

Note that by encouraging users to work with stems, eSession can be DAW-agnostic. It doesn't matter if different team members use Pro Tools, Nuendo, Logic, or whatever if they're dealing with uncompressed stems, at an agreed-on sample rate, that start from sample 1. Since all DAWs maintain perfect sync among tracks, there's no problem with compatibility. (Working with MP3s is discouraged for this purpose, since MP3's have header information that offsets the start point of the audio.)

Here are the notes I gave Tom in my work request:

Spare, in support of drums: shaker, maybe light hand drums, accents on triangle.... The thumbnail description of my production approach for this is atmospheric, cinematic Americana. As you'll see, the chords are a lot more jazz-based than would be usual for Americana, but my aim is to keep the spareness and directness of roots-oriented music, where every note means something.

Tom started with a simple shaker track that played throughout the song, and ended up serving as the arrangement's pulse:

He came up with a surprise for the 2nd verse: a dumbek, an instrument that would never have occurred to me for this song, but which I thought worked perfectly:

Tom also added accents with a caxixi (a kind of shaker) and a custom-made instrument he called "silver solder hands":

I loved his first take, and after a couple of minor tweaks here and there, Tom was done. He uploaded his full bandwidth tracks, I paid the balance due, and that unlocked his files for my download. eSession's clean, disciplined system for handling transactions makes sure that ownership of files stays under control, that everyone gets paid, and that talent is spared having to be in the collection business.

Pat Mastelotto

Pat Mastelotto pokes a Roland MIDI pad. (Photo: Ryan Chahanovich)

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