Brent Ryan

Collaboration- The Unique Creative Process of Songwriting

Posted on September 15, 2018 in Album News, music, Music Business, Musical Inspiration, Opinions, Updates

This past week I received the final mastered versions of the five new songs that I have recently recorded and prepared for public release.  These five songs will be released one-by-one onto digital streaming platforms such as Spotify, and be a connecting road between the debut album, Cinnamon Pass, and the next project, hopefully a live recording.  Hence, the title of the new 5-song EP is Point A to Point B.  Already I’ve digressed!

I was listening to the final masters, who were beautifully done by Pat Manske at The Zone Studio in Dripping Springs, and it was the first time I was able to listen to the five new songs in sequence, as though I were listening to the record just for pleasure.  I had a magical experience during the listening, and was so moved by how all the creative conversations, and vision, and skills, and artistry had combined to create the songs that match exactly the vision that I had hoped. Elliott Miller produced these recordings at Firestation Studio in San Marcos. A relatively new graduate of the Sound Engineering program at Texas State University, Elliott took a sound-concept that I was barely able to communicate with the catalogue of adjectives that I know, and turn it into a real sound.  And he did so with less-than-ideal limitations to the recording process.  Similarly, numerous musicians added their skills to the project, bringing in their interpretations of my loose requests, making real notes out of statements like, “Really make that part soulful”, or, “Can that part bounce a little less and simply hold the foundation?” What does that mean? Well, they figured it out.

I gave myself chills thinking about this fact: these songs have now incorporated the talents of well over ten people, if not more.  And yet, it all started with me sitting in my living room with an acoustic guitar and an idea.  No other work of art is like this unique aspect of songwriting. Imagine if you were a celebrated and skilled oil painter. You burn a little bit of creative time fantasizing a concept for a new painting, maybe even sketch a rough design onto a drawing pad. But then, when it comes time to paint the concept, you hand the brushes and the oil paints over to a team of other painters. You tell one friend, “You’re an expert on painting sky and clouds, could you brush in your version of an approaching storm?”  Another friend you say, “I love how you paint mountains, could you paint in some winter peaks in the background? Oh, not quite like that, could you add a little more dramatic light to the left face of the mountain?” And so on with the foreground, the trees, the water, the grass.  You’d have a painting at the end, but it wouldn’t look like yours. It is the painting of several masters, and it would probably appear as a conflict of different styles and visions.

But not so with music. Music is characterized by the collaboration.  Music is social. It is an ongoing conversation between multiple masters.  The give and take is what makes it beautiful.

These songs sound nothing like how they sounded on my guitar in my living room. But they sound exactly how they sounded in my dreams as I tried to communicate the vision to the other players and producers, even though I didn’t even fully know the vision at the time. And the songs are exactly as they are meant to be, imperfect, flawed, but beautiful as a whole.

I write this post as a huge thank you to all who were involved in the process of recording these five songs. The collaboration is part of the reward for me, and it is a spiritual reward.  I am better because of the contributions of these other creative masters.

Let the music play.