In early December I was asked to create four-part vocal arrangements and rehearse 14 singers from Eclipse Choir to support Alistair’s breath-taking renditions of Coldplay’s, Fix You and Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, which he performed at the highly acclaimed live music venue, “The Bedford”, in Balham.
It was a beautiful night, Alistair writes such well-crafted and engaging songs, and it was a real pleasure to work with him. There will be more to come sometime in February 2016 so watch this space! You can find Alistair and his music here:
I had great fun arranging and producing, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) for the Military Wives and Walking with the Wounded Charity! The ladies from the Military Wives’ Choir were an absolute joy to work with and were both a lot of fun but extremely professional and hard working! It was inspiring to work alongside Rachel Smith, the choir director; she was incredible and paid such attention to detail.
The Christmas single, I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), reached 47 in the iTunes chart and was performed live on Good Morning Britain by members from the choir during December.
We recorded the choir in a day at Metropolis Studios, which is where Adele had recorded most of her recent album, and I created the final musical arrangement over the following two days. It was mixed and mastered here at Chocolate Box Studios by the astoundingly talented Ash Alexander who can be heard playing guitar on the track. A fantastic effort by all involved and I’m very proud of the outcome.
Walking with the Wounded is a charity that specialises in supporting military veterans who've suffered injury, physical, mental or social. They help them re-integrate into society by providing training for qualifications and skills, and giving social support. Please take a look at their website here.
The Military Wives Choir was founded by Gareth Malone five years ago on the BBC television series, The Choir, that then led to their beautiful Christmas Number One single Wherever You Are in 2011. There are now Military Wives Choirs all over the country with the wonderful mission of bringing together the women who support our serving soldiers through singing together. Find out more here.
I had the real pleasure to work with Florence Glen on her four-track EP. My role as producer was to select four songs from her extensive back catalogue and create musical arrangements that would enhance her skillful writing and explore/create the “Florence Glen sound”. She has been played and reviewed on BBC Six Music, Tom Robinson introducing and Fresh On The Net.
The arrangement is well crafted and intriguing.
It has been another great opportunity to invest in top session musicians and mix engineers such as Geoff Gascoyne (Double Bass) and John Park (Drums) and George Shilling (mix engineer and producer) as they bring new life to the songs and help the arrangements blossom.
Pledge Music is a fantastic way to partly or fully fund your next album or EP. However, it is not easy to achieve your target within the deadline if you have never run a structured marketing campaign before. Working with James Hawkins Music, you can make your Pledge Music campaign a success story with hard work and our specific help!
We have the expertise and experience to guide you from campaign inception to project completion. We will work with you to plan, co-ordinate and integrate your campaign using social media, events, email, your website and word of mouth. And then we do the fun stuff – we make the music! (By that time we’ll know inside-out what you want to achieve musically as well).
The Rockabellas Pledge Music success story was a result of creative planning as a team.
Having been fully invested in the project from the start of the Pledge campaign, my role as producer covered a broad range of musical duties and I took a very hands-on approach. I was there to assist The Rockabellas in generating creative ideas as well as producing the songs and melodies they brought to me.
The Rockabellas are known for having a vintage vibe, and I thoroughly enjoyed writing the string arrangements, brass and other instrumental parts. Then actually recording them with session pals made this album an absolute joy to produce.
The songwriting was a team effort for the first few songs, but then the girls found their stride and went on to complete the album, which is an assortment of sounds centred by The Rockabellas’ trademark close vocal harmonies.
We recorded in various studios, including my private studio in Kingston, The Bunker, and most notably, Studio 2 at Abbey Road Studios.
The great George Shilling mixed and mastered the album and I’m extremely happy with the result!
I’ve selected some favourite moments from The Rockabellas’ album which you can hear below. These are backing tracks so that you can hear the musical arrangements and production layers. If you’d like to hear more of the album it’s on iTunes, or to purchase a CD copy please visit www.therockabellas.com. It’s a great feel good and fun listen so don’t miss out!
