New Sign2Sing charity single for 2015, “Joining Hands Today”, Produced and Mixed by Jim Hawkins

Sign2Sing logoSing2Sing is an initiative I am extremely proud to support. The deaf health charity, Sign Health, every year promotes their Sign2Sing event in order to raise awareness of the issues Deaf people experience daily. They are releasing the Sign2Sing charity single in 2015 to encourage children of all abilities to sign and sing together. The main event is February, but it all ramps up from here now that the music and video are ready.

‘Joining Hands Today’ was recorded and mixed this summer in London. It is bigger and better than last year, and stars a whole host of celebrities including SignHealth’s brilliant Deaf ambassador Fletch@. Read more on the Sign2Sing website here.

The Lounge Kittens Demo goes viral

James’s recent project with The Lounge Kittens has given us a few simple insights into how to make a song go viral, and how to make it give you the break you want.

Choose a song with a difference

The Lounge Kittens came to the studio to record a demo of three tracks, choosing Firework by Katy Perry, Rollin’ by Limp Bizkit, and Ob La Di Ob La Da by The Beatles.

The Kittens sing in three-part close harmony, but they have a twist: don’t expect a classically styled version of the Andrews Sisters, these girls are rock chicks in disguise. The song choice pretty much reflects the weird and wicked directions they go in.

So which song do you think was the one that went viral?…

Record it with style

James spent a whole day training and refining the Lounge Kittens to get the best performance and vocal production on each song. You don’t want people moving on after less than five seconds listening on SoundCloud or YouTube, so the recording and production has to sound top notch professional. And your song has to catch people early on – really early on – to win them over. James recorded the girls on U87 and vintage ribbon microphones, he used an Addictive Keys piano sample – his ‘go-to’ sample library – then he spent another day treating and mixing the tracks.

Create a video with personality

The Loung Kittens left the studio exhausted from their drilling, but thrilled when they heard the results. Now the next bit of hard work was up to them. They took their favourite track and the one that they could have the most fun with, Rollin’ by Limp Bizkit, and produced a tongue-in-cheek video, playing with cheeky humour against their angelic voices. The girls had found their niche.

The power of Twitter

The Lounge Kittens are a relatively new group, formed in 2012, and started building up a social media following from scratch with these, their first professional demos. The power of Twitter though is not in how many followers you have, but how much influence and engagement those followers have. They tweeted a YouTube link of Rollin’ by Limp Bizkit and succeeded in getting Kerrang magazine and then Fred Durst, the band’s front man, to retweet and compliment it. It is not how many tweets you make saying, “How great is this?”, it’s how many retweets and mentions you get from people saying “How great is this?!” So find your influencers, celebrities, journalists and agents, and get them recommending you. Be careful how you do it. There are a few tricks, such as, do not @name someone at the start of a tweet as this will only be seen by anyone who already follows you AND them, but say “Hey @name” or even “.@name” because that tweet will appear in the feeds of people who follow you OR them. To help identify who your big influencers are, look at Twiangulate as this shows you the “Reach” of people who might be interested in what you’re doing. (It’s a lot of fun that one). Also help other people connect and they’re more likely to return the favour.

The Lounge Kittens have cleverly tapped into a very loyal, rock following and and Limp Bizkit fanbase without copycat-ing anyone at all. Well done ladies.

Be prepared to get a break and work it

Within a few days the Lounge Kittens had 50,000 You Tube views on Rollin’. But in the end, that ain’t worth anything unless it helps you meet your goals. You need to be sure of what those goals are and be ready to take advantage of the trend. For the Lounge Kittens this meant some seriously heavyweight live bookings: they are performing at Glastonbury Festival, Sonisphere Festival and the Boomtown Fair this summer 2014. From local private parties, to international festival bookings from one demo and video – WOW!

Understand what worked or didn’t and why

The key, I think, is in learning what works and what doesn’t and why. Without understanding that you won’t be able to replicate success again or grow it. Don’t give up if your attempt doesn’t work first time. Study successful people and do what they do. So if you want to be like the Lounge Kittens and generate over 150,000 views on YouTube of your song, then invest in planning, production and be clever with the promotion. It doesn’t take mega bucks, but it does take a vision and the right people around you to produce your song and video a high standard.

