I got a call from my manager early one morning. She told me that she had arranged some potentially career changing meetings for me in the States, and that I needed to get on a plane as soon as possible. When I asked where I was going she said to me “New York City, of course.”
Ah, New York, New York. I had heard so much about it and seen it in so many movies. I had never been before and now I had a good enough reason to visit. So I excitedly bought my tickets, packed my bags, grabbed my guitar (making sure I had perfected singing Englishman in New York and New York State of Mind, of course), and headed to the airport.
I booked myself on a red eye flight with Cathay Pacific from Vancouver. The flight was great (Asia/Pacific based airlines are fabulous) and we landed at JFK at around 0630 local time. After making it through immigration I had to decide how I was getting to Manhattan: should I take a taxi or the subway? It was just after 0800, and I knew that I would be caught in rush hour either way, so I decided that I should brave the subway, despite not really being sure how to get to where I was staying. The ride into the city was surprisingly easy and kind of fun, even if it felt more and more like the Tokyo subway the closer we got to Manhattan. Mmm, cosy.
I arrived at the Lower East Side apartment where I had booked a room for the weekend. After becoming acquainted with my lovely host (a Californian turned New Yorker, who was as perfect looking as a woman can be), I wandered back down to the subway and made my way uptown to my first meeting. As I reached my transfer station at West 4th Street, I noticed that I didn’t have any gear to gather up; I began to panic, thinking that some stealthy subway thief had managed to sneak away with my most treasured possessions. Of course, my panic subsided when I realised that, in my sleep deprived state, I had left my guitar and laptop at the apartment. I am such a Muppet.
When I arrived at the bar I met a charming chap by the name of Markuann. Markuann has his own NYC based label and is a good friend of my manager; he and I had a talk about my career, and what I wanted out of my trip to New York. He was an interesting fellow and was clued into the New York music scene; he offered me sound advice and spent a considerable amount of time convincing me that New York was better than LA (seemingly a common opinion on the East Coast). After chatting for about an hour, Markuann made a phone call. Once he was finished he said that he has booked me a meeting at Universal with an A&R rep. Once I was introduced, we had a chat about my career thus far, and the rep listened to my tracks through my phone (I was really wishing I had my guitar and laptop at this point – again, I am such a Muppet), which he really liked. I could barely believe it; I had been in the city eight hours, and I was having one of the biggest meetings of my career. I was humbled to say the very least.
Once things were wrapping up at Universal, I realised that I was two hours late for a meeting at another studio. I felt terrible that I had lost track of time, so I thundered down Broadway and made my way to the studio. Once I arrived, I met with the producer, Christos. He was a Grammy nominated producer, with quite an amazing CV. We had a few conversations on Facebook before I got to the city, so I was super excited to meet and be working with such a talented chap. I apologised profusely for being so late, to which Christos replied “no worries man, this is the music industry, everyone is late.” I appreciated his understanding but I still felt like a total Burke.
Christos took me upstairs into the beautiful Area 51 studios on West 51st Street, and he introduced me to the studio owner. Christos played me some tracks that he had been working on and asked me which one I thought had the best vibe to write to. One track in particular caught my ear; it had a great groove and already had a chorus melody written, so I suggested that we work on that. I will admit that, because I was starting to feel sleep deprived and hadn’t eaten since my flight, I wasn’t feeling at the top of my game. Nothing was sticking and I was starting to feel the pressure. Then, out of nowhere, I wrote these lyrics –
Did you ever think that you could be something,
That you were always meant for more,
Or did they tell you that you’d be nothing,
Always making you feel unsure,
The lyrics so acutely described how I had felt about my journey within the industry so far, and felt very appropriate for this writing session. With the words in place, the melody became obvious. I sang it to Christos and he loved it, so I hopped into the vocal booth and we began recording. I felt that my voice sounded horrible after talking all day, but we got what we needed (and I finally got some food!). We agreed that the part I wrote would be perfect as a pre-chorus, so it fit very nicely into the existing structure of the song. As a general rule, I don’t enjoy the studio experience; it can be arduous and frustrating, but working with such talented people got my creative juices flowing and it made me bring all I could to the track.
While writing and recording, I was introduced to a fantastic photographer, Ed Marshall, who had come along to document the writing process. He is a good friend of Christos’ and has been described as a “photography ninja,” due to his ability to fade into the crowd and capture stunning, natural photos. Ed took some great shots of us over the weekend, but for some reason, he wasn’t that willing to take pictures of me behaving like an idiot. Frankly, I thought my sexy catalogue poses were outstanding!
Once we wrapped at the studio, I took the subway back to the apartment feeling completely exhausted, but so good about everything. My first day in New York City and I had a meeting at Universal and co-written with a Grammy nominated producer. Mind = blown. I couldn’t wait to get back to work.
Over the next few days, Ed and Christos took me around the city, showed me the sights, gave me some great food, and even mocked my innate Britishness (jolly good and tally ho!). We then went to record in some of the best studios in the city where we laid down some acoustic guitar parts and some more vocals. So many different people have worked on this single, that it is a testament to the unbelievable talent of everyone involved. The track is being mixed my Christos right now, and I am super excited to hear the final result. I even found time during this recording to co-write and perform on another track being written at Music Works NYC Studios. So much fun!
The biggest highlight of my trip was the phenomenal people I was lucky enough to meet. Everyone was so friendly, kind, and helpful, that I felt that these folks were my good friends before I had even gotten a chance to know them. While I will admit that people out on the streets can seem cold and insular, the people I met showed me incredible hospitality and warmth. The lovely chaps even saw me off at the airport!
As I write this I am preparing my US visa application so I can get back to New York City as soon as possible. Start spreading the news, indeed.
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