It was a Tuesday evening like any other, sitting in the bedroom of my west end apartment, my roommate making dinner in the kitchen outside the door. Ancient hardwood, crown mouldings, white walls. I loved that place.
I was playing around with my computer, garage band at the time, and giving myself a lesson in mixing. Giving myself an awful, blind leading the blind lesson. I was experimenting.. I was… making sounds…
The song was truly painfully executed; I had put a hilarious filter on my voice so I sounded like a sassy drag queen, my timing was totally off because I was trying to create electronic drums for the first time using a tiny $50 keyboard but in the end, the song itself, turned out pretty good.
Lucky boy I called it. Don’t step on her thrown, she is a unicorn, if she’ll be your friend, your a lucky boy.
Lucky boy started it all to be honest, from there I moved to yaletown with my handsome boyfriend and wrote Smile while going for a Yaletown run on a sunny day. I wrote Dark Days sitting in our now loft while he was away on a trip, and my favourites, Beauty Queen Tears, Cold Nights and the Queen of Mars I wrote to boyfriends guitar riffs, sent my way for fuel of creation the ceilings were higher in our new place, and they say the higher the ceilings, the grander the thoughts.
Black coffee was the final piece of the puzzle, written one year later we moved back to the west end, I now had really good logic skills, and had created a band to help me execute the songs live. I had taught myself to mix, record all sounds and knew it was time to do something with these pieces, but I soon learned that just because you have all the pieces, doesn’t mean they will fall into place. Sometimes you have to try shoving some square pegs into round holes before moving onto plan B.
The band became a family, a group of amazing people who just connected. We played shows at all the big names in Vancouver for bands who are nobodies becoming somebodies: the Roxy, Joes, the Red Room… and it was really cool, but when what was once a dream became reality, I realized it wasn’t what I had wanted at all… I discovered I didn’t like playing at bars, lugging your equipment, selling tickets, negotiating with promoters. I wanted to write, I wanted my music on the radio. So my focus changed once again. I’m going to make an album. I wrote a contract to myself, framed it, and began the journey that changed my life, and who I am.
The Queen of Mars. The best names just come to you, you don’t sit around brainstorming them, they claim themselves and suddenly have snuck their way into your everyday verbage. I am the queen of mars, and sometimes in my mind, I truly was, the queen of my own world, somewhere with my head in the clouds.
The process of making an album was a tough one, first I was convinced I needed a producer to help me make the songs more epic, but after e-mailing all the big names I could think of, and not hearing back from one person, I decided to try a different plan.
“They were right when they said we should never meet our heroes” – Metric
With a stroke of luck boyfriend who was now also the guitarist in my band helped me find an amazing studio for a wicked price. The price was so good because the engineer had never recorded an album before solo, and he wanted a chance to engineer, and do some producing. The journey began.
We recorded all the pieces to the puzzle, patching together session players, parts from here and there, home recordings and studio recordings, but then just as we were getting started, and had a few great songs completed, we hit the biggest road block of all.
“House of cards you fall hard” – Metric.
After a few more recording sessions the “producer”/ engineer and began not seeing eye to eye. In my opinion, if I had heard my songs on the radio the way he wanted them to be I would have changed the station. He also began cutting down members of the band, telling me we were crappy, talking behind their backs to me, telling me my ideas were bad, and I shouldn’t do it my way.
The big finally came when I decided to take my album back (gather the stems) and he claimed I had to give him half of one of the songs or he would take my existing songs and make them himself, that they were his, that he wrote them. Ironically the song was he wanted was called Smile.
Even more ironically he hadn’t wanted to sign the contract until after he was completed because he didn’t want to “ruin the vibe” – Vibe official DEAD.
50%, fine take it, it’s a dumb song anyway (track #2 on the album) sign this contract, and never speak to me again. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so angry in my entire life as I was that day. It was the first time in my life I have ever yelled swore and stormed away from another human. Contract in hand, stems in the other, I felt the paradox of relief, that I was done with this nutcase, and panic that now it was all in my hands.
Something deep within me changed that day, something that will never be the same, I felt defeated, I felt like I had finally taken the biggest chance of my life and lost, and at the same time, I felt stronger than ever, because I knew I would pick myself up, dust myself off, and never let anyone knock me down like that again.
But it didn’t happen overnight. It took me 6 months to begin working on the album again, and I did it in a strange way, by going back to my first songs, the ones I wrote a decade ago, and reworking them, playing around with logic, getting really good, and happy until I knew it was time to finish what I had started.
With the help of this experience I created a new boundary for myself and pledged hand over heart. I am the captain of my ship, and from this day forward I shall never hand over any creative control on my projects.
“Hard to be soft, tough to be tender” – Metric
It’s a tough pledge to take, tough for others to work with you because most people don’t understand the concept of. My way or the highway, it has to be like this, but that was my new promise to myself to avoid anything like that from ever happening again. I became the producer, I became the full artist, and my project was finally truly mine.
Now came the real test, I took the album back, grabbing the stems (wonderfully organized I must say) from the producer mixing, reworking vocals, all parts, adding synth, producing. Sending it to mastering, Creating the Album art.
And here we are, and this is me, and that, was my story.
Who knows what will happen next, I know I want to produce my next album myself, make it all, do it alone, I’m also toying with the idea of re-inventing myself, artist that I am, so much has changed but in the mean time, I want to focus on the glory of sharing this album with the world.
Come join me and my band at the backstage lounge on September 2nd, the day before I turn 27. I can’t wait to share this album with you world.
Steph aka elle-ectric.