Jim helped produce the Games Maker Choir show-reel below. We recorded the vocals for three tracks at Abbey Road Studios in February 2015 and mixed them here at Chocolate Box Studios.
The Games Maker choir members are all Games Makers from the London 2012 Olympics and they often sing at high profile sporting events, such as the Rugby World Cup in 2015. You can read more about their group here.
The Missing People Choir formed in summer 2014 masterminded by Clare Cook from the Missing People charity and Jim. Its mission was to bring together the families and loved ones of the missing as a choir, to start something new, to enjoy music and singing together, and thereby raise spirits, share stories, bring encouragement and hope to the group.
Soon afterwards an idea formed that the Missing People Choir should have its own song for their Christmas performance.
Peter Boxell, whose son Lee has been missing since 1988 wrote the lyrics to the song ‘I Miss You’ in tribute to his missing son. Jim, along with professional writer and arranger, Simon Rhodes, wrote the song in the studio here initially to perform at the Missing People Carol Service at St Martin-in-the-Field on December 8th 2014.
The choir had just six full rehearsals together with Jim before the concert, some of the singers had never sung in a choir before and for the majority, this would be their first ever public performance. Nevertheless they raised their game and got over their nerves to deliver an exceptional and moving performance on the night, which touched the hearts of many people there.
Here’s quite a highlight of my year. I worked with the Missing People Charity to create a choir made up of families who are suffering the loss of a loved one. Many of the members were singing for the first time in their lives and I’m very proud of their achievement. This was a powerful experience and has reached out to a lot of people.
I invite you to support the Missing People Charity by sharing this video with your friends but most importantly, your family.
“where words fail, music speaks”
How many music producers can you name off the top of your head? I got stuck after Sir George Martin and Labrinth. Producers are the unsung heroes of the music industry, shadowy figures closeted in dark studios allowing the vocalist to shine. But what do producers actually do?
When singer, Susie Goulding, and I decided to write a song we knew we wanted Jim to produce it for us. Writing the song is a story for another time, but once we had the lyrics, basic melody and structure we were ready for production. Jim asked us both to provide three songs we liked so he could get an idea for our vision of the song. Susie came up with three songs that demonstrated the vocalist’s range, skills and dynamics while my songs were all about instrumentation, structure and lyrics. These gave Jim a framework of reference and a better understanding of the feel we both wanted to achieve.
The producer’s job is to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of a huge range of instruments (who knew there were so many drums?) and play most of them; the musical knowledge of a room full of Beethovens; the skill to interpret suggestions like, ‘a bit more twangy at that bit’ and have enough technical expertise to power a medium-sized Hadron Collider from the bottom of the garden.
Once the instrumentation and feel had been decided and recorded I was ready for a lie down in a dark room for the next three years. The producer’s next task, however, is to develop and record the vocals. Knowing Jim’s ear for the perfect vocal we knew Susie was in for some hard work in the recording booth, but I wasn’t expecting him to pass me a pair of headphones and tell me to come up with some backing vocals. And then some upper and lower harmonies to go with my own vocals. Oh and could I rewrite the bridge please? And sing that bit again an octave lower? As Susie and I both discovered, if Jim tells you you can do it, then somehow you find you can. This is the producer’s gift: cultivating a gem from the uncut diamond (or in my case a lump of coal).
It’s been a fascinating process and a complex one. There were tears (although mostly of laughter), tricky decisions, soul-searching and a large dollop of hard work but our song is all the better for it. We wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Now for song number two. What are you doing for the next two years, Jim?
Christina Laroque is a London-based singer songwriter and came to me for help in producing two new songs, “Mrs Pain”, and, “Day by day”. Both are quite epic and take influence from the production values of Evanescence and Sia-1000. See Christina’s poignant video for the song “Mrs Pain”.
We started with the melody and a simple piano part on first meeting, then we discussed the type of sound she was looking for and I started work pretty much immediately.
I think both songs have strong character and Christina’s vocal is awesome with soaring highs and sensitive lows. An enjoyable project and I hope to work more with Christina Laroque in the future!