How to make a song go viral… tell us your experiences

Please post your comments below if you have any more ideas about what makes a song go viral. We’d love to hear from you!

Katie Seath – Vocalist and Pianist

Katie Seath in session

 

Katie Seath came to record her latest demo here at the studio and also helped out with a few other bits and bobs for some other projects. She’s a very professional session singer who is easy to work with, talented, friendly and a great technician.

Katie performs and records with various groups and as a soloist on the London circuit. It was a delight to spend a few hours working with her at the studio!

Enjoy!

 

 

“Voice of McDonald’s!” In Session with UK Champion Chloe Jones

Chloe Jones at the microphoneChloe Jones won the UK finals in, “The Voice of McDonald’s”, a singing competition held earlier this year. Chloe beat off tough competition to earn herself a place in the European finals this coming Wednesday 2nd October!

This is where the competition heats up as contestants are selected to represent Europe in the world wide final held in Florida, US, next year. The prize at stake is $25,000 and a part in the next Dreamworks animation! WOW!!

Hear Chloe singing and vote for her at: http://www.voiceofmcdonalds.com/voting/europe

Today Chloe and I are recording vocals for her unique version of Fleetwood Mac’s, “Dreams”.

This is a reinvention of this classic song done distinctly in the style of the, “Live Lounge”, featuring Chloe Jones on lead and backing vocals, Rory Harvey on guitar and bass, and production by Jim Hawkins.

Listen to her new audition song:

Good luck to Chloe and we are all rooting for you here in the UK!

Chloe also writes and records her own songs. Hear her latest live session on “OnT’Sofa.com”:

 

 

“I Really Love You”, lyrics and melody by David Bromley, musical arrangement and production by Jim Hawkins

Here’s a great example of how a song can be turned upside down and re-interpreted! David came to me with this song and described how he wanted it to sound a little bit like Blondie, a bit edgy and contemporary.

If you listen to the acoustic demo version brought to me as a guide track, you will  hear how this song is perfectly capable of being a folky-“guitary”-pop style, but I was more concerned with David’s want for it to sound contemporary and similar to  a Blondie style of song.

Initially, I set about production by listening to Blondie and checking in on iTunes with what’s going on in the teen-music/dance pop genre. I was scared! I finally took great influence and inspiration from Daft Punk’s latest album, with particular focus on their single, “Get Lucky”. This production combined live acoustic instruments with electronic synthesisers and a cool dance/disco groove. I wanted to do that!

The lyrics and melody to, “I Really Love You”, are simple, memorable, honest, fun, playful, targeted towards the younger listener and so I wanted the production to highlight this and keep the sound similar to current trends so that listeners can identify with the music behind the lyrics.

It has been my mission to use various session musicians to help develop the arrangement, get a live feel and realise the potential in the song. For too long I have tried to do everything individually…lesson has been learned! I think the song is centred on Rory Harvey’s imaginative and technically challenging bass line, his, “Nile Rogers”, guitar chops along with Lisa Andreas’s versatile and on-point vocals! They each brought something valuable and inspiring to the process, ideas I would never have had on my own. To top it off. they were both highly professional, very easy to work with and generally cool!

You will hear live drums (Jim Hawkins), live bass guitar (Rory Harvey), live and programmed synthesisers (Jim Hawkins), live guitar (Rory Harvey) and vocals + backing vocals by Lisa Andreas.

Overall, I feel we got the best out the song, we made the right decisions with style, tempo and production. I’ve learned a lot from building this song and hope that you can hear the production aims and objectives as described above.

I present to you, “I Really Love You”, Lyrics and melody by David Bromley, musical arrangement, recording and production by Jim Hawkins.

 

 

 

 

Lisa Andreas in the studio!

Lisa Andreas Vocalist

Very excited to be recording with Lisa Andreas today. Lisa is a versatile contemporary singer and her biggest claim to fame is singing for Cyprus in the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest. She came 4th and made Eurovision history by being awarded the first ever point from Turkey!

Today Lisa is tracking in some vocals for a pop song written by David Bromley.

 

In session with Carrie Rawlings!

