In 2019 I produced Claire Ness’s Children’s Album “Broccoli Farm”
Claire and I have worked together for many years. She has worked for me – and I have worked for her over the years and this has resulted in a work environment which is truly collaborative. Claire is a circus performer and a vaudevillian. Always colorful, always fun and funny, always bright and radiant. Always unpredictable.
When Claire hired me to producer this recording I was very aware of the trust she was putting in my hands. Not only with her songs and the feelings behind the songs – but also with cold hard cash. A full album with full orchestration is an expensive endeavor. I took out my trusted steno notepad and wrote down “From a kids perspective that parents love to listen to.”
Claire sent me a dozen songs and I began to listen to them on my morning walks. I tried to “wear the song” as I walked down the beautiful streets of Winnipeg and envision little kids singing and dancing to them. When I’d get home I would make some notes and I would try to figure out what musicians I was hearing on each cut.
Four of the tracks were already mixed from a demo we did. We were happy with the way they came out. All four cuts were trad jazz fields so I went to my friends in Vancouver who are some of the finest trad players in the world. We sent the files to Bonnie Northgraves to put her hot trumpet on the tunes. She hired Benjamin MacRae who laid down great clarinet lines including a counter melody to my musical saw solo on “Don’t Whine”. We also had our old friend Jay Burr who is a virtuoso tuba player we all had the pleasure of working with when he lived in the Yukon. Now residing in Ontario, we sent Jay the tunes who put down all the tuba lines in his home studio and sent them back. Keith Todd was in the Yukon at the time, so he came in and covered all the trombone parts. Using musicians all over the country – we created the four tunes that made up Claire’s EP. All four of those cuts were the bedrock of the full album.
Up in the Yukon I had a beautiful pallet of colors by some of the finest musicians and friends one could ever ask for. Each of the musicians had their own areas of expertise. It was a joy choosing how to shape these great songs by Claire. Once I completed my list, I sent it to Claire and waited for feedback. She called and was excited about the ideas. From there we began to make the logistics come together.
The recording process at Old Crow Recording was a wonderful experience with Bob Hamilton who is one of the most respected people in the recording industry. Bob is a master at making the right equipment choices for the artist. He has expert ears and hears things and knows how to make it better. His son Patrick is right in line with all those qualities and when Bob isn’t at the board working – Patrick was. They are a seamless team in the studio.
It’s nice to report that the album resulted in two awards. First it won the Canadian Folk Music Awards for Best Children’s Album of the Year – and the Western Canadian Music Awards for Best Children’s Album of the Year.
I’ve learned that the essence of producing is the same – whether it’s an album or a show or a podcast. The job of the producer is to bring together the talent that will do what they are good at. There are a lot of personal creative challenges when producing a show – but you have the entire production in the forefront of your mind the entire time. How things intersect and come together is the joy of the experience. Here are the people that made Claire’s album come to life in the studio.