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Featured Songwriters

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Featured Artist: G Merrill

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

We are almost halfway through December and the holiday spirit is in the air. To go with that, comes a recent production with a songwriter I have had the pleasure of collaborating with on 5 productions. G Merrill has a talent for country lyrics and melodies. The featured song “White Country Christmas” is a play on a classic, “I’m Dreaming of A White Christmas” with references to many country music legends that have passed. The idea for the song was to pay homage to these artists as if they were watching down on us from the heavens during the holiday season.

Our production team layered a classic combination of country instrumentation including live drums, bass, country inspired guitars, pedal steel, country fiddle and the perfect match of vocals by our country vocalist Donnie. After the production was complete, our video team worked on this after effects video featured below.  This gave G. Merrill an outlet to promote the song on Youtube and matched some great holiday inspired images along with the pictures of the mentioned legends in the recording.

Check out White Country Christmas

 How did you first get involved with StudioPros.com?

I would write and record music here locally in Richmond, VA and I had some success, but after some rejection, I realized something wasn’t quite right. After a serious critique it was pointed out to me that I was too traditional for the “A” list of country music.  So I took a chance and called StudioPros, contacted Kati O’Toole to help me get a good cross-over contemporary sound. StudioPros reputation proceeded them. I have tried others but decided on StudioPros for their professionalism and talent.

How was the StudioPros process for you? Was it difficult to work online?

The process was very easy. You have to have material that is applicable.  I can’t imagine turning raw material with a narrow vision into a commercially viable product as a single indie songwriter doing everything on my own.  The team that Kati and StudioPros brought to my project made the online work invaluable and very rewarding.  I had no difficulty working the process online.

How did we help to get your songs sounding professional?

That was easy, I hate to quote Hillary, but it does “take a village”-collaboration of all talents working together.

How many songs have you produced with StudioPros?

A total of five songs from my catalog have been produced with StudioPros.

What are you doing with your music? What’s next for you?

As an indie songwriter, my most important goal is to get my music out into the public arena.  Having a major country recording artist pick up one of my songs and record it would be awesome.  However, I am targeting many avenues including promotion on YouTube and CDBaby.  The most important accomplishment for a songwriter is to know that folks are loving your music, buying it and waiting for the next release.

Who are some of your favorite songwriters and musical influences?

This is a very easy question. There are so many that have not only influenced me but impacted my life. Obviously, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams, Meryl Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, “Hey! Sunday Morning Coming Down,” Wow! And Patsy Cline, Kitty Wells, Jim Reeves, are just a few more!  But I have to say if you weren’t influenced by Johnny Cash, the man in black, then I think any writer would never make the cut.  Anyway, Johnny was great and with June unstoppable, even now in death. I learned from him that you have to live it to write it well. 

When did you begin songwriting? What instruments do you write with?

I guess my teenage years and memorably in my twenties. I would write songs, turn them into short stories and quite literally put them under my bed. I play piano and guitar.

Your songs pack a lot of emotion; what was the inspiration and writing process like for that song?

I had an idea that I could write a Christmas song and pay tribute to my country musical heroes. I played around with the idea in my head for a while before I grabbed my guitar, and pen and paper to put it all down. It was a process that came from my heart.  I have lived the emotions that come out in my songs.  I can’t write any other way.

Besides music, what else do you enjoy? 

Oh yes, my Harley! A Heritage softail, my other love. I enjoy writing short stories and children’s stories and poetry and listening to classical music! Family is at the heart of my everyday life and my kids and grandkids keep me inspired and on my toes!

Do you draw inspiration from your everyday life?

Oh yeah, sure do, can’t help not!  I wish sometimes I didn’t have to listen to the news or interact.  My song “Up To Heaven,” about missing and exploited children suggests there’s always something in this life to wrench your heartstrings. You try and temper good with horrible and as a writer you have to fall more on the good no matter how terrible.  And so when you write about beautiful things like my song “Forever”, which is timeless, passionate and relatable, it flows more easily from the heart, because music is only an extension of yourself.

My attitude is always positive and I see the good in things around me. I try not to dwell on the negative and live my daily life striving to be and do better. It is through this filter that my songs are created.  Each song has a different feel and represents who I am as a writer.

What do you do for a living?

I have been a piano rebuilder forever, having rebuilt my first Steinway Grand piano at the age of 19. I am a master craftsman and lately have been spending most of my time writing music.  I have a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University in Psychology with a minor in music and have my masters half completed.

Get Your Songs Produced by StudioPros

If you are interested in getting your songs produced professionally, don’t hesitate to contact producers Kati O’Toole or Robb Hutzal.

Read more about StudioPros Music Production here: http://studiopros.com/music-production.php

If you’d like to discuss getting a project started, call: 1-310-928-7776. We look forward to working with you soon!

