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Inside a community recording studio – the making of Festival EP

Updated: Jan 10, 2019

My latest recording project was born in the early months of 2018 – an EP of four songs, one of which celebrates music festivals, named simply “Festival”, also the title of the EP.

Having recorded two albums and a Christmas EP at home using backing tracks and feeling the need to get back to my roots in folk music, I decided to record the new EP acoustically in a local studio. Some years previously someone had recommended a studio run by SoCo Music, a community music organisation based in Southampton. I found out more about them when I went to their centre in one of the shopping malls in Southampton in 2011 – they offered the opportunity to try out playing different musical instruments, including drums, guitar and keyboard, and training in recording software such as Logic Pro Tools. But one thing I hadn’t done was explore their recording studio in Thornhill, a suburb of Southampton.


I contacted them to find out their hiring charges, and a couple of other studios for comparison. When I intimated to SoCo Music that I was shopping around they offered me a discount, so I booked a session in March 2018.


I had already started recording demos of each track at home, trying out arrangements with guitar, ‘cello and vocal harmonies, to save time in the studio. The lead track, also the title track, I had written in 2014 after performing at the Beggars Fair, a music festival in Romsey in Hampshire in the UK. The second track “Suzyanna Bluesyanna” was also written in 2014, and had been inspired by a song written by a friend, called “Suzanne don’t you cry no more”. Track number three is “Zero hours”, which I wrote in early 2015 about zero hours contracts and what I imagined it might be like to be employed in this way. The final track, “Always someone worse off than you” is one that I wrote specifically to accompany myself on the ‘cello, and its bluesy style was inspired by a singing workshop that I attended in Winchester in the UK in 2012 which was led by two members of acapella group Black Voices. The songs covered in the workshop included African songs and American spirituals.


So the recording day approached, but a couple of days before I was due to go into the studio I received an email from Soco Music saying that they had no engineer available and asked if they could postpone it to the following week. Then my mother became ill and was admitted to hospital so I had to postpone; I eventually went into the studio in April 2018. I managed to record all four tracks in the eight-hour booking, with an additional visit to tidy up the mix on “Suzyanna Bluesyanna” and the ‘cello part on “Zero hours.


I released the EP in May 2018 to coincide with the start of the summer festival season, offering a free wristband with the CD version imprinted with the opening words of “Festival”. I performed “Festival” and “Zero hours” at a mini-festival in Southampton in June 2018, which is another story…


Discover Festival EP in the shop