In the Studio with Justin Adams
Updated: Jul 23, 2019
A fun fact about the music industry: many of the songs you hear on the radio are actually written by someone other than the artist or band you’re listening to! The people who write the songs typically make a "demo" to give producers, publishers, and record labels an idea of what the song could sound like once it is recorded by the actual artist or band. These stripped-down “demonstration” versions of the songs are pitched to artists and bands with the hope that they will want to record the songs for their next single or album. In today’s Music Monday feature, we’ll go behind the scenes in a recording studio to see how a demo is made, and hear about the song-writing process from start to finish.
Live Laugh Love Nashville recently (see July 8 post) featured country artist Justin Adams, who has been playing festivals and touring this summer with Chris Lane, Chase Bryant, and LoCash. Justin also has a much sought-after position as a staff writer for Fluid Music Revolution/Spirit publishing, where it’s his job to write songs for other bands and artists. “My job as a staff writer is a blessing. I have the opportunity to come together with other songwriters and create and craft music.”
Justin recalls the day his publisher set up a co-write with Derek George and Bill Luther. “Bill Luther has written massive hits for Tim McGraw and other artists, so I was excited to get into a room with him.” They spent the first hour hanging out and getting to know each other. Derek had the idea for the song, What It’s Made For, and they all started contributing ideas for lyrics and the melody. “The songwriting process worked really well for us three. It’s a blessing to be in a room with such seasoned songwriters.” Three hours later, they had a finished song.
The next step was pre-production. Justin wrote out music charts using the Nashville Number System (see photo), which is a way of writing the chords to a song in a neutral key, so that the song can be played in any key without rewriting it (compared to traditional sheet music). He also sent his musicians (Tommy Kratzert/lead guitar and Cody Martin/bass) a simple recording he made on his iPhone. “Just me singing the song with an acoustic guitar.”
The musicians listened to the work tape and came up with the parts for their instruments based on their interpretation of how they thought the song should sound, making tweaks along the way as their tracks were recorded in the studio. “That’s the blessing of using such talented musicians -- they really make the song come to life.”
On the day Justin recorded What It’s Made For at Sound Stage Studio (home to more than 500 #1 hits by country music’s biggest stars), a group of guests got to witness the process, courtesy of Imagine Recordings. As Justin and the musicians sang and played guitar, Nick Autry (engineer) and Zach Kuhlman (assistant engineer) were at the boards in the control room monitoring the sound and adding a drum loop. Nick and Zach will also mix the tracks to make the finished product – the demo (which can be an mp3 or recorded on a CD).
Once the demo has been cut, Justin will send it to his publishers to see what avenue they want to pursue with it. He is currently working on a new album, and has already recorded six of the tracks for that project. “They may want me to re-record it on the next session for my CD, or they may want to pitch it to another artist."
Watch the video of Justin’s recording session at Sound Stage Studio below. You never know who might end up singing it on the radio!
For more information on Justin, go to www.justinadamscountry.com
For more information on experiencing a live studio recording session, go to www.imaginerecordings.com.