2Harts Surrendered “Surrounded (A Christmas-n-Praise Album)”

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-11-34-47-amAbout a year ago I introduced the first full-length album that was recorded and mixed completely in-house at Taylor’s Playground Recording Studio. The project was a CD called “Trusting You” by a mother & daughter dynamic duo known as 2Harts Surrendered.

I am excited to announce the second full-length album that was recorded and mixed completely in house… another great CD by 2Harts Surrendered. This time it is a Christmas-n-Praise CD called “Surrounded”.

The original idea was to create 2 separate CDs with 5-7 songs on each. One CD would be a Christmas CD, and the other would be a CD with praise songs on it. As we were in the beginning stages of talking about the project, we decided that we would rather do something a little different, but fun… we decided to create a CD that was half Christmas songs and half praise songs.

I really like how it turned out.

Tiffany and Skyler Swihart (2Harts Surrendered) are a couple of wonderful ladies with great hearts that want to honor Jesus. For two projects now, they have been a lot of fun to work with. I really appreciate them.

This particular CD was an ambitious project, to say the least. They had picked some great songs for the project, but great does not always translate into easy. Nevertheless, we had a lot of fun and worked hard to make the best project we could -a project that I am personally very excited to see released later this week.

The process was similar to the last project. Tiffany and Skyler had recorded simple demo versions of the songs and sent them out to me. Then Nick Mast (on the drums) and I started cranking out final versions for them to listen to and see if we were able to capture their vision. Sometimes… YES! Sometimes… not so much.

That is the difficulty of working towards a one-week recording project with out-of-state artists. I try to get as much work finished before the artists arrive as possible. I spend the week working with the artists to get their parts recorded. After they leave, I spend whatever time necessary finishing up the recording and getting their approval before transitioning into mix mode.

The ladies did a great job on their part with the one-week recording session. We stayed active and productive and got a lot of recording done. I tried to not wear them out, but as I previously stated, this was an ambitious project. They did a great job!

Nick Mast played drums for the CD. I always enjoy working with Nick. He is a great drummer and a great guy. As a musician, he does a fantastic job of being original and creative, but also very willing to serve the song and abandon his idea if it becomes obvious that the producer has a different idea in mind. That is a great quality to have as a studio musician.

During recording week, Skyler played piano on “Hallelujah”. It was fun to get her hands on the project and not just her voice this time. She did a great job and she knew how she wanted it to sound… so we went after that sound until we had it.

I laid down the acoustic guitar(s), bass guitar, electric guitar(s), keyboard, and percussion for the rest of the songs. One song in particular just did not quite sound finished to me, so I called Megan Sarver to see if she would be willing to play piano on “Breath of Heaven”. She nailed it! She is such a wonderful person, talented piano player, and great friend to our family. I really appreciated her contribution to the CD.

When the project was nearly completed, I noticed that there was one more missing piece. The last song on the album needed a big group of singers, so I brought in the Polen family girls (most of them, anyway) and a good family friend, Heather Schlabach. Heather is a very talented singer. She is the first person that I call for background vocals because she is just awesome. I joined Heather, Jodi (my beautiful bride), and our three oldest daughters in an epic “gang vocal” recording for “Further Along”. I love the way that it turned out.

I took a slightly different approach to mixing this time around. I actually mixed quite a bit along the way this time. For the last project, I had pretty much saved all of the mixing for the end. Last time, I made fader adjustments and added a couple of essential plugins along the way, but I deleted every plugin and lowered every fader to zero before sitting down to do a “final mix”. That approach certainly worked and I was happy with the results, but I wanted to take a different approach this time. I still sat down to do a final mix and spent quite a bit of time on each song, but I did not start from scratch. I think that EQing, tweaking, and mixing along the way helped make a better recording as the project built, and that made the final mix a lot easier to craft.

One annoying problem that I ran into along the way was that my Slate Digital plugins corrupted my Pro Tools software right as I was wanting to sit down and put together the final mix. Apparently I was among the lucky group of people who lost their ability to open Pro Tools for a couple of weeks. I ended up having to delete all of my Slate Digital plugins from my computer and mix without them. That was hard because I really love my Slate Digital plugins and use them a lot, but every time that I tried to reinstall them it corrupted my Pro Tools.  So after two weeks of getting nowhere with the project (unable to even open it), I decided to go without some of my favorite plugins and explore different ones. I am still very happy with the result, but I would have preferred to use the plugins that I know and love. Thankfully, now that the project is completely finished, Slate Digital has released updated versions of their plugins that are working again. Yay!

“Surrounded (A Christmas-n-Praise Album)” will be released on Friday, September 23 at the Changed Lives Ministry banquet in Ohio. A portion of the album sales will go to Changed Lives Ministries.

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