“Making The Album” Story

“Making The Album” Story

Fulfilling a childhood dream is absolutely thrilling … and not without it’s challenges and tests of resolve.

As a young girl, going to my Mom’s band practices, I dreamed of being a singer and having my own album. That was 35 years ago.

Why did it take 35 years to see this dream realized? Well, during all those years, there was growing up to do, marriage, raising children, volunteering, working … the big music dreams were, in effect, buried for about 20 years.

During these past five years, while doing intensive personal and professional development, my passion for music and the desire to record the album re-emerged. I once again began singing at different venues in Cochrane, Calgary, Vancouver, and Fairmont. I went to the studio and did some live recordings, whetting my appetite for recording my dream album. I started planning and choosing songs, yet found myself unfocused, distracted by life’s activities.

Then on September 14, 2008, I did an exercise called, “Six Months to Live.” If I knew I had six months to live, what would I be doing … where would I be living … who would I be with … what would I change … what would I add … what would I eliminate? I recorded my intentions in a journal. Four days later, while reading a great book by John Izzo, The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die, the author referred to the same “Six Months to Live” exercise. Synchronicity?

Well, those “six months to live” passed very quickly. Although I had taken a few more steps towards accomplishing the things that were important to me, I realized once again I had been distracted by life’s busyness.

On April 6, 2009, moments of deep reflection were precipitated after being hit hard by the concluding monologue in the beautiful Canadian movie, One Week.

In that moment, I fully recommitted to my intentions, one of which had been to fulfill this lifelong dream of recording an album. I then watched in amazement as everything flowed and came together perfectly. That doesn’t mean that difficulties, frustrations, tough decisions, delays, challenges, and stress throughout the whole process didn’t exist. There were plenty of all of these. Yet at each step of the way, when it came down to the crunch, the solutions appeared at exactly the right moment.

Looking back, I see how everything hinged on that point of decision. Once I made the “no matter what”, “whatever it takes”, “I will record my album” decision … followed by giving myself a deadline, that’s when I saw everything unfold quite magically. I was meeting amazing people who introduced me to other amazing people, and they all played instrumental roles in what many people, across North America, and internationally, are now experiencing as “Down To The River”, my debut album.

So what were my “trials and tribulations” during the making of the album?

*Huge lack of knowledge on my part requiring lots of learning …

Here’s an example … All I know is singing. I knew very little about the music business and recording an album. “A producer” was not in my vocabulary until a songwriter from Nova Scotia asked me who my producer was when I requested to record his song. “I don’t have a producer,” I replied. Later, I contacted a piano player and asked if he could help me with the arrangements of the songs, and he suggested I call a producer friend of his. There it was again … producer. At this point I clued in that it was time to check out producers. Producers oversee the whole music project—song analysis and development, song arranging, studio time bookings, session musician bookings, musicians and artist coaching, actual recording of the songs, working closely with the engineer and overseeing the recording, mixing, and mastering, budget management, artist promotion, and much, much more. I feel so blessed to be able to say that my album is all I dreamed it would be and more, thanks especially to an amazingly gifted Rick Mizzoni, who believed in me and executed his role as producer with passion and brilliance and excellence.

*Making tough decisions …

After 2.5 years in my home-based business, I had attained a very respected status within North America and was very proud of it. Maintaining that position required a significant focus and dedicated time working the business, and I was seeing my stress level multiply as I attempted to do this and work on the album as well. After writing out what I saw as the pros and cons of my options, and getting some counsel from coaches and family, in late September 2009, I made the very tough decision to walk away from this status, the monthly bonus cheques, the trips, etc. Within moments of making this decision, much of my stress disappeared, and I was able to focus completely on the album. Today, six months later, I have no regrets.

*The money factor …

Musician fees, background vocalist fees, mechanical licenses fees (paid to the songwriter’s publishing company for each song recorded based on how many CD’s produced and how many digital downloads), studio time fees and engineering fees for recording, mixing and mastering the album, producer fees, graphic design of the album cover and insert, professional photography, string arrangement fees, replication and manufacturing of the CD … and the list goes on.

I would receive comments that my album was costing more than a new car. True enough. I could get a 2010 GT Convertible Mustang for what the album cost, and I suppose for many, they would conclude that since my current Mustang has 329,000km on it, that would be the wiser choice. Here’s how I look at it … What price tag do you put on fulfilling a dream … on living your passion … on doing what you love? For me, it’s not just about fulfilling a childhood dream of creating my own album. It’s also about touching lives, inspiring people to live their full potential, and making a difference in the world. The emails and phone calls that I receive almost daily from people around the globe who have listened to “Down To The River” have confirmed to me that my ultimate purpose in making the album is being fulfilled.

*Forced to get out of my comfort zone … delays … and waiting …

When plan A (sell my home and use some of the equity to pay for the album) failed due to the housing market plummeting in 2008, I needed a plan B. While in Los Angeles on business in November 2008, the idea of pre-selling my CD came to me. I forced myself out of my comfort zone, and talked to 12 random people about my album dream, committing to them that I would have it done within 6 to 12 months. I was elated and inspired when 11 of them each gave me $20. That changed everything for me. I had taken their money and I had made a promise. They trusted me, they believed in me, and they were supporting my dream. I was not about to let them down, or me down. This was it—my big dream—and this was the way to accomplish it.

I reasoned a marketing campaign with a sales letter would be the best way to do the pre-sales, so in February 2009, I hired a long copy sales writer. Due to my procrastination and not getting him the information he needed until months later, he was unfortunately then in the middle of a huge marketing project, so I would have to wait. When the sales copy was finally completed, let it suffice to say that I experienced more waiting time and much frustration getting it up on my website.