Featured Artist: Steve Jiske

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Steve1This month’s Featured Artist, Steve Jiske, has a knack for writing catchy modern country melodies and lyrics. His latest production, Carolina Girls is an upbeat country track with an ode to his local ladies. I find myself singing along to the chorus everytime I play the final version of this song. I’ve had the pleasure of producing 2 songs with Steve over the course of the last 4 months and am really proud of the way his songs have turned out!

Since we were going for a modern country sound, selecting the right vocalist to deliver the vocals was important. We used our new vocalist Donnie on these vocals and he really made this song sound radio ready. Using a combination of country guitars (both electric and acoustic), live drums, percussion and bass, we came up with a final product that is professional and ready to be pitched to artists.

Check out Carolina Girls

How did you first get involved with StudioPros.com?

At some point in 2012 I searched online for demo production and StudioPros was among the results. I contacted Kati via email and we had a few conversations about the process and what I wanted to accomplish. I left it at that for over a year. Then Robin Williams died and within two weeks there was no more talk about depression. It had gone to the back page when the problem of depression needed to be a front page discussion because it was so prevalant and damaging within our society.

From there, I started a foundation and wanted to have a song available about depression and hope for folks to download free as a thank you for any donation to help bring awareness to the disease. So right thenI came to StudioPros to make my first song “Pain” happen. I was pleased with the process and quality so I am a proud returning customer with this song “Carolina Girls”.

How was the StudioPros process for you? Was it difficult to work online?

At no point was it uncomfortable because each step was explained in a ‘what to expect’ kinda way taking out a huge chunk of the learning curve. At each step you could tweak and change before moving on. As long as you express yourself well to be true to your vision StudioPros has the talent and experience to add dimension to your work of art.

How did we help to get your songs sounding professional?

In the end StudioPros has great musicians that understand what you mean and it translates well and the vocals…wow! What a great job. I’m giddy like a child.

Who are some of your favorite songwriters and musical influences?

I grew up in the mid eighties so a catchy melody is what I get off on. I love all music from Marvin Gaye to AC/DC, Simon and Garfunkel to DangerousToys. Production wise Pink Floyd pretty much rules. I found Kip Wingers solo album Songs fromt he Ocean Floor very inspirational and would love to pick his brain some day. I was a DJ at a country station in Michigan so I have a place in me for that art of storytelling as well.

What was the inspiration and writing process like for “Carolina Girls”?

The song is about a girl I met in the Carolina’s in a town hundreds of miles from either of our respective towns. At the time it was written it took about a half hour to complete the music and about a week to tweek the lyrics to tell the story a bit incognito.

Get Your Songs Produced by StudioPros

If you are interested in getting your songs produced professionally, don’t hesitate to contact producers Kati O’Toole or Robb Hutzal.

Read more about StudioPros Music Production here: http://studiopros.com/music-production.php

If you’d like to discuss getting a project started, call: 1-310-928-7776. We look forward to working with you soon!

 

Featured Artist: Kati O’Toole

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014

gravelroad2For those of you that don’t know me, I’m Kati O’Toole. I’ve been the Head of Production at StudioPros for 7 years and counting. Like you, I love the process of writing lyrics, melodies, songs, recording music and releasing it. I’m an independent artist, singer/songwriter as well as a producer for StudioPros.

When I first started working at StudioPros, I wasn’t aware of online recording and how easy it was to collaborate online. Like you, I was skeptical of the process. Being someone that is always wanting to be 100% involved in the production of my own projects, I wasn’t even sure if I would like the process of recording online. After years of writing/recording/releasing material- I can say, I thoroughly enjoy the process!

7 years ago, Elad Fish, the owner of StudioPros made a bet with me. He said that I would one day stop recording albums at physical studios, and would one day convert to online recording. I didn’t believe him at the time, but now I hate to admit- he was right. Don’t you hate when your boss is right?

Life is busy. I’m a wife, a mother of a soon-to-be 11 month old and have a full time job (here of course, which I love). Getting into a studio to devote time to recording my projects is hard. I can say through personal experience, that collaborating online with StudioPros is a great outlet for recording your material.

I wanted to share with you my latest single, Gravel Road, produced by myself in collaboration with the StudioPros production team.

Check out Gravel Road:

The step by step recording process.

Going through the step by step production process was exciting for me. I started by recording myself playing piano and singing scratch vocals at a local studio. I had an engineer help me professionally track grand piano so I could get a good sound.  It was important to me to be playing the piano, since that’s my instrument. I was sure to record my piano using a click track so that the future musicians would be able to layer their instruments to my recording. We were able to build off of my “sketch” foundation of grand piano and scratch vocals. If you aren’t used to recording to a click track, I highly recommend you let us take care of the sketch step for you as part of the production process.

Once my piano was tracked, the production team built off that foundation with: drum programming, live electric bass and a beautiful string arrangement with live layers of custom cello. After the production of the instruments, I was able to re-track my final vocals and add experimental layers of backing vocals and lead vocal doubles to fill up the recording and especially build up the chorus. After that was complete, we moved it to the final mixing/mastering where we put the finishing touches on the recording.

