“I used to create songs the conventional way,” says Serena Ryder. “You know—you get an idea, you play it for months as you slowly refine it, and then you start looking for a band, a producer, and a place to record it.”
Recently, however, with help from producers Jerrod Bettis and Jon Levine, Ryder was able to compose, arrange, and track all parts of her song “Stompa”—the first single off her new album, Harmony [Capitol]— in one day. Since its release, “Stompa” has been featured in a national Cadillac TV campaign, topped the Adult Album Alternative radio chart, and earned Ryder a live performance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
“Jerrod and I did ‘Stompa’ in Hollywood, and not in a big studio that costs a billion dollars an hour, but in the little guesthouse where he was living,” says the Toronto-based singer/guitarist. “I came in with my Gibson Flying V, started playing, and came up with the main riff—a simple lick played entirely on the low string. We tracked it to a click. Then, Jerrod doubled it with another guitar or two, and got the guitar mix sounding amazing in Pro Tools. Next, he added a bunch of drums— which got me dancing and making sounds with my voice. By evening, the song was completely written and recorded.”
“That song kind of wrote itself,” adds Bettis. “We recorded the vocals out in the open—not in a vocal booth—using an Audio-Technica AT4040 mic through a Universal Audio 2-610 mic preamp chained through my little Apogee Duet interface. Guitar tones were captured ‘in the box’ using Native Instruments Guitar Rig. The drums were programmed using a library I created in Native Instruments Battery that features old vinyl samples and some big, John Bonham-style sounds. I also added live tambourine, shakers, and handclaps.”
According to Ryder, the most important ingredient in the single-day song production approach is a good collaborator.
“Find that person you love working with who brings out parts of you that you like, and who gets you to try new approaches,” she says. “If you’re open to exploring the unknown, you can go in with nothing in the morning, and come out that evening with a brand new song.”