Plan B Pre-Sales had 2 parts … an email marketing campaign and a telephone marketing campaign. Since I have a strong aversion to making “sales calls”, and was unsuccessful at getting myself to pick up the phone, I also hadn’t called anyone to pre-sell the album. I did however have a few more random conversations, resulting in more people pre-buying the album, and of course, some friends and family had pre-bought the album, so I was now at a total of 38 CD’s sold. I was a “bit shy” of my 2,000 pre-sold CD’s goal. In effect, I had failed miserably at Plan B, and Plan C was now necessary.

We had just finished pre-production of the album, and within two weeks we would begin recording, so somehow I had to come up with a lot of money! Through a lady I met at a networking luncheon, Plan C revealed itself. I hired a coach and received training in raising capital. For the next week I worked through the training, and then asked a co-worker if I could practice my presentation on him. I was very pleasantly surprised when, 3 days later, he became my first big investor. His investment was exactly the amount I needed 3 days later to pay musician fees for the first 2 days of recording. Through out the process of recording the album from September to December 2009, I had pre-sold 100 CD’s and had 4 investors who each showed up at the exact moment I needed them, and with the exact amount needed to cover the costs of the album. Yes, there was lots of stress, as there always seems to be when you need money for something and you don’t have any. And once again I was forced out of my comfort zone in meeting with potential investors to raise capital. My wonderful angel investors are a huge gift to me and I look forward to blessing them back!

*Doing things I resist …

I procrastinate things I’m not fond of doing and things I find challenging. Like writing about myself … What do I say in my bio? What do I put in my press kit? Or writing music grant applications. I find them torturous!! Putting the CD insert together took many full days because it was so important to me to convey my deep gratitude and thanks to everyone who played a role in seeing my dream fulfilled. Putting together what I want on my website, posters, business cards … There are some things that just seem to take me forever to do. If I had a genie in a bottle, I know what I’d wish for!

*Choosing the songs … and the evolution of the album

My initial dream was to co-write most of the songs for the album. I had talked to award-winning songwriters and musician friends from across Canada and all 7 had agreed to co-write with me. However, we were never able to align our schedules, due to their other album projects, or unforeseen circumstances, or in the end, running out of time. (I anticipate seeing this dream fulfilled on a future album.) As a result, I was on the hunt for great songs by Canadian songwriters.

I knew “Fear of Flying” would be on my album the first time I heard it. Linda Clark called me the morning of January 9, 2006, to tell me Cape Breton’s singer/songwriter, Gordie Sampson would be playing the Cochrane Valley Folk Club that night and I needed to be there. I sat in awe watching him, and when he played “Fear of Flying,” I said, “One day I will record that song.” In June 2008, while talking with him at his concert in Ontario, I told Gordie I wanted to record Fear of Flying. He responded, “You should.” I love this song, and it’s very special to me to have my Mom singing background vocals on it.

I’d go to live jams, songwriter circles, ask musician friends if they knew of any original Canadian songs they really liked, listen to friend’s music of original Canadian artists. I listened to numerous songs, and over the course of the year, several of the song choices changed, as I grew and changed. It’s very cool to look back at this aspect of the album. Five of the songwriters are from Alberta, with the others spanning across Canada from Bowen Island, BC to Grand Falls Windsor, Newfoundland, with a few amazing American songwriters as well. There’s a story behind why each of the songs were chosen for the album. I’d love to share them with you sometime.

*Asking specifically for what I wanted and being persistent …

April 21, 2009 was when I first heard the song, Borrowed Time, at the Ironwood Stage & Grill in Calgary. As Joni Delaurier, a very gifted singer/songwriter, was playing and singing it, tears started flowing down my cheeks. The soul of the song matched my thoughts and experiences over the previous few months. I knew I had to have this song for my album. I talked to Joni afterwards and she told me that she had co-written it with Bernie from Nashville, and it was on hold for country artists in the States. I talked to Troy about what that meant and decided that I was not giving up on getting this song. Two months later, Joni played me Kaleidoscope, a love song she had written for her fiancé, and offered it to me for the album. I said, “Yes!” It’s a beautiful song. I then asked her to play me “Borrowed Time” again, curious to see if I would react the same way. It has a powerful message, and yes, I had the same reaction. I had to have that song. I told Joni, “Whatever it takes, I want that song!!” After another three weeks of waiting, Joni emailed me with great news. I had permission to record and release, Borrowed Time!!! I was ecstatic!!!

*More delays …

When the November 7, 2009 deadline (1 year from when I first sold the album in LA) was approaching, my producer said to me, “We can have it done and have a good album or we can invest more time and have a great album.” I wanted a great album, so I contacted each of the LA buyers and let them know the album would be delayed by 2 months, but it would be worth the wait. This allowed us to bring in 3 guest musicians who added so much to 3 of the songs on the album.

It took a burning desire … courage … focus … dedication … an alertness for opportunities … a great team … and making things happen … to fulfill a big dream and begin living my passion.

It is so worth the effort … and going through the tough things … and being stretched out of my comfort zone. Being in the studio, recording, were some of the best days of my life!!!

I believe that life is short. Life is too short to live not doing what we love and what we’re passionate about. Life is too short to live in anger, bitterness, resentment, and broken relationships. Aren’t we here to fulfill our purpose … to be who we were created to be … to make the most of every opportunity … to matter … to make a difference in the world … to love, to give, to hug … to inspire each other to live our highest purpose?

Make every moment count … Make every memory real.

This album is a big hug … from my heart to yours …

Love,
Monica

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