The Blue Room Genesis Sessions
Thursday, January 31, 2013 | Written By Teo Lee
A Facebook friend became a real one when Matt Shell asked me to play bass on a composition titled Genesis that he wrote with composer/violinist Ian Cameron and 2012 Grammy nominated arranger Arun Shenoy. Without hesitation, I accepted the invitation. Without delay, he emailed a demo of the track. I knew of Matt’s work, it had been featured by the GRAMMY’s. Matt’s resume is deep, listing a number of incredible artists like, Gerald Albright, Jeff Lorber, Marcus Johnson, Carolyn Malachi, Paul Jackson Jr., O.A.R., among others. However, I had no idea that Matt knew of me until he posted a comment complimenting my playing on a YouTube video months earlier.
Genesis is an instrumental collaboration featuring an intercontinental team of musicians, writers, arrangers and engineers made possible by modern technology transported via the Internet. The recording process was unconventional; it began with a keyboard-programmed demo. At no point did the musicians occupy studio space together. Every collaborator recorded independently and sent the tracks to Matt who inserted them into a Pro Tools session. The outcome respectfully deviates from the demo with each layer increasing the metabolism of the track with exhilarating effect. However, the bass line didn’t come easily to me. The demo was presented with a synth line that I wasn’t sure could be transformed into an electric bass part that deserved to replace it. I struggled for a couple of weeks to craft a line that wasn’t embarrassing to suggest. Apologetically, I submitted something that was a mashup of the original part and some new ideas that departed quite a bit and prayed he liked it. A day or two passed, my creative path is littered with the remnants of shattered opportunities. A familiar spirit of defeat invaded my optimism. A reply from Matt soon hit my inbox. I took a deep breath, expecting a “Thanks but no thanks.” To my surprise he liked it, had some constructive suggestions, but he liked it. I exhaled, recut the track with his suggestions and resubmitted it.
On Sunday, January 21, 2013, Matt called, this time with an invite to Blue Room Productions to shoot a music video of my performance on Wednesday night. When I arrived, a blue light barely lit a dark lot on a dark street on a dark night. I double-checked the address. As I approached the entrance a warm voice greeted me with familiarity. It would be my first time meeting Matt who I had only known online. However, it felt like we had been friends for years. I was experiencing the promise of social networking.
I entered the doorway and was arrested by the interior beauty of what seemed to be a converted mansion. Suddenly I was seeing in vivid Technicolor. This was a scene from a music video playing out in real time. There was a soundstage on a bed of beautiful hardwood floors with a drum rig shielded behind glass. Running my mouth like a kid at a children’s museum, I ascended a spiral staircase in route to the control room. To the left, a guitar and amp rested on the loft overlooking the first floor. Every step fueled my motivation. When I entered studio A, I swear I heard angel’s singing. I could not believe my eyes; a video wall composed of 3 huge LCD screens stared down at the mixing desk.
Studios are alive with stories to tell. The consciousness of this studio is its president and chief engineer, Conrad Osipowic, a young but seasoned professional who is mixing the track with Matt. I connected with him immediately. When I found out he was a drummer, it made perfect sense to this bass man, we’re rhythm section guys, cut of a different cloth. One of the stories he shared was that Of Cindy Blackmon, Lenny Kravit’s funky drumma’, who he had recorded there recently.
When Matt hit play, the Blue Room was submerged in sound from a towering set of monitors 8 feet high. The music made by the hands of accomplished musician’s from around the world rocked the place. Genesis is a high-energy track celebrating the power of collaboration. I sat down closed my eye’s and imagined that all of the musicians on the track were there with me. Feeling the weight of my bass against my right thigh, feeling the weight of the moment.
As I delivered my contribution, I could see all of my new friends. Matt Shell, Arun Shenoy and Conrad Osipowicz behind the mixing desk, Sebastian Wyrobisch (Sewy) on drums, Ian Cameron Violin, Jonathan Anand Wesley Keyboards, Vahagn Stepanyan Piano and Keyboards. Independent filmmaker Jason Baustin orbited the room capturing the magic as the track pumped through the speakers. Sweet dreams are made of this.
It’s important to know when you are in the presence of something special.
We often aren’t aware when we’re in the midst of it.
Often take it for granted.
Not again. Not this time.
Doors are opening now that I feared were closed. As a teenager, I assumed my professional life would be defined by the music industry. After 20 years of chasing the dream, I put it on hold indefinitely, unsure if the ambition would return. This period lasted for almost a decade. A mentor once said something that left an ember almost undetectable lit in the corner of my mind, “It’s never too late to become what you might have been” he said, “You just need to start again and never quit”. This feels like the begining of a new chapter of creativity in my life.
Genesis, so aptly named has created a landscape of creative friendships, and opportunities, truncating space and time. I’m soaking in every moment, prepared to go wherever this experience leads me. As flowery as this may sound, I believe that “Dreams don’t have deadlines” to quote L.L. Cool J. welcome to the corners of my mind.
Blue Room Productions | Recording Studio DC
Blue Room Productions is a DC based recording studio in Bethesda, MD just outside the beltway near Washington, DC. Email us at [email protected] for information on blogging opportunities.