Carrie Rawlings at the micCarrie Rawlings on the keys

Carrie is an accomplished session vocalist/pianist and actress who has performed around the world in both cabaret and theatre for the last decade.

Here Carrie is recording her latest piano/vocal interpretations of popular songs and we hope to be developing them into full productions later this year.

For now, please enjoy the seed of something very special!

 

Get Gospel in the Studio

Get Gospel in the studio
On the hottest day of the year, Get Gospel were cooking in the studio! www.getgospel.co.uk

Get Gospel came to the studio to record some of their next demo and to assist a songwriter they had met along the way.

This was an awesome session with crazy cool vocals from Jules Rendell (group leader), Billy Boothroyd, James Philip, Grace  and Emily Holligan. I hope to see them again soon – especially as I now have very strong air conditioning installed in the live room! Woo!

[soundcloud url=”http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/107809286″ params=”” width=” 100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

www.getgospel.co.uk

Abbey Road 2013

Abbey Road Studios 20th-21st April 2013

photo-2It was a thrilling experience and lifetime achievement to record at Abbey Road over the weekend! I took five Rock Choir choirs into Studio 1 to cut their own unique version of “True Colours”. Over 600 singers came through one of the best recording studios in the world and to top it off, we hired the legendary Simon Rhodes as our chief engineer for the weekend.

I learned a great deal from working with Simon and gained such valuable experience from going through this type of recording process. It was intense and exhausting from the nerves and adrenaline, but I loved every second of it and felt completely “at home” by the end of the two sessions. I need to go back!

The Rock Choir choirs are made up of amateur singers with no musical background or training. Singers are not auditioned and attend simply for the joy of singing together. It doesn’t matter that not many have a musical background and don’t read music “dots” because everything is taught and learned by ear – very good training, and in someways, one of the best musical skills to develop in my opinion!

Abbey Road Kingston Rock Choir
Kingston Upon Thames Rock Choir create their Abbey Road moment!

The whole preparation and rehearsal process was deliberately creative with a close eye on detail. I put the choirs through their paces for 10 weeks, they were walking around in circles waving their arms, moving expressively, I had them singing from phonetic lyric sheets, singing in darkness, drawing the melodic and dynamic shapes, learning each other’s harmony part, drilling and drilling the structure of the song and finally connecting with the lyrics to draw out the emotional content. We studied and worked out this song like a Rubix cube puzzle and everything aligned perfectly on the big weekend! Simon actually commented on how well-rehearsed the choirs were and even went so far as to say they sounded professional! High praise and well deserved, we worked very hard for it! I’m a very proud choir leader!

Jim gives instruction amongst some of the 21 mic stands needed on the day
Jim gives instruction amongst some of the 21 mic stands needed on the day

We made five different and compelling versions of True Colours recorded and mixed in Abbey Road Studio 1. [Editor Note, May 2015: unfortunately, Rock Choir has asked us to remove these recordings from the James Hawkins Music site and Soundcloud account now that Jim is no longer a contractor for the company. We suggest, if you are looking to hear these beautiful tracks again, that you contact the Rock Choir office directly, as we passed all the recordings into their hands for their archive. Sorry to disappoint you.]

P.S. Sunday was a bit more of a family occasion as Baby Daniel and Mum joined us for some recordings…

 

“Maybe Sometimes”, words and melody by David Bromley, musical arrangement, recording and mix by Jim Hawkins

A recent client, David Bromley, came to me with a song in his head and that was pretty much it…oh yes, and a very old Casio keyboard to demonstrate the tune on. The challenge was clear: I had to translate (and transpose) what David was playing to me as a single finger melody, understand the specific rhythmic timing of the melody when time-keeping was fairly loose, and create a contemporary sounding arrangement and recording at the end of it!

I loved the whole process! It challenged my musical instincts for structure, and went against the obvious placement of meter/accents in David’s lyric.

I find it refreshing to work with songs that, at times, challenge the “expected” musical timing or phrasing. I had to think differently and make different musical decisions. Listen to the distance between the end phrase of each verse and the start of each chorus and also notice where the rhythmic accent of the chorus lyric falls. I’m now working on a number of songs with David and hope to have these ready to show in a few months. I hope you enjoy Maybe Sometimes.