Tom McShane is hosting a unique recording session and you’re invited!

1 07 2010

**As originally published on – July 2010**

This Saturday, Tom McShane is recording his new album. He’s also playing two shows. The exciting bit is that he’s doing both at once. He’s opening the doors up and inviting the public to be a part of the creative process, the best take from each of the sessions will make it on to the final version. Each attendee will be credited in the liner notes and receive a special individual copy of the album once it’s mastered that will display their name.

I had a chance to catch up with Tom to find out how he’s feeling ahead of the big day on Saturday: “I’m so excited now but until last night, I was really nervous. We’ve commandeered the whole ground floor exhibition space and we’ve turned it into a giant recording studio.”

So the nerves are gone, everything’s prepared and everyone’s ready to roll, as Tom tells us, “We weren’t 100% sure how we were going to control the noise levels within the room but after a little experimentation by Rocky O’Reilly and Ben McAuley from Start Together we got there. Also, last night was the first time the string players played with the band. I’ve done a lot of work with the two separately but it was a real relief to hear it all come together so perfectly last night. We have a full dress rehearsal (figuratively speaking, we won’t be playing in spandex and sequins or anything) on Friday so that will be the last element in place.”

It’s a shame that there won’t be spandex or sequins. Maybe that’s an idea for another time. But where did this idea spring from?

“The idea was born out of a long process of thought which followed an abortive attempt at recording an album in 2008. The process of overdubbing and dropping in for retakes was stale for me and I think in general I’d grown disillusioned with my approach to making music in general. So I eventually decided to put up or shut up. I embarked on a trip across the USA with my guitar, trying to get gigs as I travelled and played music to as many people as I could. While on the trip I visited Sun Studio in Memphis and the RCA Victor studio in Nashville and I was really inspired by those places. I was overwhelmed by the idea of how it must’ve been to record like they did back then.”

It’s a bold idea, but one which Tom expects to be rewarding, both in terms of the live experience and the final results. “Once I’d decided that I wanted to record it live, it was a very small jump to think that it would be even more exciting to include an audience in the process to try and capture some of that special energy that exists between a musician and an audience.”

So how’s it going to work? “I definitely don’t see it as being a conventional performance”, Tom tell us. “The band isn’t going to be pulling shapes or anything, we’ll be pretty focused on our takes but I don’t see there being a barrier between the performers and the band. We won’t be on a stage, all the instruments will be spread out around the room and the audience will literally be right in the middle, with the album being created all around them. It’ll be a relaxed, conversational vibe between takes and the audience will be involved in the process every step along the way.”

It’s definitely an exciting concept, and the album will always bring back memories of the day for those in attendance. It’s also a pretty clever idea – as more people download music for free, artists are having to come up with more creative ways to get people to part with their cash. “I think that is very much the case”, Tom agrees, “I mean, I still buy albums, but I think we’re in position now where the majority of music listeners don’t. I guess you could argue that what I’m attempting could fall under the ‘Recorded Music as Experience’ heading, but I don’t really think of it in those terms; my aim is mostly to make things more interesting for myself and to make the most exciting music I can. I very much hope we’re offering the music listeners who make it on the day something that they can’t just download off the internet, but also I hope what we end up with a superior product than it would’ve been if it was recorded conventionally and that listeners who weren’t at the recordings will be able to enjoy, what is in the end, a much better record.”

So the main thing is that it’s fun, and that the end result is the best that it can be. It’s the way things ought to be done, really, so take heed if you’re starting out – have fun and make it good. Tom’s got some more advice: “Learn to listen to criticism. If someone takes the time to think about and comment on your music, you should at least consider what they say, even if it’s not what you want to hear. Not all criticism will be informed or relevant but you can’t make that call unless you’ve thought about what’s been said. Similarly, listen to praise without letting it go to your head. No matter how good people tell you you are, you’ve always got to try to be as good as you can be.”

Tom’s Album Recording Sessions take place this Saturday, 3rd July in the Oh Yeah Music Centre, Belfast. Session One: 2pm, Session Two: 7pm, £9 per session (including album pre-sale).

Tickets are available online and from the Waterfront Box Office.