Producing Me And My Shadow For Thrive, A Play Written By Ellen Crouse – part 1
This is the first installment for a series of blog posts that will chronicle my journey of producing the song Me And My Shadow written by Al Jolson / Billy Rose / Dave Dreyer. I am producing it for Ellen Crouse who is using it as a part of the play she has written. Thrive will be produced and presented later this year by The Hip Pocket Theatre and directed by Johnny Simons. The Hip Pocket Theatre is an amazing place and an amazing group of artists. Johnny is the Artistic Director of the theatre.
Ellen and I worked with Johnny back in the early to mid 70’s before The Hip Pocket Theatre was founded. We met in a pantomime class that Johnny taught at Casa Manana in Fort Worth, Texas. Ellen and I have been in many plays and theatrical productions together. So was was super excited when she contacted me about working on this project. I’m totally pumped about producing and recording this song for the show.
This is going to be somewhat informal but I’m going to try to provide a look-see into the process of putting all this together and what Producing is.
Quite a bit has already been done. We’ve secured Alice Spencer for the vocals. Super excited about that. She is amazing. Her work has covered a lot of genres and she has a gorgeous voice. She lives in Austin. And I’ve got agreement from Clay Ruede to record and play the cello choir parts. Clay is a great (full stop) musician and makes a living playing cello in New York City. He recently recorded and played cello on a song of mine, Hickory Dreams. I put PDF cello parts and a guide track up on Dropbox and Clay pulls those down and then records the cello parts in his home studio. Then he puts the individual cello tracks up on Dropbox for me to download and import into my DAW (Digital Audio Workstation). So the fact that he lives in New Your City is no big deal.
I will be playing all the rest of the instruments and recording them in my home studio. So all the players are set and we’ve got the money part covered. I also got confirmation from Alice that the key of F works well for her vocal range.
First thing I did was some research on the song. It was written, by Al Jolson, Billy Rose, and Dave Dreyer in 1929 and was a popular song at that time. It has been widely recorded over the years. The version that Ellen has chosen as a “point of departure” is the version recorded by Peggy Lee on her 1969 album “Is That All There Is?”. The album features arrangements by Randy Newman. What I’m going to do is take the “feel” of that version and “interpret” that in a bit of a new way.
Ellen worked with several different sets of lyrics (the Peggy Lee version doesn’t use any of the verses just the chorus of the song). I got the lyrics she wants to work with from her yesterday and so that’s locked in. The verses in the song really show the 1929 era where the chorus can be interpreted much more in a modern style. So my initial idea is to play with mixing and layering these styles together while paying respect to both. Hint there will be a hint of ukulele and a cello choir – you don’t often see both of those in the same song!
Here’s a pic of my writing desk in my studio yesterday with various ideas and chords sketched out. I tend to work on blank paper and collect production ideas with words before working on manuscript paper or recording anything. I worked with my acoustic guitar on the chords and have settled on a pretty straight ahead jazz chord voicings.
That’s it for now. As I progress through this journey I’ll update !!!!