How did your debut release, Stephen Farrell move from initial thought to finished effort?
Initially, I was working on demoing some of my songs and I began thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great to really put this down on some tracks with some great musicians and play the tunes live for a change instead of just demoing the tunes with machines and synths.” My idea hit home with my longtime friend and collaborator, PNPJazz owner and founder, Perry Pansieri. He said, “Let’s do it!”
From there we began a process of surveying my catalog of original songs with a view to sorting out a selection that would work in a cohesive manner to create a first album. I have a wide variety of songs in different styles that I have created over a long period, so it was a kind of triage process that brought us to a decision to make an easy listening album.
We began rehearsing with a 4 piece rhythm section consisting of David Gelfand on standup bass, Perry Pansieri on drums, Gary Schwartz on guitar, David Ryshpan on keys, and myself, Stephen Farrell, singing. After we had run through about 21 tunes for a few rehearsals we cut the list down to 15. We were now prepared to go into Victor studio in Montreal in early May for a weekend to record the basic tracks. We recorded the 14 tracks which appear on the album in 2 days and the next phase of the process began.
Over the summer we worked with the amazing Bill Szawlowski at Ventura Digital Audio, who had engineered the Victor studio sessions, to prepare the mixes and overdubs prior to returning to Victor Studio for a day of Horn section sessions with a great trio of players who added trumpet (Ron Di Lauro), trombone (Muhammad Al Khabbyr), tenor sax, alto sax, and flute (Richard Beaudet), to nine of the fourteen tracks.
I was keeping busy at my home studio adding backing vocal tracks with my talented wife, Madeleine O’Meara. I added some other instrumentals on bass, electric guitars, accordion, and a variety of synth instruments. Oh, and Valerie Hogues added a few bars of cello to the last cut on the album, “You And I”.
When all of the tracks were finished and the mix was final, we decided on an order for the tunes and gave it to Bill Szawlowski who also mastered the album.
It was a lot of hard work and many hours spent, but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. I love the process and I am very happy with the resulting cd. I am very thankful to all those who contributed to the music and would be happy to start another project tomorrow with this gifted team.
The next step was to have it pressed. Prior to that it was necessary to produce all the liner notes and photos needed for the jewel case which was another process of collaboration with some talented friends and freelance graphic artists and photographers.
Finally, it was done and we had the finished cd in our hands. Now comes the hard part, getting the public to hear it!
Which genres and performers most influenced you during the creation of this album?
Jazz, pop, rock, country, be-bop, doowop, broadway, R’n’B, classical.
Antonio Carlos Jobim, The Eagles, Michael Buble, David Foster, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Toots Thielemans, Stevie Wonder, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Roy Orbison, Michael Franks, James Taylor, Carole King, Charles Aznavour, Judy Garland.
Were there any songs on the album that were particularly difficult or challenging?
A Whale Outta Water presented some challenges for me vocally since the phrases are quite long and it’s hard to find a place to breathe sometimes.
When You Do That Thing You Do presented some challenges in finding just the right groove but it came together in studio a lot better than we had been doing in rehearsal.
But I’ve Got Time was challenging for different reasons. The original melody was instrumental and based more on a flute or harmonica line. I wrote a lyric for it much later and it was necessary to adapt the melody for the voice.
Hey Pretty Baby was originally written for voice and acoustic guitar and ended up with more of a jazzy shuffle feel with horns and keys.
What does the rest of your band add to your own performances?
They really help me in bringing the music to life. I have done a lot of work with other singers and with creating sequences or computerized arrangements. The great thing about working with live musicians is the energy that happens between us. It is the kind of thing that no matter how perfect a sequenced arrangement may be on a computer, it will never give you that human element that only comes from live players interacting with each other and connecting with the emotions and words and sounds of the moment. No machine can do that!
How has your style evolved and changed over the period since you first started?
I think, like most young artists, that at first you try to listen to and observe the established artists that you admire and then you seek to imitate what you admire. In some cases, we end up almost trying to be a clone of what we love most. As time goes on and we mature, hopefully, our life experiences make us tend to look more within ourselves for the emotions and meanings that we want to convey with our work, rather than borrowing someone else’s. I think this is the big difference for me now as an older guy, I am not thinking about someone else’s ideas so much as trying to get in touch with my inner feelings and wisdom. We can never avoid being influenced by the greats, but at some point, it must become subliminal rather than consciously imitative.
What are your most memorable experiences as a performer, either live or in the studio?
Are there any live dates or events that you will be performing to support your album?
We will be doing a showcase on May 1st and plans are in the works for more shows and events.
What has provided more of your fans – Facebook / Instagram / Twitter or traditional word of mouth?
So far Facebook, Twitter, RadioAirplay.com and non-commercial, community, campus radio and some on air radio promotion and word of mouth
What are your plans for the rest of 2014?
I will be doing a showcase on May 1st in the Montreal suburb of Rosemere, Quebec and we are planning more showcases around Quebec and eventually in the rest of Canada.
How can listeners contact you and find your music?
PNPJazz.ca, Amazon, iTunes,stephenfarrellmusic.com, Spotify, Deezer, Soundcloud, Facebook Stephen Farrell Music, Facebook PNP JAZZ Music, twitter stephen0farrell.
Do you have any thoughts for our readers at NeuFutur?
This experience has proven to me that it is never too late to do great things. If you can think it, dream it, you can do it. Just believe in yourself and do your best. If some of the songs on the album can touch someone, then I have achieved the ultimate goal of any artist.
Stephen Farrell Interview