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Featured Artist: Tim Tye

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

TimTyeI first met this month’s featured artist, Tim Tye, in early September of this year. Tim is a lawyer from Dayton, Ohio, in his day to day life, and a songwriter in his free time. He called inquiring about StudioPros and exactly what it is we’re all about. Tim was very skeptical from the start because he had been working on this particular song, Dark Stretch of Road, for several years, but I was eventually able to ease his mind.

Having produced several versions of the song at his local studio, using a diverse mix of very talented musicians, he was frustrated that he wasn’t able to achieve the sound, atmosphere, and feel he was after. After a few conversations and trying to understand EXACTLY what it was he was looking for, I was able to help him develop and produce the song in the style he had intended. At long last, his song was finally realized. That makes me very happy.

We used Johnny Cash’s cover version of “Hurt” as a reference and went for the quiet and stripped down intensity that the song deserved, while still keeping the classic country elements to it. Being a Johnny Cash fan myself, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing each step of the production process unfold. We chose an instrumentation of acoustic guitars, upright bass, beautifully laid out dobro lead, dark and simply stated grand piano, mellotron and classic country vocals by Chris. I’m very proud of how the song turned out in the end.

Check out Dark Stretch of Road:

How did you first get involved with StudioPros.com?

I’ve been working on a CD for about two years. I’ve used a local studio and local musicians. But there was one song that I wasn’t satisfied with. So I looked for another approach and I found StudioPros.

How was the StudioPros process for you? Was it difficult to work online? 

Working online couldn’t have been easier. Within hours of submitting my scratch demo, Kati O’Toole called me and got the process started. She spent a lot of time getting to understand the mood and feel that I was trying to achieve. Obviously it worked, because the end result was exactly what I heard in my head.

How did we help to get your songs sounding professional? 

You took the time to understand what I wanted. The musicians clearly had the experience and talent to listen to my demo and read the notes Kati had made and bring my song to life.

How many songs have you produced with StudioPros? 

One, but there will be more.

Who are some of your favorite songwriters and musical influences? 

I’m a product of the Dylan—Byrds—Tom Petty school. I love early rock n’ roll. I love genuine country music—Hank, Sr., Johnny Cash, George Jones.

When did you begin songwriting? What instruments do you write with? 

I began in high school. I write exclusively on the guitar.

What was the inspiration and writing process like for “Dark Stretch of Road”?

I had been working on a song for about ten years, which I have since finished. It’s about a truck driver who is killed in a wreck and is destined to drive across the United States for eternity. It’s actually an upbeat, rockabilly song. While I was messing with that, I got the idea to write about a lost trucker as a metaphor for hopelessness. I came up with the title first, which is unusual. Then I came up with the first line: It wasn’t raining when I left St. Paul. I substituted “snow” for “rain,” because it sounded even more dismal. After that, the song wrote itself.

Besides music, what else do you enjoy?

I like riding a bicycle. I constantly get song ideas when I’m out in the country.

*(ironically enough, our last Featured Artist Bill Simon wrote “Where The Wild Horses Go” on his bicycle. I guess we should all get to riding…)

What’s next for your recording?

The song is the title track from the album “Dark Stretch of Road,” by Tim’s band, Midnight Sky, to be released soon on Salinas Records.

Get Your Songs Produced by StudioPros

If you are interested in getting your songs produced professionally, don’t hesitate to contact producers Kati O’Toole or Robb Hutzal.

Read more about StudioPros Music Production here: http://studiopros.com/music-production.php

If you’d like to discuss getting a project started, call: 1-310-928-7776. We look forward to working with you soon!

Featured Video: Where The Wild Horses Go

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

bills

Bill Simon, a prolific songwriter that I have been working with for over 2 years and counting, has just finished up a video with our new video editors here at StudioPros!

Having produced over 40 songs with our music production team, Bill gave our video services a shot on his recent song “Where The Wild Horses Go”. This song ranks as one of the top 3 out of the songs we’ve worked on together as I love the acoustic instrumentation in the production. Our video team chose an array of after effects and animation to support the music along with the lyrics for his video.

Check out “Where The Wild Horses Go”:

“I got the idea for this song when I was riding my bike on Hwy 131 in Colorado and passed a place called Horse Mountain Ranch. It’s about people who are afraid to let someone get too close to them even when they realize that it is what they probably want but find it is just easier to retreat to a place that is safe and doesn’t have the risk of opening yourself up. The song is about a guy who tries to change a girls mind and convince her that being alone may not be what she is looking for.”

Get Your Songs and Videos Produced by StudioPros

If you are interested in getting your songs or music videos produced professionally, don’t hesitate to contact producers Kati O’Toole or Robb Hutzal.

Read more about StudioPros Music Production here: http://studiopros.com/music-production.php

Read more about StudioPros Video Services here: http://studiopros.com/video-production.php

If you’d like to discuss getting a project started, call: 1-310-928-7776. We look forward to working with you soon!


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